Tag Archives: Queens Library

Take a first look at new interior of Sandy-wrecked Peninsula library as construction is set to begin soon


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of Queens Library

The long chapter of devastation is coming to an end for the Peninsula library in Rockaway Beach.

The building on Beach 92nd Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard was “the hardest hit” library in the borough by Hurricane Sandy, according to a Queens Library spokeswoman, and has yet to reopen after nearly two years.

Service has been operating out of a trailer since January 2013, but officials are securing permits and bids to complete reconstruction and hope to open the library by early 2015.

“Beginning to rebuild the permanent library was delayed while we worked with FEMA and the city to establish how to proceed,” a representative for the library said. “Since this library had been scheduled for a complete redesign and renovation prior to the storm, we are taking this opportunity to present the community with a greatly enhanced library.”

The rebuilt library will include a larger multipurpose room for public use, which will allow for community events and meetings even if the library is closed.

There will also be a new adult reading area, children’s room and teen area with furniture and computers. Modern customer service equipment will be added, including exterior machines to return books at any time. And a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system will be added throughout the building as well.

Adult reading area

Officials expect the Department of Buildings to issue permits in a matter of weeks making way for reconstruction to begin.

The Queens Library is collecting bids until Oct. 6 for a contractor to provide mechanical, plumbing and flood barrier renovation work, according to city documents.

In June, Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder announced that he secured more than $700,000 through the Public Library Construction Grant Program to help renovate the Ozone Park library and the Peninsula library. Goldfeder said $582,654 was awarded to the Peninsula library reconstruction.

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Queens Library launches ‘Where In Queens’ website


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via whereinqueens.org

BY ECLEEN CARABALLO

At times the question isn’t “what do we need?” but “where can we find it?” and “how soon can we have it?”

On Thursday, Queens Library’s vice president of digital strategies and services, Kelvin Watson, and the CEO of Zendesk, Mikkel Svane, launched the “Where in Queens” website to meet those needs and provide simple answers.

The “Where in Queens” app and website is a mobile-optimized portal which aims to connect users with social services closest to where they are. Specifically, it provides information regarding shelter, food, medical, legal, technology and education.

The local services, which include emergency housing, health care and food pantries, are geared toward assisting the underprivileged community, and all of the services are tailored specifically to meet the needs of Queens residents. This new and seemingly useful website was described by Queens Library’s Interim President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey as “the next generation” of their former award-wining Community Resources Database created in the late 1990s.

LinkSF, the first mobile website to connect homeless people with lifesaving services, was the basis and inspiration for Mikkel and his team and Zendesk when it came to creating “Where In Queens.”

The website is accessible to any Internet-connected device, including mobile phones, and can be found at www.whereinqueens.org. For more information on the services it has available, visit the Queens Library website at www.queenslibrary.org.

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Queens Library struggling from space constraints, report says


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Queens Library

Increasing space for users at Queens Library branches could begin a new chapter in its history, after a new study found most locations are struggling from space constraints.

The news comes days after the library’s CEO Tom Galante was suspended by the board of trustees, following a series of published reports revealing his nearly $400,000 salary, benefits, and erection of a smoking deck outside his office in Central Library, while making employee cuts.

The Center for an Urban Future released Monday the Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries report, which said 41 of the library’s 62 branches are under 10,000 square feet and struggling to meet the demands of its increasing membership. Queens had the most branches under that size in the five boroughs. Brooklyn came in second with 26 branches.

About 11.2 million people visited Queens Library branches in fiscal year 2014, according to statistics on the library’s website, and there were 929,000 active borrowers. The problem isn’t a need to repair libraries but adjust the layout, according to the report.

“It’s not just that so many New York City libraries are old and in a state of disrepair, many are not configured to meet the needs of today’s users,” the study said. “Designed around their book collections, many devote a majority of their layouts to shelves and rooms for book processing.”

The report specifically identified the Fresh Meadows library branch as one of the more well-attended branches in the city, but only has 8,700 square feet of space. That branch and the Far Rockaway, Lefferts, Rego Park and Sunnyside locations are five of the 10 “highest performing branches citywide” that are in need of more space.

“These well-attended branches would undoubtedly attract significantly more patrons for programs if they had more space for them,” the report said.

But some libraries just don’t have enough seating, such as the Jackson Heights branch, which has more than 375,000 annual visitors, but can only seat 78 people.

In its defense, Interim Queens Library President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey said that the library is currently engaging in many projects to expand its branches and meet its vast membership.

“Over the past several years, elected officials in Queens have done a great job of allocating funds to help Queens Library upgrade and maintain its facilities,” Quinn-Carey said. “As the report suggests, there is still so much more that we could be doing for the community if we had the space in which to do it. We look forward to working with public funders to establish a rational, forward-looking capital funding plan that gives libraries the resources they need to plan important capital investments.”

On a positive note, Queens has the newest libraries, according to the report. The borough ranks youngest in age, with the average library at just 47 years old. Manhattan is first with an average age of 84 years old. Also, six of the 15 new libraries in the past 20 years were branches in Queens.

Click here to read the full report.

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Board suspends Queens Library President Tom Galante


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The Queens Library has shelved its president.

The library’s board of trustees voted Thursday night to suspend embattled library boss Tom Galante.

Galante will continue to collect his $392,000 annual salary while on administrative leave, library officials said.

His duties will be carried out by Bridget Quinn-Carey, the library’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

“Queens Library has a critical mission to provide information and education. It has long been a model of excellence, “ Quinn-Carey said in a statement.  “I look forward to working with the board of trustees, our elected officials and colleagues at all levels of the organization, including our union, to build on the library’s outstanding work. There are 2.3 million people depending on it.”

Galante declined to comment on Friday.

The board also voted to open its books for the city comptroller, Scott Stringer, to perform an audit on all financial data from the library, which receives 85 percent of its funding from taxpayer money.

Galante and the board, which has seen 10 trustees removed or resigned, had refused to surrender the information relying on a decades-old agreement with the city that allowed the comptroller to audit only that portion of the budget that came from public funds.

That dispute, as well as a revelation in the Daily News that Galante was earning a hefty wage moonlighting for the Elmont school district, sent lawmakers into action, granting the borough president and mayor the power to remove board members for cause. Galante has also been under fire after the renovation of his office that included a $27,000 outdoor deck was revealed.

In July, Borough President Melinda Katz fired six trustees and Mayor Bill de Blasio canned two.  Two others resigned.  Four new trustees have since been appointed.

Six of the ousted trustees filed a lawsuit in August demanding to be reinstated.  They were unsuccessful in getting an injunction to prevent their permanent removal, which became official after Katz rejected their appeals.  The suit, which also demands monetary damages from Katz, is pending in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Katz lauded the board’s decision, saying that it would allow them to “take immediate steps to improve the Queens Library’s governance and increase the transparency of its operations.”

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Hollis library closing temporarily


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Library

BY ECLEEN CARABALLO 

The Queens Library’s Hollis branch, at 202-05 Hillside Ave., will be closing temporarily, starting at the end of business on Sept. 12, for a new roof installation.

The library will re-open at the end of the renovation period, which is expected to be in November.

In the meantime, there will be limited service through a mobile library every Monday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. In addition, customers are encouraged to use any of Queens Library’s other locations. The closest branches are located in Queens Village (94-11 217 St.), Hillcrest (187-05 Union Tpke.), and Windsor Park (79-50 Bell Blvd.).

For additional information, visit www.queenslibrary.org.

 

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Katz appoints new Queens Library trustee


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of the Queens Borough President's office

Borough President Melinda Katz has appointed Robert Santos to the board of trustees of the Queens Library. The announcement comes after she ousted six trustees members last month and Mayor Bill de Blasio cut loose two board members.

The sacked trustees attempted to regain their position in an appeal that was ultimately denied by Katz. The appointment of Santos was announced on Tuesday.

“It is an honor to serve on the Board of the Queens Library and to join other involved and committed citizens dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the Queens Library system,” Santos said. “Nothing is more important to the health of a community and the intellectual capital of its people than a public library, and the Queens Library is one of the best public libraries in the nation.”

According to earlier reports by the Courier, the firings came after a drawn out legal battle over the tenure of Library Director Tom Galante, who was criticized after a smoking deck was built outside his office in the Central Library in Jamaica. It was also revealed that he supplemented his city salary of $400,000 with more than $200,000 in part-time pay from the Elmont, Long Island school district.

Dougals Grover, who represents the six removed trustees, said that Katz’s move is “unconstitutional” and threatens the independence of the Queens library.

Santos is a Sunnyside resident, according to the announcement. He was the Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of The New York Public Library and also worked as Chief Administrative Officer at Adelphi University in Garden City, NY.  He has also held several positions in the city’s government.

 

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BP library powers could lead to censorship: former trustee


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre  / File photo

Updated Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2:15 p.m.

The power of the Queens borough president to remove trustees from the Queens Library board could set the institution on the slippery slope to state censorship, one former trustee told The Courier.

George Stamatiades, a longtime Long Island City civic leader who spent two decades on the library board was removed — along with five other trustees — by Katz, who was granted the power to fire board members through recent legislation during a bitter battle over who controls the library.

Stamatiades said that much sway over the library board could be dangerous.

“Today, she gets rid of the board members,” Stamatiades said. “Tomorrow, through her influence, she says, ‘Hey, don’t buy any more of these books.’

“And then next week, she says, ‘Hey, get rid of all these books.’”

And, Stamatiades said, such power could lead to government monitoring each person’s reading habits.

“Next thing she’ll say is, ‘I want to know what books the community is reading,’” Stamatiades said. “Then it’ll be, ‘I want to know who’s reading them.”

Stamatiades, who was appointed to the board by former Borough President Claire Shulman, said that neither Shulman nor her successor Helen Marshall ever demanded specific action on any issue.

“Based on his comments, Mr. Stamatiades clearly hasn’t been paying attention. Neither I, the mayor, the Queens delegation of the City Council, the entire New York State Assembly, almost the entire New York State Senate nor the governor has commented on the content of materials at the Queens Public Library,” Katz said in a statement.

A firestorm erupted over the salary and spending practices of library boss Tom Galante and the board’s refusal to open the library’s books to city auditors. City funds — about 85 percent of the library’s budget — are routinely audited but the board steadfastly refused to make all of the financial data available to the city.

After much back and forth, state legislators passed a law giving Katz the ability to remove members for cause.

Last month, she ousted six trustees and Mayor Bill de Blasio fired two. All six of the trustees forced out by Katz appealed for reinstatement but were shot down by Katz in early August.

“The removed trustees, including Mr. Stamatiades, have fought against transparency into how library resources are spent and do not feel that they are accountable to the taxpayers of the city of New York,” Katz said. “My goal is to assure the people of Queens that their money is spent on furthering the educational purpose of the library. We need to end the static and get to work on advancing the purpose of the library.”

The six also filed a federal lawsuit against Katz, seeking to be returned to their positions, revocation of the state law that allowed for their ouster and money damages from Katz personally.

Court papers revealed the board hired former federal judge Barbara Jones to conduct to investigate information leaks from within the library.

The judge hearing the suit against Katz, U.S. District Court judge Roslynn Mauskopf, recused herself on Monday because of her long-standing friendship with Jones.

Stamatiades, who initiated the whistleblower probe, said 19 board members voted in favor of the investigation. But, he said, library staffers were uncomfortable investigating their bosses as were the library’s legal staff, so the job was outsourced to Jones.

“We needed an independent person,” he said.

On Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein held a hearing on a motion from the ousted trustees asking for a temporary restraining order against Katz. He recommended to the trial judge that the motion be denied. The former trustees have until Aug. 29 to appeal the recommendation.

Doug Grover, the plaintiffs’ lawyer said the former trustees could not Let Katz’s actions go unchallenged.

“They brought this action to assert the independence of the Library and the right of every trustee to act without political interference,” Grover said.  “They are understandably disappointed by today’s outcome but remain true friends of the library and hope for its continued success.

“The trustees are evaluating their legal options in light of the decision today.”

Away from court, Mary Ann Mattone, a mayoral appointee to the library board, announced her resignation in a letter to de Blasio.

Mattone said she served on the board for 16 years “without blemish”  and is a member of the Queens Library Foundation.

But, she wrote,” I can no longer urge my friends to participate because of the acrimonious atmosphere that has been created.”

 

Stamatiades looked back fondly on his service to the library and said his commitment to the institution stemmed from love of his neighborhood.

“I guess it’s because I care about my neighborhood and the people around me,” he said. “There’s no other reason. If that’s bad … what can I tell you?”

He also said he being a library trustee was a blessing.

“If you could go to [a literacy class] graduation and hear a grandmother say, ‘I can now go home and read to my grandchild because of the Queens Library,’ well, you’d be going something,” he said.

 

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Katz denies appeals of sacked library trustees


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The six Queens Library trustees ousted by Borough President Melinda Katz have had their appeals for reinstatement shot down by Katz.

Douglas Grover, who represents the six trustees removed by Katz two weeks ago, said the trustees were notified by Katz’s office Tuesday evening of the rejection.

“After dismissing the Trustees, it’s hardly surprising that the Borough President rejected their appeal. It’s one more reason the Court must step in and halt the damage Ms. Katz has already done to the Library and the further damage that would surely follow,” Grover said.   “For more than a century the Library has provided excellent service to the community, free from political interference and favoritism. She wants to toss that aside, using an ill-conceived law that we believe is unconstitutional.

“The threat to the independence of the Queens Library should be of concern to every nonprofit group in New York and to every citizen.”

A voicemail left at Katz’s office Tuesday evening was not immediately returned.

Also on Tuesday, federal court Judge Roslynn Mauskopf denied a request by the sacked trustees for an immediate hearing on a temporary restraining order.

She wrote in her decision that the original suit, filed on Friday, was already granted an expedited schedule and that it made no mention of the appeals process.

“Plaintiffs have failed to provide any factual or legal basis from which the Court can glean the impact, if any, of those appeals on the instant application, including their critical impact on the analysis of imminent harm as plaintiffs now argue,” Mauskopf wrote.

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CM Vallone to announce $1M allocation for Bay Terrace library upgrades


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Queens Library


The Queens Library’s Bay Terrace branch is set for a makeover.

The library will see interior renovations and technology upgrades thanks to a $1 million allocation by Councilman Paul Vallone.

Vallone plans to officially announce the funding on Monday, when he’ll be joined by community leaders and residents for a visioning session. During that time, a Queens Library representative will highlight recent upgrades to other modern branches and children from a Bay Terrace library program will have the opportunity to draw what they think the branch should look like.

“I was overwhelmed by the state of neglect and lack of financial support that my district’s libraries have suffered through for years,” Vallone said. “My funding allocation will go a long way to improve and modernize the Bay Terrace Library so that the community can enjoy it for years to come.”

 

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Ousted Queens Library board members sue Katz; demand reinstatement, money


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo

Calling their ouster a “brazen and unconstitutional power grab,” six former trustees of the Queens Library filed a federal lawsuit to be restored to the board.

The suit, filed on Friday by Jacqueline Arrington, Joseph Ficalora, William Jefferson, Grace Lawrence, Terri Mangino and George Stamatiades, also demands that the 2014 law that gave Borough President Melinda Katz the power to bounce them, be invalidated.

The six plaintiffs also demand unspecified monetary damages against Katz—including punitive damages—“on account of the egregious nature of the unconstitutional violations and Katz’s malicious and punitive conduct in publicly smearing plaintiffs in order to aggrandize herself,” according to court papers filed in Brooklyn federal court.

After a protracted battle focusing on the stewardship of Tom Galante, the library’s director, the state legislature gave Katz the power to remove trustees of the library before their terms expired.

Katz bounced the six plaintiffs on July 23 because they reportedly attempted to renegotiate Galante’s contract and award him an $800,000 consultancy.  He was already under fire for his near-$400,000 salary—coupled with a high-paying side gig at the Elmont School District—and a controversial renovation of his office that included a $27,000 outdoor deck.

The library receives more than 80 percent of its funding from the public coffers.

Katz did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

 

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Bellerose library to reopen after $1.66M renovation


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Queens Library


The Bellerose branch of the Queens Library will reopen Wednesday following a $1.66 million facelift and technological additions.

The revitalization features fresh decor, a new teen area with computers, self service check out and fully automated 24/7 self check-in, so members can return books at any time.

Library officials will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, with face painting and balloon animals for kids.

Funding for the project was allocated by Councilman Mark Weprin, Assemblywoman Barbara Clark and state Sen. Tony Avella.

 

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BP Katz and Mayor de Blasio cut eight Queens Library board members


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Eight trustees of the Queens Library were banished from the board in a sudden email blitz Wednesday.

Six members were dismissed by Borough President Melinda Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio cut loose two board members.

The eight members cut loose were Joseph R. Ficalora, Jacqueline E. Arrington, Patricia Flynn, William Jefferson, Grace Lawrence, Terri C. Mangino, George Stamatiades and Stephen Van Anden.

Van Anden and Flynn were the mayoral appointees.

One of the trustees fired by Katz, who wished to remain anonymous,  called the move “politics at its worst.”

“I got a letter emailed to me today,” the former trustee said. “I’m not surprised. I’m okay. I’m not shocked; I was waiting for it.”

The firings came after a protracted battle over the tenure of library director Tom Galante, who drew fire after a smoking deck was built outside his office in the Central Library in Jamaica as well as revelations that he augmented his $400,000 salary with more than $200,000 in part-time pay from the Elmont, L.I., school district.

Lawmakers reacted strongly and recently enacted legislation gave politicians the power to summarily remove board members.

Brinkmanship ensued after the bill passed as trustees attempted to organize a hurried meeting that would have seen Galante resign in exchange for an 18-month, $800,000 consultancy.

“These six trustees merited removal because they failed in their duty to properly oversee the finances of the Queens Library, which receives more than 85 percent of its funding from government sources,” Katz said in a statement. “They also failed to adequately protect and preserve the Library’s resources and physical property by voting to block the New York City Comptroller’s legitimate efforts to obtain Library financial information and to audit the Library’s funding streams.”

Katz and Public Advocate Letitia James protested the move loudly and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman intervened, warning the members against the move, according to published reports.

But even James, who was an outspoken critic of Galante, said in a statement after the purge that the library was one of the best in the country but that it was important to get past the “distractions.”

“As a trustee of the Queens Borough Public Library, I applaud Mayor de Blasio and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz for their swift action on removing trustees from the library board. These changes will ensure more accountability and improve the delivery of library services for 2.3 million Queens residents,” James said in a statement. “In light of recent distractions, it is important that the library return to its main mission of serving all residents, particularly our children, seniors and English-language learners.”

The anonymous ousted trustee felt the cull was more about Katz’s ambition than the library system.

“I think she just got her dander up and there she goes,” the former trustee said. “It’s part of her master plan to have control of the borough. There was no gratitude, no graciousness. We do this because we love our community, love our neighborhoods, love Queens.”

The library released a statement lauding the departing trustees.

“Throughout the history of the Queens Borough Public Library, the people of Queens have benefited enormously from a highly committed library board of trustees whose leadership has helped keep libraries open and free,” the statement read. “They have helped make Queens Library a recognized national model of excellence.”

 

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Lefferts branch of Queens Library to temporarily close for roof installation


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BENJAMIN FANG

The books at the Lefferts library will soon have a new cover.

The branch, located at 103-84 Lefferts Blvd. in Richmond Hill, is temporarily closing, starting at the end of business on July 26, to install a new roof. The facility expects to reopen by the end of September.

Residents are advised to use the three closest Queens Library locations: 118-14 Hillside Ave. in Richmond Hill, 92-24 Rockaway Blvd. in Ozone Park and 128-16 Rockaway Blvd. in South Ozone Park.

During the closure, limited service will also be provided by a mobile library.

 

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Rochdale Village library to close temporarily for roof replacement


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

SARA TOUZARD

The Rochdale Village branch of the Queens  Library will be closed for about two months while the roof is being replaced, officials announced.

The branch, located 169-09 137th Ave., will close at the end of business on Aug. 2 and will reopen in October, the library said.

A mobile library will be set up to provide limited service every Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the closure.

For more information, visit the Queens Library’s website or call 718-990-0700.

 

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Restoration project for Glendale library unveiled


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Courtesy of Queens Library

Queens Library announced its plans to restore Glendale’s library to its former glory and make it more  accessible to the handicapped.

The library on 73rd Place was built in 1935 and since then little has been done to alter or improve the building, according to the project’s architect Matthew Baird. The budget for the project is $2.8 million and with this money, Baird plans on installing an elevator and restoring the interior and the attached garden.

The restoration team, which is part of the Department of Design and Construction, expects to start construction in 2017.

“It’s an incredible facility and we’d like to restore it to its grandeur,” Baird said during a Community Board 5 meeting. “It will be a fantastic place to be.”

The restoration project will also open up some windows that had been covered in bricks over the years, preventing light from entering the second floor. The bookshelves are battered and worn, something Baird wants to change by cleaning the shelves as well as much of the building.

When the library first opened, the garden was well-manicured but since then, the vegetation has become overgrown and Baird wants to not only trim the overgrowth but also install chairs so people can read outside.

The installation of a new elevator is an attempt to make the building more accessible to handicapped people. There will also be a new handicapped entrance on the Myrtle Avenue side.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley secured the $2.8 million through the City Council’s budget but the funds fall short of satisfying all of the library’s needs.

On the first floor there is a once vibrant mural that is now dull and dirty, but the project does not include funds to restore the artwork.

 

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