Tag Archives: Queens Library

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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Queens Library announces library-based UPK classes this fall


| events@queensny.org

PAULINA TAM

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vision for universal pre-kindergarten is becoming a reality at two Queens Library locations.

Starting this fall, Queens Library at Woodhaven, at 85-41 Forest Parkway, and Queens Library at Ravenswood, at 35-32 21st St., will provide early childhood teaching. Licensed early childhood instructors selected by the library will be facilitating the schooling, the library said in a statement.

“Queens Library is dedicated to lifelong learning. No time in a child’s life is as important to academic success as the early learning years, and there is no better place to create good readers than at the library,” Queens Library president Thomas Galante said in the statement. “Having universal pre-K in the library will also present the opportunity to connect other members of the family with programs, including adult education, ESOL, computer training, job search help. There is so much Queens Library offers to enrich lives.”

Exact start dates have not been announced.

 

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Queens student turns garbage into money, gives back to library


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Queens Library


Someone’s garbage can be turned into someone else’s future, according to 14-year-old student Kashfia Zaman.

The Woodside resident is a sophomore at Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria who began a community service project after a teacher suggested students become involved in starting a volunteer project.

As part of the project, Zaman collects discarded bottles and cans, deposits them for cash, donates the money to the Queens Library at Long Island City, located at 37-44 21 St., and then asks local businesses to match the amount she collects.

“I thought to do something concerning the environment because of global warming,” said Zaman, who hopes to one day be a software engineer or computer programmer. “So I thought about recycling bottles and cans. And I remembered in my elementary school there was a teacher who, when she recycled bottles and cans, she would cash them in to help her sister, whose house fell down in a tornado. So I got all this money, and I decided to do something for the community.”

With the help of her teacher, Zaman drafted a written pledge and asked businesses to sign. She has received matching funds from Astoria business such as Imagination Unisex Hair Designer at 25-01 Newton Ave., Anthia Digenakis of Function Enhancing Physical Therapy at 32-76 31st St. and Guillermo Hung of Pao & Cha Cha at 23-03 Astoria Blvd.

“I decided to give it to the library because the library has always been a very important thing to me. It was always there for me. I could always go to the library and request as many books as I want,” she said.

So far, Zaman has collected more than $120 and purchased new books for tweens, children between 10 to 12 years old, at her library. She said she decided to help get books for younger children because she wants to help them get into the habit of reading and become inspired to volunteer and help out in their communities.

“I was completely blown away by the vastness of her project and I was excited to buy books for our children,” said Tienya Smith, community library manager at Queens Library at Long Island City.

Zaman said that she and a friend are also in the process of creating a website in which they discuss the importance of keeping more libraries open during the weekends, in order for students to have access to do their homework or use the Internet.

“On the website we have letters and pictures explaining why we would want to keep the libraries open on weekends,” she said. “My friend and I are also writing a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio asking him if he could make a little more space in the budget for libraries.”

 

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State Senate passes Queens Library reform bill


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

A bill to bring reform to the Queens Library has gotten the thumbs up from the state Senate and will now make its way to the governor’s office where it is expected to be signed into law, officials said.

The Senate voted Thursday on the bill which calls for a number of “best practice” reforms including creating an audit committee to oversee the Library’s accounting and financial reporting processes and its annual audits and establishing a labor relations committee to address labor issues.

“Once enacted, my bill will rein in the excesses revealed in recent reports and provide a long-term blueprint for an efficient, transparent and accountable library system of which every Queens resident can be proud,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who sponsored the bill.

The bill would also require executive staff of the Queens Library to file financial disclosure forms and be subject to limitations on any outside employment that could be a conflict of interest with their library responsibilities. The bill would also call for the Queens Library’s Board of Trustees to approve the hiring of key Queens Library staff.

“This bill has generated grave concerns and raised red flags with statewide and national groups. The American Library Association wrote that it would ‘threaten the ability for Queens Library to operate free of political influence, and will serve as a dangerous precedent for libraries and library boards around the nation,’” said Gabriel Taussig, chair of Queens Library’s Board of Trustees, who said he was not speaking on behalf of the rest of the board.

 

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$8.2M renovation of Kew Gardens Hills library to be complete in 2015


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy the Queens Library


The $8.2 million revitalization of the Queens Library at Kew Gardens Hills is set to be completed in the summer of 2015, according to the organization.

Representatives from the library and the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) informed the community about the construction at Tuesday’s Kew Gardens Civic Association meeting.

The library is being expanded by 3,000 square feet to about 10,500 square feet. The renovation will include technology updates, a separate area for teens, a new sloped-concrete roof and a full interior renovation. Outside the library, there will also be a new handicapped accessible entrance ramp, new sidewalks, trees, a bicycle rack and flagpole.

 

Funding for the library was allocated by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Rory Lancman, Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky.

 

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Sunnyside library to temporarily close


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The Sunnyside branch of the Queens Library will close at the end of business on Saturday, June 21 to install a new roof.

The library, located at 43-06 Greenpoint Ave., is expected to reopen in mid- August.

A mobile library will provide limited service every Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the closure. Readers can also visit near-by branches at 25-01 Jackson Ave. in Court Square, 37-44 21 St. in Long Island City and 54-22 Skillman Ave. in Woodside.

 

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Op-ed: Don’t miss an opportunity to invest in Queens


| oped@queenscourier.com

JOSEPH FICALORA

Here is a good investment: a service that is proven to change lives. A service that is free for all, withheld from none, and guaranteed to positively impact the future of all your neighbors. This investment returns an average of $6 on every $1.

This is the opportunity that the Queens Library, one of the borough’s greatest institutions, has to offer. Investing in the library is investing in the people of Queens.

Thanks to an improved fiscal outlook, the City is well-positioned to begin to expand library service and hours in every library, which is something our patrons want and need. This means increased access to programs: adult education, job preparedness, school work assistance, computer use, consumer health information and more.

As a city, we must continue investing in the physical infrastructure that protects the assets of each of our 62 community libraries and the knowledge and educational dividend they return. To miss this opportunity based on sensational headlines and unproven innuendo would truly be a disservice to the people who rely on the Library.

I have been a volunteer on the Board of Trustees of Queens Library since 2000. I volunteer my time and expertise because I know first-hand about the enormous, positive impact the Queens Library makes on the community. The Queens Library is one of the most innovative and forward-thinking public resources we have. It is consistently a national award winner.

Queens Library’s outstanding performance and invaluable contributions to the quality of life cannot be divorced from its management and governance. If the Board or the senior management were lacking, surely the library could not achieve the high level of excellence that it does.

The Library has an outstanding track record regarding capital improvements to its community library branches. It works with the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to consistently build and upgrade libraries across the borough.

When it can achieve building projects more rapidly and at lower cost by self-managing the construction process, it has done so. All expenditures of City funds are then under the oversight of DDC, the Office of Management & Budget and the Comptroller’s office. While an onerous review process, it is a customary and necessary part of the public review which enables this highly efficient, both in time and money, renovation of library space. It makes good business sense and is prudent public policy. In addition, the Queens Library recently requested that the Independent Budget Office review and analyze this process.

The Queens Library Board of Trustees has regularly taken aggressive action to enhance our governance practices. We are not above criticism and not averse to making changes.

The Library’s Board of Trustees has been ahead of the curve in implementing the mandates of the New York State Non-Profit Revitalization Act. This action, ahead of the law’s implementation in July, has established a new library board Audit Committee; and requires trustees and key employees to provide financial disclosures, as well as meet required independence mandates. All of these actions are geared toward enhancing oversight and transparency.

As taxpayers, we all have the right to know that funds are being spent prudently. The Queens Library is providing records of all City funds to the City Comptroller’s office, and as of this writing, the City Comptroller’s office has already reviewed thousands and thousands of financial records.

I am confident that when the cloud clears, when the inquiries and audits are completed, that the integrity of the library and its leadership will be confirmed.
In the end it is critical to stay focused on the mission of the institution and our role, as trustees, in its future: to reinvest and serve as caretakers for one of the nation’s great library systems and the more than 12 million constituents it serves each and every year.

Joseph Ficalora is President of the Foundation Board and has served on the Queens Library Board over the past 15 years, and in that time, has been Chairman of the Administrative Committee and Chairman of the Board.

 

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Free lunches for kids to be distributed at Queens libraries this summer


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Liam La Guerre

BY PAULINA TAM

Twenty-two Queens Library locations, in partnership with the city’s Department of Education (DOE), will be distributing free summer meals to children and teens 18 years and under starting June 27 to August 29.

Bagged lunches will be served every Monday through Friday between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. and each will generally include a fresh sandwich, fruit, milk and sometimes a salad, according to library spokeswoman Joanne King.

“The library is an open public space and we want to attract people to come to the library,” King said. “While they’re here they can have free access to other programs. The Queens Library also has a very robust summer reading program and we want to encourage people to get involved with that so they can be better prepared for the academic program in the fall.”

There is no application, qualification or ID necessary to receive a free meal. Children and teens are recommended to arrive early to get lunches, while supplies last. The Queens Library is just one of many agencies collaborating with the DOE, and interested parties could call 311 to get a full list of participating locations.

Listed below are the participating Queens Library locations:

312 Beach 54 St., Arverne

14-01 Astoria Blvd., Astoria

117-11 Sutphin Blvd., Baisley Park

218-13 Linden Blvd., Cambria Heights

1637 Central Ave., Far Rockaway

41-17 Main St., Flushing

202-05 Hillside Ave., Hollis

89-11 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica

134-26 225th St., Laurelton

98-30 57th Ave., Lefrak City

37-44 21st St., Long Island City

40-20 Broadway (at Steinway Street), Long Island City

92-24 Rockaway Blvd., Ozone Park

158-21 Jewel Ave., Pomonok (Flushing)

103-34 Lefferts Blvd., Richmond Hill

169-09 137th Ave., Rochdale Village

116-15 Rockaway Beach Blvd., Rockaway Park

204-01 Hollis Ave., South Hollis

108-41 Guy R. Brewer Blvd., South Jamaica

43-06 Greenpoint Ave., Sunnyside

85-41 Forest Pkwy., Woodhaven

54-22 Skillman Ave., Woodside

 

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Library services coming to Gantry Plaza State Park this summer


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ File Photo

Book lovers will be able to enjoy reading at Gantry Plaza State Park this summer.

Queens Library and the Friends of Hunters Point Library have announced a special series of library services coming to the waterfront Long Island City park all summer long.

On May 31, a kick-off of the series will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 pm. and will feature the Volunteer Library Brigade hosting reading hour, book giveaways and more. All activities are free.

“The Hunters Point community deserves a world class library and we are very much looking forward to seeing that vision become a reality,” said Mark Christie, president of the Friends of Hunters Point Library. “While we wait on the bricks and mortar we are so pleased to have the Mobile Library service and excited to bring this sun and volunteer fueled pop-up library service.”

A mobile library will be parked every Saturday, rain or shine, at Vernon Boulevard and 48th Avenue from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and offer books and materials for all ages for loan as well as digital downloads onsite and special library offerings.

The Friends of Hunters Point Library will be supporting a “pop-up” library on Saturdays, weather permitting, offering reading and activities starting at 11 a.m. with children’s story hour.

In partnership with Urban Libraries Unite and Food Cellar, a mini-library will be placed at the Food Cellar in Long Island City. It will be modeled on “take a book, leave a book.” Wi-Fi will be available at the site and there will be a free downloadable digital library.

There will be no service on July 5.

 

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Queens Library announces free coding lessons through online tech portal


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Logo courtesy Queens Library


 

Why pay thousands of dollars for coding classes? Just go to the library.

The Queens Library recently announced its users will have access to Treehouse, a free online interactive education platform that teaches programming languages and how to build websites, so members can obtain more skills and qualify for higher paying jobs.

Through Treehouse, library members will be able to learn how to program a website, create an Android app, and get an introduction to Javascript, Rails, iOS and more.

Users need to have a Queens Library card and account, which are free and available to apply for at any library branch or online for anyone who works, owns property, or goes to school in New York.

The library will also host free Treehouse orientation sessions at the end of May and in June at its Flushing branch and at the Central Library in Jamaica. Dates and times are listed below.

Flushing Branch:  May 30 at 3 p.m.; June 6 at 10 a.m.; June 30 at 3 p.m.

Central Branch:  May 31 at 2 p.m.; June 12 at 10 a.m.

Click here to visit the Treehouse portal.

 

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