Tag Archives: Queens Public Library

After Queens Library audit findings, Crowley wants new legislation passed

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

On the heels of the first audit of Queens Library executives in almost 20 years by City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley introduced legislation that would require officers of city-funded, nonprofit organizations to disclose any conflicts of interest regarding their income.

After the audit revealed that former Queens Library CEO and President Thomas Galante and current interim CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey had amassed over $310,000 in personal expenses over a three-year period, including $115,000 in taxable, undeclared income, Crowley said it was “vital” to get this piece of legislation heard and ultimately passed.

The bill would mandate all individuals in leadership positions at charitable, city-funded, nonprofit organizations report sources of outside income to the city annually.

“Now that we know more of the discrepancies committed by library executives, it’s important that going forward, we ensure this corruption is stopped before it can begin,” Crowley said. “We the public should be aware of all sources of income and benefits of each executive and close family member. No executive receiving city monies should be immune to these disclosures. In their positions, they should voluntarily assure the city they are acting in accordance with the law.”

This legislation is currently in the City Council Contracts Committee awaiting a hearing in the fall.

“Last year the City Council learned that Tom Galante, president of the Queens Public Library system, spent public dollars for personal use. He continues to be under investigation for that and other irregularities,” said Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, chair of the Contracts Committee. “I applaud Council member Elizabeth Crowley for her leadership to shine light on conflicts of interest involving these executive positions. I am eager to hear her legislation in the Contracts Committee later this year.”


Star of Queens: Orion Bustamante, volunteer, Youth Empowerment through the Arts, Hour Teen

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY SERVICE: Orion Bustamante, 15, recently ended a three-month volunteer position at the Queens Public Library. During this time, he would help put away, label and sort returned items. He also helped kids, ranging from first to eighth grade, with their homework and tutored them.

Currently Orion is involved in an after-school program called Youth Empowerment through the Arts. He is also a member of Hour Teen, a program offered by the nonprofit agency Hour Children, which provides services to help formerly incarcerated mothers and their children rejoin the community. On May 18, Orion and other members of Hour Teen will be walking five miles in Central Park for the AIDS Walk New York.
A couple months ago Orion also participated as director of photography in Cinequest’s Picture the Possibilities program.

BACKGROUND: Orion was born in Las Vegas, raised in California and now lives in Long Island City. He is a freshman at LIC High School on the Honor Roll and participates in school activities such as Global Kids and National Junior Honor Society. He is in the process of joining the school’s lacrosse team and is also part of Hour Children’s Hour Mentoring Program.

“I have a wonderful mentor named Andrew who I go out with nearly every weekend and do stuff I’ve never done before,” he said.

Orion also enjoys going to Starbucks with his friends after school for a Frappuccino.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Orion’s favorite memory is the moment he got to see his father come home after being incarcerated for two years.

“[My favorite memory is] getting to see my dad for the first time in two years without having to drive eight hours upstate on a bus, going through metal detectors, and being surrounded by barbed wire fences and bars,” he said. “We made him a welcome home banner and hung it in our building’s hallway right by our front door.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Through the years, Orion said his biggest challenge was seeing his mom struggle with losing her job and having to move out of their home. His family of four then went on to live in a one-bedroom apartment, which ended up getting flooded.

“During all of this my dad was incarcerated, so my mom had to care for us herself. In spite of this all, I managed to balance my life,” he said. “My family, school life, social life and my personal life. It is sort of like a mailman with a lot of packages: he has his arms full and needs to keep his baggage stacked evenly to keep it from falling in the middle of the street.”

INSPIRATION: “What inspires me to do what I do is my mom,” Orion said. “She took care of me and my brother all by herself.”

The 15-year-old said he is inspired by his mother, who managed to buy a house at 19 and, although she didn’t finish college, she has a job at Goodwill Industries, where she has been promoted three times.
“She never gave up. At our worst times when we were in ruins she was the only one to keep us going every day,” he said. “She is what keeps us in order. I don’t know where we would be today without her. I am driven to make her proud and to be as great of a person as she is one day. I love her. She is my mother, the person who brought me into this world. She’s one of my best friends, role model, inspiration, and most important of all – my arrow. She is what holds me back only so that I could be launched into something great.”



Libraries get funding to expand

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Maggie Hayes

Ten-year-old Darius Barnes was upset when he learned his local Laurelton library might be closing.

“I didn’t want it to close,” he said. “The library has helped me.”

Barnes goes to the library after school, where he has been able to do homework and projects, as well as take courses in Mandarin with the site’s manager, Dave Wang.

When the budget for the 2014 Fiscal Year was initially proposed, library funding was set for across-the-board cuts. Ultimately, the cuts put the Rosedale and Laurelton libraries at risk of closure. The community and the City Council responded and were able to take the cuts out of the budget altogether.

Additionally, Councilmember Donovan Richards allocated nearly $3 million in extra funding to expand his district’s libraries.

“This library is my second home,” said Ruth Wright, 11, at the Laurelton site.

Wright, just as Barnes, visits the library after school and said not only has it given her a place to do homework, but also has given her the opportunity to meet new friends.

“Cutting funding to our libraries is the same as cutting funding to our youth,” Richards said.

Libraries are the central parts of the neighborhoods, he said, and these allocated funds will kick off a long-term project of expanding and improving the Laurelton, Rosedale and Rockaway libraries.

“Learning is the key. That’s what this library is about,” said Dwight Johnson, president of the Federated Blocks of Laurelton. “This is what we need in our community.”

Richards’ goal is to allocate $3 million a year for district libraries. He said the Rosedale library will take $7 million to fully expand and complete and $11 million for Laurelton.

“The idea is to give young adults a safe place where they can congregate and grow, with the latest technologies – this gives them a reason to stay in the libraries and off the streets,” he said.

Queens Library leader recognized by White House

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Public Library

A Queens Library leader won a national honor last week for being a “Champion of Change” for cultural institutions in her community.

Jennifer Manley, the vice president of government and community affairs for the Queens Public Library, was one of 12 people in the nation this year to be recognized as an advocate for museums and libraries.

“Manley believes in the power of information and education to improve lives, one at a time, neighborhood by neighborhood,” the White House said in a statement.

The 62 branches of the Queens Public Library circulate more than 13 million items and see more than 13 million visitors a year. It has become a leader in providing services to immigrants, who make up half of the borough’s population, library and White House officials said.

“Jennifer’s work embodies what this program is all about — recognizing leaders who make a difference in their communities,” said Congressmember Steve Israel. “Queens Borough Public Library is fortunate to have leaders like

Jennifer who contribute so much to the excellence of the institution.”
Congressmember Joseph Crowley called Manley a “staunch advocate” for libraries. He said she “works hard to preserve this invaluable resource for the people who need it most.”

The Champions program gives accolades to individuals and groups who do “extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities,” the White House said.

“Jennifer has been a tremendous asset to the Queens Borough Public Library,” said Congressmember Grace Meng, “and this award exemplifies the outstanding work she’s done to make a difference throughout the many communities of Queens.”



New modern library opens in Glen Oaks this May

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Public Library

Glen Oaks is getting a sleek new library that opens in the third week of May, officials said.

The $17 million facility at 256-04 Union Turnpike is 18,000 square feet­­—nearly double the size of the neighborhood’s temporary library at 255-01 Union Turnpike. The new, three-story building will have more customer service features including computer workstations, an outdoor reading space and separate areas for adults, teens and children.

The library will also have a sweeping interior staircase, a sky-lit reading lounge and a partial glass exterior.

As construction wraps up, the temporary branch will close on May 3, officials said.

Bookworms can visit nearby libraries in Bellerose or Windsor Park until the grand opening. Materials can be renewed online at www.queenslibrary.org or by phone at 718-990-8508.



Library expansion breaks ground in memory of Queens activist

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Their eyes looking to the skies in memory of a lost beloved leader, elected officials drove their golden shovels into the dirt to break ground on a long-anticipated library expansion project.

“It feels so good to be standing here today, knowing that construction is beginning,” said Queens Library President Thomas Galante at the Friday, April 19 ceremony.

The $10 million renovation project at the Kew Gardens Hills Library was a longtime pet project of Pat Dolan, a Queens activist who was struck and killed by a car last November. She was 72.

“Her memory lives on,” Galante said. “The library she loved so much is now officially located on Pat Dolan Way, and this [expansion] will be her legacy to the community. We will always know she is looking on.”

There will be an extra 3,000 square feet of space when the branch at 72-33 Pat Dolan Way reopens in 2015, officials said.

The library will also have twice as many computers, a bigger meeting room, an energy-saving roof and larger, separate spaces for adults, teens and children.

“This will be a fantastic library. It’s going to be a great place,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “Libraries are important because they’re full of knowledge. Little children, teenagers, seniors—they’re good for everyone to absorb knowledge.”

The branch closed for construction on February 22. A temporary library is open at 71-34 Main Street, library officials said. Nearby branches are also located in Hillcrest, Briarwood and Pomonok.





Teen sexually assaulted at Queens library

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Screenshot/Video courtesy of NYPD

Authorities are looking for a man who sexually assaulted a 15-year-old inside an Astoria library.

According to police, on Monday, March 4, at about 6 p.m., the suspect, while inside the Broadway branch of the Queens Public Library, approached the teen, grabbed her crotch, exposed his genitals to her, and then fled.

There were no injuries reported.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic or Middle Eastern man, 40 to 45 years old and was wearing a tan jacket, grey hat, black shirt and blue jeans.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).  The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.




Broad Channel Library opens for first time since Sandy

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Public Library

For the first time since Sandy, the Broad Channel branch of the Queens Public Library reopened — signalling that things are getting back to normal in Queens.

More than 16,000 books were lost as the library took up to two feet of water in the storm, ultimately costing $940,000 in damage.

“Queens Library at Broad Channel is a pivotal resource for all ages, an information hub and a community hub,” said Library President and CEO Thomas W. Galante. “We are so grateful to Commissioner David Burney and the NYC Department of Design and Construction for all their hard work in getting the library re-opened in record time. We look forward to seeing every library in Queens re-built to full capacity and serving library customers with books, job skills training, after school enrichment and everything they depend on their libraries to provide.”

To help get libraries get back open, book publisher Scholastic has donated 40,000 to the Queens Public Library.

$7M in renovations for Queens Library branch

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo rendering by Queens Library

The Kew Gardens Hills library will soon close to make way for a $7 million renovation.

An extra 3,000-square-feet of space will be added to the 72-33 Vleigh Place branch, library officials said. There will also be twice as many computers, a bigger meeting room, larger separate spaces for adult, teens and children and an energy-saving roof.

“Queens Library at Kew Gardens Hills serves so many people who have a diverse range of educational and informational needs,” said Queens Library President Thomas Galante. With a “dramatic façade and green roof, it will be like a new library for the community.”

David Kirschner, co-president of the Kew Gardens Hills Civic Association, said the expansion could not have been done without longtime community leader Pat Dolan, who was struck and killed in November 2011 while crossing the street.

“We’re thrilled primarily because this was one of [her] pet projects,” Kirschner said. “She really worked for years to obtain approval for an expansion of the library. She was finally able to get it but never able to finally see it happening.”

The branch will close on February 22 and reopen in 2015. A temporary library will be available mid-March at 71-34 Main Street during construction. Nearby branches are also located in Hillcrest, Briarwood and Pomonok.



Mitchell-Linden library to move, expand

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Public Library

The Mitchell-Linden library will be moving to a larger space down Union Street, officials said.

The existing branch at 29-42 Union Street in Flushing is one of the busiest libraries in Queens, according to Queens Library spokesperson Joanne King. But the 5,900-square-foot building had become too crowded since its 1962 opening.

Since the space cannot be expanded, King said Queens Library officials purchased the first floor of a nearby condominium at 31-32 Union Street to serve as the branch’s new home. The two locations are less than a two minute walk apart.

The new library will be 25 percent larger, officials said, with an additional 720-square-feet of space to be later acquired.

It will finally be fully handicap accessible, with a bigger meeting room inside, new décor, more computers, separate spaces for adults, children and teens and a window view reading lounge.

The new space is expected to open this summer, officials said.



Ban sex offenders from library children’s rooms say pols

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

After a man sexually abused two children at the 41-17 Main Street branch of the Queens Public Library last month, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Councilmember Peter Vallone want to ban convicted sex offenders from entering children’s reading rooms.

Joel Grubert, who on July 7 was arrested for sexually abusing a 6- and 9-year-old at the library, is a registered sex offender. In 2004, he was convicted for possession of child pornography, and served time for kidnapping, reported the NY Post. Last year, a similar incident happened at another Queens Public Library branch in Astoria.

Currently sex offenders are not legally allowed to enter a playground, but the courts have ruled that a policy of banning sex offenders from libraries altogether is unconstitutional.

De Blasio and Vallone have written a letter to New York State Legislative leaders asking them to pass legislation that would make entering a designated children’s room at a public library a criminal offense for a sex offender.

“It is common sense that we keep sexual predators away from areas where young kids congregate,” said Vallone. “Children’s rooms in libraries are really indoor playgrounds for growing minds, and our kids need every protection we can give them.”