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Most Libraries Will Only Be Open Five Days a Week Under Mayor Adams’s Budget

"It is astounding to me that we're in a situation where we are seriously contemplating losing universal six-day service."

(Hell Gate)

Most library branches across the city would have to cut back to opening just five days a week under Mayor Eric Adams's proposed budget, the heads of the three library systems warned on Tuesday.

At a City Council budget hearing, leaders of the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library pushed to reverse the $58.3 million in cuts they are facing for the next fiscal year.

Libraries have already eliminated Sunday service, after a mid-year $23.6 million cut Adams enacted in November. Now they say they'll have to cut another day at most branches if Adams's $109 billion preliminary spending plan goes through as proposed. 

"The impact of these cuts is untenable and will result in devastating loss of service," said Linda Johnson, president of the Brooklyn Public Library. "It is heartbreaking to be in this position."

Adams rolled out a host of sweeping budget cuts late last year, totaling five percent of City spending, citing the strain on the City's bottom line caused by housing thousands of migrants. 

But one by one, many of the highest-profile cuts have been reversed, as Adams acknowledged tax revenues were higher than he expected, something outside experts had long projected. 

Adams rolled back cuts to trash cans on city streets, maintenance at parks, school summer programs and community schools, and NYPD and FDNY hiring. And last week, the City brought back French toast sticks, bean and cheese burritos, and other popular menu items that had been eliminated from school cafeterias after widespread backlash. 

Libraries, however, have not gotten the same relief.

"Not a single library, not a single library in the city of New York, the greatest city in the world, is open seven days a week," said Dennis Walcott, president of the Queens Public Library. "That is tragic." Walcott added, "It is astounding to me that we're in a situation where we are seriously contemplating losing universal six-day service."

If the cuts proceed, beginning in July, more than half of Brooklyn branches and about 60 percent in Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx would cut back to five days a week. In Queens, all branches except two, the main library in Jamaica and the Flushing branch, would close on Saturdays. 

"There will be no weekend library service in the borough of Queens, home to 2.4 million. Weekends are an important time for people to use our libraries," Walcott said. 

Since eliminating Sunday service at the Flushing and central libraries, Walcott shared that visits to the Queens library system have plummeted—they are down 1,000 per Sunday at its central location and 2,000 at the Flushing branch. 

In Brooklyn, average weekly operating hours are already down eight percent, from 52 to 48. Under the latest round of cuts, they would fall further to 38 hours, totaling a 27 percent reduction. The system would also delay its opening until 1 p.m. on Thursdays, which it already does on Tuesdays.

If the mayor's proposed budget cuts are approved, it would be the first time in nearly a decade the city's libraries have not been open six days a week at every branch. 

"A cut of this magnitude to our expense budget is the highest we have faced in the time I have been in the library system," said Tony Marx, president of the New York Public Library. 

Library heads also warned that several branches which have been closed for renovations—three branches in Queens and three in Brooklyn—will not be able to open on time when the overhauls are complete, due to a shortage of staff. The libraries have not laid off workers, but have left open positions unfilled when employees leave. 

The libraries have also cut spending on materials, resulting in 72,000 fewer books and other items on the shelves at the New York Public Library, and 40,000 fewer at the Brooklyn Public Library. 

The mayor's cuts could also result in 25 percent less state funding for the libraries, due to a state law that requires localities to keep up their library aid in order to get full state dollars. "It's a piling on that will have terrible results," Marx said. 

The New York Public Library is launching a campaign to urge patrons to lobby their lawmakers to reverse the cuts. 

A similar campaign last year resulted in the City Council fully restoring the library's funding in the budget it approved. But the victory was short-lived, since Adams was able to unilaterally impose cuts in a mid-year budget adjustment.

The City Council has projected $3.3 billion more in tax revenue than the Adams administration's latest forecast, and on Tuesday, councilmembers again argued that the City can afford to reverse the cuts.

"New Yorkers deserve better, and these cuts are unacceptable," said Councilmember Carlina Rivera, chair of the Cultural Affairs committee. 

The council and the mayor must agree to and pass a budget by the end of June.

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