LIBRARIES, BUDGETS, AND POTENTIAL BANKRUPTCY

New York City could be heading toward bankruptcy, yet Mayor de Blasio’s new budget seeks a three billion dollar increase, with cuts to libraries and many other city agencies.  Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer is here with a plan to help ensure these vital services will remain unscathed.

Aired on March 20, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> FINANCIAL ANALYSTS ARE WARNING THAT NEW YORK CITY IS JUST A SINGLE RECESSION AWAY FROM BANKRUPTCY.

YET, DESPITE THE WARNINGS MAYOR de BLASIO HAS PROPOSED TO INCREASE THE BUDGET BY $3 BILLION.

AND EVEN THOUGH AT THE SAME TIME THE MAYOR DID CALL FOR CITY AGENCIES TO CUT THEIR BUDGETS, IS IT TIME TO TIGHTEN THE PURSE STRINGS EVEN MORE ACROSS THE BOARD OR SHOULD INSTITUTIONS SUCH AS PUBLIC LIBRARIES BE EXEMPT FROM ANY POTENTIAL CUT BACKS?

JOINING US WITH ANSWERS TO THAT AND OTHER QUESTIONS IS JIMMY VAN BRAMER, THE CHAIR OF THE COMMITTEE OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS AND LIBRARIES.

COUNCIL MEMBER, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ONCE AGAIN.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

GIVE US A SENSE OF WHAT LIBRARIES WOULD DO BEYOND LOANING BOOKS AND GIVING QUIET SPACE FOR STUDY.

WELL, LIBRARIES ARE THE COMMUNITY CENTERS AND REALLY THE HUBS OF NEIGHBORHOODS ALL ACROSS NEW YORK CITY AND ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

THEY ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN BOOKS AND MATERIALS, ALTHOUGH I MYSELF STILL LOVE TO READ BOOKS, SO DO MANY OTHERS.

IT IS WHERE IMMIGRANTS COME TO LEARN HOW TO READ, WRITE AND SPEAK ENGLISH FOR FREE.

IT IS WHERE PEOPLE WHO ARE LOOKING FOR JOBS GO FOR RESUME WRITING WORKSHOPS AND TO BE ASSISTED IN THAT SEARCH.

IT'S WHERE HOMELESS INDIVIDUALS GO OFTEN TO FIND A WARM PLACE TO SIT.

IT'S WHERE SENIORS GO.

IT IS WHERE EVERYTHING GOOD IN A NEIGHBORHOOD THAT CAN HAPPEN REALLY COMES TOGETHER.

SO LIBRARIES ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER.

THEY WILL ALWAYS I BELIEVE BE CRITICAL CIVIC INSTITUTIONS AND A PART OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE THAT MAKES FOR GOOD COMMUNITY.

MAYOR de BLASIO HAS ALREADY ALLOCATED IN HIS PROPOSED BUDGET, HE HAS ALLOCATED $388 MILLION FOR THE NEW YORK CITY LIBRARIES.

THAT SOUNDS LIKE A LOT BUT IT'S ACTUALLY A CUT FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR, CORRECT?

YEAH.

SO WE'RE LOOKING AT ABOUT A 3% CUT FOR A PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM.

AND ABOUT $2.5 MILLION FOR QUEENS AND BROOKLYN, MORE FOR THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY WHICH HAS THREE BOROUGHS.

LIBRARIES ARE ESSENTIAL EVERY DAY, IN ALL TIME.

I WOULD ARGUE THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO CUT BACK ON THE VITAL PROGRAMS AND SERVICES THE PUBLIC LIBRARIES PROVIDE.

IN FACT, WE SHOULD ACTUALLY BE SEEKING TO EXPAND THOSE SERVICES.

AND THE LIBRARIES ARE WITH YOUR SUPPORT THEY'RE ASKING FOR $35 MILLION MORE.

WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO USE WITH THAT MONEY?

WELL, ONE OF THINGS THEY WANT TO DO IS TO CONTINUE TO PROVIDE THE SERVICE BUT EXPAND THEIR SERVICES IN WAYS THAT WOULD ALLOW PEOPLE TO GET MORE HELP AND MORE ASSISTANCE.

SO CERTAINLY THEY NEED TO KEEP PACE WITH THE RISING COSTS.

LIBRARIES ARE NOT IMMUNE TO THE COSTS OF MATERIALS AND STAFF TIME AND ALL OTHER KINDS OF EXPENSES, BUT WHAT WE NEED TO DO IS TO SEE IF WE CAN INCREASE THE HOURS AND DAYS OF SERVICE.

IN ORDER TO DO THAT, YOU NEED SOME MORE RESOURCES TO BE ABLE TO ALLOW PEOPLE TO GET TO THE LIBRARY WHEN THEY NEED IT.

LIBRARIES OPEN DURING THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY IS CERTAINLY HELPFUL TO SOME OF OUR CITIZENS BUT MANY FOLKS ARE WORKING AND CAN ONLY GET TO THE LIBRARIES LATE IN THE EVENINGS OR WEEKENDS.

CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG, BUT I THINK IT'S FAIR TO SAY THAT MAYOR de BLASIO HAS BEEN PRETTY FRIENDLY TO THE LIBRARIES AND HE'S CONTINUALLY INCREASED THE BUDGET EXCEPT FOR THIS YEAR.

HAVE THE LIBRARIES USED THE MONEY THAT THEY HAVE BEEN GIVEN WISELY?

OH, MY GOODNESS, YES.

FIRST OF ALL, LET ME SAY I BELIEVE THE CITY COUNCIL HAS LED THE FIGHT FOR THE LIBRARIES' BUDGETS TO BE INCREASED BUT I WILL BEGRUDGE THE ADMINISTRATION FOR HAVING SHOWN SUPPORT FOR LIBRARIES AS WELL.

AND LIBRARIES USED THE MONEY WELL?

LIBRARIES GIVE YOU THE BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK IN MUNICIPAL GOVERNANCE.

WHEN IT COMES TO THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE SERVED, WE ARE TALKING ABOUT TENS OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE STREAMING INTO THE LIBRARIES IN NEW YORK.

OVER 200 LIBRARIES.

WHEN WE SEE THE USAGE, WHEN WE SEE THE DIFFERENCE THEY'RE MAKING IN THE LIVES OF IMMIGRANTS, IN THIS CITY, AND WE'RE TALKING ABOUT ALL IMMIGRANTS, RIGHT?

THIS IS A SANCTUARY CITY.

LIBRARIES WERE THE ORIGINAL SANCTUARY IN THE SANCTUARY CITIES, ALLOWING UNDOCUMENTED AND DOCUMENTED ALIKE TO COME IN AND GET BOOKS, TO READ, WRITE AND LEARN HOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH FOR FREE.

THAT'S IMPORTANT IN A CITY LIKE OURS THAT CLAIMS TO BE PROGRESSIVE.

AS I SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION AS YOU WELL KNOW, SOME FINANCIAL EXPERTS ARE SAYING NOW THAT WE'RE JUST ONE RECESSION AWAY FROM BANKRUPTCY AND IN HIS BUDGET PROPOSAL THE MAYOR WAS PRETTY GRIM IN THE OUTLOOK.

FIRST OF ALL, DO YOU AGREE WITH THOSE ASSESSMENTS OF OUR ECONOMIC SITUATION?

I DO NOT AGREE THAT WE ARE CLOSE TO BANKRUPTCY.

I AGREE WITH THE MAYOR THAT THE BOND RATING WAS RATED HIGHER AS A SIGN OF OUR PRUDENCE AND FISCAL STRENGTH IN THE CITY.

OBVIOUSLY WE NEED TO BE PRUDENT IN THE FACE OF THE POTENTIAL FOR THE ECONOMY TO SLOW DOWN.

I THINK WE HAVE DONE THAT WITH ESTABLISHING SOME RESERVES OVER THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS WITH THE COUNCIL AND THIS MAYOR WORKING TOGETHER.

CERTAINLY WE CAN DO MORE, BUT IT'S IMPORTANT NOT TO CUT THE SERVICES THAT THE MOST VULNERABLE NEW YORKERS RELY ON.

YOUR COMMITTEE OVERSEES ARTS AND CULTURAL ACTIVITIES IN THE CITY.

ACCORDING TO THE CITY OF CULTURAL AFFAIRS THE BUDGET FOR 2019 WAS THE HIGHEST EVER AT $189 MILLION.

IT HAS BEEN CUT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2020.

IS THAT AN AREA THAT YOU CAN SEE IF NECESSARY SOME POTENTIAL CUTS?

SO CULTURE AND THE ARTS LIKE LIBRARIES REALLY SUSTAINS US AS A CITY.

CULTURE AND THE ARTS ACTUALLY DRIVES INCOME TO THE CITY OF NEW YORK.

WE KNOW 65 MILLION TOURISTS A YEAR COME TO NEW YORK CITY.

77% OF THEM RATE CULTURE AND THE ART AS THE FIRST OR SECOND REASON WHY THEY COME TO THIS CITY AND THAT GENERATES BILLIONS IN REVENUE.

YOU CUT THE ARTS, YOU'RE CUTTING OFF YOUR NOSE TO SPITE YOUR FACE.

ALL RIGHT.

COUNCIL MEMBER VAN BRAMER, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US AGAIN.

THANK YOU.

Funders

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