Stringer calls on the City to combine success of Open Streets with library services and pedestrianize areas outside of branch libraries
Proposals come on the heels of City Hall budget cuts and as libraries reopen for service
As Mayor, Stringer will ensure that all 216 branch libraries in the five boroughs are open seven days per week and will end disparities between the City’s three library systems
New York, NY – Comptroller and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer today proposed the City close off and pedestrianize streets outside of select libraries across the five boroughs to bring library services into open streets, as well as expand services across the five boroughs. Stringer’s proposal of “Open Libraries” will help expand the footprint of our local libraries and ensure New Yorkers who are not yet fully vaccinated, as well as those who just want to spend more time outdoors, are able to enjoy the full services of the City’s public libraries.
Stringer’s plan comes as advocates slam City Hall’s proposed $10 million budget cut to library services, which would slash operating hours and endanger more than 100 full-time positions.
“Libraries are essential for our communities, and we’ve got to bring them back with a bold reopening plan,” said Comptroller Scott Stringer. “Our children go to libraries to build on what they learned in classrooms, explore their interests, and learn new skills. Our seniors use libraries for recreational activities and community services. We have to reimagine and expand how our libraries serve our communities. We can use libraries to do more for our communities. As we reopen libraries for safe, in-person services, we need to double down on libraries — and we can do that by pioneering a new model where we open our doors and bring our libraries into the streets.”
New York City’s public libraries have been closed since March 14, 2020. Despite the shutdown, they have continued digital services, created new methods of bringing New Yorkers together for workshops and community events over Zoom, and implemented a “grab-and-go” system for checking out books. After more than a year of suspended in-person services, dozens of libraries have opened their doors this week.
New York City’s public libraries are community anchors, providing storytime for young children, after school programs for students, English-language classes for non-native New Yorkers, computer classes for seniors, job and skills training for those building career pathways, and other programs and resources for New Yorkers of every age and background. By investing in our libraries, we invest in all New Yorkers.
Scott’s proposals include:
- Creating car-free zones outside of public libraries located on lower-traffic streets to increase their footprint and introduce outdoor reading and activity spaces for New Yorkers who are not yet comfortable going indoors.
- Ensuring that every branch library is open seven days per week and closing the disparities between the City’s three library systems, in order to expand services for communities throughout the five boroughs. Pre-pandemic, only 8% of the 216 branch libraries in the five boroughs were open seven days per week. In comparison, more than 60% of libraries in Westchester, Nassau, Suffolk, and Rockland counties were open seven days per week and library branches in cities like Philadelphia, San Diego, San Antonio, and Columbus were open more often and offered longer hours of service than in New York City. As Mayor, Scott will put an end to this patently inadequate service, ensuring that all 216 branch libraries in the five boroughs are open seven days per week. Moreover, the average NYPL branch library in Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx is open for five more hours per week than QPL branch libraries. As Mayor, Scott will close these disparities, ensuring that libraries are open an average of 53 hours per week — up from the current tally of 50 hours per week at NYPL, 49 hours at BPL, and 45 hours at QPL.
- Establishing outdoor “Take-out Tables” where patrons can browse and check out books without ever going indoors, as other communities like La Grande, OR, have successfully done. A number of branch libraries in the Brooklyn Public Library system have piloted outdoor programming — Scott would make these programs permanent, ensuring open streets provide outdoor space for local libraries, and provide adequate support for additional staffing needs.
- Ensuring the highest standards of protections for libraries and library staffers, including providing adequate personal protective equipment, supporting vaccine services, and ensuring paid leave for workers who need to get vaccinated.
- Ending the punitive nature of library fines and fees by limiting costs of fines and establishing a three-year moratorium cycle on fines, permanently extending the New York Public Library policy created during the pandemic. According to the Gothamist, fines for overdue books make up a tiny fraction of the annual budgets of our public library systems — for example, the New York Public Library takes in about $1.5 million annually in fines, out of an annual budget of $322 million. But, fines take a toll on library visitors — with nearly half a million New Yorkers’ library cards having been blocked at some point for accruing $15 in fines or more, meaning they can no longer check out books, including tens of thousands of students.