Van Bramer touts library bill as first Council success

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Freshman City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) has hit the ground running and does not intend to slow down any time soon.

When his office held its first open house last month, staff reported they were working on 150 constituent cases.

“I think that’s a significant number in 2 1/2 months,” Van Bramer said in an interview at TimesLedger Newspapers’ office in Bayside.

Van Bramer is chairman of the Council Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee, an understandable appointment given his previous career as external affairs director for the Queens Library and his longtime friendship with Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), whom he met while working on a political campaign in 1991.

“It’s been sort of a dream fulfilled,” he said, noting he had written testimony for library directors to read at Council hearings for 11 years. “I ... always wondered if I’d get to serve in the Council, serve on that committee and maybe one day chair that committee — and I got all three.”

With that in mind, Van Bramer had his first sponsored legislation passed by the Council, a bill that would send public library card applications home with public school students.

“I think it will make a world of difference,” he said, noting 400,000 students across the five boroughs do not have cards, including 113,000 in Queens. “Actually getting into the schools is the most effective way.”

Van Bramer is also proud of bringing a slate of MTA officials to a public meeting in Long Island City to hear residents’ complaints about the weekend shutdown of the No. 7 subway line between Grand Central Terminal and Queensbridge Plaza for more than a month this winter for track repairs.

“I think a lot of people said this was the first time, even though this has been going on for a long time, that there was an open meeting,” he said.

The transit agency completed the repairs several weekends ahead of schedule and is now investigating the possibility of conducting future repairs during stretches in the summer when the New York Mets are on road trips and baseball fans do not need to use the No. 7 train.

With major budget cuts looming, Van Bramer said he will focus the next several months on trying to spare his district from undue burden.

“We’re very concerned about the [city] Department of Youth and Community Development,” he said. “They are proposing to eliminate some after-school programming, including PS 150 in my district in Sunnyside.”

But as a member of the newly formed Progressive Caucus, Van Bramer also plans to take part in advocating for issues like paid sick days, prevailing wage legislation and affordable housing.

“There was a lot of excitement, a lot of press around all these community organizers that got elected,” he said, referring to himself, Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn). “And I think that is great when community organizers get elected to political office. It kind of has the potential to change the political landscape a little bit.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 5:45 pm, October 10, 2011
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