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Fate of Queens libraries still unsure

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Some city services, such as firehouses and public schools, may have avoided significant cuts under the city’s proposed budget that was expected to be passed this week, but Queens Public Library officials said they were still in limbo about their future.

The library’s administrators said the city’s cuts to their budget is not as large as the $25.3 million reduction that was proposed by the mayor, but they were unsure how it will affect their various services.

“We know for sure that hundreds of jobs were saved and all libraries will be open, thanks to the hard work of the mayor, speaker and Council,” Queens Library spokeswoman Joanne King said. “We do not know, at this point, if any layoffs or changes to hours of service will be necessary.”

Over the last month, library workers and supporters have been rallying at branches across the borough against the cuts. If the $25.3 million reduction did take place, then roughly 470 staff members would have been laid off, 48 libraries would have been closed four or five days a week and 13 libraries would have been the only ones that would be open on weekdays, according to the Queens Public Library.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who not only chairs the Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries & International Intergroup Relations but also worked for the Queens Library as a government liaison before taking office, was also coy on how the budget could affect services because, as of press time Tuesday, nothing was finalized.

“I think we have done as much as possible and I think we are hopefully going to see a significant and meaningful restoration,” he said.

The councilman said the rallies have shown the mayor and other Council members just how valuable the library is to constituents.

“I know every effort has been made to avoid layoffs,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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