The city is giving a second look at the receipts the Queens Library submitted for reimbursement on its controversial renovation of the central library in downtown Jamaica.
The “pass-through” funds, as they are called, go directly to the library in cases when city funds are combined with those from outside sources such as state monies or private donations for construction projects and renovations. In cases when the majority of construction money is city funding, the city Department of Design and Construction holds the purse strings and manages the project.
A spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget said the agency has asked the library for more documents relating to its request to be reimbursed to the tune of $16.2 million for its renovations of two libraries.
“Approvals of the Queens Central and Cambria Heights pass-through projects are pending further documentation requested by OMB,” the spokeswoman said.
At a City Council hearing Monday members of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations and representatives from the Design Department held a discussion on pass-through contracts, which have little oversight compared to construction projects managed by the city.
“That money has not been paid to Queens Library. That is currently at the budget office. It has been stopped,” DDC Deputy Commissioner David Resnick said. “As of now we are not issuing any pass-throughs of any sort to Queens Library.”
The committee’s chairman, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), said he thought that was the right move considering the controversy over Queens Library President Thomas Galante’s use of capital funds.
“I just want to say I think that’s the prudent thing to do given where we find ourselves,” said Van Bramer, a former Queens Library employee who has held a number of hearings on the library’s management.
Library President Thomas Galante is under investigation for the way he managed contracts on the Central Library job and has come under harsh criticism for his executive compensation and outside employment.
The pass-through process was designed to encourage the libraries to seek outside funding, but Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), chairman of the Subcommittee on Libraries, said it was hard to determine whether the trade-off in transparency was worth it.
“I keep hearing from several sources about the benefits of these pass-through contracts ... that they’re going to decrease time. They’re going to increase the bang for your buck that we’re going to get and that they’re worth the trade-off,” he said. “I don’t particularly agree with that, but I’m trying to get to the bottom of that.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2014 Community News Group
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