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New York City’s public libraries may be forced to close on weekends after a fresh round of budget cuts threatens to chop tens of millions from the library system’s already-plummeting budget.The proposed 2024 fiscal budget cuts to NYC public libraries is now up to $52.7 million from the previous $36.2 million Motherboard reported on earlier this year. Library systems representing the five boroughs, including New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library issued a joint announcement that more funding cuts would obliterate weekend hours across the largest city in the country.
“Without the restoration of our funding, we would need to suspend Saturday service at a number of locations across the city and completely eliminate Sunday service,” all three NYC public library systems said in a joint statement sent to Motherboard. “In addition, we would be forced to delay maintenance and repairs, postpone the reopening of a number of newly renovated locations and reduce our collections, programs, and services.”The cuts come as the city finalizes a new eight-year contract with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) which would give police officers billions in salary increases and overtime pay. Yesterday, the Police Benevolent Association (NYC PBA), the city’s police union, voted to approve the union’s new contract with New York City Mayor Eric Adams. The labor agreement increases police wages retroactively beginning in 2017, and introduces a pilot program that will allow police officers to work more flexible hours. In total, the agreement will cost $5.5 billion, and top pay for officers after five-and-a-half years of service will be $131,500 per year—a $40,000 increase. In a statement, PBA President Patrick J. Lynch cited the pandemic, “rising crime,” and a “deluge of criticism” as justification for the increased wages, despite that the crime rate in New York City is still at historic lows.
“We will continue our quest to return New York City police officers to their rightful place as the highest paid police officers in the nation,” Lynch said in the statement. “We look forward to returning to the bargaining table with the city in 2025.”The new police contract is part of an effort to hire and retain more police officers after almost 4,000 cops resigned or retired last year. In January, The City reported that the NYPD’s spending for the current fiscal year was already on track to cost the city an additional $366 million—double what the budget allotted for overtime payouts.
In a statement from Adams' office, the mayor’s spokesperson said that Adams is working with libraries to help them meet users’ needs, and once again blamed the library cuts on asylum seekers and decreased tax revenue.“This administration has made critical investments in the city’s three library systems and recognizes the vital role they play in our communities," said mayoral spokesperson Jonah Allon. "We have asked agencies to achieve savings in response to fiscal and economic conditions, including a projected $4.3 billion in asylum seeker costs, slowing tax revenue and potential cuts and cost shifts from the state."Adams has received plenty of backlash since first announcing the preliminary 2024 fiscal budget last year, though it’s unclear if the mayor has really noticed. As the mayor continues to work closely with police, library workers and patrons worry about how people who rely on libraries as community spaces and their services might cope if services aren’t available on weekends. All three library systems say it’s important to note these cuts aren’t yet final. “We will continue to strongly advocate against these cuts to avoid implementing any of these drastic steps and thank the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who love their public libraries and who have sent emails to City Hall to support our efforts,” NYC public libraries said in their joint statement. Update: Shortly after this story was published, Adams announced he would postpone some of the most recently proposed cuts. However, this would not affect the $36.2 million in cuts that had already been proposed to the library system in the 2024 budget.