New York City to restore funding for libraries, reopen on Sundays | CNN Business (2024)

New York City to restore funding for libraries, reopen on Sundays | CNN Business (1)

A view of the children's section in the interior of the New York Public Library's (NYPL) Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, after a $200 million renovation in midtown Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., June 1, 2021.

New York CNN

New York City officials have agreed to restore more than $111 million in funding to libraries and cultural institutions, the City Council announced Thursday.

The agreement is a victory for residents and organizations who had been pushing back for months against budget cuts in the nation’s largest city and one of the world’s foremost cultural capitals.

In November, the city announced it would cut the budget of the New York Public libraries by $58.3 million in fiscal year 2025, and slash the budget for other cultural institutions, including the Bronx Zoo and Carnegie Hall, by $53 million. The new deal reverses those cuts, and is set to be finalized in a City Council vote Sunday.

“We are proud to announce a full restoration of funds to both our libraries and cultural institutions in the upcoming budget,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams in a statement Thursday. “These institutions are a critical part of New York City’s social fabric, which New Yorkers depend on for their children’s growth and the vibrancy of our city.”

Adams’ office unveiled additional cultural sector cuts of $7.6 million in January, before reversing those cuts in May.

“Our arts and cultural institutions and libraries are foundational pillars of our city, and New Yorkers depend on their services every day,” said New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, thanking the mayor’s administration for reaching the deal. “The Council has consistently championed funding restorations for these institutions as a top priority, and we’re proud to reach an agreement with Mayor Adams and the administration to successfully secure these critical investments for them in the city budget.”

The news was received with collective approval from New York institutions that had been forced to cut hours and public access due to lack of funding.

“The Museum of the City of New York is delighted to learn of the restoration of cuts to the cultural sector,” the museum’s president Stephanie Hill Wilchfort told CNN in a statement.

“This support makes it possible for MCNY to be open seven days a week, starting on July 1,” said Wilchfort, who serves as Executive Vice Chair of the Cultural Institutions Group, a coalition of 34 non-profit organizations such as the city’s museums, gardens, and arts centers. “As such, the Museum’s exhibitions exploring history, popular culture, and art will be open to the public on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the first time since the pandemic. City support also allows the Museum to operate as a cooling center, open at no charge to anyone who seeks relief from warm weather.”

The city’s three public library systems — New York, Queens, and Brooklyn — issued a joint statement thanking the administration, the city council and New York residents, who overwhelmingly supported the campaign to restore library budgets. More than 174,000 people sent letters to City Hall in support of the “No Cuts to Libraries!” campaign since the cuts were announced in November.

“This funding will allow us to resume seven-day service, a priority for many New Yorkers,” the libraries said in a statement shared with CNN. “We expect that service to begin in the coming weeks, bringing our branches back to the same hours of operation prior to the November 2023 cuts. The funding also allows us to continue universal six-day service, which New Yorkers have enjoyed for nearly a decade.”

Not all library locations are open seven days a week, but those who did offer the service were forced to close on Sundays following the budget cuts.

A flat budget amid rising costs

But the budget restoration may not be enough for the libraries, which operate as publicly owned community spaces and provide residents with social services like English classes, career hubs, tax preparation centers and after school programs. While the proposed 2025 budget doesn’t catastrophically gut the city’s libraries, they are still facing a nominally flat budget that does not account for inflation or rising costs.

Last month, the presidents of the three library systems testified before the City Council on increasing costs, including maintaining library infrastructure, providing staff with equitable wages and ensuring that there are enough physical, audio and downloadable books for the city’s roughly 9 million residents.

“We are running a library system today on a pre-pandemic funding level that has not kept pace with inflation,” Linda Johnson, president and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library said at the time. “Restoration alone will not solve our operating budget needs.”

Tony Marx, president of the New York Public Library reiterated those sentiments, stating that library operation costs are increasing across the board for wages, health insurance, library materials, maintaining collections and technology.

“We estimate that unreimbursed cost growth next year may be more than $9 million,” he added.

New York City to restore funding for libraries, reopen on Sundays | CNN Business (2024)
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