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    Libraries rule, cops drool: Today’s the birthday of both NYC’s libraries and police.

    James Folta

    May 23, 2024, 12:59pm

    Today is a double anniversary in New York City. On May 23, 1845, the New York Police Department was founded, and 50 years later on May 23, 1895, the New York Public Library was established. Today, over a century and a half later, these two city institutions are not getting equal slices of their shared birthday cake.

    Thanks to our ex-cop mayor and an overtime-greedy police department, the cops are hoovering up a ton of our city’s budget. From City & State:

    In April, Mayor Eric Adams released the $111.6 billion executive plan for the city’s fiscal year 2025, which begins July 1. The budget proposal included $5.83 billion for the police department… The April executive plan also included an additional $160 million to cover overtime costs for uniformed members in the current fiscal year, bringing the NYPD’s overtime budget to $960.9 million, about 16% of the agency’s total budget.

    The police claim they need all this overtime, in part, to police unexpected events like Trump’s trial and anti-genocide protests — $53 million of police overtime alone was spent beating up college kids.

    Meanwhile, Mayor Adams’ executive budget for 2025 cut funding for public libraries by $58 million — peanuts compared to what the cops get — forcing most branches to reduce their hours so that they can only open five days a week. Nearly every other library service has been cut as well, including “half as many young adult literacy classes, citizenship classes, and visits to senior centers and nursing homes, as well as fewer visits to children in hospitals,” according to reporting in Hell Gate.

    After justifying the cuts due to poor finances, Mayor Adams announced last month that there was a miscalculation, and that NYC had more cash than expected. At a big event covered in The City, the mayor announced that some budget cuts would be reversed, including for cops and pre-schools — but not for libraries.

    It’s abundantly clear that libraries are not a priority. It’s embarrassing, frankly, that a world-class city like New York doesn’t have world-class libraries, and it’s infuriating that the money is going instead to pay more officers to stand around in phone-twiddling clumps.

    Our libraries are vital. They’re not just places to get books, audiobooks, movies, and more (shout-out to the Libby app, I love you Libby app), they are also community centers and the rare place in an expensive city where you can be inside without spending money. One New Yorker told Hell Gate: “This is the only space where you can do work to move your life forward where you don’t have to pay anything…“Everyone’s like, ‘Why don’t you study at a coffee shop?’ But I don’t want to pay for an $8 latte every 45 minutes.”

    If I were a mayor with a 28% approval rating, a growing chorus of prominent critics, and a circling corruption investigation, I might be on the lookout for a popular win, like reinvesting and reinvigorating New York’s public libraries. What a birthday gift that would be.

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