A city official told The Forum this week that millions of dollars in funding for Richmond Hill Library is not frozen, despite a previous published report that said otherwise.
The Daily News had reported that about $20.27 million in funding for projects had been frozen in light of scrutiny over spending by Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante. Galante has in recent months faced intense criticism from elected officials over his nearly $400,000 salary at a time when the library was laying off workers, as well as funds the library spent on what some have called lavish renovations at the library’s central office.
According to the original Daily News article, the $20.27 million that had been frozen included $14.93 for the library’s central branch, $4.03 million for Richmond Hill, and $1.31 for Cambria Heights. This, however, was “overstated,” according to a city official who did not wish to be named but had direct information about the matter.
It is correct, however, that $20.27 million is “in the pipeline,” according to the city official. The requests for the funding are pending with the city Office of Management and Budget, and the OMB has requested additional documentation from Queens Library – but those requests are still being processed, the official said. Once the requests are processed, they funding will also have to be approved by the DDC.
Members of the Friends of Richmond Hill Library had been especially concerned to hear that there could be more than $4 million frozen for their institution, as they said such a figure would help to cover the cost of much-needed basement renovations.
“When you think about what the community needs, and you see all the unused space down there, it’s devastating,” Friends of Richmond Hill Library board member Deborah Emin said in previous interview in reference to the facility’s expansive basement.
While the basement covers a vast amount of space, the library currently can only use one room for events – and that space could be taken this coming school year if the city decides to use it for its expanded universal pre-kindergarten program. The rest of the basement is currently used as facilities depot for the entire Queens library system – which translates into the space being a seemingly haphazard collection of everything from lawnmowers to rubber hoses.
By Anna Gustafson