The Story

The $78.5 billion budget agreement reached recently by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city council provides $300 million in capital funding for the city’s libraries over ten years. The libraries had requested much more—$1.4 billion—for renovations and infrastructure repairs, which are certainly needed. But one reason for such a dramatic disparity between the library’s request and the city council’s allocation is the ongoing burden of retirement-benefit costs on the city budget.

The Facts You Need to Know

  1. Shelf Life: Sixty-four percent of branches in the city’s three main public library systems have repair needs totaling $1 million or more. Read more.

  2. Check Out: In the last fiscal year, New York City devoted $8.1 billion to pensions—a 152 percent increase over the prior decade. Read more.

  3. Squeezed: If pension costs had merely kept pace with the overall budget, which grew 42 percent between 2005 and 2014, the city would have had an additional $3.6 billion to spend on services. Read more.

“New York’s three public library systems have struggled to keep their buildings in a state of good repair . . . 59 branches across the city have at least $5 million in basic repair needs.”

David Giles

Twitter Take

The Past is Present

A Social-Uplift Program That Works By Nicole Gelinas (Autumn 2006)

“The Queens Library is that rare New York phenomenon: a government-funded social-uplift program that works. It succeeds by doing what it has done for over a century: giving New Yorkers with ambition (however modest or grand it may be) the tools they need for self-improvement.”

And in other news...

“The writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has a new book out, “Between the World and Me,” about race in America, that has been greeted rapturously. Even critics of Coates have acknowledged the book’s power, though some – like conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks – have seemed befuddled how to respond: “Am I displaying my privilege if I disagree?” […] How can white people talk about race in a productive way?”