Mayor Adams’ $36M library cuts will reduce hours, slash ed programs, freeze openings, system heads say

Mayor Adams’ $36M library cuts will reduce hours, slash ed programs, freeze openings, system heads say

Saturday closures, restricted weekday hours, cuts to educational programs and a freeze on new branch openings.

That’s some of the drastic steps New York City’s public library systems may be forced to take if Mayor Adams moves ahead with his push to cut their budgets by more than $36 million this year, according to damning City Council testimony Monday.

The testimony, delivered by the heads of the city’s three public library systems, underscores just how detrimental they fear Adams’ first city budget proposal would be if adopted by the Council.

Rolled out by Adams in January, the $102.7 billion budget bid would eliminate $20.7 million in baseline funding for the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Public Library systems. In addition, the Adams plan would slash a $15.7 million “Libraries Initiative” created by the council last year, putting the across-the-board funding shave for the three systems at $36.2 million.

The Main Branch of the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue in Manhattan on Thursday, September 22, 2022.

New York Public Library President Anthony Marx, whose system is the city’s largest in servicing Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx, said the “painful” funding reduction proposal would touch every corner of his organization.

“The scale and magnitude of these cuts will impact our operations across the board, whether it be the capacity to open new branches, keep our current hours, maintain our collections, or offer programs,” he testified before the Council’s Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committees.

Adams’ spokesmen did not immediately return a request for comment after Monday’s hearing.

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and her Democratic colleagues have vehemently pushed back against the mayor’s preliminary budget, which he has argued balances the need for public services with concerns about the city’s long-term fiscal health.

The library cuts have emerged as an especially contentious provision of Adams’ blueprint, and City Council Democrats are expected to fight tooth and nail to reverse them before a final budget must be passed by July 1.

“This is life-saving, public safety infrastructure,” democratic socialist Queens Councilwoman Tiffany Caban said at a rally on the City Hall steps before Monday’s hearing. “Give the libraries all the money.”

Local politicians and advocates have long pushed for the city’s library branches to keep open Sundays, arguing they are critical resource hubs for low-income New Yorkers as they can access Wi-Fi, homework help, job fairs and a range of other services there.

But Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson said the funding levels floated by Adams would not only make Sunday service impossible. She said they would likely also force her system’s branches to suspend Saturday service.

“If these cuts are implemented, we will be forced to shorten hours or have Saturday closures, even though the number of library visits continues to rise,” she said.

Mayor Eric Adams is pictured Monday in Manhattan.

Indeed, demand for library services has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Brooklyn alone, Johnson testified that her system issued a record 143,000 new library cards last year. Her system’s on track to issue another 170,000 this year, she added.

A reduction in library service would ultimately hit the city’s neediest the most, according to Marx.

Programs that could be on the chopping block include “Storytime” for school-aged children and literacy workshops for adults and kids, he said.

Along with Queens Public Library President Dennis Walcott, Johnson and Marx urged Council members to not just reject Adams’ proposed cuts — but also push for funding increases for the library systems in the next budget.

In particular, the three library honchos said they have dire capital needs across their branches totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. That includes switching out old boilers at library branches and repairing bathrooms, they said.

“New Yorkers need and deserve modern, sustainable, updated spaces that match the promise of public libraries,” Walcott said.

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Mayor Adams to outline NYC security precautions as potential Trump indictment looms: sources

Mayor Adams to outline NYC security precautions as potential Trump indictment looms: sources

Mayor Adams and NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell are expected Monday to outline security precautions underway in the city ahead of former President Donald Trump’s potential criminal indictment in Manhattan, sources familiar with the matter told the Daily News.

It is believed that the indictment against Trump could drop as early as this week, and the sources said Adams and Sewell will brief local elected officials in a closed-door Monday afternoon meeting on what the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies are doing to prepare for the potentially unprecedented action by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office.

Adams spokesman Fabien Levy declined to comment on what to expect from the briefing, saying, “We don’t discuss private conversations.”

The NYPD install metal barricades in front of Manhattan Criminal Court on March 20, 2023 in New York City.

Earlier Monday, Adams’ aides said that there are no known threats related to a likely Trump indictment at this time. Still, Adams told reporters at City Hall that the NYPD remains on high alert.

“We are monitoring comments on social media, and the NYPD is doing their normal role of making sure that there’s no inappropriate actions in the city,” the mayor said. “We are confident we are going to be able to do that.”

In another sign that the indictment could be imminent, NYPD personnel could be seen Monday morning setting up barricaded press pens outside Manhattan Criminal Court, where Trump’s possible arraignment would take place.

Former President Donald Trump watches the NCAA Wrestling Championships, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Tulsa, Okla.

Sources familiar with Bragg’s investigation say the DA is looking into charging Trump with felony-level crimes for reimbursing Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, for a $130,000 hush payment he issued to porn star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election. Cohen has testified under oath that Daniels accepted the payment on the promise that she’d keep quiet about her allegation that she and Trump had sex in 2006.

Under Bragg’s theory, Trump may have committed campaign finance crimes by buying Daniels’ silence ahead of the election he won. If charged, Trump would be the first ex-president in modern American history to face a criminal indictment.

Supporters of former US President Donald Trump gather outside Trump tower in New York City on March 20, 2023.

The exact timing of any indictment is unclear. Trump claimed over social media this past weekend that he expects to be arrested Tuesday and — in an echo of his infamous comments before the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol — urged his supporters to take to the streets of Manhattan in protest.

A Tuesday indictment appeared unlikely, however.

NYPD officers place barriers near Trump Tower on Fifth Ave. in Manhattan on Monday.

The grand jury in charge of making the ultimate decision on whether to charge Trump was set to hear testimony Monday from Bob Costello, an attorney for ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a top surrogate for the ex-president. The grand jury is not expected to be seated Tuesday.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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Adams, Hochul launch ‘We Love NYC’ ad campaign to foster ‘positive attitude’

Adams, Hochul launch ‘We Love NYC’ ad campaign to foster ‘positive attitude’

Mayor Adams and Gov. Hochul were expected Monday to kick off a new “We Love NYC” ad campaign focused on brightening the spirits of New Yorkers and attracting more tourists to the city.

Echoing Milton Glaser’s classic “I Love NY” campaign from the 1970s, the new effort is the product of conversations between local elected officials and Partnership for New York City President Kathy Wylde, Adams said.

Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul

Adams, who was speaking on CNBC ahead of a formal campaign launch with Hochul and Wylde in Times Square, said the city is moving in the right direction, with most crime categories trending downward while job growth and tourism is improving.

However, Adams said the perception of the city is not up to date with the data — and argued that’s where the ad campaign comes in.

“Now we’re dealing with how people are feeling and bringing that positive attitude back to this amazing city. We’re resilient. This is New York,” he said.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, left, is pictured during an interview at Bryant Park early Monday morning.

Drawing a parallel to Glaser’s initiative, Adams continued: “That campaign really inspired us during the time of the ‘70s. I remember back then, and we just all started looking at that big heart and saying, ‘I Love New York.’ And instead of just the singular love in New York, all together is what’s going to make this city the great city that it is.”

This story will be updated

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NYC public defender groups in dire financial need, calling for $425M funding increase: ‘We’re in the crosshairs of serious disaster’

NYC public defender groups in dire financial need, calling for $425M funding increase: ‘We’re in the crosshairs of serious disaster’

New York City’s six major public defender groups are in such dire financial straits they fear they’ll collapse if they don’t see a $425 million funding increase in the next municipal budget, the Daily News has learned.

The six groups — the Legal Aid Society, New York County Defender Services, Brooklyn Defender Services, Queens Defenders, Bronx Defender Services and Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem — provide free court representation to low-income New Yorkers in criminal and civil matters. But due to a deepening staffing crisis, the groups’ lawyer ranks are growing so thin that they are scrambling to fulfill their duties.

To address that, the groups will submit a request to the City Council on Monday that calls for the nine-figure funding bump.

New York City’s six major public defender groups provide free court representation to low-income New Yorkers in both criminal and civil matters.

Of the requested increase, $300 million would be for the groups’ civil practices and the practices of dozens of smaller partner providers, according to paperwork shared with The News. The remaining $125 million would be for their criminal practices.

That would be on top of the roughly $600 million the groups currently receive per year from the city, a pot that also funds appellate defender groups and some private attorneys representing low-income New Yorkers.

Without the funding boost, Adriene Holder, the attorney in charge of the Legal Aid Society’s civil practice, said she fears her group’s basic operations will falter. The real-life consequence of that, she added, is tens of thousands of indigent New Yorkers going without representation in housing, immigration and criminal courts.

“We are in the crosshairs of serious disaster here,” said Holder, who has worked at Legal Aid for over three decades. “I want to believe that we are able to sustain things, but, yes, we are at a breaking point.”

Adriene Holder, the attorney in charge of the Legal Aid Society’s civil practice, is pictured in 2007.

Mayor Adams and the City Council are in negotiations over next fiscal year’s municipal budget, which is due by July 1.

Adams’ first $102.7 billion budget proposal unveiled in January would keep city funding effectively flat for the public defender groups.

Adams spokesmen did not return requests for comment last week, but the mayor has voiced support for jacking up funding for public defenders as a way to help clear extensive court backlogs. He has said the responsibility for allocating that funding mostly lies with the state Legislature, though.

“Public defenders are overwhelmed and need our help immediately,” he testified in Albany last month. “The state must make a major investment in them now or risk depriving defendants of their constitutional right to a speedy trial.”

A spokesman for Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said her Democratic conference will push for more public defender money from both ends, saying “the city and state must partner to provide increased funding.”

The cause for the city public defender crisis is varied.

Pay parity agreements for public defense attorneys, brokered in 2019 under the de Blasio administration, were shelved because of the pandemic, and city funding for the groups has effectively stayed the same since then as a result.

That has kept wages stagnant — the starting salary for public defenders in the city is still about $75,000 — prompting many to leave for the private sector, where they can earn more at a time of soaring costs of living due to economic factors like inflation.

Mayor Adams and the City Council are in negotiations over next fiscal year’s municipal budget, which is due by July 1.

Legal Aid, which is the city’s largest group, currently has 328 vacancies out of the group’s more than 2,000 positions.

Stan German, a criminal defense attorney who leads the New York County Defender Services, said his group is also seeing troubling staff shortages.

Providers like the New York County Defender Services are struggling to fill vacancies because their wages are not competitive when compared to counterparts in other cities, like Oakland, Calif., where starting salaries for public defenders tops $100,000, German said.

The city’s comparatively low wages is also what’s driving lots of his current staff to leave, German said. And when attorneys leave, German noted that their cases must be reassigned to colleagues who are already struggling to handle massive workloads.

“It’s a vicious cycle that everybody is facing,” he said.

A chunk of the funding increase the groups are requesting would go toward making the city’s public defense wages more competitive, reps for the groups said. It would also go towards expanding the groups’ staff, and bridging funding shortfalls for increasingly expensive provider contracts.

Discovery reforms enacted by the state Legislature to speed up court proceedings have also caused additional expenses for the groups that need to be funded, the groups say.

New York City’s six major public defender groups provide free court representation to low-income New Yorkers in both criminal and civil matters.

Meantime, the need for public defense services has only increased since the pandemic, especially on the civil side, which is perhaps the sector that has felt the staffing crisis the most. That’s in part because landlords have filed thousands of eviction cases since the state eviction moratorium and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program expired last year.

According to data from the state Office of Court Administration, public defender providers had to decline more than 10,000 eviction cases between March 2022 and this past January — meaning tenants in those cases went without representation. That’s in spite of the fact that the city has a “Right to Counsel” program that’s supposed to ensure universal access to legal representation for housing court defendants.

“We are at this point where we just can’t take all the cases that are coming through, and it kills us because we know how important it is for people,” Holder said. “Legal representation is the difference between people being able to stay in there homes and becoming homeless.”

Speaker Adrienne Adams

Indeed, Maria Carrasquilla, an Elmhurst, Queens, resident who lost her custodian job during the pandemic, said Legal Aid helped her stay in her home after her landlord sought to evict her in 2022 when she couldn’t afford her monthly $1,746 rent.

Legal Aid secured a Section 8 voucher for Carrasquilla, 64, that lowered her rent so significantly she can now afford it. She said she doesn’t think she would still have her apartment without the legal assistance.

“This kept me up at night. I couldn’t sleep,” she said in Spanish.

Unlike his colleagues on the civil side, German said criminal public defenders in the city have not had to deny defendants representations so far. But he said his attorneys are spread so thin they sometimes have to represent more than 50 clients at a time.

“We are meeting our contractual obligations to provide representation, but the question isn’t if intake is falling through the cracks,” he said. “The question is: What does quality representation look like? How can you provide quality representation under those circumstances? Ultimately, quality representation is what suffers.”

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NYC Councilman Chris Marte’s aide resigns following accusations of harassing reporter

NYC Councilman Chris Marte’s aide resigns following accusations of harassing reporter

A New York City Council staffer has resigned after allegedly berating a female journalist with misogynistic slurs.

Councilman Chris Marte said Sunday that his aide Steven Wong was resigning — after Marte initially stuck by his staffer.

Marte, a Manhattan Democrat, initially refused to fire Wong after the staffer left four voicemails with a reporter at Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily, according to a complaint filed with the City Council.

Wong allegedly called journalist Lotus Chau a “c–t” and other offensive terms in Cantonese during the February verbal attacks.

Steven Wong, a former staffer for NYC Council member Christopher Marte.

Last week, Marte said he wouldn’t fire Wong because he didn’t think the translation of the outrageous voice memos was correct.

“There is usage of Cantonese slang curse words which are unprofessional and inappropriate,” Marte said in a statement to the Daily News. “We do not find them as grounds for termination.”

He changed his tune Sunday, saying he initially knew of only one voicemail and only recently found out about three others. He said those had not been submitted to the Council’s general counsel.

“I do not know what they contain or why they were not included,” Marte said. “When I immediately contacted Mr. Wong to find out more, he said he regrets his actions and is now offering his resignation which I have accepted.

“I hope this decision can bring healing to those who were hurt by his actions,” he added.

Chau said she didn’t believe Marte hadn’t previously heard the recordings.

“Marte treats this matter as trivial, as he has not apologized and does not feel remorseful,” she said. “His statement shows that he does not value Asian women, as he allowed his staff to bully an Asian female reporter and other Asian women without consequences.”

Wong had been on administrative leave since The News first reported on his outbursts on Feb. 23, a Marte spokeswoman said Sunday. She refused to say whether he was paid during that time or not.

A local community board member cast doubt on Marte’s claim that he hadn’t known about all of the voicemails.

“I believe Marte is in damage control mode. It was reported to be multiple voicemails so how can three have been omitted to the general counsel’s office,” Karlin Chan of Manhattan’s Community Board 3 told The News. “I believe Marte realized this would come back to bite him in the election this year and asked Wong to resign.”

Susan Lee, a Manhattan lawyer who’s challenging Marte in primary elections this summer, also criticized the incumbent.

“Misogyny and bigotry have no place in civic affairs,” she said. “Marte and Wong owe an apology to Lotus Chau, and to his constituents, for even thinking he could weather the storm. This was not a close call. The buck stops with Marte.”

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Feds should crack down on Elf Bar vaping products targeting kids, Sen. Schumer says

Feds should crack down on Elf Bar vaping products targeting kids, Sen. Schumer says

The feds should snuff out a popular e-cig brand that appears to be targeting kids, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday.

He called out China-based Elf Bar, saying it’s been getting social media influencers to advertise harmful nicotine products with flavors like apple-peach and cotton candy to children.

“There’s a new e-cigarette in town. It’s hooking New York City and Long Island young people with kid-friendly flavors and Gen Z colors,” Schumer told reporters.

“It is made in China and it is in all likelihood evading [Federal Drug Administration] rules about advertising cigarettes to kids, including e-cigarettes.”

Elf Bar did not immediately answer emailed requests for comment.

Noting that Elf Bar shuns traditional advertising on TV or in print, Schumer said the company has paid influencers to flaunt the product — garnering a jaw-dropping 1.6 billion views for clips with the Elf Bar hashtag on TikTok.

Senator Charles Schumer reveal that a new disposable e-cig, the “Elf Bar,” which is made in China, could soon be in local schools if federal action is not taken.

He called on the feds to investigate such practices.

“Depending on what the investigation might find, my message to the FDA and Justice Department is, take every action up to and including banning Elf Bar,” said the New York Democrat. “Just as we had to chase Juul out of the market of directing e-cigarette advertising and sales to kids, we have to do the same with Elf Bar.”

Last year, the FDA moved to ban Juul sales in the U.S. after the company was pressured to stop selling flavored vaping products. The ban is now playing out in court.

“That left a vacuum, and this Chinese company, Elf Bar, is trying to fill that vacuum,” Schumer said.

Senator Charles Schumer

Meanwhile, youth use of disposable e-cigs has “skyrocketed,” he noted.

Puffing of the products increased 1,000% among high schoolers from 2019 to 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It went up 400% among middle school students.

Elf Bar is available at bodegas and shops throughout the city and Long Island, Schumer said.

Recent social media promotions have included an unboxing video of an Elf Bar product and a person who dressed as an Elf Bar for Halloween, he added.

“We believe that the FDA can shut this advertising down and eventually shut Elf Bar down,” Schumer said.

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