NYC Rescinds $58M In Public Library Cuts; Libraries Will Reopen on Sundays

After months of public outcry and pressure from the City Council, New York City’s libraries are poised to have their budgets fully restored so that branches may resume seven-day-a-week service, including Sundays, according to three people with knowledge of the budget negotiations.

Mayor Eric Adams and the City Council are set to announce a handshake budget deal on Friday that reverses $58 million in library cuts, the sources said. The three people who spoke to Gothamist provided the information on the condition that their names not be used because budget discussions are private.

Following the publication of this story, the mayor and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams issued joint press releases announcing the restoration of funding for libraries as well as cultural organizations.

“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,” the mayor said in a statement.

The speaker, who thanked the mayor, said restoring the funding had been a “top priority” for the Council.

As part of the 11th hour negotiations, the Adams administration also agreed to provide $43 million annually for the libraries in future years, according to the sources. The change represents a significant concession from the mayor, who has seen historically low approval ratings tied in part to budget cuts. The decision to guarantee a portion of the library budget could help spare libraries from the annual budget dance because they have traditionally been used as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

The cuts to the more than 200 library branches had become a political thorn in the mayor’s side. In the weeks leading up to the budget agreement, Council members and library leaders mounted an aggressive pressure campaign: they organized rallies and enlisted support from high-profile individuals, including Hillary Clinton and Whoopi Goldberg. A heatwave that lasted through the weekend further spotlighted the Sunday closures of libraries, which serve as cooling centers.

The Council is expected to pass the budget over the weekend, allowing the city to meet the June 30 deadline.

The overall budget fight became a protracted battle between the mayor and Council, with Adams citing the multi-billion dollar costs to care for migrants as a reason for belt-tightening. But amid better than expected revenues and cost savings, he walked back some of the cuts to public safety, parks and schools.

The mayor was more reluctant to restore cuts to libraries, agreeing only to grant them a reprieve from a planned cut this fiscal year.

At the time he made the cuts, Adams argued that libraries should consider drawing funds from their endowments.

“Some have over a billion dollars in their endowment,” he said in January. “Let’s share the wealth. Let’s find ways of helping all New Yorkers navigate through this crisis that we’re facing.”

But endowments are often earmarked for specific programs and capital improvements, deeming them off limits for general funding. Library officials have also repeatedly maintained that the city is legally obligated to help pay for library operating costs.

This story has been updated with comment from Mayor Eric Adams and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams.

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