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NYC libraries set to stave off further cuts as Mayor Adams faces backlash, sources say

New York City’s public libraries are expected to be exempt from another round of budget cuts, a move that should allow them to maintain six-day-a-week schedules, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The news comes as Mayor Eric Adams is set to unveil his highly anticipated 2025 budget plan on Tuesday. Many city agencies have been holding their breath after across-the-board cuts in November forced cuts to key services.

Libraries at the time responded to a $24 million cut by eliminating seven-day-a-week service and said any further cuts meant that the city’s more than 200 branches would only be open five days a week, the fewest operating days since before 2015.

The three people who spoke to Gothamist provided the information on the condition that their names not be used because budget discussions are private.

They cautioned that the libraries were only spared from additional cuts this fiscal year and that it was yet unclear whether they would face further budget reductions in upcoming negotiations around future years.

The mayor’s office and library representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Facing a public backlash to budget cuts, Adams last week took the unusual step of revoking some cuts totaling around $200 million. Over three days, he has restored funding to public safety, sanitation and parks, and education and youth programs.

Libraries did not see any funding restored, according to the sources.

Although a popular institution among New Yorkers, libraries have historically been on the chopping block, used as part of the annual budget dance with the City Council.

As in previous years, the city’s three major library systems responded to the recent round of cuts by launching a vigorous public battle against theme cuts. The New York Public Library made clear the source of the cuts to their patrons.

“Due to mid-year city budget cuts, there is no Sunday service at NYPL after November 26, 2023,” read a sign which was translated in multiple languages.

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Both independent and city budget experts have attributed the city’s substantial deficits in the coming years to migrant spending, costly labor contracts and the end of federal pandemic aid. But some council members have called the sharp across-the-board cuts unnecessary and even accused the mayor of manufacturing a financial crisis.

Adams’ rollback of some cuts have only intensified councilmembers’ criticisms that the mayor did not need to implement such sharp reductions.

In a Daily News op-ed on Friday, Justin Brannan, the councilmember who chairs the finance committee and Nathan Gusdorf, the executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, said that city budget officials intentionally underestimate the city’s revenue projections as part of a conservative budgeting practice.

“There’s no question that our city faces fiscal challenges with the expiration of federal COVID funds and slowing economic growth — but overstating their severity, and making unnecessary broad budget cuts, inflicts real economic harm on working New Yorkers,” they wrote.

Adams, who has pleaded for more federal help with the migrant crisis, dismissed those claims during a City Hall press conference on Friday.

“All the financial experts are saying, what is it going to cost us?,” he said. “The $7 billion cost tab is real. And so if anyone wants to continue to state that it’s not real, it’s manufactured, I find that surprising. And that sends the wrong message to Washington D.C.”

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