BP Secures $17 Million For Queens Parks and Libraries 

Credit: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

By Iryna Shkurhan | ishkurhan@queensledger.com 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. ended the city’s 2023 fiscal year with securing $10 million for parks across the borough, and $6.9 million for the Queens Public Library System. 

“It was a historic year for Queens, as we made unprecedented investments in ensuring our students receive the best education possible, our families have high-quality open space in their communities, our hospitals have state-of-the-art equipment and more,” said Richards in a press release on July 12.

The capital allocations will fund various renovations at 11 parks and playgrounds in Queens, including synthetic turf field renovations at Idlewild Park in Rosedale which received $1.5 million. Equity Park in Woodhaven, Frank O’Connor Playground in Elmhurst and St. Michael’s Playground in Woodside received $1 million each for playground updates, while Lawrence Virgilio Playground in Sunnyside was allocated $1.5 million for updates. The athletic field at Leonardo Ingravallo Playground also received $1 million. 

Twelve Queens Public Library branches will be upgraded with the near $7 million in funding secured by Richards. The Rosedale, Corona and Arverne branches will now be able to expand their facilities. The Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, Baisley Park, and Hollis branches will undergo renovations. And the HVAC system at the Astoria branch will be upgraded. 

“Queens is the future of New York City, and I’m deeply proud of the work we are doing together as one borough to make that future as bright as possible,” said Richards, who said he will begin announcing allocations for next year in the coming weeks. “We’re just getting started, though, and I look forward to that work continuing in Fiscal Year 2024 and beyond.”

Since taking office in 2020, Richards has allocated more than $127 million in capital funding for schools, cultural organizations, healthcare facilities, CUNY colleges, community spaces and street safety improvements across the borough.

Libraries to stop collecting overdue book fees

New York City’s three public library systems will no longer charge late fees for overdue books and other materials. Additionally, all existing late fees were cleared immediately.
A number of other American cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Seattle, and Dallas, have previously made the decision to go fine free. When combined, New York City’s three library systems represent the largest municipality to eliminate fines in the country.
The decision is meant to make libraries more accessible and welcoming to New Yorkers who may have been previously dissuaded by financial penalties.
“For far too long, late fines have generated fear and anxiety among those who can least afford to pay, preventing them from opening library accounts, checking out books, or even coming
through our doors,” said Queens Public Library president and CEO Dennis Walcott. “I vividly remember as a child having late fines on my card and hesitating about going to the library when I needed it.”
In Queens, the communities with the highest number of blocked cards — Corona, Jamaica, Far Rockaway, and Elmhurst — all have median incomes below the borough average.
By clearing all existing late fees, the Queens Public Library has freed approximately 25 percent of its cardholders from financial penalties. The library system hopes these new measures will spur an increase in membership and usage across its 66 locations.
“Late fines tell people they do not belong, and that shutting them out is simply the cost of doing business,” Walcott added. “This is not only unacceptable, but also totally inconsistent with our mission.”
The Queens Library will still have other measures in place to prevent property theft. Library cards will be blocked from borrowing physical materials if patrons accrue $50 in replacement fees or have 20 or more overdue items.
Even with a blocked card, patrons will still be able to access computers, e-books, and other digital services.
The Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) new policies closely align with those of the Queens system. BPL has eliminated all late fees, both new and existing, and will instead temporarily suspend patron’s access to certain library materials if they exceed a certain threshold of overdue materials.
Brooklyn Public Library president and CEO Linda Johnson said the majority of BPL’s patrons are either children, who predominantly use library services to assist with school work, or older adults, who may be less equipped to handle late fees and the anxiety associated with them.
BPL launched a pilot amnesty program for children in 2017, and saw a 60 percent increase in the percentage of previously blocked children and teens who checked out materials, especially in low-income neighborhoods.
“Public libraries strive to be the most democratic institutions in our society, providing all people access to the resources they need to enrich their minds and improve their lives,” said Brooklyn Public Library president and CEO Linda Johnson. “Eliminating late fines means providing truly equitable access to everything the library has to offer.”

Checking out

Dear Editor,
On Thursday, September 9, I received an email with the subject head “Maspeth Library is closed for the rest of the day due to today’;s heat conditions.”
A few days later, I received the following email: “Maspeth Library is closed for the rest of the day on Monday, September 13, due to today’s heat conditions.”
The message was sent at 2:30 p.m. The weather at that time was 84 degrees with 52 percent humidity. It was a beautiful day.
There is no reason for such closings, they are a disservice to patrons.
Roger W. Smith

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