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Rockaway rallies to rescue libraries

Rockaway residents rallied in support of their libraries and to speak out against budget cuts. Photo by Steve Mosco
TimesLedger Newspapers

The fight to save city libraries from budget cuts took to the beach when a rally was held in Rockaway last Thursday.

Members of the community joined elected officials and library staff in a march down the boardwalk to highlight the need to preserve library hours and jobs. The event started simultaneously at two different Queens Library branches in the area: Arverne and Seaside.

Walking the boardwalk and holding signs in support, backers converged at Queens Library at Peninsula to make their voices heard.

“Libraries play an essential role in our community, providing valuable resources to southern Queens and Rockaway families in this tough economy,” said state Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park), who grew up in Rockaway. “With Queens Library facing one of the largest budget cuts in history, hundreds of jobs, as well as critical services such as Internet access and job-training programs, are being threatened. It’s imperative that we maintain funding for our libraries.”

During testimony before the City Council last week, Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante cited the Rockaways as a prime example of why library facilities are so vital. He said the Adult Learning Program in the Rockaways is on track to shepherd more than 6,000 adult students with English language and pre-GED programs.

“Job-seekers in the Rockaways flocked to the library to take advantage of the complete services Queens Library offers — from résumé and cover letter writing classes to one-on-one career counseling sessions and links with job placement,” Galante said.

Children who joined the rally said they do not want to see library hours cut — in fact, they want to see the libraries stay open seven days a week.

“Libraries are the place we go to learn,” said Sadie Nadal, 11. “Without libraries, how would we exercise our brains?”

Nadal’s friends, Chelsy Parada and Ephram Kebede, agreed, and both were part of a loud chorus of “save our libraries” in front of the Peninsula branch.

City Councilmen Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and James Sanders (D-Laurelton) said the difficult economic times underscore the need for libraries since the facilities provide residents with a free resource for books and the Internet.

“Libraries serve as a critical resource in our communities, and rest assured I will do everything I can to fight for our share of funding,” said Ulrich. “I was pleased to provide money for the recent renovation at the Seaside branch and have committed $500,000 in capital funds for renovation at the Peninsula Library in the upcoming budget.”

Lew Simon, the Democratic district leader of the Rockaways, brought up the fact that libraries are often used as heating and cooling centers — providing relief to residents in both the summer and winter. He also said Queens cannot afford to throw away jobs for hundreds of residents.

“We need these libraries now more than ever,” he said. “We saved the libraries before and we will save them again.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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