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Queens Chronicle

Trading charges at Court Sq. Library

Van Bramer says time was lost; CEO Walcott calls it ‘mischaracterization’

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Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2020 10:30 am | Updated: 11:35 am, Thu Jan 16, 2020.

The Court Square branch of the Queens Library is out of space and just about out of time. And with its long-time $1-per-year lease in the Citi Tower complex expiring March 31, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Dennis Walcott, president and CEO of the Queens Library, exchanged terse statements on Wednesday at and after a rally organized by Van Bramer outside the building.

Savanna, the company that owns the building, had extended the library’s lease last year, but according to Walcott has no interest in doing so again. Service at the site is expected to end next month.

“Queens Public Library knew the deadline was approaching for the expiring lease and committed to action just last week,” Van Bramer said in a statement provided by his office. “We demand service continues at the Court Square Library.”

Van Bramer said the library serves approximately 100,000 people every year.

“This is not a question of funding,” he said. “The library received record funding from the City of New York this past June. I am calling for the Queens Public Library to find a suitable alternative and permanent location for Court Square Library. This is the fastest-growing community in the United States. You should expand service when you know the community is desperate for that service.”

Walcott, in a statement obtained from the library, said its efforts have been nonstop.

“My team and I have worked for more than a year to find alternatives and have visited numerous locations,” Walcott said. “During this time we also have spoken about the situation with the Mayor’s Office, local elected officials, including the Council Member, community members, real estate developers, real estate brokers, local businesses and non-profits, and companies that had planned to occupy or are going to occupy space in the building where the branch is located.

“The mischaracterization of our efforts is unfortunate,” Walcott added, saying the QLP is fully committed to having a library in a growing neighborhood where it has been for 30 years.

“At the same time, the reality is that we have a fiduciary responsibility to manage the short- and long-term implications of securing a new home in an area with skyrocketing rents.” Library officials were slated to meet today, Jan. 9, with members of the community, elected officials, and Friends of Court Square to provide an update about the next steps.

Included with Van Bramer’s statement was one from Meghan Cirrito, president of Friends of Court Square Library. She encouraged the Queens Public Library to “utilize the tools and resources offered by community and business leaders to find a permanent home for this beloved library.”

Sheila Lewandowski, second vice chairperson of Community Board 2, also feels the library waited too long to begin its search.

“How did they not plan until they were under their lease? How can they run the most critical services of this library? This makes no sense!” she said.

Welcome to the discussion.