New York City’s largest public employee union, along with four local library unions, took to City Hall to advocate for library funding staying in the budget.

District Council 37 (DC 37), Quasi-Public Employees Local 374, Queens Library Guild Local 1321, Brooklyn Library Guild Local 1482 and New York Public Library Guild Local 1930 launched a campaign for permanent baseline funding for New York City’s public libraries. The rally at City Hall was a culmination of a mass effort that started with testimony provided at a March 8 preliminary budget hearing before the City Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs.

“We’re proposing city legislation to allocate 2.5 percent of existing citywide property tax levies for dedicated, baseline public library funding,” said DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts. “Having a permanent funding stream would free the library systems, staff and patrons from the annual round of budget cuts and restorations that now take place and provide a more stable delivery of services to communities citywide, which are using public libraries at an ever-increasing rate.”

Roberts was joined by City Council Members Charles Barron, Letitia James, Jimmy Van Bramer and Vincent Gentile to speak out against potential budget cuts to the libraries. James discussed the rumors regarding the potential sale of Brooklyn’s Pacific Branch Library to clear room for private development.

“It will result in the loss of history, our culture and a valuable institution,” said James. “I stand with DC 37 for baseline funding for libraries and no real estate deals.”

According to the union, public libraries add value to a neighborhood; property values increase when a library is located nearby. They believe that it’s only right that some of that value be returned back into maintaining public libraries.

Henry Garrido, associate director for DC 37, talked about the annual budget dance that’s done at City Hall between the Council and mayor. He told the AmNews that it’s a sign of disrespect to New Yorkers, who shouldn’t be toyed with.

“This ‘dance’ that everyone refers to seems to be more of a political process than an actual-people reality,” said Garrido. “Everybody says, ‘We need library funding, we need proper public services’ when there’s a crisis, right? We knew it during 9/11. We knew it after [Hurricane Sandy]. When the funding for those public services are there, the support isn’t there.

“There’s the rhetoric and there’s the reality. There’s a disregard for public services in this administration,” Garrido concluded.