Queens Library reforms stall after passing State Assembly

By Alex Robinson

The state Assembly passed a Queens Library reform bill Monday, but it is unlikely to even come up for a vote in the state Senate.

The bill, authored by Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-East Elmhurst) and Borough President Melinda Katz, passed the lower chamber unanimously by a vote of 132-0. The legislation would reform the library’s board of trustees in an attempt to make the nonprofit more transparent.

“I am very pleased that the Queens Library reform measure sponsored by Assembly member Aubry was approved by the Assembly without opposition,” Katz said in a statement. “It is a sensible measure that would dramatically improve the governance and oversight of the Queens Library and help guarantee that it remains one of our borough’s most treasured institutions for many years to come.”

Lawmakers first started working on legislation to reform the library following revelations the nonprofit’s CEO, Thomas Galante, made a $392,000 salary and the start of an FBI investigation concerning questionable fiscal management of the nonprofit, which gets federal, state and city funding.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) in the Senate and has received support from the Queens City Council delegation as well as six of the borough’s senators, but it is still unlikely to even be considered for a vote in the upper chamber in the little time that remains in the legislative session.

The fight between state Democrats and the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group that governs the Senate with Republicans, has trickled into the discussion on Queens Library reform and stalled the process.

Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who joined the IDC in February, has used his status as a member of the chamber’s majority in an attempt to get more substantial reforms of the Queens Library passed.

Despite not having a sponsor in the Assembly, the senator has insisted his version be passed even though Aubry made two amendments to include parts of Avella’s bill, .

Avella’s bill would also require that the Brooklyn and New York public library systems be subject to Freedom of Information Law and Conflict of Interest rules. His legislation would mandate that the board of trustees have two librarians, a public accountant, a Queens community board chairman and district manager among its members.

He has criticized his Democratic counterparts’ bill as “feel good legislation” that does not go far enough.

A spokeswoman for Avella said his reaction to Aubry’s bill has not changed since it has been passed and that negotiations between the two sides have not gotten anywhere.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.