Talks Library Audit & Woodhaven Fines
The city comptroller and state lawmakers tackled Queens Library’s finances and after-hour fines the Sanitation Department gave the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA) in addressing the group last Saturday, Oct. 18, at American Legion Post 118.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer told residents that the full audit of the Queens Library board of trustees is ongoing, and gave a synopsis of what his office has found thus far. Following the Library’s denial of a request to open their books earlier this year, Stringer said he is now getting the records needed to complete a review of the board’s spending.
“I said when I became Comptroller we would look at the Queens Library,” Stringer said. “Audits take actually a very long time. So we’re still probably months away from our findings, but we were able to do an interim report that I think highlights some of the problem.”
“Thanks to the borough president, we finally are on our way to getting the records I need to conclude our audit,” he stated, referring to Queens Borough President Melinda Katz removing a number of trustees who blocked reform efforts.
Though he faced resistance from board members during the investigation, Stringer said the audit is ongoing and has already discovered “a whole set of really potential fraud issues related to tickets to concerts, thousand dollar dinners for the board, good wine served.
“It wasn’t bad being a board member of the Queens Library,” Stringer said, going on to note that “this library tilted everything in their power, to make sure that we couldnt examine the books.”
He spoke about the hypocrisy of closing branches and cutting back library hours while board members were out dining and buying souvenirs on the taxpayers’ dime.
“One of the major issues was how much library funding could you get [and] could we keep libraries open six days. It matters for our kids and for our seniors,” he said. “We want to know where the taxpayer money is going.”
As previously reported in this newspaper, board members, including Queens Library CEO Thomas Galante, used organization funds to buy personal items like New York Mets memorabilia that were displayed in his office.
“We don’t want to just throw money at something and then we find out that you have nice Major League baseball souvenirs at the office, or you have a smoking deck, or you have tickets to events going out and dinners being bought to thousands of dollars of wasted taxpayer money,” he said.
The library system is a vital piece of communities throughout the borough, Stringer stated.
“And then you say to yourself, ‘Well, why isn’t the library open? Why can’t I send my son or daughter there? Why can’t seniors spend the day at the library?’ Many people believe that our local libraries are the centerpiece of our communities,” Stringer said.
He also addressed the latenight fines given to the WRBA and other business along Jamaica Avenue.
“We will contact the Sanitation Department and take a look at it,” he said. “I think its a very fair and legitimate issue, so we’re going to try to intervene on behalf of the residents association.”
Focusing on other issues
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo spoke on “four important issues” at the meeting: Safety around Forest Park, helping small businesses along Jamaica Avenue, traffic on the Woodhaven/Cross Bay Boulevard corridor and the collapsed building at 78-19 Jamaica Ave..
Addabbo advised attendees that he is trying to secure “state dollars we need to make sure that Forest Park is a much safer park.”
“Just this past September there was another incident and we want to make sure it’s safe, and that involves working along with the 102nd Precinct and giving them the resources they need,” he said.
Concerning proposed Department Of Transportaion (DOT) proposals to ease traffic along the heavily trafficked northsouth corridor, Addabbo said he is focused on making sure, “the people’s voice is being heard.”
He also addressed the ongoing situation with the partially collapsed building at 78-19 Jamaica Ave, and called it, “probably the most important issue for me and my constituents.”
“We need to get those seniors back home in that building,” he said. “What that judge did by giving that owner such a grace period to fix that building was jeopardize the lives of people in Woodhaven. Because without the Woodhaven Ambulance Corps there, our lives are being jeopardized here because there is no response.”
Addabbo advised residents of three referendums that voters will decide this November–an independent redistricting committee which will take the authority away from legislators, the state legislature going digital to save paper and the smart school bond act.
The first creates a redistricting commission to draw district lines every 10 years; the digital conversion will allow for electronic versions of bills rather than requiring paper copies; and the bond act will authorize $2 billion in state bonds to fund technology upgrades in schools.
With his election challenger in attendance, Addabbo was asked by WRBA member Alex Blenkinsopp to draw a distinction between himself and the upstart for his senate seat, Michael Conigliaro, but he declined.
“If you like what I have done, send me back,” he said.
Conigliaro also addressed the group. He gave the WRBA some background information about himself and said, “it’s up to you, the voters to decide will represent you this November.”
He outlined a portion of of his platform, which includes getting more help to small businesses.
Conigliaro also said he opposes The New York Is Home Act, a measure recently introduced by New York State Sen. Gustavo Rivera and Assemblyman Karim Camara. This legislation would give state citizenship to non-legal residents who can prove three years of residence, pay taxes and have shown adherence to state laws and the state constitution.
Assemblyman Mike Miller told attendees the senior center, currently housed at the VFW on 91st Street across from P.S. 60, is having trouble picking up seniors during the school day because parents double and triple park next to the school.
Miller said he met with police the day before, Friday, Oct. 17 to address the situation. He will continue to work with police and the school to try and remedy the situation, he stated.
“That is something we are working with them on,” Miller said.
To combat a spike in vehicle rim and tire thefts, Miller wants to introduce a bill that would get them identified.
“Then if it gets stolen and they catch it, they can use that against them,” he said.
The next Woodhaven Residents Block Association meeting will be held on Saturday, Nov. 15, at noon at the American Legion Hall, 89- 02 91st St.