QUEENS — City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer is calling for an oversight hearing on the Queens Library, following news reports about the library system's president collecting a large salary while shedding more than 100 jobs over the past five years.
Van Bramer, the council's new majority leader and chairman of the committee on cultural affairs and libraries, called for the hearing following stories in the New York Daily News that said Queens Library President Thomas Galante collects a $391,594 salary and spent $140,000 last year on renovations for his offices at the Queens Central Library in Jamaica, including a "private smoking area."
The library has eliminated nearly 130 jobs over the past five years, the paper reported.
In a statement, Van Bramer — who worked for the Queens Library for 11 years before his election to the City Council — called for "an immediate oversight hearing on the Queens Library, its Central Library project and its operations."
"Stories of private outdoor patios and questionable spending deserve great scrutiny and they will get it," the councilman said.
In a statement, the library said that it was committed to helping the City Council with its investigation.
"Transparency and responsible spending are our obligation and an integral part of the way Queens Library does business," a spokeswoman said in a statement. "Queens Library will be providing the City Council with all the testimony necessary to understand our operations."
On its website, the Queens Library also said that the office renovations mentioned in the News story are part of a larger $20 million modernization project for the entire Jamaica building. The president's private office space was reduced in size to provide for more administrative office meeting and conference areas, the library said.
"A portion of the adjacent roof was converted into exterior meeting space as a way to add more conference area to the building at a very low cost," the website reads.
In a statement on the site, Board of Trustees Chair Gabriel Taussig defended Galante's salary, saying it was set by the board in 2005 "after careful consideration, market study, and due diligence at the average for New York City Non-Profit CEOs — not more and not less — with an annual cost of living adjustment so the compensation would stay current."
"Queens Library delivers world-class library service every day. We need excellent leadership," Taussig said.