What is the Queens Borough Public Library (QBPL)?
The Queens Borough Public Library (QBPL) operates 62 branch locations, seven Adult Learning Centers and two Family Literacy Centers, in the borough of Queens.
QBPL is a private non-for-profit corporation that contracts with the government to provide library services. It was chartered by the Regents of the State of New York and is funded primarily by the City and State of New York and the federal government, with a smaller share coming from private contributions.
What types of properties does QBPL control?
QBPL occupies most of its branch location properties under free, long-term arrangements with the City of New York. The City retains legal title to the buildings. Where the City does not have a building in a neighborhood that needs a library, the library rents commercial space just like any other business.
Who makes decisions for QBPL?
QBPL operates under the direction of 19 Trustees who together as a Board oversee the management of its assets and affairs. Five additional ex officio trustee positions are reserved on the NYPL Board of Trustees for the Mayor, Public Advocate, New York City Comptroller, the Speaker of City Council, and the Queens Borough President. New Trustees are appointed by either the Mayor or Queens Borough President (they alternate). At all times, the Board must include appointees from each of Queens’ 14 community boards. Any member appointed after June 1, 2014 must either be a resident of Queens or own or operate a business in Queens.
What rules apply when QPL sells or leases public land or buildings?
If the Board of Trustees votes to sell or lease a space operated by QBPL, but owned by the City of New York, the Board must file an application with the City Planning Commission (CPC) and go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process, described here.
If a library space is owned directly by QBPL, its sale is not subject to the ULURP requirements. Instead, such sales need only be approved by the QBPL Board of Trustees. No public input is required (though the Board’s meetings are open to the public).
If a building has been designated as a landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), as the Poppenhusen Library in College Point has been, any modifications to the physical building must be approved by the LPC, as described here.
What are the public notice requirements for QBPL projects, and how can community members influence what happens?
Meetings of the QBPL Board of Trustees are open to members of the public. Public and news outlets must be given at least one week notice of an upcoming meeting. Members of the public who want influence the actions of the QBPL may wish to target individual members of the QBPL Board. Alternatively, because QBPL is heavily funded by the City, a local Council Member might be a good ally to local organizing.
Groups can also advocate to have libraries that are not yet designated landmarks become designated. Although the status does not prevent a sale, it limits what owners are able to do with the building (as explained in this report).
For More Information
“New Scrutiny of City’s Library Trustees,” City Limits, June 18, 2014 – this article provides a helpful overview of the different structures of the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library