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Ryan urges restoration of library construction money cut in proposed state budget

At left, Ken Stone, chief financial officer for the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system, shows State Senator Sean Ryan ongoing construction at the Crane Branch on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. Behind them is an elevator that will give people with disabilities access to the second floor for the first time in the building's existence.
Michael Mroziak
/
WBFO News
At left, Ken Stone, chief financial officer for the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system, shows State Senator Sean Ryan ongoing construction at the Crane Branch on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. Behind them is an elevator that will give people with disabilities access to the second floor for the first time in the building's existence.

State Senator Sean Ryan is urging his peers to restore 20 million dollars for library construction, which was cut by Governor Hochul in her budget proposal unveiled last week. Last year, the state provided 34 million dollars for projects – this year’s spending proposal provides only 14 million.

Ryan appeared at the Crane library branch on Elmwood in Buffalo, where ongoing construction work includes the installation of an elevator that, for the first time in the building’s history, will give people with disabilities the means to access the second floor.

The Crane building, he pointed out, is just one of several Buffalo library branches that were built before the Americans with Disabilities Act. Work is needed to bring those buildings into compliance. But Ryan says that’s just one part of updating the buildings.

“They're going to do more than that. They're also going to update how we use the library,” he said. “When this library was built, there was just a few plugs for the vacuum cleaner. When this is going to be done with the renovations, there's going to be plugs all around for charging stations, there's going to be small meeting rooms. People use libraries differently. And we're going to do some construction and design changes to reflect the modern usage.”

Ken Stone, chief financial officer for the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System, says Crane’s construction comes from funding in the previous budget. There are other library buildings within the City of Buffalo in need of repairs, and he fears the budget cut will put those projects on hold for some time.

“For example, the (Frank) Merriweather Library is a beautiful glass-domed roof, a circular building. That roof is leaking. The funding isn't in place for that,” Stone said. “We have another. The (Elaine) Panty library, in Black Rock, similarly has roof and rehab issues, HVAC issues. Those are the things that, if the funding is the reduced level, will take several years longer.”

Ryan, who chairs the Senate’s Libraries Committee, is also asking the state budget division to ensure that 15 million dollars from the Statewide Digital Inclusion Grant Program be distributed in a timely manner. That program, he explained, gives libraries the ability to do things including lending Chrome books to patrons who otherwise might not have internet access.

“So people take these devices out, if they're doing job searches, if they know they have a medical appointment coming up through telemedicine, so they're really important. But here's the problem, that money was not released yet. So money sitting in the executive, and we want the executive to release that money into the community. Because we also know that more needs are out there that we need to use this budget to take care of.”

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.