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Love for a Librarian Who Helps Immigrants

Good morning. It’s Wednesday. Today we’ll meet a librarian who has been recognized for work with migrants in Queens. And we’ll look at the legal issues as the National Rifle Association goes on trial in Manhattan.

Credit…Janice Chung for The New York Times

The I Love My Librarian Award has found Fred Gitner.

Gitner, who has worked in programs to assist migrants at the Queens Public Library for 28 years, is one of 10 librarians nationally whom the American Library Association cited for “profound impact on the people in their communities.” The recipients were chosen from nearly 1,400 nominees submitted by library users nationwide. Gitner is the assistant director of the Queens Library’s New Americans Program, which coordinates informational workshops on topics like immigration law, parenting and tenants’ rights.

“I view Fred as our international ambassador,” said Dennis Walcott, the president and chief executive of the Queens Library. “His sensitivity to the asylum seekers who are coming to libraries and what Fred was able to do with his staff to go out and interface with them is off the charts.”

Library officials said the latest round of budget cuts proposed by Mayor Eric Adams, at 5 percent, would force reductions in services like English and citizenship classes that immigrant communities have come to rely on. Demand for those programs has climbed as the coronavirus pandemic has eased: Attendance in English classes was up 35 percent last year from 2022, with more than 62,000 people attending across the library’s 66 locations.

Walcott said the proposed cuts could also have an effect on services offered on Saturdays, which would affect immigrants who have jobs that make stopping at a library impossible during the week. (Sunday hours at the two Queens libraries that were open seven days a week ended with the budget cuts that were announced in November.)

Gitner, 72, didn’t write the book on how libraries could help immigrants, but he coedited one in 2001 and another in 2013. And in more than 25 years with the library, he has followed the changing patterns of immigration in Queens.

When the library hired him in the 1990s, many of the immigrants who were moving to the borough were from Russia. The mix of languages is different now. Spanish is still the most requested, but “French is now No. 2, because we have migrants arriving from West Africa,” he said. But librarians are also hearing Wolof, the language preferred by many in Senegal, and Fulani, which is spoken in Guinea.

The library took a voluntary language survey of staff members last year and found that they spoke nearly 50 languages, Gitner said. More recently, he has worked to arrange a translation service with a toll-free number that staff members in branch libraries can call when someone comes in who speaks a language that no one in the branch is fluent in.

Gitner and the other recipients of the I Love My Librarian Award will each receive $5,000, along with a $750 travel stipend to attend the American Library Association’s LibLearnX conference in Baltimore in two weeks. The awards are sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and administered with the New York Public Library (which is separate from the Queens Library and operates branches in the Bronx, Manhattan and on Staten Island).


Weather

It should be a sunny day in the mid-40s. At night expect it to be partly cloudy, with temperatures in the low 30s.

ALTERNATE-SIDE PARKING

In effect until Saturday (Three Kings Day).


The latest New York news

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times
  • Vendors barred from the Brooklyn Bridge: New rules took effect today banning vendors on the city’s 789 bridges, including the Brooklyn Bridge, which had become a 6,000-foot mall for souvenir sellers.

  • Migrant detour to bypass a city order: Mayor Eric Adams’s executive order requires charter bus companies to provide 32 hours’ advance notice of migrants’ arrival. To bypass the city order, the buses took a detour to New Jersey.

  • Oasis in a tea salon: Sip organic Earl Grey with lavender on a pink-and-white double-decker bus.Elaborate afternoon tea service is a main attraction at more than a dozen venues in New York.

  • Climate Museum pops up in SoHo: The museum has found a new temporary home, through April, at 105 Wooster Street. The free museum hopes to educate the public about climate change.


The N.R.A.’s longtime leader faces a trial that could end his reign

Credit…Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The National Rifle Association and its longtime leader, Wayne LaPierre, are going on trial in Manhattan. Jury selection was scheduled to begin on Tuesday. The case, brought by Letitia James, the New York attorney general, accuses the gun-rights group of corruption.

LaPierre, 74, has presided over the N.R.A. for more than 30 years. My colleague Danny Hakim writes that much has changed since James began investigating the N.R.A. It closed its NRATV streaming service amid a feud with its longtime advertising and public relations firm, which ran the it.

N.R.A. membership has dropped to 4.2 million, from nearly six million five years ago. Revenue is down 44 percent since 2016, according to its internal audits, and legal costs have soared.

But LaPierre’s legacy as a lobbyist remains. On his watch, the gun-rights movement became a centerpiece of red state politics, and even after mass shootings gun control measures have been nonstarters for Republicans in Congress.

The N.R.A. filed for bankruptcy in Texas in 2021, part of a strategy to short-circuit James’s investigation by leaving New York, where the group had been set up shortly after the Civil War. But a Texas judge dismissed the case, saying the N.R.A. had used the filing “to address a regulatory enforcement problem, not a financial one.”

Last week, a state appeals court rejected the group’s effort to end James’s investigation. She first moved to shut the N.R.A. down entirely, as one of her predecessors had succeeded in doing with the Trump Foundation, a scandal-plagued offshoot of former President Donald Trump’s financial empire.

Justice Joel Cohen of the State Supreme Court rejected James’s effort to force the N.R.A. to dissolve in 2022.

But more recently, he appeared to lose patience with the N.R.A., writing on Dec. 28 that its latest motion to dismiss the case was “belated and procedurally questionable” and expressing concern that it could interfere with the trial schedule.

A cascade of revelations about the N.R.A. will loom large. LaPierre, for instance, was a regular for more than a decade at a Zegna boutique in Beverly Hills, Calif., where he spent nearly $40,000 of N.R.A. money in a single outing in 2004. He also billed more than $250,000 for travel to, among other places, the Bahamas; Palm Beach, Fla.; and Reno, Nev. He has argued that the trips were all legitimate business expenses.

LaPierre is one of four defendants in the case. Others include John Frazer, the N.R.A.’s general counsel, and Wilson Phillips, a former finance chief. The fourth defendant, Joshua Powell, was the organization’s second-in-command for a time. But he later turned against the N.R.A. and even called for universal background checks for people who want to purchase guns and for so-called red flag laws, which permit the police to seize firearms from people who are deemed dangerous.


METROPOLITAN diary

Post Office

Dear Diary:

I was walking my dog, Mango, early on a weekday morning when I dashed into an Upper West Side post office to drop off a pre-labeled package. I brought Mango inside with me.

The post office was nearly empty, and I expected to be there for just a minute — only as long as it took to bring my package to the designated window and have the label scanned.

But the window I needed was overflowing with packages, so I had to wait in a short line as a worker cleared it out.

As I got to the front of the line, a man approached me from behind.

“Is that a Seeing Eye dog?” he asked.

I thought it was an odd question considering that Mango is small and fluffy, not what you’d think of as a Seeing Eye dog.

“No,” I replied.

“Well,” he said, “I thought it must be since you didn’t see the sign that says no dogs allowed.”

And out he went.

— Diane Glass

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.


Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Francis Mateo and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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