Representative Carlo Basile stands in front of the soon-to-be closed Orient Heights Branch Library Monday afternoon and says he’s sick of seeing churches, schools and libraries close in his neighborhood.
Now, Basile is playing hardball against the Boston Public Library’s Board of Trustees and city on behalf of East Boston.
The Board of Trustees announced it would close the Orient Heights Branch Library at the end of August, a decision that infuriated Basile and his colleagues in Eastie and the neighborhood as a whole.
In response to the proposed closure, Basile is leading a delegation of twelve state representatives to block $3 million in funding to the Boston Public Library unless its Board of Trustees agrees to keep all 26 branches in the city open.
“This is not about politics, its about doing the right thing for my neighborhood,” said Basile. “People want to see this branch stay open and are not going to rely on promises of a new facility or an improved Meridian Street Branch. This neighborhood needs two libraries.”
Basile said that while he understands some of the financial constraints the city is facing, the Board of Trustees should have been up front and honest about their plans.
“To have a community meeting one week before deciding to close the library was ridiculous,” said Basile. “They should have kept us in the loop all along and perhaps we could have sat down and figured out a solution.”
Aside from Basile, representatives behind the effort include Willie Mae Allen, Linda Forry, Gloria Fox, Kevin Honan, Elizabeth Malia, Aaron Michlewitz, Michael Moran, Byron Rushing, Jeffrey Sanchez, Brian Wallace and Martha Walz.
All have been staunched Menino supporters but are now showing the mayor their political independence when it comes to an issue that affects their constituency.
“Again, this is about doing what’s right and to try and make this about politics and power is wrong,” said Basile. “It’s about all the kids in Orient Heights unable to walk to their local library.”
After his father died Representative Carlo Basile looked to places like the Salesians Boys and Girls Club and the neighborhood’s libraries as safe oases in which to spend his time as a kid.
“I remember going to the story hour and to see the children’s films at the Meridian Street Branch when I was a kid,” said Basile. “Like the Boys and Girls Club, libraries and youth centers offer children and teens the opportunity to do something else besides hanging on the streets.”
Like Basile, East Boston resident Joann Oliveira said she was outraged by the Board of Trustees’ decision.
“It’s very sad to be losing such a vital part of our community during these times,” said Oliveira. “I recently spoke with a coworker who lives in another Boston neighborhood and she informed me that she has three libraries within walking distance from her home. She also stated that she was surprised because one is always empty. Not one in her neighborhood is slated to be closed.”
The Friends of Orient Heights Branch Library are having a meeting on Thursday, April 22 at 6:30 p.m. in response to the proposed closure. “We hope to explore ideas and thoughts with regard to the proposed closing of the branch,” said Josephine Bruzzese. “New members are welcomed to join us in our efforts."