Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lots of money to be spent for land we don't own

From the NY Observer:

Mayor Bloomberg's presentation of his budget last week was not an uplifting one. Standing before a room packed full of reporters in the West Wing of City Hall, he clicked through a PowerPoint presentation that made it very clear how bad the city's fiscal problems are.

Under Mr. Bloomberg's proposed budget, the city would need to reduce its workforce by more than 10,000 jobs; teachers would be fired; firehouses would be shuttered-the kind of things people really don't like, and the kinds of things that draw noisy protests to the steps of City Hall.

What also stood out were the things that did not get cut. Topping that list was the mayor's four-year infrastructure capital plan, in particular a set of new economic development projects and waterfront parks, funded just as high, or higher, than when they were proposed in headier times. If these pet projects are completed, the mayor could leave office with a particularly visible and long-lasting legacy, budget cuts be damned.

In the capital plan proposed last week, more than $160 million in new funding was earmarked for two planned parks-$110 million for the Williamsburg-Greenpoint waterfront and $55 million for Brooklyn Bridge Park, according to budget documents.

There's a pattern here. Last year, even as the capital budget underwent a major cut of about 15 percent, the Bloomberg administration pushed ahead on many of the larger (and more expensive) plans already on the drawing board. Indeed, the city's economic development funds saw less of a reduction than other areas, such as housing, according to figures from the Office of Management and Budget. And the top two projects, Coney Island and Willets Point, which, respectively have $130 million and $380 million listed in the budget, noticeably were not cut at all.

the administration's approach also has some serious drawbacks, most pointedly with the timing-this year's capital budget, at about $10 billion, is the highest ever, just as the city's finances are the worst they have been in years. Since capital spending is generally borrowed, directing money to these projects will increase the city's hefty debt load, and mean higher debt service for years.

This question has been raised by the nonprofit Citizens Budget Commission, which in a recent report criticized Mr. Bloomberg's devotion to major economic development projects, particularly since spending on maintenance and repairs citywide-so-called "state of good repair"-appears to have decreased.

The group also noted that the economic development projects tend not to have much public data to back up the argument that the projects will pay off many times over in the future.

"He's got Willets Point, and he wants to have a big vision and he wants to have a legacy of changing the face of New York, which is understandable, and a good thing to do if you have a lot of resources," Carol Kellerman, president of CBC, said of Mr. Bloomberg. "But if resources are scarce, which everyone concedes they are, you have to be more parsimonious.

"You've got to let state of good repair be the highest priority."

with the city, it's significant that for the largest projects-Coney Island and Willets Point-much of the money currently budgeted is for acquisitions, buying up property that the city doesn't even own.

Given that the money goes into the pockets of a few landlords and businesses, it's not stimulating much immediate economic activity. Instead, the city is relying on the hope that the projects will be carried out, eventually.


Sergey Kadinsky said...

I was at the press conference last week, and asked the mayor how he could justify $369 million for Willets Point, amid the massive layoffs.

Hizzoner said it was an investment in the future. "We don't want to go back to the Seventies," he said, referring to a time when few new things got built.

Anonymous said...

This mayor spends too much on parks. Would be a good thing if we were not in a financial crisis. How do you justify it when firehouses are proposed to close. His priorities are all f##ked up.

Anonymous said...

Don't get mad at Mayor Moneybags. You all voted for him when it should have been obvious what his intentions were after his second term.

His pet projects are more important than essential services. Sport stadiums, glistening towers, luxury condos, over sized development are trademarks of Moneybags.

I didn't vote for him and with reason. He cares for the wealthy citizens of this city. No thought or planning goes into development in the city. It's all about the legacy of our mayor. In the end, we lose.

Cav said...

@Anonymous#2: Bloomberg only spends money on Manhattan parks or parks in the upscale yuppie parts of Brooklyn. Any other park he leaves to rot.

@Anonymous#2:I agree with you. I'd add that if people keep reelecting the same politicians over and over again, they can't really complain about anything. If you refuse to vote the tweeder out of office, then for God sake, stop bitching.
As for the evil elf: I never voted for that little prick even for his first term nor do I vote for any incumbents running for office in this city.

Anonymous said...

Can you say IMPEACHMENT!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Bloomberg is a looking for a legacy project he can call his own and of on a grand scale so that he is remembered in name for future decades.

He is out of touch because he is so rich and has a poor understanding of the actual need of people who are not rich. Take for example some of what he enacted in a severe recession or proposes to do: Close firehouse and not hire police officers. Raise taxes and consider spending money on massive real estate projects and kick folks out from their properties to do so via eminent domain. IS this rational?