Financial Transparency Now
Where are our tax dollars going?
It was good news reading last week in The Wave that the State was ready to give more money to Rockaway. The amount of 60 million dollars for the Rockaways can certainly help in our efforts in protecting our community from future storms. The safety of our Rockaway community from the east end to Breezy Point is the #1 priority for all its residents in the Rockaways.
Before we begin to even think of how these state dollars could best be spent we need to ask the Mayor for greater transparency relating to the disaster recovery dollars that have been given to various city departments and agencies. Just as schools get report cards on how successful they are, so should City departments and agencies receive a rating by the community residents they serve. Knowing what dollars each department and agencies received to help with disaster recovery and how they spent it would give us a clearer pic- ture of how effective they are in working within communities. The simple Report Card would take into consideration how resources are being spent or have been spent. The report card would take into consideration various aspects of projects and come up with a letter rating i.e. Department Y- A+, Department Z - C-, etc. – this would be based on the value to the community and successful completion with little cost over-runs.
Now let’s think back to last January when the Parks Department came to the community and wanted to ask for our suggestions and opinion about their proposal for the short term designs for the beach area. We were told of baffles from Beach 149th Street to Beach126th Street, islands on sections of the boardwalk for merchants and elevated bathrooms and lifeguard stands.
The community immediately rejected the design for the lifeguard stands and bathrooms. The community felt that once a long term design was developed then they could be considered by the community. Parks told us that this item was a done deal, contracts had been signed and work was beginning. So much for transparency and community input! The message was simple: They knew best!
Nine months after the storm it is my understanding that the cost for both the bathrooms and lifeguard stands for the Rockaways was over 45 million. Think about it for a moment 45+ million dollars of our hard earned tax dollars for what - do they protect our community in any way, are they aesthetically pleasing – check out 115th Street’s - they look more like an unsightly trailer park, do they add any value at all for our community? A few Call-A-Head portables and some metal containers for lifeguards to store gear this first summer after Hurricane Sandy would have been fine. This would have bought some time so a comprehensive plan could be developed that would best serve our community.
You have to wonder why a no bid contract was issued for these lifeguard stations and bathrooms and why they were constructed in Pennsylvania, transported by truck, then barge, then truck again to the locations in the Rockaways. The transport costs alone are probably in the high six figures. They could have been built in the City; this would have employed New Yorkers to help in our recovery efforts and helped the city’s economy.
Getting back to the 60 million dollars coming our way via the State, if any valued planning is to be done to best serve our community, we must first know what the City plans are with the dollars they are controlling. Without the City’s openness, financial transparency and a genuine effort to collaborate with our community, how do we even begin to effectively use the promised State dollars? How could we plan to spend the State dollars wisely if we do not have a through sense of what the City, each of its Departments and agencies, plan for our community? Without the City’s collaboration the State money could easily evaporate into thin air!