What’s next for the city’s “auditor-in-chief”?
Newly elected city Comptroller Scott Stringer stopped by the offices of Times-Reporter last week to provide some clues.
With just a few months in office, Stringer has reported possible collusion in the city school system’s milk contracts, announced an audit of the city library system and alerted the city to improperly classified vacant lots that lost at least $1.7 million in tax revenue.
In a wide-ranging interview, the city financial top dog dished on how he will continue to check city agencies and monitor how the city uses public funds.
We also quizzed him on his stance on some of the big issues facing the Bronx today.
Stringer tiptoed around taking a hard position on the big development projects slated for the borough.
He praised Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s resolve on spearheading the deal to bring the world’s largest ice center to the Kingsbridge Armory. But the city money manager said his office hadn’t had a chance yet to review the specifics on the historic community benefits agreement (CBA) the developer signed with the city.
“Sometimes CBAs don’t meet the standard of what really promotes economic growth,” the city money manager said. “In this case I believe it probably does.”
The city financial chief also hedged on the boro prez-backed FreshDirect deal, in which the internet grocer netted over $100 million in city and state subsidies to relocate to the Port Morris Waterfront.
“I do commend Borough President Diaz for recognizing that the future of the borough is maintaining and attracting strong businesses here,” he said. But he added that “it remains to be seen” if the deal will be good for locals.
Stringer stressed that economic development is key for the Bronx —but only if local stakeholders are engaged.
“Going forward, we have to make sure that every time we have this type of economic activity, there has to be a relationship between the industry and the local community,” said Stringer.
Part of bettering that relationship is giving local community boards, which are locals’ first line of defense on big land-use issues, more resources. Stringer said he’s long supported increasing boards’ budgets, which have held steady for the last 20 years, as well as funding a full-time urban planner for each board.
“We need to give the communities the tools they need to take on these developers when they roll into a neighborhood,” said the Comptroller.
Ending the gouging
Stringer also came out strong on small business, saying that his office would audit city agencies to ensure that they stopped “harassing” business owners with fines.
“These businesses have been taxed and fined out of existence,” he said. “There are better ways to raise revenue.”