BY JOE MARVILLI
Community Board 7’s first meeting of the year featured a surprise appearance by Comptroller Scott Stringer, adding a lively discussion to the evening.
Stringer visited CB7 to introduce himself to the board and to take questions from its members about anything on their minds. This Q&A session preceded the executive committee votes, which led to changes in the vice chairperson membership.
After mentioning his time as a teenage community board member, the Comptroller said that while he understood how a whole new City government can cause concern for some, it can be good for fresh ideas and discussion about the five boroughs.
“This is a great opportunity for New York, so that we can reimagine some of the issues that we care about and we can look at things in a different way,” Stringer said. “That doesn’t mean that we won’t sometimes arrive at the same conclusion. But with a fresh pair of eyes, we can bring real change to our communities.”
Taking some time to answer questions from the board members, Stringer mentioned that he plans to send out reports a few times a year about how the pension fund is doing, similar to what the previous Comptroller, John Liu, did. He also addressed the board’s concerns about the City’s expired union contracts and what needs to be done to get those negotiations moving again.
“This is no way to run a government,” he said. “Mayor de Blasio and the labor leaders have to get around a collective bargaining table.”
Stringer added that 152 labor contracts have expired and that the situation needs to be resolved to protect New York’s double-A bond rating, which saves money on interest and investment.
CB7 Chair Gene Kelty Jr. asked Stringer about cost overruns and non-chartered agencies that have wasted taxpayer dollars on various projects. Stringer said he wants the Comptroller’s office to get involved in the contracting process earlier, to stop overrun costs before they get out of control.
“We’re going to be involved in the contracting process in the beginning, during the [request for proposal] phase. Part of what we’ll be able to do is track the contract and the cost overruns, not at the end, but to stop it midway and say we can now identify you have these problems,” Stringer said.
Uncontrollable contractors were also discussed in terms of upgrading the City’s infrastructure for 21st century jobs. Stringer mentioned that as Manhattan Borough President, he visited a school that he gave tens of millions of dollars of funding for a new computer lab. When he asked to see it though, he found out that the lack of broadband in the building made a computer lab unusable.
He attributed this to outside technology contractors who make millions of dollars, but do not leave a workable system, citing examples like the CityTime payroll system and E-911.
“After two weeks on the job, we’re now looking at technology contracts, zeroing in on them,” he said. “Every time a technology contract goes awry, that’s less money for the classroom, less money for capital construction.”
That closer eye on contractors will extend to creating a special Superstorm Sandy audit bureau, to make sure that the $15 billion of federal relief funds goes towards rebuilding the City like it is supposed to.
Besides Stringer’s surprise visit, the most notable item at CB7 was its January elections.
The board members voted for the executive committee, with chairperson, first vice chairperson, second vice chairperson, third vice chairperson and fourth vice chairperson all up for election. For the top three positions, the only nominees were the incumbents, meaning that Kelty was re-elected as chair, Chuck Apelian was re-elected as first vice chairperson and Frank Macchio was re-elected as second vice chairperson.
However, the final two positions, for third and fourth vice chairperson, have new people filling their seats for the future term. Warren Schreiber challenged Kim Ohanian for her seat, speaking to the board before the vote went down.
“I will treat everyone with respect and courtesy. I will always have an open mind on all the issues,” he said. “I will always conduct myself in a manner that will reflect favorably upon the community board and all its members.”
The votes went in Schreiber’s favor and he was elected to the executive board, taking over Ohanian’s position as third vice chairperson.
The board’s fourth vice chairperson, Joseph Femenia, had decided to step down, opening the seat to a two-member election between Joshua Sussman and Barbara McHugh. McHugh wound up being elected to the executive committee.
“I’ll do my best to help all of you and all your communities,” she said.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.