“These are unprecedented and challenging times, but they represent a generational opportunity to re-imagine how our City approaches capital investment and to harness our capital program as an economic engine,” Comptroller Stringer wrote in his recent letter to Mayor de Blasio.
By Forum Staff
Re-starting the capital program with a focus on priority projects that will enhance the state of good repair of City buildings, infrastructure, and equipment will ignite NYC’s economic recovery, City Comptroller Scott Stringer said Friday.
The de Blasio administration in March halted nearly all new capital projects, from affordable housing, to school renovations. In a letter to the mayor, Stringer outlined how the capital program’s long-term benefits—job creation, economic opportunity, and continued investment—are keys to a comeback.
“In this time of severe fiscal strain, [ceasing new capital projects] may seem like a reasonable step to save money. But I am writing today to stress that stopping the capital program has other consequences that I believe outweigh the modest short-term savings that might be achieved,” Stringer wrote. “These are unprecedented and challenging times, but they represent a generational opportunity to re-imagine how our City approaches capital investment and to harness our capital program as an economic engine.”
The comptroller emphasized that there are significant costs to not proceeding with capital investments.
“First, there is the future cost of deteriorated infrastructure and unmet program and service needs. We spent two decades recovering from the lack of investment of the 1970s. And our present infrastructure needs are enormous: everything from reconstructing parks, schools, hospitals, museums, theaters and courts to building affordable housing to buying fire engines and garbage trucks. We can’t afford to fall behind,” Stringer noted. “The cost of deferred maintenance will make itself felt down the road, when antiquated equipment fails, schools are overcrowded, and housing is dilapidated and unsafe. We can pay for it today, or we can pay for it later – when it will be much more expensive to fix or replace.”
Second, Stringer pointed out that construction creates jobs.
“Every $100 million in construction spending creates 484 direct construction jobs—and 181 others, including suppliers, and induced jobs from the additional spending those direct and supplier jobs support,” the comptroller said Friday. “With one out of every five construction workers out of work statewide, we need to get construction going again as part of our path to economic recovery.”
Stringer also opined that the current pause in the City economy is actually an ideal time to take on certain projects.
“School buildings are vacant until September, giving the [Department of Education and School Construction Authority nearly four months to replace boilers, windows, lighting fixtures, and perform other much-needed upgrades to schools that are difficult if not impossible to get done when students are in session. Car and truck traffic has dropped precipitously, making road work much easier to accomplish. And as city residents seek respite outdoors in safe, socially distant ways, it’s important to recognize the vital need to improve our parks, playgrounds, and greenways,” the comptroller said.
Stringer pointed to the Great Depression—robust investments in capital projects helped revive the economy and create much-needed jobs—to support his thesis.
“As our city faces the steepest economic downturn in modern times, a prudent restart of the capital program would help jumpstart today’s recovery,” the comptroller added. “Investing in our future is simply smart management, and sound fiscal policy.”