The “big ugly” was, as Mayor Bill de Blasio put it, “a mixed bag.”
More than $250 million to repair New York City’s dilapidated housing projects was included in this year’s state budget, but was asterisked with a state-mandated monitor to control how the money’s spent.
There was a bailout for the failing subways, but with a $418-million bill to city taxpayers that de Blasio had long resisted as the state’s responsibility.
And state plans to take certain zoning authority and tax revenue in Manhattan away from the city? Greatly scaled down, but subjects the Penn Station area to more eminent domain.
The mayor said this week the city was still examining the decisions coming out of Albany, including the so-called “big ugly” — the unrelated bills bunched together to end Albany’s legislative session and set major policy.
“Was it the kind of process that I would have done, if I were working with a partner and actually talked it through and tried to figure out what would work? No, it was not that process,” de Blasio said of the monitor, on NY1 news Monday.
Maria Doulis, vice president of the nonpartisan, business-backed Citizens Budget Commission, said the city continues to send more to Albany than the state gives back.
“The worst was averted,” she said, but “there was still pain inflicted.”
Doulis noted some of the wins for the city:
n Design-build authority for work on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and to shutter the violence-plagued Rikers Island jails. This streamlines a process, ordinarily required in state law, that balloons project cost and length by mandating the bifurcation of design and construction phases.
n More in school funds. The city will receive $10.54 billion, compared with $10.21 billion for the previous year — about $116 million less than it had expected, but still more than the status quo.
On the transit money — which Doulis said was agreed to with a threat of “either you put up the money or we’ll take your sales tax” — the city will now shoulder even more of a share of funding the state-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the subways.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has feuded with his fellow Democrat since soon after the mayor took office in 2014, said the monitor is necessary because de Blasio had proved incompetent in managing projects that 400,000 New Yorkers call home. The developments are beset by moldy walls, broken boilers, incomplete lead-paint tests, and more. Cuomo likened giving money to the housing authority to “throwing it out the window.”
De Blasio counters that the projects’ woes predate his mayoralty, and are the result of federal and state disinvestment, such as hundreds of millions promised by Cuomo in past budgets that have yet to be delivered.
Cuomo’s team says the money has been withheld because of mistakes on the de Blasio administration’s part, a claim the mayor rejects. Now, the state money, old and new, will need the monitor’s approval.