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Editorial: Yonkers agency merger would help

Yonkers Parking Authority (April 24, 2012)

Yonkers Parking Authority (April 24, 2012) Credit: Faye Murman

It should be relatively easy to merge a quasi-government agency that few taxpayers pay much attention to with the Yonkers city government.

But alas, we're talking about the Yonkers Parking Authority -- and in this endeavor, some have tried, but none have succeeded.

On the surface, it makes a lot of sense to put this coin-collecting and ticket-issuing entity with a $5.3-million budget under city control. Absorbing its 37 employees, and then reducing its number of administrators, shouldn't be a problem since the city already has a Parking Violations Bureau and any number of other departments like finance, economic development, law and payroll to handle back-office tasks. The city already pays the debt on one parking garage, on Buena Vista Avenue.

Consolidation could save $2.6 million over four years, and add another $1.1 million from the authority's surplus to city coffers, according to city Inspector General Dan Schorr, who backed such a move in his final report before leaving that post earlier this month for the private sector.

But then consider a patronage contract with an absurd buyout clause, $2 million in bond debt, a recent lawsuit by the authority accusing the city of illegally withholding its money, and wrinkles like adding lesser-paid workers to a union with better salaries and benefits, and the status quo may prevail.

That's too bad, because there's a great need to do things differently.

Yonkers and its new mayor, Democrat Mike Spano, should give this proposal a hard look to see if there's any way to shed the obstacles -- notably a huge payout to a former member of Mayor Phil Amicone's administration that was approved in his final weeks in office by three of the parking authority's board members (two others abstained).

The jackpots written into executive director Lisa Mrijaj's deal, which would pay her yearly $140,000 salary for the entire four-year contract if consolidation occurs, should be reserved for New York State Lottery winners -- not connected parking authority workers.

But the mayor -- who recently said he's using every legal tactic available to consolidate -- and City Council shouldn't strong-arm or play games with the authority, either, such as withholding its money.

Another proposed power play is to add five more mayoral appointments to the authority board. Instead, there's a proper path for consolidation outlined in New York State law. The city overall is facing daunting deficits, threats of a state-imposed control board and the potential of laying off police officers, firefighters and public works employees. Taxes will likely go up; the mayor has proposed a roughly 4 percent increase.

A merger won't solve those problems, but consolidations like this are a sound way to shrink governments and authorities across the state.

Taxpayers may find mergers involving schools or police departments difficult, but they have no great attachment to a parking authority. There's no reason to put the brakes on this -- not yet. Proceed with caution and make sure taxpayers don't end up paying the price.

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