The 7th largest city in New York State has dusted off long dormant or unworkable plans coupled with goodies for multi-million dollar real estate developers and dumped them into a nearly $100 million grab bag of spending initiatives that will do little to stimulate the economy but a lot of keep favored contractors working on the Federal dime while delivering the goods for deep-pocketed developers who have pumped dollars into the Mayor’s campaign fund. Mixed in among some genuine infrastructure projects can be found projects to build a skating rink for $8,000,000, a boat storage facility for the cash-strapped yachting crowd, $1,500,000 for soccer fields, basketball courts and picnic tables, more for bike paths and something called “streetscapes” which will apparently be so beautiful that residents will forget they’re broke and go shopping on Main Street. This in a City that has given away tens of millions of dollars in the form of tax abatements to encourage big box stories like CostCo and Home Depot to relocate on the old City Dump at the far end of town.
Another is $25,000,000 to build 228 apartments in order to maintain an affordable housing resource in the City of New Rochelle in perpetuity. Yes, you got that right. The plan is build new housing in New Rochelle so poor people can afford to live here until the end of the millennium and beyond. Odd, considering how the biggest problem facing the country right now is people walking away from homes they cannot afford in places like Phoenix and Las Vegas leaving banks with a glut of unwanted homes. So about taking that 25 million dollars, offering 228 low-income families a fistful of first-class plane tickets to the sunny desert southwest, buying them each a new home of their own for $100,000 and pocketing the remainder? These folks get brand new homes free and clear and the city is relieved of having to support people who cannot afford the high cost of living in New York. You think there would be any takers?
One of the projects was submitted to Albany without any price tag at all – just a plan to rebuild a road near a strip mall for some unspecified amount of money. Apparently the plan it see how they get and build as much road as they can afford once the check cleared.
Some of the proposed projects appear to violate Senate Amendment 309 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, otherwise known as the “Stimulus Package”. Added by Sen. Thomas Coburn [R-OK], the amendment was intende to ensure that taxpayer money is not lost on wasteful and non-stimulative projects:
None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.
Given this, why would the City of New Rochelle submit $9.5 million of requests under the heading “RECREATION AND CULTURE” for such things as playgrounds and a natural turf football stadium?
Why would the City ask for $1.2 million to “enhance the physical environment and appearance” of a road that runs through downtown New Rochelle.
How about $25 million to move a parking lot for trucks from one end of town to the other so a real estate developer can build condos with a water view? The best part, the developer was supposed to break ground this spring but has now backed off those plans due to the bad economy.
The job “creation” figures in the request seem highly unlikely. One project to put up 20 security cameras near the train station for $190,000 is project to employ 5 people. Really? Five people? Really? For how long? A week?
How about $8.4 million to resurface roads throughout the City. This is projected to create a whopping 20 jobs for a period of an incredible 4 months. And then what? These guys are all fired? The good news is they can all afford to retire under this plan; that $8.4 million comes out to an annualized income of one and a quarter million dollars a piece. Heck, who needs the lottery?
UPDATE: the original version of this post said there were 120 units of affordable housing in the proposed list when the document actually said 228; the post was edited to reflect the correct number.