[Updated, Nov. 3, 12:56 p.m.]
Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, one of the most outspoken critics of the city's plan to build a an enormous water filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park, says the construction delays, cost overruns and other problems associated with the Department of Enviornmental Protection's project should fall on the shoulders of Mayor Bloomberg.
Bloomberg is up for re-election tomorrow.
The DEP met with members of the filtration plant's monitoring committee and local residents last Thursday at the Amalgamated Houses. Deputy Comptroller John Brown was also on hand to discuss his office's audit of the project, released in early September, that highlighted the problems with the project.
Most notably, the report said the original estimates for the project were so completely innaccurate that it calls into question whether the project should have been sited on public parkland in the first place.
By all accounts, residents at the meeting expressed a great deal of outrage and dismay at the Comptroller's findings.
Here's Dinowitz's complete release:
The meeting that the five community members of the Croton Facilities Monitoring Committee (CFMC) held in the Amalgamated House’s Vladeck Hall on Thursday, October 29 illustrated conclusively that the water filtration plant boondoggle that is costing taxpayers unnecessary billions and is being grossly mismanaged by a secretive NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s worst failures.
At the meeting, Deputy Comptroller John Graham explained that the recently released audits by Comptroller Bill Thompson found that the DEP could not account for the astronomical rise in costs as compared with their original budgeting for the project. Many who attended spoke emphatically that the comptroller’s findings definitively support their long-held claim that the DEP cooked the books in order to see to it that the plant was built in Van Cortlandt Park and to create a lucrative bonanza for contractors and engineers while sticking everyday New Yorkers with an outrageous bill.
Specifically, the comptroller reported that the DEP failed to account for a cost escalation rate above those substantiated by industry indexes such as the Engineering News-Record Construction index of 5.04%, or the Handy-Whitman Index of Public Utility Construction of 5.73%, or the Prevailing Wage Rates of 4.7%.
I agree with the Comptroller: “(The DEP’s) Underlying estimate was unreliable and lacked sufficient documentation to substantiate its accuracy and completeness.” The still unanswered question of why they did it and who benefited from it was also raised at the meeting, but not surprisingly, though DEP and contractor representatives were present, they did not participate in the discussion. What is clear is that we all need to continue our due diligence until the truth is definitively known.
Though not an official CFMC meeting, the gathering was a clear statement to Mayor Bloomberg’s DEP that a majority of the seven-member committee is fed up over the unexplained costs, debilitating and expensive construction delays, and ongoing DEP stonewalling and lack of transparency as indicated in the comptroller’s audit. It was made clear that at the next CFMC meeting, scheduled for Thursday, November 5 at 7:00 p.m. at the DEP office at 3660 Jerome Avenue, the comptroller’s report is going to be on the agenda and Mayor Bloomberg’s DEP is going to have to attempt to justify their actions and also change the opaque processes which contribute to the scandal on a daily basis.
Since its establishment by the City Council in 2004, the committee charged with monitoring this project was manipulated by the DEP, thereby hampering its work. However, in 2007 after my office reported that the DEP’s explanation rate for the cost escalation was not correct and that DEP’s stated justifications were invalid smoke screens, the committee finally stood up to then-Commissioner Emily Lloyd, and voted to ask for the audit. In a pathetic and obvious attempt to avoid inquiry, though the report was issued almost two months ago, the DEP has balked at scheduling meetings of the CFMC until after the mayoral election.
But Thursday’s history-making meeting proves that no matter how much the Mayor controls the Manhattan media, the people of the Bronx must continue to stand strong in the pursuit of truthful information from City Hall and diligence over the administration’s ongoing attempt to hide from scrutiny.
I applaud the work of the community members of the Croton Facilities Monitoring Committee, and look forward to its next meeting on Thursday, November 5 so we can hear what the DEP has to say.
[Editor's note: It should be noted that the DEP says it cancelled the last two CFMC meetings at the request of CFMC members. The September meeting was cancelled after members found out that a presentation and discussion of the Comptroller's audit was not on the agenda, according to two committee members and the DEP. The October meeting was cancelled because at least one of the members could not attend the meeting, according to CFMC Chairman Greg Faulkner and the DEP. This note was changed and clarified from the original.]
Monday, November 2, 2009
[Updated, Nov. 3, 12:56 p.m.]