The city’s top financial watchdog supports Mayor DeBlasio’s plan to seize private land in Coney Island from hold-out landlords in order to expand the amusement district — but on other issues, he and Mayor Tall just don’t see eye to eye, Comptroller Scott Stringer recently told this paper.
The plan announced last month to force the sale of three empty seaside lots to the city through eminent domain so it can sell some of it to amusement operators would require the comptroller approval, and though the heavy-handed tactic is not to be taken lightly, in this case, it’s the right move, Stringer said.
“While eminent domain is one of the most severe actions that can be taken by a government, and must be used only when all other options are off the table, I support the administration’s effort to use it to take this vacant, blighted property,” he said.
The comptroller talked about the proposed land-grab and a slew of other issues at a recent sit-down with this paper.
But siding with DeBlasio’s plan for Coney Island was a rare instance where the comptroller seems to agree with the mayor. Stringer criticized the DeBlasio’s recently resolved tiff with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over funding for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as amateurish and lacking nuance.
“I think the governor has to force the MTA to give us a road map for their investment in infrastructure projects for transportation,” Stringer said. “But the city can’t play checkers — the city has to play chess. So you can go out and smash-mouth Cuomo, but that’s how you play checkers. You gotta use every chess piece to get resources for New York City.”
Stringer has no immediate plans to challenge DeBlasio in the next election, he said.
But he did criticize Hizzoner’s handling of public housing and homelessness.
All the discomforts of home
The comptroller pledged continued investigation into the Department of Homeless Services and the hotels it pays to house the indigent when city shelters reach capacity. Mill Basin residents fear one such hotel is being built in their backyard. Hoteliers often let their buildings go to pot while collecting $100 or more per night that the city shells out to house the homeless, according to a Department of Investigation report that spurred Stringer to look at homeless services’ books.
The mayor and the Department of Homeless Services have failed to protect the city’s most vulnerable, Stringer said.
“I’m shocked that as we started to look at these contracts, the promises and commitments made are not being kept,” he said. “I know it angers City Hall, I know it frustrates the Department of Homeless Services, but if I wasn’t doing that, then I wouldn’t be doing the job I was elected to do.”
Bonds, park bonds
Pols and activists should know whether tax-exempt bonds could pay for maintaining Brooklyn Bridge Park — rather than two controversial proposed towers — well before the company that runs the park breaks ground on the buildings, Stringer said.
The comptroller recently told the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation — the private group tasked with building the waterfront park and keeping it financially above-water — that it should consider issuing bonds to fund park upkeep.
“We didn’t make a recommendation, but we think that this warrants more exploration,” he said. “I don’t think we need exploration for months and months.”