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Short attention span theater: Some city officials cannot seem to focus

2019-09-02

A new Citizens Budget Commission report shows city spending on leases of private space grew an astonishing 40% from fiscal years 2014 to 2018. The 22 million square feet in privately owned space the city pays for will cost it — er, us — $1.2 billion this fiscal year. (Jesada Athaput / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm)

Ever interested in passing legislation that sounds good in a press release, rarely caring about how such laws get implemented in practice: That’s your city government.

A new Citizens Budget Commission report shows city spending on leases of private space grew an astonishing 40% from fiscal years 2014 to 2018. The 22 million square feet in privately owned space the city pays for will cost it — er, us — $1.2 billion this fiscal year.

City officials could figure out where they’re wasting space in order to cut costs if only they had complete records of all the space they’re using. The Bloomberg administration tracked those details; under de Blasio, tracking lapsed. In 2017, city officials announced a new task force would be assembled and a custom database built to systematically keep tabs on the real estate portfolio.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, progress has not been swift. Just 3 million of the city’s estimated 37 million-square-foot portfolio has been cataloged. Natch, city spending keeps going up.

Meanwhile, Gotham Gazette reports that the Council has passed so many laws requiring city agencies to issue regular reports, ostensibly to gauge the effectiveness of services and inform the budget process, that they’ve lost track.

To jog their memories, they passed a law requiring a report on the number of reports they’ve required. Answer: 842, due at various intervals.

Prediction: When a few years go by and this problem still isn’t solved, what with politicians constantly flitting from “solving” one problem to the next, the Council will demand a report on the report on the reports. And it’ll be riveting.