Stringer on Audits, NYCHA and DHS

City Comptroller Scott Stringer address the media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, while Errol Louis, NY1 political reporter and Director of the CUNY J School’s Urban Reporting concentration, listens (Photo by Chloe Chik)

City Comptroller Scott Stringer addresses the media at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, while Errol Louis, NY1 political reporter and director of the CUNY J School’s Urban Reporting concentration, listens. (Photo by Chloe Chik)

A day after releasing a report giving the city a letter grade of “D+” for its efforts to award minority and women-owned businesses city contracts – up from “D” a year earlier – City Comptroller Scott Stringer made news by revealing that the city’s Human Resources Administration is now reviewing contracts for city homeless shelters. Stringer has been a vocal critic of some contracts earlier administered by the city’s Department of Homeless Services.

In a Newsmakers event on Oct. 15 sponsored by the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, Stringer spoke about the development. David Cruz, editor of the Norwood News writes:

Stringer has remained a staunch critic of DHS, having rejected several DHS-approved contracts he deemed unworthy of city monies. His remarks suggested little confidence in DHS by the de Blasio administration toward DHS. A follow up inquiry to Stringer’s press office yielded no comment.

Contracts come with millions of taxpayer dollars attached to operate a shelter. They are typically reviewed by DHS, an agency whose main task is to secure housing for the homeless mostly through nonprofit shelter providers. The de Blasio administration recently increased DHS’s budget to $953 million as it deals with a record number of 60,000 homeless people around the city. DHS had once been part of HRA until becoming its own separate agency in 1993, though still intertwined.

A panel, led by Errol Louis, NY1 political reporter and director of the CUNY J School’s Urban Reporting concentration, and including David Cruz and Tequila Minsky of Caribbean Life, posed a number of questions to Stringer, including a couple about his political future. He repeatedly referred to the problems plaguing NYCHA housing in New York, and said that he has made it an area of concentration for his office because he think it’s “critical to making sure people get a shot in life.” He observed that the city’s “NextGeneration NYCHA” plans is “no plan at all.”

Alluding to the report he had issued the day before, Stringer said that “the only way we’re going to grow businesses in the city is actually to invest in women and minority-owned businesses. And here’s something that I find incredible… We just issued a second report on city spending with women and minority-owned businesses and what we found is that the city spends $14 billion buying paper clips, paper, hiring law firms, accounting firms, the truth is we only spend but 5 percent on women and minority-owned businesses… We have got to invest now, today in those businesses.”

The comptroller’s office itself, Stringer said, got a “C” grade. “This is everybody’s issue,” he added.

Javier Castaño, editor of Queens Latino, writes about Stringer’s report card on city contracting, noting:

To help bridge this gap, the Comptroller’s office created a webpage listing the steps small businesses need to follow in order to obtain contracts with the City of New York. During the meeting with ethnic press representatives, Stringer pointed out that New York City is divided into two tales, those of the rich and the poor. He also said that he enjoys his work very much and that, for now, he does not plan to run for mayor, adding: “You never know what the future may bring.”

His strategy as comptroller has been to look into aspects of the city’s operations as diverse as cleanliness on subway platforms, physical education in public schools, the banking system, agencies caring for the homeless and public housing expenses. Stringer stressed three points: investments in small business, raising the minimum wage to $15/hr. and corporate abuse, “which thwarts diversity and the development of a civil rights agenda.”

Stringer noted that the audits he conducts aren’t “a big gotcha” but are conducted over a period of months, and that by the time an audit is released, the agency “knows exactly what we’re going to say.” Often, he said, that prompts the agency to announce a reform or correction. “We help change policy once we start an audit,” said Stringer.

One Comment

  1. It is interesting and perhaps telling that in a city where 3/5 of the people identify themselves as being of color that the term “minority” is still used. Statistically speaking, people with mega-wealth are a minority group, but no one refers to them as such. It would be nice if the term “minority” was applied appropriately, for how people are labeled often impacts how they are perceived.

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