Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Unfiltered Truth

We have been commenting for quite some time now about the ineptitude of the NYC DEP-and now comes this from the Comptroller's Office concerning the white elephant water filtration plant in the Bronx: "City Controller BILL Thompson said Tuesday what many Bronx residents have been saying for six years - the city low-balled its original cost estimate of the Croton Filtration Plant project. He said an audit by his office found a 2003 city Department of Environmental Conservation report estimated building the facility at Van Cortlandt Park would cost only about $992 million - but the true cost will be well over twice that amount."

Why does the comptroller think the agency was so far off? "The DEP's gross underestimation of the actual cost of the Croton Plant is utterly disturbing," said Thompson. "It's either one of two things - either the number was incredibly low-balled, or it's probably the worst case of incompetence I think we've seen in years."

This isn't an insignificant point, since the original decision to build in the Bronx-subject to widespread local protests-was itself based on cost: "At the time of the 2003 report, the city was deciding whether to build the facility in Van Cortlandt Park or at a site in Westchester County, and the allegedly lower cost of the Bronx site was a significant factor in the decision. Residents near the park were incredulous from the start, doubting that digging a hole the size of two football fields for the plant and rebuilding a golf course on top of it could really have been cheaper than building the plant above ground at the other site."

But will any one be held accountable? Given the Bloomberg administration's lax oversight and accountability, hardly likely-it is more likely that the mayor might donate money to a university so that a building can be named in honor of Emily Lloyd, the clueless former commissioner of the DEP. It was, after all, Lloyd who told us that the agency could better analyze the impact of food waste disposers with a theoretical study, than with an actual pilot program that gathered empirical data. We are supposed to now believe this wildly inaccurate and incompetent agency, that the cost of installing commercial disposers would be in the billions.

And then there are the city's water bills-a system that bilks consumers and generally hasn't a clue as to how to accurately gauge the average homeowners charges-so it ends up sending out bills that could have been generated by a DEP game of pin the tail on the tax payer. Yet no one puts the blame where it really belongs-at the feet of a disengaged mayor who, rather than punish incompetency, will only hold his minions accountable when buildings actually fall down.

Sorry, we take that back. When the Deustche Bank building did burn down, killing two fire fighters, Commissioner Scopetta-someone who apparently wasn't smoking and carrying a gun when the building went up in smoke-was given a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card by the kind and clueless chief executive.

So the record of mayoral nonfeasance and malfeasance keeps accumulating-but with little hope that the local media (not a monolith, of course) will tar baby the billionaire like they do the lesser electeds. The next four years, however, promises to be one of record buyers remorse. But remember, you heard it her first.