Monday, October 3, 2011

Waste charged in EDC South Bronx job creation program

Here is a story from this week's Bronx Press. Enjoy.

By Brendan McHugh

The city’s Economic Development Corp. failed to spend $9.3 million meant for job creation and training, most for the Bronx.

According to City Comptroller John Liu, in 1992 the EDC received $8.9 million in exchange for financial breaks for the Riverside South residential development, all of which was intended to benefit the Harlem River Rail Yard in the South Bronx.

“It makes little sense that millions intended for economic development remain unused for so long, especially in the Bronx where jobs are greatly needed,” Liu said.

This Public Purpose Fund, earmarked from the beginning to benefit the rail yard, was fully funded by 2005. An audit by Liu, which found the idle money, recommends the EDC find a way to use the money to benefit the Bronx, “and not wait another 19 years to do so.”

Jump below for the full story.

The EDC has rejected the audit’s recommendation, arguing that Public Purpose Funds cannot be redirected to a new local benefit without violating the agreements that they are based upon. The EDC, however, also concedes that these agreements can be amended and the money reassigned if it obtains approval from the City Council and City Planning Commission.

“The Comptroller’s suggestions for the remaining funds may be well-intentioned, but they ignore the disbursement restrictions EDC is legally bound to follow, and many are infeasible or simply not in the best interest of the City’s taxpayers,” EDC spokesperson Patrick Muncie said in a statement. “We will continue to ensure that all of the funds are wisely invested in the neighborhoods for which they were intended."

In a response to Liu contained in his audit, EDC said, “The fact that funds in these accounts have not yet been spent is not an indicator that funds should have been spent.”

EDC is also saying Liu is misleading with some of his claims. Despite the fact that the fund was established in 1992, payments into the fund did not begin until 1997 and the money was not available for disbursement until 2005.

While Bronx pols are upset about the lack of spending by the EDC—whether it be from 1992 or 2005—they are now looking forward, calling for the agency to fill the needs of the Bronx.

“We look forward to working with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to ensure that these available funds are used as part of a viable project that will provide positive economic development in the Bronx,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Rep. Jose E. Serrano sees specific needs that need to be addressed now.

“There are so many transportation needs in our community that could use $8.9 million in funding—whether that be easing truck traffic or improving rail linkages,” Serrano said. “Today, I call for the immediate identification of a suitable project in the South Bronx and for the funds to be put to use as soon as possible. These sorts of projects have so many community benefits, not least of which is clearing the air, as fewer trucks are left idling in our neighborhoods on their way to or from our markets.

“Let me be clear, these funds must stay in the South Bronx and must be used to improve our transportation system. I can think of many worthy projects that could put these funds to productive use immediately. I look forward to collaborating with the NYCEDC to get these dollars out into the community as soon as possible.”

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