Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York City Comptroller John Liu said on Friday that almost half of the capital construction projects in city parks finish late and 10 percent racked up “significant” cost overruns in 2010 and 2011.
“Repairs and upgrades must be better managed not only to reduce wasteful spending, but also to minimize the duration of park closures,” Comptroller Liu said in a statement. “The Parks Department can do better.”
The New York City Parks Department, given the chance to respond within the audit’s final report, said while it agreed that “certain improvements” were needed, “Unfortunately, the report does not recognize where Parks’ oversight has largely achieved positive results. In fact, there are several instances where the report appears to go out of its way to find fault where there is overwhelming indication of strong performance.”
In a more restrained statement released late Friday, Parks said, “We recognize that there is more we can do to ensure that our projects are completed in a timely manner and have taken steps to improve our processes so that more projects finish within their estimated completion dates. The Comptroller noted that 90 percent of our projects are on budget – which we believe is an indication of strong oversight.”
The Parks Department completed 315 capital construction projects, at a cost of $496.3 million during Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011. Of these, 149 (47 percent) finished late. Many of these ended up taking almost double the allotted time to complete, Liu’s audit found. And 30 of the projects combined to add $10 million in cost overruns.
In Brooklyn, 36 park projects were listed as coming in late and/or costing more than budgeted. These include Kaiser Park’s new field house in Coney Island; Bushwick Inlet Park; Robert E. Venable Park in East New York; and landscaping at Kingsborough College. Work at many schoolyards in Brooklyn also face long delays, such as the paving of the schoolyard at P.S. 48, almost a year behind schedule.
Kaiser Park was delayed by 930 days, according to the audit. Robert E. Venable Park was delayed by 421 days. The construction of the revamped McCarren Park in Williamsburg was delayed by 271 days, while work on Field Four at Prospect Park’s Parade Ground was 155 days late. (Eight of the parks listed were delayed by only a month or so.)
The audit also found that, despite spending $4 million to correct consultants’ design errors and omissions on various projects, the Parks Department did not try and recoup the money.
The Parks Department, however, points out that while 10 percent of the projects completed during Fiscal years 2010 and 2011 were over-budget, the remaining 90 percent were on budget, and cost overruns equaled “only 2.3 percent of Parks actual construction costs.”
That 2.3 percent added up to $10 million in cost overruns, Liu said, on top of the more than $8 million budgeted for contingency spending.
Park projects often involve coordinating multiple contractors, meeting with regularity agencies to resolve permitting issues, and dealing with unexpected field conditions, a Parks insider said.
The field house project at Kaiser Park, for example, included a new community room and park office space as well as restrooms and storage spaces. The building received a new roof and windows and the exterior brick was restored. The plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems were completely replaced.
The audit recommended several steps that the Parks Department should take to better ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget. For example, the audit recommended that the Parks Department “flag projects for priority completion so that delayed work can be expedited.”
The audit is available for download at: http://www.comptroller.nyc.gov/bureaus/audit/yearlyview.asp?selaudyear=2013