Former Mayor Bill de Blasio Cooked Books to Hide $224 Million in NYC Ferry Expenses

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio used accounting tricks to hide nearly $225 million he poured into the city’s expensive ferry system – and forced taxpayers to shell out as much as $14.57 for each ride while extremely wealthy passengers paid only $2.75 each.

These are the main conclusions of a dazzling audit published Wednesday by the municipal comptroller Brad Lander.

Moreover, de Blasio squandered $66 million — including $34 million in “questionable ship acquisition costs” — as a result of bad decisions by his hand-picked officials in charge of the city’s economic development corporation. the city, says the 50-page report.

Although the EDC said it spent $534 million operating the ferries in the six-and-a-half years to December 31, auditors found a total of at least $758.5 ​​million in spending related to ferries, a difference of $224.5 million, Lander said.

The undisclosed expenses — which included payments to various vendors and personnel costs — included $181 million in capital expenditures and $43.5 million in operating expenses, “masking the true cost of the NYC Ferry system “, according to the audit.

“If you magically put your capital expenditure under the line, you don’t have to show it — even though it’s effectively the same total set of costs in the system,” Lander told a conference. press at the NYC Ferry terminal in Manhattan. Financial district.

De Blasio squandered $66 million, including $34 million in “questionable ship acquisition costs,” according to the audit.
James Messerschmidt
NYC Controller Brad Landers
NYC Comptroller Brad Lander announced the results of an audit that showed the NYC Economic Development Corporation was underreported.
William Farrington
The East River Ferry
The East River Ferry now departs from Wall Street in New York.
James Messerschmidt

“When ‘hide the ball’ is played with any amount – and certainly close to a quarter of a billion dollars – you can’t be sure your city is telling the truth or providing the information you need. “

Lander said the discovery of the budget shenanigans meant the money-losing ferry system was operating far deeper in the red than previously acknowledged by the EDC, which in 2016 said taxpayers should subsidize the service at a cost $6.60 each way.

The actual per-ride subsidy was actually nearly double that amount, Lander said, ranging from a low of $11.44 in fiscal year 2019 to a high of $14.57 in the year. fiscal 2020, when ridership plunged amid COVID-19-related lockdowns.

In fiscal year 2021, the ratepayer subsidy was $12.88 per ride, according to the audit.

NYC Controller Brad Landers
The actual subsidy per ride was actually nearly double that amount, Lander said.
William Farrington
The East River Ferry
The former mayor aggressively promoted the ferry service.
Getty Images/Drew Angerer

Despite becoming mayor on a campaign promise to end a class divide he called a “tale of two cities,” de Blasio has aggressively promoted the ferry service, which has ridership with a median annual income between $100,000 and $150,000, The Post exclusively revealed in 2020.

Last year there were fewer than 150,000 weekly trips on its six routes, which connect 25 terminals on Manhattan’s East Side, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

Lander’s recommendations include seeking recovery of what he called about $12 million in “overpayments” to San Francisco-based Hornblower Cruises, which has received nearly $830 million since 2015 and has a contract to operate the ferry system until September 2023.

NYC Controller Brad Lander
Auditors uncovered a total of at least $758.5 ​​million in ferry-related expenses, Lander said.
William Farrington
Drew Angerer
The money-losing ferry system was operating far more in the red than EDC acknowledged.
Taidgh Barron/New York Post

In a prepared statement, a spokesperson for Hornblower said Lander’s audit “does not indicate that Hornblower violated its contract with the city in any way” and added that “Hornblower worked with NYCEDC to return $1 million in scheduled city payments as ridership plummeted during the pandemic.

In response to the audit’s findings, the EDC said it would not seek reimbursement from Hornblower because all the money the company received was “in accordance” with its contract.

EDC executive vice president and chief financial officer Fred D’Ascoli also said that under de Blasio, the nonprofit “was tasked with implementing a massive and complex ferry system” in less than three years, although “experts told him that a system of this scale would be impossible to deliver in that time.

In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams also said, “Concerns about the finances of the system are well known – the previous administration rushed NYCEDC to establish a large and complex ferry system, and we are fully aware that there is room for improvement.

De Blasio, who is now running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after failing to run for the White House in 2020, said in a statement: “We haven’t had the opportunity to ‘re reviewing the full report and recommendations so I can I’m not commenting on specifics yet but if there are any issues of under reporting to EDC or by ferry operators this should be addressed and any liability or reform necessary should be adopted.

Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks

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