City Comptroller Scott Stringer will not yet sign off on the East River Park Resiliency (ESPR) project contract, sending it back to the Department of Design and Construction and telling the agency to try again.
The decision comes two days after a group of the project’s opponents protested outside Stringer’s office downtown, urging the comptroller to kill the contract of a project they believe will destroy a cherished park in the name of coastal resiliency by uprooting about a thousand trees and raising the ground level by filling the park with a million tons of soil. Despite a lot of pushback from Lower Manhattan residents, the city has already approved the plan, and all that is left only waiting on Stringer to sign the contract, which would release the
Stringer’s decision to stall on signing the contract - an action that would release the funds necessary for the contractor to start work - could in part be a reaction to the public pressure, but his office did not indicate that was the case Wednesday when he sent the contract back to the DDC.
“As is the case with every contract, the Comptroller’s Office has conducted a thorough review and engaged with the City through a series of questions and answers to determine compliance with all applicable rules and regulations pertaining to this $1.2 billion contract,” the comptroller’s press secretary Hazel Crampton-Hays said in a statement. “Since we were unable to resolve all of our questions within the 30 day review period, our office has returned the contract to DDC to allow them additional time to address the outstanding issues.
Stringer had two specific concerns regarding the contract the city has drawn up with IPC Resiliency Partners, a group of three companies that have joined together to bid on the project; one being, that the DDC has not ensured that all of those companies within IPC have filed all of the mandated disclosures in the city’s PASSPort system, which is a requirement of both the Procurement Policy Board and the NYC Administrative Code.
The second issue with the contract is related to the goal the DDC set for the number of Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises working on the project. The agency set a 16 percent MWBE utilization goal for the $1.27 billion contract - even though the city has an official goal of 30 percent MWBE utilization for city procurement under Local Law 1. The developer, however, reported that 32 percent of the project’s total work could be subcontracted; therefore, the comptroller has sent DDC an inquiry as to why the agency did not make the MWBE goal higher.
Though this victory could be fleeting, East River Park Action, a group formed to stop this project, celebrated Stringer’s delay on signing the contract.
“ERPA applauds Comptroller Stringer and his office for conducting a thorough review to determine compliance with all rules and regulations and for questioning the legitimacy of the required disclosures submitted by all of the companies comprising IPC, including adhering to the MWBE hiring laws,” the group said in a statement. “As noted in our letter to the Comptroller, ‘Without this necessary experience, you are risking ballooning costs, the quality and timely completion of flood protection - as demanded by and promised to - this community.’”
“Kill the Contract”
The group delivered that letter to the comptroller’s office at the Manhattan Municipal Building amid a protest of more than 50 people. The group made impassioned pleas to Stringer to put a stop to the project by withholding funding.
“Kill the contract, not the park!” was the group’s refrain in between various speakers, including Christopher Marte, who in June became the Democratic nominee for City Council in District 1.
“We are just telling Scott Stringer to do one thing: throw away the pen, don’t sign the contract,” said Marte. The Council candidate said that throughout Stringer’s tenure as an elected official, he has had a record of working for climate justice. “If he signs that contract, he throws away that legacy. He throws away all the good he has done for this city. Scott Stringer, we know what side you should be on. Throw away the pen and stand with the people.”
Lynn Ellsworth, chair of Human-scale NYC, also spoke, telling the crowd they need to prepare to move beyond letters and demonstrations to more direct action.
“How do we win in all of these fights? Over the past six years, we’ve petitioned. We’ve done lawsuits. We’ve gone to rallies. We’ve had marches - and we’re not winning,” said Ellsworth. “So I think the next stage is that we’re going to have to do direct action ... We’re going to have to start lying down in front of bulldozers. I think it’s the only way we’re going to get it done.”
“We are just telling Scott Stringer to do one thing: throw away the pen, don’t sign the contract ... Throw away the pen and stand with the people.” Christopher Marte, Democratic nominee for City Council in District 1