It’s been a busy first year in office for NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer.
In just over ten months on the job, the City’s “Auditor-in-Chief” issued a report recommending flexible work arrangements – allowing employees to juggle their schedules and locations to care for children and elderly family members. He also took aim at improving the City’s environment, recommending the issuance of “Green Bonds,” to finance environmentally-conscious projects such as upgrading the energy efficiency of buildings.
There have been his audits of City agencies, notably his calling out of the Department of Health for its failure to properly manage the City’s rat problem.
And that’s not to mention several public disagreements with Mayor Bill de Blasio on subjects like milk contracts in City schools and outstanding Pre-K contracts, let alone the D rating he handed the administration for its performance in contracting with minority and women owned businesses (MWBE).
On Wednesday, Stringer brought his message to North Brooklyn, visiting the Gazette office to talk about his initiatives, the state of the City economy and his relationship with the Mayor.
“I’m a lifelong New Yorker and I love the chance to get out to different communities and meet new people,” Stringer said grabbing a seat at the office conference table. “In a campaign, you get to meet a lot of people very fast, but this is a great time now to talk about Greenpoint and other neighborhoods. We want to be more of a presence.”
Contrary to many New Yorkers’ ideas of his role, Stringer explained that a big part of his job is evaluating City agencies, not just on budget, but also on performance. A 10% uptick in rat complaints, for example, led to the Department of Health audit. “We sat down with the agency and made 12 recommendations,” Stringer noted. “In this case, the agency has already agreed to 11 out of 12, and that’s how we make government better.”
It is that kind of investigative power that North Brooklyn business owners hope will lead to improvements in the way the City audits and grades its small businesses. Stringer readily acknowledges the inconsistency of the current system and how “the ticketing and the harassment of small businesses have really made a lot of people suffer.”
At the Gazette Wednesday, Stringer said he hoped to use his office to fight for a fairer system, one that promotes a thriving small business economy. “Let’s recognize that people who go into these small businesses go in with their life savings, he said. “So you put it all in, and the day you open, inspector after inspector, fine after fine comes your way, just as you start to get your business up and running. But the City doesn’t care if you succeed because there’s always somebody else coming. During the campaign [the Mayor] said ‘we have to reduce fines and fees’ and I’m going to support him in that effort.”
Making it easier to get a live person on the phone when calling on City agencies, is another Stringer idea to make government more efficient for working people. And building the broadband throughout the City, he says is a must, saying uneven and inefficient internet services disenfranchise businesses.
“We make it impossible to do business unless you’re Chase Bank, Duane Reade or a major restaurant with at least 20 locations,” Stringer said. “Everybody knows that people come here from all over the world, not to shop at Duane Reade, but to see the little shops. They want to see [neighborhoods like] Greenpoint in a different way. We’re going to be working on these issues. We’re going to be calling out the agencies, and we’re going to work with Chambers of Commerce to exchange ideas and to think about what the long term economy looks like.”
Press coverage of his relationship with the Mayor notwithstanding, Stringer pointed out that he works closely with the Mayor to ensure the fiscal stability of the City. “But at the same time,” he said, “you’re also the auditor in chief, and you have to shine a light on the City agencies, and that sometimes causes friction.”
And how does Stringer want to be regarded? “My reputation, I hope, has always been about good government and about everybody playing by one set of rules,” he said.
The Comptroller returns to Greenpoint this Friday, October 24 to host a Polish Heritage Breakfast at the Polish & Slavic Center, 177 Kent Street. Doors open at 8:30 and breakfast is from 9-10. To RSVP, please call Yvette Hibbert-Taylor at (212) 669-4382.