Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration underreported nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in ferry expenditures, a new report said.
City Comptroller Brad Lander on Wednesday released findings of an audit that showed the Economic Development Corp. (EDC) under de Blasio incurred a total of $758 million dollars in total ferry-related spending, despite having reported $534 million, from July 1, 2015 through Dec. 31, 2021.
Among accounting steps de Blasio's department implemented was forcing taxpayers to pay as much as $14.57 for each ferry ride while wealthy passengers paid just $2.75, the New York Post reported.
The audit also found that several decisions — including the early termination of the previous East River route operator's contract and lack of proper oversight over vessel acquisition — resulted in as much as $66 million in unnecessary expenses.
"If you just magically put your capital expenses below the line, you don't have to show them — even though effectively it's the same total set of costs in the system," Lander said.
"When 'hide the ball' is played with any amount — and certainly with nearly a quarter of a billion dollars — you can't have confidence that your city's telling the truth or providing the information that you need."
The undisclosed expenses included $181 million in capital spending and $43.5 million in operating expenses, "obfuscating the actual cost of the NYC Ferry system," according to the audit.
"Concerns around the system's finances are well known – the prior administration rushed NYCEDC to establish a large and complex ferry system, and we are keenly aware there is room for improvement," a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement, the Post reported.
De Blasio, who's running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, said in a statement: "We haven't had a chance to review the full report and recommendations, so I can't comment on any specifics yet, but if there are issues with underreporting at EDC, or by the ferry operators, that should be remedied and whatever accountability or reforms that are needed should be adopted."
Lander's report showed that the city's actual ferry subsidy had been consistently higher than reported.
The EDC in 2016 estimated that taxpayers would have to subsidize the service at a cost of $6.60 per ride. The actual subsidy per ride has been near twice that amount, Lander said.
The EDC also spent tens of millions in unnecessary expenses, including purchasing vessels at higher-than-market costs as well as early termination and transfer of the East River contract.
That included $34 million in "questionable vessel acquisition costs" to Hornblower Cruises.
Auditors found that EDC's weak enforcement of contract provisions resulted in at least $3 million of unsubstantiated payments to Hornblower Cruises.
The Post reported that there were fewer than 150,000 trips weekly last year on its six routes, which connect 25 terminals on Manhattan's East Side, Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx.
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