Storm clouds should force N.Y. City to look from within, says Stringer

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New York City should take a hard look at its own fiscal practices given diminished aid from Washington and a pending economic downturn, according to city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

“We don’t have a friend in Washington,” Stringer said Wednesday night as he received the Citizens Budget Commission’s medal for high civic service. “Now that we’re on our own more than ever, what are we doing today to prepare for what comes tomorrow?”

Former Federal Reserve Vice-Chairman Stanley Fischer received the Felix G. Rohatyn Award at the nonprofit budget watchdog’s 86th annual awards dinner at the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan.

The award, in honor of the former Lazard banker who helped the city out of its financial crisis in the 1970s, recognizes legendary champions of New York and sound fiscal management.

Fischer spent three years on the Federal Reserve Board before resigning late last year. He worked as a chief economist at the World Bank, a senior official at the International Monetary Fund and a governor of the Bank of Israel. Previously, he was an economics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to Fischer, the U.S. needs a “serious program” to improve its crumbling infrastructure.

“I find the difference in the quality of ride between Acela Express and TGV [high-speed European rail] embarrassing and worrying,” he said.

New York State’s Medicaid Redesign Team received the CBC’s prize for public service innovation. The group, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo formed in 2011, brought health care industry leaders together. Their efforts paved the way for federal approval of an $8 billion reinvestment of savings incurred by MRT initiatives.

Honorable mention went to the Office of the State Comptroller’s Division of State Government Accountability for its “smart audit” initiative.

According to Stringer, President Trump’s agenda “is designed to erode our tax base and undermine our budgetary ability.”

Stringer, a former state assemblyman and Manhattan borough president, won election to a second term as comptroller in November.

He called for boosting reserves and holding city agencies to performance metrics.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s $88.7 billion fiscal 2019 preliminary budget is before the City Council. De Blasio will submit a modified executive budget in late April, with the 51-member council to vote on the spending plan by June 30.

While praising de Blasio for his universal pre-kindergarten initiative, Stringer called on the city’s Department of Education to streamline its bureaucracy.

“They mayor can’t do it alone,” he said. “Dollars are going to cubicles, not classrooms.

“If you think our kids will thrive in a high-tech economy while the DOE loses track of thousands of laptops, folks, it’s not going to happen.”

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Budgets Infrastructure Scott Stringer Stanley Fischer City of New York, NY New York