Comptroller Audit Finds Non-Compliance with “Fair Share” Charter Provisions

Comptroller Brad Lander. Image Credit: Office of the Comptroller.

On November 9, 2023 the New York City Comptroller released an audit and report detailing the failures of the City to comply with “Fair Share” Requirements for City Services and Facilities. Under the 1989 City Charter Revisions, “Fair Share provisions” require that the City must make an effort to provide communities with their fair share of amenities and the City must make an effort to combat citywide issues equitably among all communities. The new analysis report by the Comptroller revealed that the City is not only unevenly distributing City amenities and facilities, thus violating the 1989 Charter, but is keeping critical data on this information unavailable and is failing to produce mandated analyses of their efforts. The overall review conducted by the Comptroller involved an audit of Fair Share statements over the past five years and a geospatial analysis of City facilities.

The audit looked at 170 Fair Share Statements that were submitted to support the siting of City facilities that will run through contracts with private providers. These Fair Share Statements were used in siting decisions between Fiscal Year 2018 through 2022. Significant disregard for the Charter was found. The City only gave 28 of these statements to auditors initially with the Department of City Planning and the Mayor’s Office; both City Planning and the Mayor’s Officer were also in noncompliance with the Charter for not maintaining any copies of the submissions. Additionally, no statements were submitted to committee boards as required by the Charter.

In addition to not maintaining copies of submissions, the Department of City Planning has failed to publish an annual index of beds per thousand residents by type of facility and total number in each Committee District. The City has not evaluated the Fair Share Criteria since 1995, which has led to a negligence of several significant shifts in both technology and services provided by the City. The relevance of these findings cannot be more important as the influx of asylum seekers has called the housing affordability crisis to center stage.

The audio found different amounts of distribution based on type of facility. Childcare and early childhood education facilities, fire stations, and police precincts are evenly distributed. However, parks, waste transfer sites, homeless shelters, and social services including mental health centers and substance use disorder treatment programs were the most unfairly distributed facilities. Homeless shelters are so heavily concentrated in some communities that they have 100 times more shelter beds than others with three out of four community districts lacking shelters being predominantly white. Waste transfer sites with high volumes of greenhouse gas emissions, noise, high volume truck traffic, and particulate matter are more likely to be in communities with the highest percentage of those living below the poverty line. Neighborhoods with significant Asian populations in both Queens and Brooklyn have the least access to parks, which are essential to healthy living environments. Social service sites such as mental health centers and substance use treatment programs are more likely to be in neighborhoods that have the highest percentages of people living below the poverty line such as Harlem.

The Comptroller’s Office recommends six steps for the City to implement in addressing the clear inequities and violations regarding the 1989 Charter. First, there must be centralized oversight over Fair Share compliance. Second, Fair Share data must be improved and regularly updated. Third, Public access to information on sitings, facility capacity and concentration must be improved. Fourth, the Citywide Statement of Needs must be reformed. Fifth, unfair sitings in oversaturated districts must be prohibited. Lastly, it should be clarified that Fair Share is to be applied to City facilities sited through emergency procurement.

Comptroller Brad Lander said, “New York City’s wellbeing rests upon an extensive array of municipal services that should be sited equitably, but our office found that it fails to live up to its ‘Fair Share’ obligations. Some neighborhoods have far more than their share of homeless shelters and waste transfer sites, and the differences are often along lines of race and income. As we tackle issues from housing affordability to climate change while building a compassionate and inclusive city, the City’s siting decisions cannot be driven by not-in-my-backyard politics and path-of-least-resistance planning, which solidifies and deepens racial and economic disparities. Fairness must be embedded in how we build our city, share opportunities, and rise to challenges. That begins with a commitment to basic public transparency, which the City has long ignored. Failing to attend to fairness and transparency erodes public trust and makes it harder to meet our collective needs.”

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso said, “New York City’s longstanding failure to plan for the public good is at the root of the city’s housing and health crises. By citing city services and amenities like parks and libraries according to a guiding vision anchored in equity, we can begin to chip away at the stark inequities that harm lower-income communities and communities of color. I applaud Comptroller Lander for holding New York City accountable to the fair share principles the City has failed to apply, even though they have been written into our City Charter for more than three decades now. We must address the well-documented racial and economic disparities in our city head on, and this report calls for the transparency and accountability that is foundational to our success at doing so.”

By: Meg Beauregard (Meg is the CityLaw intern, and a New York Law School student, Class of 2024).

Comptroller: “New York City Fails to Comply with “Fair Share” Requirements for City Services and Facilities, New Audit & Analysis by Comptroller Lander Reveals” (Nov. 9, 2023).



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