State Comptroller Calls for Better Monitoring and Reporting on NYC Capital Projects

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Image Credit: State Comptroller’s Office.

On April 5, 2024, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released a report about monitoring of New York City’s capital projects. His report found that projects often run over the initial budget and past the estimated timeline, suggesting that better monitoring could save City resources. 

Of the 5,128 projects analyzed, the report found that 64 percent were delayed at least three months past their planned completion date. Almost half, or 49.9 percent were delayed with tasks three or more years behind schedule. Over 50 percent of projects were over their initial budget, with planned spending at $54.5 billion more than initially projected. Almost 40 percent of projects were over 20 percent over budget. Of the projects analyzed, about 27 percent were on budget and 21 percent came in under budget. 

The report found that certain kinds of projects were more likely to be behind schedule or over budget than others. Projects involving courts, traffic, highways, public buildings, waterway bridges, water supply, and economic development projects were more likely to start over two years after they were initially projected to start. NYC Health + Hospitals, police and cultural affairs departments also experienced similar delays. The delay of start dates directly connects to the cost of projects, as the cost of materials and labor generally rises over time. Furthermore, over half of sanitation, water mains, highway bridges, courts, cultural affairs and water pollution projects were over 20 percent over their initial budgets. More complex projects that spanned multiple areas were also more likely to go over budget. 

Of all the delayed projects, over half were delayed due to budgetary restraints, which were not clearly defined by the city but may include a lack of capital funding in the city treasury or changes in funding commitments. The report notes that the projects analyzed do include projects from the onset of the pandemic, which did contribute to delays. 

The data reviewed by State Comptroller DiNapoli does not tell a complete story; his analysis examined the projects listed in the October 2023 Capital Project Detail Data (CPDD) report, which shares project schedules by phase, the initial and current budget, and explanations for delays. The City launched a new Capital Projects Dashboard last fall, but this dashboard has not been fully updated, and much of this data is not reflected on the new dashboard. The CPDD excludes 47.2 percent of the projects included in the city’s Capital Commitment Plan, to the amount of $73.9 billion. While some of these projects are excluded because they are not fully scoped out, other notable exclusions from the CPDD include city-funded projects for the School Construction Authority and loans for housing and other projects managed by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. These excluded projects total about $38 billion and are all not a part of the Comptroller’s analysis.

State Comptroller DiNapoli recommended that the city shift all relevant project information to the new dashboard and to update the dashboard regularly. Regular updates can provide transparency and help city officials identify the effectiveness of cost-reducing or time-saving initiatives for projects and where additional improvement is needed. To read the full report, click here

State Comptroller DiNapoli stated, “New York City’s capital projects too often experience delays and cost overruns, though efforts are underway to improve the process. Given limited resources and an escalating cost environment, the city should monitor its capital spending in a more uniform and comprehensive manner so it can review funding expectations, prioritize where additional work is needed, and maximize the return on every capital dollar it spends.”

In response to State Comptroller DiNapoli’s report, City Comptroller Brad Lander called for Mayor Eric Adams to update the capital projects tracker. Comptroller Lander stated, “We cannot maintain our infrastructure if we do not know whether projects are running on-budget or on-time. That means fixing what is broken—including the capital project dashboard so that we can hold City agencies accountable and improve project delivery. . . Making the City’s capital project dashboard a legitimate performance management tool is just the first step the City needs to take to better manage its infrastructure. We need an all-hands-on-deck approach to reform capital project delivery . . . Building capital projects on time and on budget will save the City money, create good jobs, nurture flourishing neighborhoods, support a thriving economy, and build a resilient future in the face of climate change. The only way we can achieve a better built environment is to better manage the City’s projects — and it starts with this dashboard.”

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the Editor of CityLand and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)



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