NYC is mismanaging its infrastructure costs and needs, city comptroller finds

New York City is failing to accurately estimate its infrastructure maintenance costs each year and should revamp its process for doing so, according to a new audit by City Comptroller Brad Lander.

Lander’s office reviewed an annual government report — known as the Asset Information Management System Executive Summary, or AIMS report — that assesses the costs of maintaining and repairing the city’s infrastructure, including sewers, roads, bridges, parks, schools, libraries, hospitals and tunnels. The report is prepared by the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget.

Auditors found little to no correlation between cost estimates in the report and actual costs once projects get underway. For example, the 2020 AIMS report estimated that maintenance costs for the Riverside Park Bridge West 79th Street Traffic Circle would come out to about $76 million, according to Lander’s office. But when the project was put out for bid to private contractors in the city’s procurement process months later, the actual cost was nearly twice that, at around $149 million.

Lander said in a statement on Friday that the city’s assessment needs to be improved to protect taxpayer investments. “You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken, and you sure can’t budget properly for repair needs for infrastructure that you did not even inspect,” he said. “We need a more strategic approach, better inspection protocols, and innovative technologies if we’re going to budget properly and maintain our City’s critical infrastructure for the decades to come.”

In a letter to New Yorkers included in the audit’s release, Lander said insufficient policies related to the assessment process have resulted in “an inconsistent survey methodology.” Not knowing the current condition and maintenance costs of the city’s infrastructure puts residents’ safety at risk and could lead to inflated repair costs, he said.

Charles Lutvak, a spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams’ office, said the administration was reviewing the audit’s findings and would continue to work with partners including the comptroller’s office to ensure accurate cost projections.

“For too long, New York City has spent too much and taken too long to build public infrastructure,” he said in a statement. “That’s why our administration convened the comptroller’s office and experts back in 2022, released recommendations to save years and tens of millions of dollars on projects every year, and advocated successfully in Albany for changes that will make the capital process more efficient and equitable.”

Lander’s office is recommending an overhaul of the entire AIMS survey, including by using new technology to assess infrastructure conditions and requiring the city to develop a standard protocol for inspections — something it currently lacks.

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