Happy days are almost here again, Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed Monday.
Citing improved finances, the mayor announced that he’s opening the spigot to initiate
$17 billion in spending on 1,700 construction and renovation projects.
De Blasio had imposed a “pause” — a freeze on capital project spending last year — as the Big Apple grappled with the coronavirus pandemic that ravaged the Big Apple’s economy. Revenues to city coffers cratered amid emergency safety measures that imposed business lockdowns and triggered massive layoffs.
“New York City is unpausing capital projects,” de Blasio said.
The decision means “increasing school capacity, building and preserving affordable housing, improving coastal resiliency and increasing safety and mobility on city streets,” de Blasio said.
The $17 billion worth of projects are included in the city’s current capital budget.
“There’s so many things we have to start doing right now to bring back our livelihoods, to bring back our energy, our vitality as a city. And this is a city that builds things,”… We keep building, we never stop building. It’s one of the things that makes us great,” the mayor said.
“So, we are going to get fully back to work with a host of major construction projects, capital projects that will build the future of this city that will make life better for generations to come. And will employ a lot of people in the meantime.
“We need to get school construction going again…. Lots of communities still experience overcrowding in schools. That’s going to be the reality again in a few short months. So, we got to get back to work building more school capacity in the communities that need it most.
He continued, “We got to get back to work building and preserving affordable housing. The future of New York City depends on working New Yorkers, having someplace to live that they can afford. We’re going to get back to it.”
He also cited coastal resiliency, fighting climate change, and improving city streets and reviving his Vision Zero traffic enforcement program.
The mayor also mentioned the need to spruce up parks.
The city’s COVID-19 recovery czar, Lorraine Grillo, said resuming capital construction spending will especially help minority contractors struggling for work during the pandemic.
“This is exactly what’s needed to bring this city back and make this a recovery for all of us,” Grillo said.
A major construction trade group applauded the news.
“The pause on over 1,700 capital projects not only impacted the building industry, but it affected our overall economy and the lives of countless New Yorkers,” said Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the New York Building Trade Congress.
“Restarting capital projects is an acknowledgment of the critical role the building industry will play in our city’s recovery. Advancing projects in housing, education, transportation and environmental protection will strengthen our city today and have a lasting impact on residents for years to come.”
But a rep for the city’s major business group said the move was a mixed blessing — pumping up the economy but also taking on more debt at a precarious time..
“Restarting city construction activities will help restore jobs lost during the COVID pandemic, so that is a positive move. At the same time, real estate tax assessments will fall in the next few years, so taking on more debt service is risky,” said Kathryn Wylde, head of the New York City Partnership.
“Hopefully the city will be creative in tapping private sector financing and expertise to manage the cost of its infrastructure program,” she said.
Meanwhile, the city’s Independent Budget Office released an analysis Monday saying the Big Apple’s economy and employment won’t fully recover from the pandemic until 2025, mirroring a recent forecast by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget office.