Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is the Metro Editor for WNYC News. She has previously served as Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
Vice President Biden comes to New York Wednesday to tout the success of the stimulus program. He'll stand on the Brooklyn Bridge, a $508 million project using $30 million in stimulus funds, to tout an investment that "is creating jobs, generating local economic activity, and allowing New York City to address other critical infrastructure needs." But many questions about the scope of the project--and who will benefit, remain unanswered.
When President Barack Obama launched the stimulus bill, in February 2009, he promised America a new leaf in government, a new website called Recovery.gov, where Americans could track "every dime" spent under the $800 billion stimulus program.
Vice President Joe Biden has dutifully carried that message to the nation.
In Biden’s words, “We still need to know where every dollar went and to -- and every recipient that got a dollar.” But when it comes to tracking the Booklyn Bridge Project, the City of New York has been less than forthcoming.
Now that Biden is set to come to the Brooklyn Bridge to tout stimulus spending, we thought it would be an opportune time to recap our efforts to track "every dollar" of Brooklyn Bridge funding, and to find out who is getting those jobs.
As of 3/23/10, the vendor, Koch Skanska, had received a total of $14,783,625 in payments from NYC.
The city estimates that 834 jobs will be created/retained.
As of 3/31/10, .13 jobs have been created/retained. That’s point one-three, not 13.
Now, we're aware that's from a report that was released before the project really got underway. But our many efforts to find out who will get the jobs, and what efforts, if any, the city is undertaking to see if those jobs go to local workers, or unemployed workers, or women, or minorities, have not met with a forthcoming response.
We've asked the New York City Department of Transportation what outreach efforts Skanska will be doing in order to meet the 14% "disadvantaged business enterprise goal" set by the city--particularly given the fact that as of last July, Skanska told New York that it looked like only 8% of their subcontractors would be women and minority business owners. (Minutes attached at end of document.) We were told nothing more specific than "compliance will be monitored" and that "there are penalties for non-compliance." We received no response to our question about how Skanska's efforts towards this goal will be made public .
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, says jobs are supposed to be listed on the NY State Department of Labor website. If they are, we can't find them. The DOT says it is "currently discussing with the contractor" how to meet this posting requirement.
So far, our efforts to track "every dime," or even "every dollar" have not met with success.