Ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio has cooked up books to hide $224 million in NYC ferry spending

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio used accounting tricks to hide nearly $225 million he poured into the city’s costly ferry system — forcing taxpayers to shell out up to $14.57 for each trip mostly wealthy passengers paid only $2.75 each.

Those are the key findings of a searing scrutiny released Wednesday by city auditor Brad Lander.

Additionally, de Blasio wasted $66 million – including $34 million in “questionable ship acquisition costs” – as a result of poor decisions by his handpicked officials working for the Economic Development Corp. are responsible for the city, according to the 50-page report.

Although the EDC reported spending $534 million operating the ferries in the six-and-a-half years ended Dec. 31, auditors overall covered at least $758.5 ​​million in ferry-related expenses — a $224.5 million difference, Lander said.

Undisclosed expenses — which included payments to various vendors and personnel costs — included $181 million in capital expenditures and $43.5 million in operating expenses, which “obscured the true cost of the NYC ferry system,” according to the audit .

“If you magically put your cost of capital under the line, you don’t have to show it — even though it’s basically the same total cost in the system,” Lander said during a press conference at NYC Ferry Terminal in Manhattan’s Financial District.

Former Major Bill de Blasio
According to the audit, De Blasio squandered $66 million, including $34 million in “questionable ship acquisition costs.”
Jacob Messerschmidt
NYC Comptroller Brad Landers
NYC Comptroller Brad Lander announced the results of an audit the NYC Economic Development Corporation showed under reported.
William Farington
The East River Ferry
The East River Ferry now departs from Wall Street in NYC.
Jacob Messerschmidt

“When ‘Hide the Ball’ is played with any amount – and certainly close to a quarter billion dollars – you can’t count on your city to be telling the truth or to provide the information you need.”

Lander said the exposure of the household scissors meant that the Money losing ferry The system was operating far deeper in the red than previously acknowledged by the EDC, which estimated in 2016 that taxpayers would have to subsidize the service at $6.60 per trip.

The actual per-trip subsidy was actually nearly double that, Lander said, ranging from a low of $11.44 in fiscal 2019 to a high of $14.57 in fiscal 2020. when passenger numbers plummeted amid COVID-19 related lockdowns.

In fiscal 2021, the taxpayer subsidy was $12.88 per trip, according to the audit.

NYC Comptroller Brad Landers
The actual subsidy per trip was actually nearly double that, Lander said.
William Farington
The East River Ferry
The former mayor aggressively promoted the ferry service.
Getty Images/Drew Angerer

Despite running for mayor on a campaign pledge to end a class division he described as a “story of two cities,” de Blasio aggressively promoted the ferry service, which has a ridership with average annual earnings between $100,000 and $150,000, according to The Post exclusively unveiled in 2020.

Last year there were fewer than 150,000 trips per week on its six routes connecting 25 terminals on Manhattan’s East Side, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

Lander’s recommendations include recovering about $12 million in “overpayments” from San Francisco-based Hornblower Cruises, which has received nearly $830 million since 2015 and a contract to operate the ferry system through September 2023 has.

New York Comptroller Brad Lander
The auditors uncovered at least $758.5 ​​million in total ferry-related expenses, Lander said.
William Farington
Drew Angerer
The money-losing ferry system was operating far deeper in the red than the EDC acknowledged.
Taidgh Barron/NY Post

In a prepared statement, a Hornblower spokesman said that Lander’s audit “does not indicate that Hornblower violated its contract with the city in any way,” adding that “Hornblower worked with NYCEDC to complete scheduled payments in $1 million to be repaid by the city as ridership falls during the pandemic.”

In response to the audit’s findings, the EDC said it would not seek a refund from Hornblower because all of the money the company received was “in accordance” with its contract.

Fred D’Ascoli, EDC’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, also said that in less than three years, the nonprofit under de Blasio “was tasked with implementing a massive and complex ferry system,” despite being “told by experts.” that such a size system exists would be impossible to deliver in this time frame.”

In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesman for Mayor Eric Adams also said: “Concerns about the finances of the system are well known – the previous administration pushed NYCEDC to put in place a large and complex ferry system and we are very aware that there is room for.” improvements.”

De Blasio, who is now running for a seat in the US House of Representatives after a failed bid for the White House in 2020, said in a statement: “We haven’t had an opportunity to review the full report and recommendations, so I can myself.” Can’t go into specifics yet, but if there are problems with under-reporting at EDC or the ferry operators, this should be addressed and any necessary accountability or reforms should be passed.

Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks

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