By Shlomie Katash
New York City Comptroller Brad Lander announced on Nov. 30 that he would be stripping Mayor Eric Adams of his emergency power to authorize spending on contracts for migrant services without prior approval. The move comes on the heels of Adams notifying the city of mass budget cuts, which he pins on the growing financial needs of the migrant crisis.
Lander’s office can now review and potentially deny any contract the Adams administration agrees to. While Adams may still override the decision, Lander hopes the complete process will bring about more transparency surrounding the ballooning deals, a concern he has warned of since September. Lander claimed that at least 70% of city agencies failed to meet transparency guidelines when it came to reporting emergency migrant spending.
“When New York City faces an emergency, agencies must manage unexpected circumstances as nimbly and efficiently as they can,” said Lander, per City and State New York. “However, agencies navigating emergency procurements should not defer reporting deadlines and must adhere to guidance around transparency, accountability, and greater cost efficiency when stewarding city dollars.”
Questions regarding the city’s migrant services contracts, which Lander claims have exceeded $1.3 billion since January 2022, have been especially prominent since The New York Times reported on the poor care offered to migrants by the for-profit contractor DocGo, health services that cost taxpayers $432 million.
Adams claims that Lander’s decision will only worsen the conditions for migrants by handcuffing the city’s ability to swiftly respond to the crisis. However, Lander’s office maintains that it will still be able to respond to contract requests in a prompt and timely manner, removing the risk of any substantial delay.
“Our office responds to requests for prior approval in an expeditious and efficient manner given the urgency that often surrounds emergency needs,” a spokesperson for Lander said. “Requesting prior approval is only one step of many when an agency is seeking to use the emergency procurement method and our office regularly works with the agencies to review such requests and we do consider the time-sensitive nature of those requests.”
As temperatures plunge, the city has been forced to continue grappling with finding a way to fulfill their legal requirement to house the countless asylum seekers fleeing their dire conditions at home. The issue has dominated the political landscape as Adams has repeatedly blamed the migrant crisis for straining the city’s budget, necessitating massive cuts among NYC’s agencies, including for education, libraries, and police departments. Opponents of Adams, though, have claimed the mayor is obfuscating the true sources of the city’s financial distress.
“It’s important for New Yorkers to understand that while these budget gaps are real, they’re not solely due to the migrant crisis. The end of federal COVID stimulus funds, a resilient but static economy, and commercial real estate challenges also play a big role,” said Council Member Justin Brannan, who chairs the city’s Finance Committee.
Underscoring doubts regarding Adams’ mass spending and slashing, the City Council announced on Dec. 11 that it would be soon reviewing Adams’ proposed budget revisions, arguing that his cuts are unnecessarily harsh and ultimately ineffective.