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Liu: Bronx park projects overdue and overbudget

Bronx Times

Some city park projects in the Bronx turned out to be pork projects, a new city audit charges.

About 35 Parks Department projects in the borough have been significantly delayed, with a handful also going way overbudget, according to an audit by Comptroller John Liu. “Our audit found some of the longest delays and costliest overruns were in the Bronx,” said Liu.

In all, $3 million in taxpayer money went down the drain for projects still under construction during Fiscal Year 2010-11, ending June 30, 2011.

A flurry of complaints to Liu’s office and to his complaint hotline led him to launch the audit. It was part of a larger look at parks projects that showed half of them finished late, while 10% went overbudget.

The costliest of the Bronx projects was the Poe Park Visitors Center in Kingsbridge/Fordham, jumping $1.2 million over budget and over 600 days behind schedule, according to the report.

Initially budgeted at $2.7 million, the project created a bird-shaped pavilion near Poe’s cottage for presentations on Poe’s life and other exhibits. Adding to the delays was the lack of money to staff the center.

Over in Soundview Park, a field house not only cost an extra $778,000, but also took an extra 700 days to be completed, making it the borough’s most delayed project.

The maintenance facility, built from the ground up, boasts offices, lockers and public bathrooms.

Liu’s report blames lack of general oversight by project engineers, who did not follow through on their progress reports with borough directors.

Problems with obtaining work permits, tweaking anticipated deadlines and prioritizing projects were also blamed.

“Repairs and upgrades must be better managed,” declared Liu. “The Parks Department can do better.”

The Parks Department responded in the report to the Comptroller’s findings, calling them “inaccurate.”

Some of the delays, it said, happen beyond Parks control, according to their assessment.

“For those delays that are within our control, Parks is constantly working to improve performance,” the agency said.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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