By Philip Newman
City Comptroller William Thompson has accused the Parks Department of failure to make sure concessionaires carry out improvement projects, including several in Queens.
Parks & Recreation Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe took emphatic issue with Thompson’s findings, saying “the inaccuracies of the comptroller’s audit send the wrong message to businesses working with the city.”
Thompson’s auditors reported they found that capital improvements totaling nearly $10 million were not completed at 37 out of 58 concession sites in the five boroughs. They said improvements at five sites had been completed.
Thompson’s report said if all the improvements had been completed, the city could have taken in nearly $300,000 more in concession fees and that the lack of documentation between concessionaires and the Parks Department made it difficult to determine the status of work on projects.
“The Parks Department must do better in overseeing concessionaires,” Thompson said. “These facilities are spread out across the city and serve millions of New Yorkers. It is of significant concern that the Parks Department is not properly supervising them to ensure the required improvements are made.”
The Parks Department watches over concessions on city property, including ice rinks, marinas, golf courses and restaurants. The concessionaires, which are private businesses that operate on parks or other city property, are required to make and pay for capital improvements to the facilities they operate. The Parks Department is responsible for seeing to it that such improvements are completed.
The Queens projects investigated by the comptroller along with problems they reported:
Terrace on the Park – Missing and cracked exterior facade panels.
Shea Stadium – Unfinished asphalt patching on parking lot.
Mobil gas station at 19603 Grand Central Parkway at 188th St. exit at Cunningham Park – Only one of two canopies completed. Parks Department says the station had permission to build one larger canopy rather than two smaller ones.
Clearview Park Golf course – Instruction facility incomplete.
Forest Park Golf Course – Irrigation work incomplete.
Alley Pond Park – Indoor tennis facility blower and heater installation not completed.
Cunningham Park tennis court – Safety issues, including lack of railing on ramp. Parks Department now reports work has been finished.
The comptroller reported work had been properly completed at Kissena Park Golf Course and Flushing Park Golf course.
Parks Commissioner Benepe responded in detail to the audit report, citing “numerous erroneous findings, inaccuracies, omissions and unsubstantiated claims by the auditors’ field inspections.
“Parks & Recreation is proud of its management and oversight of concessionaires,” Benepe said. “This successful public/private partnership has resulted in millions of dollars in capital improvements to our city's parks at no cost to the taxpayer and generates substantial revenue for the city.”
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.