Testimony of New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer to New York City Charter Review Commission 2019
September 27, 2018
Thank you Chair Benjamin, and members of the commission, for the opportunity to testify this evening on this important topic.
As you know, change is the lifeblood of our great City, and our charter is the engine that helps our government adapt to new challenges — not only today, but for years to come.
Unfortunately, we have not taken a comprehensive look at our charter for nearly 30 years, since the Supreme Court forced us to in 1989. And that’s a long time.
Over the past thirty years, New York has witnessed enormous change, much of it good — from diverse population growth, to new emerging job centers in all five boroughs, to our historic reduction in crime.
But there has also been an explosion of homelessness, a deterioration of our subway infrastructure, persistent inequality in our public schools, and a continuing disappearance of affordable housing.
Meeting these challenges in the 21st century will require new ideas and a new City Charter.
Without new ideas, our charter is an outdated set of rules and regulations, instead of the living, breathing document we need it to be. The engine of our City begins to slow, and that is unacceptable.
That’s why I am pleased to share with you a report from my office called A New Charter to Confront New Challenges. It includes 65 ideas to improve the Charter.
This book isn’t intended to be a comprehensive vision for tackling all of our problems.
But — based on what I’ve learned as an Assemblyman, Borough President, and City Comptroller — it offers a roadmap for facing challenges, implementing changes, and making city government better for everyone.
In our report, you will find ideas on how to create wealth in more of our neighborhoods, by helping to close the inequality gap and create more economic opportunity in all five boroughs.
You will find strategies on how to give communities a greater voice in land use decisions, and how to make sure our City engages in more long-term planning.
There are thoughts on housing, and steps we can take to fight back against scourges like lead paint and mold through strengthened inspections.
We tackle our City’s archaic procurement process, which too often leaves front-line social service providers without the funds they need to operate.
And we take a deep dive into our City’s capital budget, which right now is a black hole that emits almost no useful information.
These are just some of the ideas in our report. I know the commission will be hearing from many others with thoughtful ideas, but hopefully the suggestions we have outlined today can spark some discussion in the months ahead.
For now, I just want to thank every member of this commission for your service and I’m happy to answer any questions.