Ever hear a talk about investments and audits get applause?
City Comptroller Scott Stringer managed to deliver just that speech on March 19 — his 76th day in office — at the monthly meeting of Community Board 12.
The former Manhattan borough president now oversees $150 billion in city pension funds, reviews contracts and purchasing and also audits the city’s books.
And he has been making the job his own in short order. One of the agencies in his accountants’ sights is the New York City Housing Authority, which is being overhauled by Mayor de Blasio after its universally criticized performance under Mayor Bloomberg. The agency operates the city’s public housing program.
“We’re in NYCHA,” Stringer told the crowd. “We want to see who has the apartments and where the money went.”
The recent financial revelations about the Queens Library and its CEO, Tom Galante, also have not escaped his attention.
“I love libraries,” he said. “But I always want more — more hours, open more days, more services. We’re in the Queens Library, because I don’t want money going to smoking decks. I want it going toward books and programs. We’re in the Brooklyn Library too, and yes, the mother ship — we’re auditing the Manhattan Library.”
Following his brief talk, Stringer said he is satisfied so far with the revenue projections in de Blasio’s preliminary budget plan.
“The mayor’s numbers, the Council’s numbers, our numbers and the state’s numbers are all pretty close,” he said. “And we all agree that projected budget gaps in out- years are shrinking, the economy is improving and unemployment is falling.”
He is concerned that many of the new jobs are in the service sector.
While campaigning last year, Stringer told the Chronicle that the comptroller’s primary functions of monitoring the city’s books and growing its pension funds need not be separated from what he believes is good social policy. He told the crowd at the Robert Ross Johnson Family Life Center in St. Albans that he is committed to doing that.
Earlier this month Stringer hired Carra Wallace to serve as the city’s first-ever chief diversity officer.
She will devise a grading system for all city agencies to rate their compliance with stated goals for steering a percentage of city contracts and procurement to businesses owned by women and minorities.
He also said that his office will seek information on myriad diversity issues from companies in which his office invests the city’s pension funds.
“We’re investing $150 billion,” he said. “They owe us.”
In answer to a question from the audience about gun manufacturers, Stringer said he is perfectly willing to divest funds from some companies with products or philosophies that he believes are not in the city’s interest — but with a caveat.
“My responsibility is still to grow the pension fund,” he said. He added that in some cases, it is better to use the city’s financial heft to try and effect corporate changes from the inside.
“That will be my first 100 days,” he closed.