How to Make Up the City's Budget Deficit
by Harris Silver
It is estimated
that NYC's budget shortfall is 5 billion dollars.
A truly staggering sum that has a lot of smart
people worried. They're worried because they
know this shortfall will affect every thing.
This budget shortfall may indeed be one of the
largest financial challenges that NYC has faced
in decades, maybe ever. It is so large and daunting
that it borders on the exciting because we can
finally start a public debate about big civic
ideas that can transform the urban landscape
and redefine the experience of living in the
largest American City.
One idea would
be to completely re-think how we use our streets
with the goal of changing the balance between
cars and people back towards people-a relationship
that has been out of balance since the introduction
of automobiles a century ago. With our streets
clogged with cars, over 14,000 pedestrians injured
every year, 1 in 4 children afflicted with asthma
in certain neighborhoods, and more pedestrians
and drivers killed in crashes than murdered,
the time is right for asking big questions that
can lead to long overdue changes.
why does it costs the residents of Brooklyn,
Queens and the Bronx $1.50 to commute to work
in Manhattan by subway when residents who choose
to drive are not charged for using the East
River Bridges? There are many fair ways to toll
the East River Bridges (revenue estimates range
between 600 million to 1.2 billion dollars a
year). Tolling the bridges would also bring
congestion relief to communities near the bridges.
This relief would have the secondary effect
of increasing real estate values which the city
also benefits from.
The taxi industry
is worth taking a fresh look at too. The last
time the city sold taxi medallions the cost
was $35.00. These medallions are now worth $300,000
a piece and there are about 12,000 of them in
circulation that trade privately. This amounts
to a 4 billion-dollar market that has been transferred
from public to private ownership. Does an industry
known for dangerous and untrained drivers who
injure 20,000 New Yorkers in crashes every year
deserve what amounts to a 4 billion-dollar subsidy
by the city? New Yorkers deserve a safe courteous
taxi fleet. Drivers deserve to earn a fair wage
for their efforts. Currently the city provides
neither. A modest goal of increasing medallions
by 10% (when was the last time you were able
to catch a cab in the rain?) can add 300 million
in revenue to the city. A more ambitious plan
of transferring back ownership of medallions
to the public at the rate of 25% a year, could
add 1 billion to our budget every year for the
next 4 years.
Parking is another
area where the city can make up lost revenue.
People who own cars in New York City pay on
average $300 a month in parking fees at private
garages. The city gives away over 2 million
parking spots for free (public space reserved
for the exclusive use of parking private automobiles).
If the city leased only 10% of these spaces
for the modest fee of $100 a month this could
raise another 240 million dollars a year in
safety is on no ones political radar scope it
is the largest public health threat facing city
residents. The city writes over 7,000 parking
tickets a day generating 150 million in revenue.
By contrast, virtually no tickets are issued
for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians.
A similar aggressive program to ticket drivers
who fail to yield to pedestrians would go a
long way to make the city safer for residents.
It could also generate 100 million dollars in
Along a similar
theme there are approximately 12,000 signalized
intersections in New York City. At every light
cycle (approximately a minute each) thousands
of cars just try to make it