On Second Thought

by John Delach

Never underestimate the power of The New York Times! The lead story, left-hand column – above the fold for April 6th edition began with this accusatory headline:


De Blasio Postpones Work on Crucial Water Tunnel


Jim Dwyer, a senior reporter and columnist came out swinging noting right off the bat, “…de Blasio has postponed work to finish New York’s third water tunnel…regarded as essential to the survival of the city if either of two existing, and now aged, tunnels should fail.”


Dwyer noted that while most of this monumental tunnel had been completed under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; two deep shafts must still be dug to provide water to five million people living in Brooklyn and Queens. Before leaving office, Bloomberg included $336 million in the city’s 2013 capital budget to complete this work by 2021. Sometime after taking office on January 1, 2014, the de Blasio administration quietly erased this item from the budget. This action remained under the radar until noted in a 2015 report written by William Pfang, “a consulting engineer with the city’s water finance authority.”


“Asked at a City Council hearing last month (March, 2016) when the tunnel would be working, Emily Lloyd, the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, said, ‘My guess is that we’re talking mid-20s.”


De Blasio’s crowd first tried to blame Bloomberg for the delay only to withdraw that accusation in favor of this rather odd explanation, “…it had been a matter of setting its own priorities and addressing the cost of state and federal mandates.”


Another spokesman, James Roberts, added more mumbo – jumbo about keeping water rates affordable: “You’ve got real people who need to pay real bills and we try to be conscious of that. Certainly, the mayor’s office has been very conscious of that.”


Uh oh, fast forward one day to April 7th to Dwyer’s follow-up piece:


Mayor Adding $305 Million to Speed Work on Critical Water Tunnel


As if by magic, within hours of The Times reporting de Blasio’s removal of the money needed to finish the tunnel, the money was back! Gee whiz, it turns out the mayor was misunderstood. He explained, “There are times when my team does not do a good job of explaining something.”


Dwyer noted, finding the money in less than 24 hours was the easy part. “Far more awkward was the struggle by him and his aides to argue that they had never flagged in their support for the tunnel project…”


As proof of his commitment, de Blasio emphasized $52 million had been added to the budget this year to design and acquire property for the shafts. This amount plus the $305 million that reappeared raises the total amount available to $357 million.


Rather than admit error or worse, that they deliberately removed the money in the first place for one of their own pet progressive projects, they mumbled, they bumbled and they fumbled excuses and explanations contradicting themselves. De Blasio noted that he would accelerate Bloomberg’s’ schedule by beginning work in 2020.


Isn’t that just special!  I wonder what comrade mayor is currently smoking? Remember that Bloomberg estimated the project would be completed in 2021. By starting work in 2020 it would seem that Ms. Lloyd’s prediction of a mid-20s completion is more realistic than the mayor’s.


Sarcastically, Dwyer summed up this circus noting: “The real reason the $336 million was pulled, Mr. de Blasio said was that ‘we didn’t think that the estimate was accurate.’


“Now the $336 million has been replaced – with $357 million.”


Not bad, but as the late Mike Quill once remarked about another mayor: Comrade Mayor Bill de Blasio is a man who can speak out of both sides of his mouth and whistle at that same time.