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Scott Stringer may not have the Queens cred city Comptroller John Liu can boast, but in his bid to succeed the Flushing native the Manhattan borough president said his roots have a certain outerborough tinge voters across the city can relate to.
“Some people may say, ‘Well, you’re just the guy from Manhattan, you kind of represent the Upper West Side and what do you really know?’” he said during a conversation with TimesLedger Newspapers about his comptroller campaign last week. “But I grew up in Washington Heights, which mirrors a lot of the communities here.”
Stringer, who staked out the Democratic field unopposed until early July, is facing a formidable challenge from former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. But the latest polls show a sharp drop-off in Spitzer’s numbers with the two candidates running neck-and-neck as the primary approaches.
In addition to registering contracts and managing the city’s pension funds, the comptroller has the power to audit city agencies, and Stringer said the first agency in his sights that could have a major impact in Queens is the city Department of Buildings.
“I think the agency has an inherent conflict of interest,” he said, pointing to the department’s dual responsibilities of ensuring safety through inspections and facilitating development by quickly improving plans. “I do think we should split the agency in two, and I’ll work on that through audit, through my reports. I think we have an opportunity with a new mayor to shape some of these agencies, first and foremost the Buildings Department.”
Cracking down on illegally subdivided apartments has long been an issue in various Queens neighborhoods, and Stringer said professionalizing and training the DOB’s workforce would go a long way toward addressing the problem.
“I think the Buildings Department needs a dose of reality on those issues,” he said, “and you certainly have to bring back inspectors because you save money with inspections, but you need consistent inspection.”
The comptroller also sits on the board of the city Industrial Development Agency, which finances economic development projects, such as airport infrastructure, by issuing tax-exempt bonds.
With the help of the 32BJ/SEIU union, contract workers at John F. Kennedy International Airport have been calling on airlines that receive assistance through the agency to pay living-wage jobs. Stringer, as Manhattan borough president, appointed 32BJ Executive President Kevin Doyle to the board and said he would continue to support those efforts as comptroller.
“I think our airports should pay a living wage,” said Stringer, who also served in the state Assembly.
Turning to his opponent, who resigned his post as governor after admitting he had frequented prostitutes, Stringer said he has the edge when it comes to reshaping the office.
“The comptroller’s not a day trader, right? So I’m not running because I can tell you what stock we’re going to invest in or what the asset allocation is,” he said. “I mean no comptroller’s done that, and my opponent doesn’t understand that, so you have to build out a very strong office.”
“When Eliot became governor a lot of people left their jobs in the city and went to Albany because they believed that things were going to change, you know? I did too, and everyone knows how that ended. It was a colossal failure, but a lot of people lost job opportunities a lot of people got hurt during that,” he continued, “and he cannot build out this office because you are not going to leave your job on Wall Street or another government job and come into work for him and revitalize the office. He will have a hard time getting people to work there, whereas the way I’ve run my office, we’re going to get the best and brightest to be a part of government.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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