Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

CITY

Adams 2021: In-depth - 25 Inefficiencies That Lead To Inequality


New York City wastes billions of dollars every year simply because it operates dysfunctionally, spending irresponsibly, failing to address issues before they become disasters, and governing in conflict with itself as one agency creates a problem for another. Worst of all, these inefficiencies lead to inequalities; and those inequalities lead to injustice—largely for lower-income Black and Brown communities who most need government to deliver for them.

By identifying the dysfunction, we can eliminate the waste and better deliver services for New Yorkers at a time when they most need it. These “25 Inefficiencies That Lead to Inequality” are each problems that I will immediately correct as mayor, leading to billions of dollars in cost savings for taxpayers, and, most importantly, a City government that serves its central purpose: delivering on the promise of New York City for hard-working New Yorkers.

1. City Benefits Bureaucracy 

Problem:
Being poor in New York City is a full-time job. The latest figures show the city’s poverty rate is 17.3 percent, compared to 13 percent statewide. The poverty rate for Black and Latino New Yorkers is about 20 percent—twice the rate of white New Yorkers. And those New Yorkers waste countless hours applying for lifeline benefits to which they are entitled, keeping them in a cycle of joblessness and poverty.

Solution:
I will launch MyCity, a single portal for all city services and benefits,which would allow residents to access a secure app or website and instantlyreceive every service you qualify for, such as SNAP, without endless hours of paperwork, person-to-person interviews and without being bounced from agency to agency. MyCity would be a 311 for the digital age.

 

 2. Poisoning Our Health

Problem:
Nearly 1 million New Yorkers have diabetes—and the vast majority are people of color. Twice as many Black and Latino New Yorkers have diabetes than white New Yorkers. Shockingly, a large number of diabetics are also children who are poorly served by the City. For instance, our Department of Health is in conflictwith our Department of Education: while DOHMH fights childhood obesity, DOE feeds our children the very food that causes it. Overall, poor diets are a leading cause of diabetes, obesity, heart problems, and other serious ailments. A big reason for this is limited access to quality foods for lower-income New Yorkers; and too much empty-calorie and processed foods that impede their ability to thrive.

Solution:
I will provide all New Yorkers — especially schoolchildren and people in hospitals — better access to quality food through expanded healthy local produce and by growing our own year-round through greenhouses, hydroponics and other non-traditional farming methods.

 

3. A Job To Find A Job

Problem:
New York City’s unemployment rate for people of color is far higher than it is for white New Yorkers and the national average. But the biggest problem is not slack of jobs; it's the lack of access to jobs. It takes an average of nine weeks to find a job in the City, largely due to finding openings, sending out applications and navigating city agencies to apply.

Solution:
I will simplify filing for jobs with a single digital portal for all city agencies that could include one-stop shopping by identifying all available city jobs and making it easier to apply. We also should expand the summer youth employment program and make it year-around.

 

4. Fostering Failure

Problem:
City youth age-out of foster care at age 18 and can only continue to receive support from the system until they are 21, often leaving them unprepared to live on their own due to limited work experience, little formal education, and a lack of access to health care. Nearly 90 percent of these young people are Black or Latino. One study found that 20 percent of former foster care youth experience homelessness; another study of 100 former foster care youth found that within six months, 41 percent had been arrested and spent time in jail.

Solution:
I will develop and encourage a strong mentorship program for foster care youth as well as invest in programs like Fair Futures. Research suggests that youth with strong mentors have improved young adult outcomes and are less likely to to take part in unhealthy behavior, such as unprotected sex and substance. We also need to expand youth employment programs and make them year-around as well as provide housing for young people as soon as they leave the foster care system.

 

5. Finding Fines, Bilking Businesses

Problem:
Small businesses, which are overwhelmingly owned by people of color in this city, pay huge fees to open and operate, routinely facing thousands of dollars in fines from overzealous inspectors for relatively small violations like using the wrong type size on a sign or accidentally listing the wrong phone number — fines that can run to over $5,000.

Solution:
My new online portal will slash the red tape and make the permitting process easier and cheaper. We will augment that with a warning system for violations unrelated to health or safety issues, giving first-time offenders an education instead of a fine and a color-coded system laying out a timeline for fixing the violations.

 

6. Sending Our Money Out Of State

Problem:
New York City spends $20 billion a year to procure goods and services from thousands of outside contractors. But much of that money goes out of state — or out of the country — instead of to local businesses. For example, in 2016 the city hired a relatively inexperienced French company and its well-connected partner firm to build procurement software rather than find a vendor closer to home. The initial price tag was $63 million, but it ballooned to some $700 million. And even when contracts go to local businesses, not nearly enough go to black and brown businesses.

Solution:
We need to put all contracts over $10 million under immediate review, and move those we can to contract instead through an expanded M/WBE program to use more local minority and women-owned businesses.I will also install a Chief Diversity Officer to ensure equity. And I will boost the local economy by prioritizing locally provided services, start a “Loyal to NY” marketing campaign to educate the public.

 

7. The NYCHA Money Pit

Problem:
NYCHA pours some $450 million into fixing up its housing complexes and made the city’s worst landlord list in 2018 and 2019. But the agency is opaque about where the money goes and the progress of much-needed repairs. This has led to deplorable conditions, leaks, gaping holes and non-working elevators for months on end—and nine-out-of-ten NYCHA tenants are Black and Latino. For example, NYCHA residents filed some 200,000 bug and rodent complaints in 2018 and 2019, and NYCHA elevator outages reportedly hit an average of 121 per day  in 2018.

Solution:
We will apply crystal clear transparency through constant reporting on progress of repairs and real time assessments of spending that can be tracked online. We will conduct regular audits to see how much has actually been spent and can use drones for building inspections to cut costs and increase efficiency.

 

8. We Can Literally Pull $8b Out Of The Air For Nycha 

Problem:
NYCHA has air rights to some 80 million square feet over its properties that could generate income for capital repairs to more than 300 buildings, where badly needed repairs are chronically slow, often dragging out for months or longer.

Solution:
Requiring NYCHA to sell air rights over its properties to local builders — especially non-profits — will raise up to $8 billion for repairs and quality of life improvements for its more than 500,000 NYCHA tenants, roughly 90 percent of whom are people of color.

 

9.Telehealth Prevents Hospital Visits

Problem: 
Hospital costs are on the rise across the country and New York City is no exception. A national study from 2018 found the average cost of an emergency room visit was over $1,700. The study said the average costs of a traditional on-site doctor visit was $146, compared to $79 for a telehealth visit. In New York City, about 12 percent of white residents are uninsured while about 20 percent of Blacks and 30 percent of Latinos do not have health coverage.

Solution:
We must expand telemedicine to reduce emergency room overcrowding like we experienced at the height of the pandemic, cut costs — especially for uninsured or underinsured people — and empower patients to take control of their health care. This would overwhelmingly help people of color and lower-income New Yorkers.

 

10. Identify Learning Disabilities To End The Prison Pipeline

Problem:
Students diagnosed with a disability are more likely to be suspended or expelled, often a first stop en route to prison. One study found that disabled students were suspended twice as often and 75 percent more likely to be expelled as those without a disability — and that 1 in 7 students suspended or expelled students later had “contact” with the juvenile justice system. Other studies found that up to 40 percent of prison inmates are dyslexic. More than 90 percent of city inmates are Black and Latino.

Solution:
Schools must find better alternatives to suspensions and expulsions, increase job training programs and make dyslexia screening universal to identify these challenges early and ensure better student success.

 

11. Prenatal to career, Not Cradle to career

Problem:
While early childhood education is critical to development, we don’t pay enough attention to prenatal care. Studies show women without prenatal care are seven times more likely to give birth prematurely and five times more likely to have babies that die—especially black women. The  consequences of poor health means a higher cost to taxpayers, and women of color are disproportionately affected.

Solution:
I will invest in services and develop more comprehensive programs for expectant moms and families, linking them to vital resources such as healthy foods, prenatal classes and doulas for every firstborn.

 

12. More Rental Subsidy Costs Less Than More Homlessnes

Problem:
More than 18,000 families, consisting of about 37,000 people, sleep in city shelters each night at an average daily cost of $196 per family. Many were evicted from their homes because they couldn't afford the rent due to a loss of income — and even more are on the brink ofhomelessness. Keeping these families in their homes costs taxpayers much less than putting them on the streets or in shelters.

Solution:
Our administration will work to increase the value of FHEPS housing vouchers to reflect the actual cost of available housing. The days of $1,600 for a two-bedroom apartment are long gone and we must increase rental vouchers while streamlining the process through a common application available at a digital portal.

 

13. Paperwork Is Costing The Nypd Halfabillion A Year, Reducing Public Safety 

Problem:
About 500 police officers reportedly work in full time clerical jobs or spend their days driving trucks or removing barricades instead of conducting investigations or preventing crime. Those dollars and officers could be much better used fighting serious crime and improving public safety.

Solution:
The city can save $500 million a year through strategic civilization of the force and by lowering overtime costs related to paperwork. A starting police
officer earns $42,500 a year, which goes up to about $85,000 in less than six years. Police administrative aides make just $33,875 a year. The total savings could go into programs proven to reduce crime, like the Crisis Management System.

 

14. Treat Repeat Cases With Better Services

Problem:
There are tens-of-thousands of New Yorkers who cycle in and out of jails and mental hospitals in New York City: In 2019, about 20 percent of the city’s approximately 60,000 homeless people had a serious mental illness; and hospital stays for patients with serious mental illness add up to more than 1 million days each year.

Solution:
We have to stop jailing the mentally ill for non-violent crimes and weneed to expand citywide the highly successful Fountain House model of care,providing structured therapeutic social settings to help people transition fromtherapeutic settings to non-therapeutic settings.



15. Never Miss A Chance To Deliver Services

Problem:
The problem with City services isn't just the lack of them — it is also about providing easy access to them for those in need, who are overwhelmingly people of color who do not have the time or money to take off work to register for benefits.

Solution:
I will increase service delivery by equipping City workers with tablets connected to that platform to send them into areas with the greatest need for services. This will also help us get back some of the $20 billion a year taxpayers send to Washington that we do not get back.

 

16. We Don’t Put Substance Abuse Services Where They Are Needed

Problem:
The city has scores of free or low-costs drug and alcohol abuse clinics and treatment centers, but many are not located in areas where they are most needed, and they tend to be clustered around places like 125th Street in Harlem.

Solution:
I will launch a citywide program to evaluate the location of substance abuse clinics and to make sure they are adequately spread out to support people in all parts of New York City.

 

17. City Agencies Don’t Know  What Each Other Are Doing

Problem:
Instead of working together and communicating with one another, many city agencies work in their own silos, often duplicating efforts or contradicting each other. The result is waste, inefficiency and poor delivery of services.

Solution:
We will build a single data platform for the entire city government. By combining agencies onto a platform similar to the NYPD's CompStat system — under the direction of an Efficiency Czar — and using analytics to track performance in real time, we can become more proactive and predictive, saving the city billions of dollars and delivering better services.

 

18. We Don’t Renegotiate Our Contracts

Problem:
The city spends $20 billion a year buying goods and services from thousands of outside contractors, but far too many contacts keep getting renewed or extended despite poor performance. For example, the CityTime timekeeping and payroll project, which was supposed to cost $63 million ran up to some $700 million largely as result of contract manipulation and a massive kickback scheme

Solution:
We need to find better deals, and strengthen oversight on all contracts to save money that can be reinvested in reversing inequality. At the start of my administration, I will put all contracts over $10 million under immediate review. Those that are ineffective or can be done better by the city or another vendor will be eliminated.

 

19. New Yorkers Don’t Have  Access To Preventative Care

Problem:
New Yorkers are contracting deadly or debilitating diseases associated with poor diets and lack of basic healthcare. This includes about 987,000 New York City residents—and 20 percent of them don’t even know it. And the vast majority of those New Yorkers are Black and Latino. More than half of all New York City residents are overweight or obese—especially Black and brown New Yorkers.

Solution:
Our healthcare system must include far more education and resources to promote healthy eating and self-care so we can better prevent illnesses and allow people to live longer. An Adams administration will open more clinics, like the Lifestyle Medicine Program that we established at Bellevue Hospital to teach healthy habits, to prevent and reverse chronic disease and promote preventive care.

 

20. Our Antihunger Programs  Are Not Coordinated

Problem:
More than 1.5 million low-income New Yorkers live in households that cannot afford enough food—and Black and Latino households are twice as likely to suffer from hunger. Although there are 1,100 soup kitchens and food pantries across the five boroughs, poor communication hurts efforts to connect these needy households to SNAP benefits, food pantries and other food resources.

Solution:
I will form an integrated and community-engaged structure to coordinate food policy in New York City across public and private providers. The goal is to create and maintain easily accessible databases to help food-poor New Yorkers to the services they need and to ensure our collective resources are being used efficiently.

 

21. Permit Fees Are A Barrier To Expanding Essential Afterschool Programs

Problem:
The City Department of Education has tripled the cost of extended-use fees for after-school program providers to about $40,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic. That has made it difficult for community-based organizations — many of which are small, nonprofit organizations with small budgets which represent communities of color — to run after-school programs, especially in underserved neighborhoods.

Solution:
I recently launched a $2 million pilot program to give CBO’s greater access to dormant school building spaces. I will significantly expand this effort to allow more CBOs to provide cultural, sports and enrichment programs for youth in lower-income communities when I am mayor.

 

22. We Can Provide Free Space For Childcare And Community Services, But We Don’t

Problem:
Childcare costs in New York City can run from $200 to $400 a week — a figure beyond the reach of many working parents. That affects their ability to work and a child’s ability to learn. Kids without adequate childcare — especially in the first three years of life — are less likely to succeed and they are more likely to be from Black and Latino households. More than half of African American mothers, and 48 percent of Latino mothers reported that they would look for a higher-paying job if they had better childcare access.

Solution:
It is morally imperative that we provide childcare to all parents who cannot afford it. I will do this by prioritizing space in city-owned buildings and offering density bonuses and tax breaks to developers who guarantee free or low rent to providers. We also need federal help, which will be a priority in the Adams administration.

 

23. Our Early Intervention Program Does Not Connect New Yorkers To Services

Problem:
Tens of thousands of babies born in New York prematurely or with physical or developmental issues like Down Syndrome require early intervention to meet their needs and eventually live productive lives, but the City does not connect enough families to these programs—especially Black and brown families. In fact, in the Neighborhoods where higher percentages of children eligible for early intervention are Black or Latino, the rates of service to families are lower than in others, according to Advocates for Children.

Solution:
I will expand the programs to provide enough speech and physical therapy assistance to children from 0 to 3 years old, a time when intervention is crucial.

 

24. We Have Vacant Affordable Apartmentsand Thousands Of Homeless Who Qualify 

Problem:
The City does not disclose how many vacant affordable apartments there are available at any given time—but we know from developers and community organizations that there are many ready to be filled, yet red tape is keeping New Yorkers out. This is happening during a homeless crisis, including more than 17,000 children without a home. Approximately 90 percent of City homeless are Black or Latino.

Solution:
I will instruct HPD to constantly update the number and location of vacant affordable units and force them to fill each apartment within 60 days, reducing the unnecessarily complicated process to qualify. If a unit sits vacant for 90 days, I will instruct HPD to reduce the income threshold to apply for that unit and add new subsidy in order to fill it quickly.

 

25. Help For Homeless No Matter What “Door” They Come Through

Problem:
The shelter “door” a New Yorker enters the shelter system through — whether it is a regular DHS shelter or a shelter for domestic violence survivors, young people aging out of foster care or those struggling with addiction — determines what support they get later from the City. For instance, if they are eligible for a housing subsidy or other City benefit. Nine-out-of-ten of these New Yorkers are Black or brown.

Solution:
I will end this practice once and for all, offering all homeless New Yorkers our full range of services to treat the whole person and support them in their time of need.



Print Friendly and PDF

Editor's Choice


Gotham Gazette: Max Politics Podcast: Bill De Blasio's Legacy and Eric Adams' Agenda
Max Politics Podcast: Bill De Blasio's Legacy and Eric Adams' Agenda
Gotham Gazette: Emma Wolfe Reflects on the De Blasio Years
Emma Wolfe Reflects on the De Blasio Years
Gotham Gazette: City Continues Expansion of Online Access to Public Benefits
City Continues Expansion of Online Access to Public Benefits
Gotham Gazette: Max Politics Podcast Max Politics Podcast