In 2006, the Salvation Army announced that it was going to build a $350 million recreation facility on Staten Island to serve low-income families in the Stapleton-Clifton neighborhoods. Most, but not all, of the funding would come from a bequest from the Kroc family, whose fortune stemmed from McDonald’s. The local community would have to provide long-term sustainability money.
By 2009 planning was well underway, and that year the Salvation Army paid $7.6 million to acquire a suitable site: seven acres on the Bayley Seton Hospital property. But then the project was scaled back by almost half. It was still a substantial 69,000 square feet, and would include a pool, basketball courts and workout equipment. And the Kroc donation was still north of $90 million.
Then the plan languished: permits were delayed, negotiations with the hospital about remaining services dragged on and costs started to climb. When Hurricane Sandy struck, the Salvation Army’s priorities shifted.
The de Blasio administration didn’t say no. They didn’t try to amend the plan to make it more to the mayor’s liking. They just let it slip between the cracks.
Two years ago, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo revived the plan. The communities to be served by the new Kroc facility were even more desperate for safe, adequate recreation facilities, ever since the old Cromwell Recreation Center in Tompkinsville collapsed in 2010. Mr. Oddo allocated $5 million of his discretionary budget to the project, and spent the last two years asking the de Blasio administration to allocate $20 million to ensure long-term stability. Mr. Oddo crafted a plan to shift some city services to the new center, simply moving already-allocated city funds to the new, much-needed facility. And that is when things fell apart: City Hall never responded to Mr. Oddo’s request.
The de Blasio administration didn’t say no. They didn’t try to amend the plan to make it more to the mayor’s liking. They just let it slip between the cracks. As a result, after City Hall missed several deadline extensions, the Salvation Army pulled the plug.
Now, Staten Island will get nothing.
Sadly, this is not the first time the de Blasio administration has missed important deadlines. This past fall, Mr. de Blasio’s Education Department missed one that would have helped find locations for seven new charter elementary schools.
Now, families will get nothing.
On another occasion, the city’s Housing Authority sent in an incomplete application to the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development—which was offering a $3 million emergency safety and security grant. That one should have been easy.
Again, the city got nothing.
These are projects that would have had a direct impact on people’s lives: educational opportunity, recreation and enhanced safety in all-too-dangerous housing projects. Yet Mr. de Blasio’s team can’t manage to meet deadlines. Given the boss’ all-too-frequent inability to show up to his own public engagements on time, it is little wonder that his staff is following his example.
It is not acceptable. As Mr. Oddo correctly observed, the Kroc-Salvation Army facilities are “transformational.” Mr. de Blasio and his entire administration need to take the job seriously. If they can’t, there are plenty of capable people ready to step up.