Just because John Liu has some campaign cash problems doesn't mean he doesn't have a job to do. Just ask the Parks Department, which just received a scathing audit from the Comptroller's office regarding its handling of concessions [PDF]. Though Parks strongly disagrees with the audit's findings, Liu and co. say that in the past three years the Department has left roughly $8.8 million in additional revenues on the table due to poor planning and mismanagement. The Parks Department's biggest mess-up over the years? Clearly the late Tavern on the Green.
As far as the Comptroller is concerned, the city's decision to shut down the Tavern when it didn't have a solid plan in place to keep it consistently in operation was a terrible one. By his office's calculations the mishandling of the Tavern has cost the Parks Department nearly $2.2 million in fees, not to mention nearly $3.7 million in sales taxes for the city and state and 500+ jobs.
Parks however calls BS on that, pointing out that the incumbent in the space (Jenny LeRoy) was "already deeply in arrears to the Parks for unpaid concession fees" and "declared bankruptcy prior to the end of its term." The winning bid for the space from Dean Poll eventually was scrapped, and Parks says there is no way even next best bids would have worked out: "The capital improvements required to reopen this City asset were sufficiently substantial to make continuous operation impractical, if not impossible."
And though the Comptroller's complaints about the Parks handling of its more than 400 concessions (which make up more than half the department's annual revenue) go on, the Parks Department doesn't seem too focused on what Liu thinks. In a response to the audit, parks deputy commissioner for management and budget Robert L Garafola responded that it shows "a serious lack of understanding of the required elements of the concession award process, particularly regarding the need for a determination that a prospective concessionaire will be a responsible business partner, with the integrity and financial wherewithal to serve the public, and meet its financial obligations."
In fiscal years 2008, 2009, and 2010, the Parks Department said it had revenues from concessions of $52.6 million, $46.1 million and $39.8 million, respectively. Though lately it has been an ill-fated food truck court, the future of the former Tavern on the Green is still very much in the air.