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Parks Dept. oversees boro concessionaires poorly: Audit

A comprehensive audit of the city Parks Department by city Comptroller John Liu has found that the agency has failed to effectively monitor concessionaires.

The report showed that concessionaires at a number of locations — including several in Queens, such as the Flushing Meadows Ice Rink, the Kissena Golf Course and the Terrace on the Park restaurant — have not finished work they were scheduled to complete.

Of 54 concessions in effect at the beginning of 2010, work had not been finished at 33, according to the report, which was released late last month. The total cost of the incomplete capital improvement work is nearly $10 million.

“The department does not effectively monitor concessionaires to ensure that they comply with the capital improvement provisions of their agreements,” the report said.

Elizabeth Smith, assistant commissioner of revenue and marketing for the Parks Department, responded to the audit in writing and said that the department already does most of the things the audit suggested it do, but admitted that it may need to enhance its efforts in some locations identified in the report ´╗┐in order to ensure the problems are addressed thoroughly.

The city lost $37,531 in concessionaire fees from uncollected revenue as a result of $9.6 million worth of work not being completed, and Parks could have assessed at least $640,000 in damages for failure to complete capital improvement work on schedule.

The Alley Pond Indoor Tennis, Alley Pond Driving Range, Cunningham Tennis Center, Kissena Park and Forest Park golf courses; the Terrace on the Park and World’s Fair Marina restaurants; and the Flushing Meadows Ice Rink all failed to complete capital improvements, according to the audit.

The Flushing Meadows, Clearview and Douglaston golf courses could all have had liquidated damages assessed and a number of the locations had other concessionaire issues, according to the audit.

The department also failed to complete periodic inspections at 50 of the 54 concessions, the audit found, and 15 of them were in poor condition that may pose a risk to the public.

As a result of the audit, Liu recommended that the Parks Department strengthen its project management system, issue notices to concessionaires who have not completed required improvements and assess damages when they fail to do so, conduct routine inspections, determine whether the $640,000 in damages should be assessed and several more things to address the issues with concessionaires.

“It’s bad enough that New Yorkers have to tiptoe through cracked concrete and precarious wooden planks they call ‘ramps’ in city parks,” said Scott Sieber, a spokesman for Liu. “But it adds insult to injury knowing that your tax dollars paid for this experience. We look forward to working with Parks to help enhance its management over capital improvements.”

But the Parks Department statement indicated that the agency disagrees with the assertion that it does not oversee concession capital work well enough.

“In many cases, we have a system of capital oversight check and balances, including our architects, senior management, project managers, compliance inspectors and others who are actively involved in key aspects ... of ensuring that capital improvements are completed,” the statement read. “Parks regularly reviews the status of each concessionaire’s capital improvements, engages in timely dialogues if there are capital improvement issues and acts to address those issues.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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