Today’s news:

Liu’s audit slams carousel operator

Exactly a week after the city Parks Department issued a request for proposals to operate two vintage carousels in the borough, the city comptroller’s office released a scathing audit of the concessionaire who used to run both sites.

New York One LLC, a Manhattan-based company who runs food carts, currently operates the carousel and food carts in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and used to operate the carousel in Forest Park until 2009, when it opted out of a contract with the city. The company’s tenure at both was riddled with violations, according to Comptroller John Liu.

“Our kids want to go for a spin on the merry-go-round, but taxpayers don’t want to be taken for a ride,” he said. “This contractor needs to straighten itself out.”

Not for the squeamish, the most eyebrow-raising violations — using popcorn and hotdog vending carts flagged by the city for being unsanitary and constructing a primitive latrine out of a bucket inside a machine room at one carousel — were incurred at a third location the company ´╗┐operated in Central Park in Manhattan.

But according to Liu, New York One still incurred serious violations at the two Queens spots.

The report said New York One failed to make capital improvements to the Forest Park site to the tune of $50,000 as part of its contract. Liu called on the concessionaire to repay those funds to the city.

In addition, the report urged New York One to make the $110,000 in minimum capital improvements to the Flushing Meadows carousel.

The company disputed the findings and said´╗┐ in the report “we will continue to perform all capital investments to the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Carousel. However, we take exception to the arbitrary amount of $110,000 indicated by the audit.”

But Liu’s office said the amount is anything but arbitrary, pulling the number from New York One’s own cost estimate from before it began operating the carousel in 2004.

In addition, the report alleges that the concessionaire overcharged for food and souvenirs at the Flushing location and operated food carts that were not properly licensed by the city Department of Health.

The findings were difficult to come by, according to a statement from Liu’s office, since the company kept such poor financial records that in some cases documentation was nonexistent.

But the report also took the Parks Department to task for its lax oversight of the concessionaire.

“The audit determined that the Parks Department failed to properly monitor the carousel operator or promptly use the tools at its disposal to enforce the terms and conditions of the contracts,” a statement from Liu’s office said.

“The Parks Department needs to monitor the company to ensure taxpayers are getting their due or find someone who is up to the job.”

Some in the community, like Ed Wendell of the Woodhaven Block Association, question the timing of Liu’s release, especially since the city has expressed its disapproval with New York One in the past, when in 2009 it eliminated its contract with the company for the Central Park carousel because it failed to make the required capital improvements.

“It’s kind of interesting that they are going to be taking bids on these others and now this news comes out from [Liu’s] office,” he said. “I think hot dog sales will be very low.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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