New York’s governor and state lawmakers dished out $152 million for local projects favored by state lawmakers through the state Dormitory Authority during the state’s 2020 fiscal year, according to data posted today on SeeThroughNY.net, the Empire Center’s government transparency website.
The 590 projects awarded state funding during the 12 months ending in March include numerous local amenities such as spray parks, splash pads, bleachers and playgrounds.
Spending highlights include:
- $2.9 million for community theater construction projects;
- $1.9 million for “signage improvements” at the Bronx Children’s Museum;
- $1 million for exhibits at the Italian American Museum in Queens;
- $1 million for improvements to CUNY Staten Island’s track and field site;
- $655,000 for synthetic turf sports fields at school districts; and
- $125,000 for “stage curtains and lighting” in the Herricks school district on Long Island.
Most of these grants, 484 of them worth nearly $125 million, came from the State and Municipal Facilities Program (SMFP). In total, 4,127 SMFP grants have been approved since the program’s beginning in February 2014, with $1.49 billion appropriated. The list of 2,928 projects picked by state senators totals almost $626 million and the list of 1,041 projects picked by Assembly members totals $376 million.
“Through the SMFP, hundreds of millions of dollars in statewide capital resources are being siphoned off into strictly local projects that should be financed out of local taxes, if at all,” said Ken Girardin, policy analyst at the Empire Center. “This program was developed to let politicians cut ribbons and pose with oversized cardboard checks. In the post-pandemic world, this spending is less defensible than ever.”
The full list of SMFP allocations since 2014 include:
- 981 grants of $50,000;
- 1,133 grants of more than $50,000, up to $100,000;
- 1,268 grants of more than $100,000, up to $250,000;
- 402 grants for more than $250,000, up to $500,000;
- 170 grants for more than $500,000, up to $1 million;
- 120 grants for more than $1 million, up to $5 million; and
- 30 grants for more than $5 million.
The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.