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City Hires New Finanical Advisor for Public-Private Partnerships

By Jill Colvin | July 8, 2011 6:38pm | Updated on July 8, 2011 11:27pm
The city is considering privatizing parking meters to reduce costs long-term.
The city is considering privatizing parking meters to reduce costs long-term.
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MANHATTAN — The city has hired a new financial adviser to oversee public-private partnerships, paving the way for more private management of services now overseen by city agencies, including parking meters and office space.

Greenhill & Co will focus on two major initiatives: on-street parking and city-owned and occupied real estate, the city announced.

The city is looking to boost the money it generates from meters — which brought in approximately $60 million in profits in 2010 — and thinks forging a partnership with a private firm that could do things like install more technologically-savvy meters could be a fix.

The city has vowed to maintain full control of enforcement and parking rates regardless of what arrangement it chooses.

In addition to beefing up parking, the city wants Greenhill to try to help it shed office space it currently owns or rents but doesn't need. City officials think reducing office space costs could save the city up to $36 million a year.

"Since the beginning of the recession, the Mayor has asked everyone in City government to find creative ways to do more with less. With that in mind, we’re looking at public-private partnerships as one way to improve City services within this difficult fiscal environment," spokeswoman Julie Wood said in a statement.

Wood stressed the fact that the process "is in a very preliminary stage" and said it's still unclear whether any new partnership will actually be made. Greenhill won't be paid unless one is.

The city also vowed to enter into new deals only if they can provide better services at cheaper prices.

Public-private partnerships have come increasingly under fire by some who feel the city shouldn't be turning over so much power to private firms that have no accountability to taxpayers. Bloomberg's administration is reeling from a growing CityTime scandal in which contractors allegedly ripped off the city under the guise of streamlining the payroll system.

"Whenever we're dealing with private money, then the public is at the mercy of the private sector," said Susan Lerner, executive director of good-government group Common Cause.

She also took issue with the premise that private partnerships reduce costs.

"Over and over again what we see is there are relatively few areas where outsourcing really results in real savings," she said.

The city is increasingly relying on partnerships with private firms for everything from funding summer jobs for young people to luring tourists to New York from overseas.