At this moment of transition for New York City, our communities are facing both anxious uncertainty and expansive opportunity.
We are emerging from a historic pandemic that brought our city to a standstill and took the lives of too many of our neighbors – disproportionately in communities of color. As we start the new year with a new administration, we are still facing down a public health crisis, and we must learn the lessons of this one to ensure we are better prepared for the next ones.
The New York City Comptroller is the city’s budget watchdog, pension fiduciary, and chief accountability officer. The mission is to secure a thriving future for all New Yorkers. The office has the tools and the responsibility to ensure we are budgeting wisely, investing strategically, holding city agencies to their promises, and keeping a sharp eye on the challenges to come.
And there are a lot of challenges.
The city’s glaring gender and racial inequities, highlighted and exacerbated by the pandemic, threaten the long-term prosperity of New York City’s families, neighborhoods, and economy. The climate crisis looms as the biggest long-term risk, not just to NYC’s infrastructure, but also to our investment portfolios and to the very lives of our people.
Some believe there is a conflict between effective government and progressive government. I believe they are mutually essential.
We need big, bold government that can care for people when they need it, educate our children to be leaders in diverse communities, and maintain the infrastructure that holds our lives in common together. But for that to be possible, we must build confidence – confidence which has been badly eroded – in our government’s ability to tell the truth, to plan ahead for emergencies, to deliver services effectively, to spend our public funds wisely, and account for where they’ve gone. To bring us together to solve shared problems and build a common future.
The Comptroller is New York City’s accountant. We often think about accounting as values-free – do the numbers add up, do credits and debits balance? But the truth is: it’s all about what we value.
If we value our neighborhoods, then we must invest in good transit, truly affordable housing, and resilient infrastructure so that they can remain places where people can afford to live. If we value a fair economy, then we must ensure that people whose work keeps our city and our economy going get the stability, pay, and dignity they need to care for themselves and their families.
If we value a sustainable future, then we must take action now – through our investments, our infrastructure, our buildings, our transportation – to transition to a green economy.
Our task together over the next four years is to ensure that we are accounting for our shared values. That we are delivering on the promises that NYC government has made to its people for a more just and equitable city.
The numbers must add up to a city where everyone has a chance to thrive.
That is the work ahead of us: to secure a fairer and more sustainable future for all our neighborhoods. A future where every child can learn and succeed, regardless of their race or class. Where workers are treated with respect, earn fair pay, and can retire with dignity. Where economic opportunity and prosperity is accessible and shared, no matter what neighborhood you live in. Where our sewers, transit, and utilities are ready to withstand the storms to come. Where everyone who calls this city home has a home to live in.
Where our city’s government is our common vehicle for that shared thriving.
I look forward to working hard, every day, side-by-side with you, to deliver on those promises.
Lander is the New York City comptroller.