zhaos wrote:A very important expose on high construction costs was published by the Times this week. Front page article.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/nyre ... .html?_r=0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I feel like the public is helpless to deal with the issues highlighted, which is really unfortunate.
An accountant discovered the discrepancy while reviewing the budget for new train platforms under Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.Surprised but also not surprised that nobody replied to this. I want to make very clear that I am certainly not against workers getting fairly compensated for dangerous, laborious work. I am against money being spent on blatant featherbedding.
The budget showed that 900 workers were being paid to dig caverns for the platforms as part of a 3.5-mile tunnel connecting the historic station to the Long Island Rail Road. But the accountant could only identify about 700 jobs that needed to be done, according to three project supervisors. Officials could not find any reason for the other 200 people to be there.
The discovery, which occurred in 2010 and was not disclosed to the public, illustrates one of the main issues that has helped lead to the increasing delays now tormenting millions of subway riders every day: The leaders entrusted to expand New York’s regional transit network have paid the highest construction costs in the world, spending billions of dollars that could have been used to fix existing subway tunnels, tracks, trains and signals.
For years, The Times found, public officials have stood by as a small group of politically connected labor unions, construction companies and consulting firms have amassed large profits.
Trade unions, which have closely aligned themselves with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other politicians, have secured deals requiring underground construction work to be staffed by as many as four times more laborers than elsewhere in the world, documents show.
Construction companies, which have given millions of dollars in campaign donations in recent years, have increased their projected costs by up to 50 percent when bidding for work from the M.T.A., contractors say.
At the heart of the issue is the obscure way that construction costs are set in New York. Worker wages and labor conditions are determined through negotiations between the unions and the companies, none of whom have any incentive to control costs. The transit authority has made no attempt to intervene to contain the spending.
Asked about The Times’s findings, union leaders and construction executives insisted that no money had been wasted. They said tunneling was difficult and dangerous work that must be well funded.
In Paris, which has famously powerful unions, the review found the lower costs were the result of efficient staffing, fierce vendor competition and scant use of consultants.
In New York, “underground construction employs approximately four times the number of personnel as in similar jobs in Asia, Australia, or Europe,” according to an internal report by Arup, a consulting firm that worked on the Second Avenue subway and many similar projects around the world.
That ratio does not include people who get lost in the sea of workers and get paid even though they have no apparent responsibility, as happened on East Side Access. The construction company running that project declined to comment.
Several contractors said the unions are able to maintain the deals because everybody knows they are politically powerful. The unions working on M.T.A. projects have donated more than $1 million combined to Mr. Cuomo during his administration, records show.
The critics pointed to several unusual provisions in the labor agreements. One part of Local 147’s deal entitles the union to $450,000 for each tunnel-boring machine used. That is to make up for job losses from “technological advancement,” even though the equipment has been standard for decades.
Look at the 200 phantom workers. These numbers are just spitballing, but let's assume each one was paid $1,000 a day for an 8-hour shift (including salary and benefits) times 250 weekdays times 200 workers. That's some $50 million each year, for 3 years or so, being spent on people who were not doing any work on this project. I want to repeat, these 200 people were not doing any work at all. Imagine that money going towards electrifying or double-tracking the Port Jefferson Branch. Upgrading the Greenport branch to allow for more service than the scraps it gets now. Any pipe dream project you can think of. None of those will happen at any reasonable pace or cost as long as we have no real oversight on projects like this. And I want to emphasize again that I am not against unions/safety and just compensation. But this is beyond either of those things, this is outright corruption, in spirit if not legally. And this is just the most egregious thing in the exposé.