$2 Mil­lion Bath­room

El Dorado News-Times - - Opinion -

Did you see the $2 mil­lion dol­lar bath­room? That's what New York City govern­ment spent to build a "com­fort sta­tion" in a park. I went to look at it.

There were no gold-plated fix­tures. It's just a lit­tle build­ing with four toi­lets and four sinks.

I asked park users, "What do you think that new bath­room cost?"

A few said $70,000. One said $100,000. One said, "I could build it for $10,000."

They were shocked when

I told them what the city spent.

No park bath­room needs to cost $2 mil­lion. An en­tire six-bed­room house nearby was for sale for $539,000.

Ev­ery­thing costs more when govern­ment builds it. "Govern­ment al­ways pays above-av­er­age prices for be­low-av­er­age work," says my friend who makes a liv­ing pri­va­tiz­ing govern­ment ac­tiv­i­ties.

--Oba­macare's web­site was sup­posed to cost $464 mil­lion.? ?It cost $834 mil­lion and still crashed.

--Wash­ing­ton, D.C.'s Vis­i­tor Cen­ter rose in cost from $265 mil­lion to $621 mil­lion.

--The Vet­er­ans Af­fairs med­i­cal cen­ter be­ing built near Den­ver was pro­jected to cost $590 mil­lion. Now they es­ti­mate $1.7 bil­lion.

Govern­ment spends more be­cause ev­ery de­ci­sion is tied up in end­less rules. Rigid specs. Af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion. Mi­nor­ity out­reach. Wheel­chair ac­cess. "The process is de­signed to pre­vent any hu­man from us­ing judg­ment, or adapt­ing to un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances," says Philip Howard of the govern­ment re­form group Com­mon Good, adding, "The idea of a com­mer­cial re­la­tion­ship, based on norms of rea­son­able­ness and rec­i­proc­ity, is anath­ema."

But New York City's bu­reau­crats are un­apolo­getic about their $2 mil­lion toi­let. The Parks Depart­ment even put out a state­ment say­ing, "Our cur­rent es­ti­mate to build a new com­fort sta­tion with min­i­mal site work is $3 mil­lion."

"$3 mil­lion?!" I said to New York City Parks Com­mis­sioner Mitchell Sil­ver, in­cred­u­lously.

"New York City is the most ex­pen­sive place to build," he replied. As a re­sult, "$2 mil­lion was a good deal."

I pointed out that en­tire homes sell for less. He said, "We built these com­fort sta­tions to last . ... (L)ook at the ma­te­rial we use com­pared to that of a home. These are very, very durable ma­te­ri­als."

They have to be, he says, be­cause the bath­room gets so much use. "We're go­ing to ex­pect thou­sands, if not hun­dreds of thou­sands of vis­i­tors . ... So we have to build it to last."

Yet not far away, Bryant Park has a bath­room that gets (SET ITAL) much (END ITAL) more use. That bath­room cost just $300,000. Why the dif­fer­ence? Bryant Park is pri­vately man­aged.

New York politi­cians also or­der con­trac­tors to pay "pre­vail­ing" wages. That usu­ally means union wages, and that adds 13-25 per­cent to all bills.

When I asked Com­mis­sioner Sil­ver about that, he said, "This is a city that does be­lieve strongly in la­bor."

New York Democrats act as if "la­bor" means union la­bor. It's an in­sult to la­bor­ers. Most don't be­long to unions. Unions, how­ever, fund Democrats' cam­paigns.

Since govern­ment spends other peo­ple's money, they don't care that much about cost and they cer­tainly don't care much about speed. Many Parks Depart­ment projects are years be­hind sched­ule.

Com­mis­sioner Sil­ver says he's made im­prove­ments. "We've now saved five months out of what used to be four years."

"That's still ter­ri­ble!" I said.

"We be­lieve strongly in en­gag­ing the pub­lic," he replied. "We have a process that in­cludes de­sign, pro­cure­ment and con­struc­tion."

But so does the pri­vate sec­tor, which gets the job

done faster.

Sil­ver added: "[Pri­vately man­aged] Bryant Park did a ren­o­va­tion . ... (W)e do it from the ground up!"

But no one forced the city to build from the ground up. Any­way, ren­o­va­tion

can cost as much as new con­struc­tion. Gov­ern­ments just spend more.

Some­times, peo­ple get so fed up that they take mat­ters into their own hands.

Toronto's govern­ment es­ti­mated that a tiny stair­case for a park would cost $65,000-$150,000.

So a lo­cal cit­i­zen in­stalled a stair­case him­self.

Cost? $550.

Did the bu­reau­crats thank him? No. They say they will tear his stair­case down. Can't have pri­vate cit­i­zens do­ing things for them­selves.

Be­cause pri­vate builders save so much money

on stair­cases and bath­rooms, imag­ine what we could save if govern­ment turned con­struc­tion of govern­ment hous­ing, air­ports and roads over to the pri­vate sec­tor.

John Stos­sel is au­thor of "No They Can't! Why Govern­ment Fails -- But In­di­vid­u­als Suc­ceed."

John Stos­sel

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.