Property Rights Foundation of America®


News Brief
March 25, 2005

State Comptroller Investigates New York's 640 Public Authorities

As a result of scandals exposing the corruption of certain public authorities, such as the Canal Corporation under the New York State Thruway Authority, State Comptroller Alan Hevesi has been ferreting out the extent of quasi-government agencies in New York State. In a report issued last year he counted 640 state and local public authorities in the state. No full list exists and the full number of authorities may be incomplete. He likened the agencies to a "secret government" that runs the New York State Thruway, Erie Canal, the Port of New York, the Great Sacandaga Lake (a reservoir), bridges, tunnels, airports, sewer and water systems, solid waste disposal facilities, stadiums, public housing, and other public works. Voter approval is required for public borrowing, but the state gets around this restriction by using authorities. The comptroller's report dated the beginning of public authorities to the 1920s, but he missed the eminently effective and efficient public authority established before World War I by the Legislature to design and build the Catskill Aqueduct, one of the world's greatest public works, to harvest for New York City the water flowing into the river systems of the Catskill Mountains. The aqueduct's completion spelled the end of many river bottom towns and villages, as the water raised behind the dams constructed over several decades.

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