In the run-up to the financial crisis, New York city employees are enjoying furniture and supplies from concept designer Herman Miller, which cost more than $5 million last year.
Spending records show the city paid the famed Michigan furniture supplier $442,000 in new registered contracts in 2022, as well as $4.7 million in incremental costs totaling $5.2 million.
The spending by Herman Miller Inc., perhaps best known for its chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames, came amid Mayor Adams’ push to cut costs and as the city has to reckon with a projected budget deficit of up to 6.5 billion dollars. 2026.
Roughly speaking, the cost of trendy furniture and office supplies is a fraction of the city’s $102.7 billion budget, with a portion of the spending going towards cubicles and other typical office furniture.
But city lawmakers have taken notice and say these purchases look bad at a time when the city is in belt-tightening mode.
“Designer furniture is the last thing we should be doing right now,” said City Councilman Bob Holden, a Democrat representing Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale and Ridgewood in Queens. “I think we need a little more control over this. We all know that the city has historically been wasting money.”
An Adams administration official noted that the city has a five-year contract with Herman Miller that went into effect in November 2019. The deal, known as the binding contract, is worth $14.7 million, the official said. The contract has no limit, and the city can purchase goods under it as needed.
So far, the city has spent $12.8 million in the deal, according to an official who said it’s unclear how much of the city’s spending last year falls under the deal and whether the contract will be renewed.
“While this contract was awarded under the previous administration, it was awarded to the bidder with the least responsibility and responsiveness as required by the city’s procurement rules,” said Jonah Allon, an Adams spokesperson.
But not all of the city’s contracts with Herman Miller were made before the Adams administration. In one contract filed last year with the Department of Buildings for $234,000, a manufacturer was hired to supply “emergency furniture” at 22 Reed Street for “cube workstation systems and installation.”
Another contract, signed last year, allocated more than $155,000 to purchase filing cabinets and workstations for the legal department, and one contract with the finance department reserved $24,000 for the purchase of “office chairs, a coffee table, a sofa, and coffee tables.” “. show records.
The fourth contract with Herman Miller, which was registered last year, is for one chair, which cost the city $961. The contract with the Ministry of Health was to buy an Embodi chair for a lone employee. When asked about the purchase, a Department of Health spokesperson said the chair was purchased as part of a medical facility for a worker who provided the city with several MRI scans to determine the need.
“Any employee who requires housing has the right – by law – to request supplies and equipment so they can serve our city,” a Department of Health spokesperson said. “This is a fair and just rule that ensures an equitable system that does not discriminate based on physical need.”
However, some remain skeptical.
Michael Lambert, a former deputy city comptroller, said the key in situations like this is to determine if there is a viable alternative to Herman Miller when it comes to such spending.
“I don’t see the justification for a luxury brand if there’s another supplier offering a comparable product,” he said. “Is there a way to cancel contracts with such a supplier? Is there a viable alternative? I think this is the type of advice that the fiscal watchdog should look at.”
Lambert was referring to the city comptroller’s office where he once worked and which he has criticized in the recent past.
This office is now run by Comptroller Brad Lander.
Naomi Dunn, spokeswoman for Lander, said agencies must follow internal procedures to ensure they make purchases cost-effective. The controller’s audit office also conducts checks to eliminate wasteful spending at the end of the procurement process, she said, but noted that the office has not yet conducted an audit on furniture spending.
She added that as agencies continue to find ways to meet the mayor’s mandated cost-saving measures, “there should be a search for more cost-effective options on the table.”
Herman Miller did not respond to the message.