Monday, March 5, 2018

About the ongoing issues with the NYCHA

[Avenue D and 10th Street]

On Friday, embattled NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye shared a letter with residents of the city's public housing. The letter, marking her fourth anniversary as chair, noted some progress at the agency as well as addressed failures in lead paint inspections and heating outages.

The NYCHA posted Olatoye's letter on Twitter Friday evening...

Olatoye and the NYCHA continue to make headlines in recent months. Per the Daily News on Saturday:

Olatoye has faced relentless calls to resign after it emerged that she falsely told the City Council in December that properly certified workers had inspected some 4,200 apartments for lead paint. A Department of Investigation probe found the inspections were in fact done by workers who lacked the required training.

Meanwhile, last month, Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner, launched an investigation into the recurring heat and lead paint problems at NYCHA properties throughout the five boroughs, including in the East Village and Lower East Side.

At the Jacob Riis Houses on Avenue D, one resident said that she has just gotten used to the lack of heat, even telling ABC 7 last month that she knows better than to complain.

"Some of us that do have the heat, if we complained then there's no heat for the rest of the winter," Cynthia Martin told the station.

Martin also said that she has peeling paint in her apartment, "which she fears is lead paint. Not to mention mold, which she blames for her kids' asthma."

This past Tuesday, the Citywide Council of Presidents, a group of tenant leaders chosen by residents, asked a judge to appoint an independent monitor to oversee the NYCHA "because it has failed to provide heat and hot water, keep residents safe from lead, involve tenants in policymaking and hire residents, as required by federal regulations," per published reports.

Here's more background from The New York Times last week:

Three authority officials, including the general manager, Michael P. Kelly, have resigned, and one was demoted. There are persistent calls for the authority chairwoman, Shola Olatoye, to resign or be removed, though Mayor Bill de Blasio has remained supportive of her.

“Lots of different of organizations have sued Nycha, but this is a first,” Nicholas Dagen Bloom, an associate professor of social science at New York Institute of Technology and the author of “Public Housing That Worked: New York in the 20th Century,” said about the lawsuit. “It does show a mounting, spreading activist spirit. Generally speaking, that council was a rubber stamp and it has been widely criticized for decades, though not always fairly.”

At the Daily News yesterday, author Ben Austen weighed in with an opinion piece titled "NYCHA at the crossroads."

From that piece:

New York City is at a crossroads. If its public housing is allowed to deteriorate further, the buildings will soon seem too dilapidated to save. They will become more dangerous, the cost of repairs ever-more insurmountable.

Some terrible harm to residents will come to define NYCHA's cruelty, and the value of the real estate on which the buildings sit will emerge as an irresistible lure. By then, demolition will be hailed as the only solution.

But for hundreds of thousands NYCHA residents who live and work in the five boroughs, there is no other viable alternative. The city already operates by far the largest Section 8 voucher program in the country. With de Blasio pressing his plans to add 300,000 units of affordable housing, generally above the public housing income threshold, it just doesn't make sense to let this major share of the city's low-income portfolio fall into ruin.

For his part, Mayor de Blasio still reportedly has Olatoye's back, saying in late January that when assessing the totality of what the agency has accomplished during her tenure, she has made "tremendous progress."

"When Shola took office, the Housing Authority was literally teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. She righted the ship. So I want to give her a lot of credit," the mayor said at an unrelated press conference in the Bronx in January, as reported by the Post. "I continue to have great faith in her."

Other elected officials don't share that sentiment. Gov. Cuomo told WNYC last week that the NYCHA's numerous problems stem from poor management, not underfunding.

"When they tell you it takes us three to four years to spend money they get today, that is a problem," Cuomo said. "People can’t wait three to four years to turn on the heat. Lead paint is a problem today. And, that's what the residents are complaining about and I think they’re right."

The Mayor, in response, said that Cuomo was being ridiculous.

For further reading:
Why Can’t de Blasio’s Housing Authority Keep the Heat On? (The Village Voice)

City Seeks Proposals For Large New Residential Project at La Guardia Houses (The Lo-Down)


Kirsten Theodos said...

Daily News nailed it with this: "the buildings will soon seem too dilapidated to save. They will become more dangerous, the cost of repairs ever-more insurmountable"

We are seeing this first hand as the current "insurmountable repairs" are being used to justify selling NYCHA land to private developers. At the Holmes house on the UES, they are selling their parking lot and KID PLAYGROUND to BdB's developer donor to build a "mixed use" tower where the market rate (read: rich) will be on top so they can enjoy sunlight and views and the NYCHA folks get stuck on the bottom floors. Yes denying heat is deplorable but so is stealing sunlight and the one place those kids have to play. In return, developers who buy NYCHA land enjoy a 99 year lease with NO PROPERTY TAXES bc it is on city land . NYCHA is being intentionally neglected and starved so they will be desperate enough to sell off their land to de Blasio donors. This is also from the same playbook used regarding our libraries. BK Heights & Sunset Park libraries are already sold and Inwood's library is next. #deblasiosny

JQ LLC said...

Shoya Olatoye is more like a public relations flack than a commissioner, which being a pathological liar makes her a natural. Like she can make up for 4 years of wanton neglect and blatant deceit with a warm and fuzzy letter that congratulated herself more than the achievements she alleges to have made.

Kristen makes a good point about natural light, which along with air has become a selling point and a commodity when it comes to the speculation/fabrication inducing the exorbitant rents in this city (and in other major cities nationwide).

What's going on with public housing is criminal collusion involving NYCHA, City Hall and REBNY at the expense of the poor people living there and using cognitive dissonance and bueraucratic bungling to force them out. Despite the implementation of Nextgen which has done nothing to improve the dilapidated buildings and horrid, inhumane conditions and environment in the units.

cmarrtyy said...

Our politicians believe that by allowing the NYCHA buildings to fail they will remove the biggest problem in public housing... the tenant. In the 50s there was a slogan, "Urban renewal is Negro removal". This is the new millennium's version.

Anonymous said...

Grieve, thank you for this important coverage!