Federal and city officials have signed an agreement in which the U.S. Department of Housing will take over more control of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) as a way to address a history of maintenance issues and coverups that have threatened resident safety, officials announced Thursday.
Though not a complete federal takeover, which was on the table after HUD gave New York City officials until Jan. 31 to form a plan to address rampant health and safety hazards in its public housing system, the agreement stops just short of giving the federal government total control.
Through the HUD and NYCHA agreement, a federal monitor will be appointed by HUD and the Southern District of New York. NYCHA will have to hit certain benchmarks regarding some of its biggest issues like heating and lead.
The city will continue with its NYCHA 2.0 plan, which accounts for $24 billion of the current NYCHA repair bill of $31.8 billion, and includes full renovations for 175,000 apartments.
“We see this as a partnership now,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday. “We see this as a partnership to get things done for the residents.”
A monitor will be named in the next few weeks, said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. The monitor will deliver quarterly reports on the progress made, he added, and will eventually replace Stanley Brezenoff, current NYCHA interim chairman who was appointed by de Blasio last April.
“Transparency is going to be a big part of enforcement in this particular case,” said Carson.
The mayor added that Carson, like himself, believes in “local control, power and accountability that comes with local decision making.”
Under the partnership, the city will invest an additional $1 billion over the next four years and $200,000 per year after that, for a total of $2.2 billion in city money over a 10 year time frame, “money that will be well spent on behalf of the people who live in NYCHA,” de Blasio said.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
NYCHA residents still facing heating issues across NYC
Carson noted that NYCHA has made some improvements lately, particularly in how fast it addresses heating outages, but the authority is still plagued with issues.
Gwendolyn Johnson, 57, says she’s been without heat and hot water in her Bushwick public housing unit for months. On Thursday, which saw single-digit temperatures in the morning, Johnson, who has rheumatoid arthritis, said she was freezing in her apartment and in a lot of pain.
“‘They’re fixing the boilers,’ that’s all they keep telling me. I call back for another ticket, ‘oh they’re fixing the boilers, they’re working on the problem,’” she said. “In the meantime, I’m freezing, I’m sick… I shouldn’t have to live like this.”
Johnson says she has to keep her oven on for some warmth, but that doesn’t even help. She’s lived in Bushwick Housing her whole life, and in that time she says she’s seen the building, and NYCHA in general, deteriorate. She feels like she’s not being heard by the housing authority.
“Nobody cares,” she said. “It’s wrong how they’re doing us, it’s very wrong.”
More than 5,000 NYCHA residents experienced unplanned heating and hot water outages on Thursday.
Is HUD prepared to handle NYCHA?
The NYCHA and HUD partnership does not include any additional federal funding for the city, but Carson said that the federal government “will continue to support financially what’s going on here at the largest public housing complex in the country.”
Already, the federal government commits $25 million and $30 million a week to NYCHA, he said.
Still, some elected officials are concerned. Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal said that without any additional federal funding, “the Trump Administration has once again turned its back on working-class families in his hometown.”
“Years of federal disinvestment has led to crumbling walls, chronic leaks and persistent heat outages,” she said in a statement. “We don’t need Ben Carson to babysit NYCHA, we need the federal government to step up and fix the situation they helped to create.”