Walker, Ampry-Samuel Weigh In On NYCHA Bogus Lead Tests

City Council Member Alicka Ampry-

Tucked in the middle of a New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) lead controversy, Twitter bouts and new watchdog appointments are the voices of two important local leaders — Assemblymember Latrice Walker (D-Brownsville) and City Councilmember-elect Alicka Samuel (D-Brownsville, Bedford Stuyvesant, East Flatbush, Crown Heights) who reign over the city’s highest concentration of NYCHA housing.

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate Letitia James

While Mayor de Blasio was on vacation last Thursday, Public Advocate Leticia James called for NYCHA Chairperson Shola Olatoye to step down following a Department of Investigation (DOI) report that proved Olatoye failed to do critical lead safety inspections and then falsely certified that the agency was in compliance.

The mayor lashed out at James through his Twitter account calling the public advocate’s action a cheap stunt that puts the needs of NYCHA residents after her political ambitions.

Local Brownsville representative Walker supported the mayor’s decision to keep Olatoye on deck.

Assemblywoman Latrice Walker

“Being a former resident of NYCHA, an environmental justice advocate, and an assembly member who represents 25 NYCHA developments, the safety and security of each and every resident of NYCHA, from the youngest to the oldest, is imperative to me,” said Walker.

“NYCHA, under the leadership of Chair and CEO Shola s, has put into place a strategy that exemplifies the importance of NYCHA residents and I will work alongside NYCHA to assure that lead inspections are thoroughly monitored and completed in my district. For now, I fully support this plan of action and look forward to its implementation,” added Walker.

The assemblymember grew up in public housing, although the development where she lived was demolished under a federal Hope VI grant in 1998 ––  a program that leveled severely distressed NYCHA housing and replaced them with garden style, town houses and single-family houses.  

Walker’s comments came after the mayor announced that he appointed Edna Wells Handy as acting chief compliance officer to the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to oversee the department’s regulatory compliance.

According to the DOI, 55,000 apartments are required to be visually assessed on an annual basis. In Brownsville and Crown Heights, nearly 300 NYCHA apartments tested positive for lead between 2010 and 2015 with its highest concentration in the Van Dyke (138) and Albany Houses (37). Likewise over 50 apartments in the Brevoort and Kingsborough Houses apartments tested positive for lead.

Alicka Ampry-Samuel

Like Walker, Samuel grew up in a Brownsville NYCHA developement. She also once worked as Walker’s chief-of-staff, and her previous job before getting elected earlier this month was under Olatoye as senior advisor within NYCHA’s Community Engagement and Partnerships Division.

Samuel, whose council district has an overwhelming 100 NYCHA buildings within its parameters, declined to say whether or not she supported James’ statement to oust Olatoye, but instead pivoted to NYCHA’s increased lack of funding.

“There has been a divestment from NYCHA for decades.” said Samuel. “Children have been diagnosed with lead poisoning since the early 70s. The findings from DOI are a bit disturbing, but hopefully with this attention, NYCHA families will receive the resources and funding support necessary to remove lead paint.”

Samuel is replacing term-limited City Councilmember Darlene Mealy whose office declined to comment on the unfolding NYCHA controversy.  

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