Cornegy Calls For State Oversite Of NYCHA

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In a move that rankled the mayor, City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr. (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights) today called for Governor Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency on the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) as a first step towards taking charge of the troubled authority from the city.

City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr

Cornegy’s call come after receiving a number of complaints of little or no heat or hot water this winter from some of the roughly 4,000 residents in the sprawling Marcy Houses bordered by Flushing, Marcy, Nostrand and Myrtle Avenues in Cornegy’s district.

It also comes as NYCHA officials lied about submitting lead testing to tenants, and a report last week that found some 320,000 of the NYCH’s 390,000 residents have had heat and hot water outages this winter.

Further as KCP reported last week here and here, NYCHA has only completed one of 33 developments damaged from Superstorm Sandy, despite receiving a $3 billion lump sum payment nearly three years ago to repair and/or protect the developments.

“It is also clear that the NYCHA management and City Administration have not handled this issue [lead paint testing] competently. We need facts and action. I have heard that State Senator [James] Senator Sanders had requested that the State Department of Health perform inspections of the NYCHA housing projects in his district. Will the State perform these inspections and, if so, why would the state limit its inspections to only one senate district when we know it is a city-wide problem?” wrote Cornegy in his letter to Cuomo’s office.

In regard to the heat and hot water problems, Cornegy noted that NYCHA and the de Blasio administration have admitted their inability to expeditiously resolve the situation.

“They claim that contracting and bidding regulations could slow the process to a three-year completion schedule. The idea that residents could go without heat or hot water for three years is causing panic among NYCHA residents – as well it should. My office’s review of available legal options suggests that the State could declare an emergency to allow for expedited bidding and contracting with outside companies which are deemed competent to perform the necessary work,” Cornegy wrote.

Cornegy’s call for Cuomo to declare a state of emergency over NYCHA did get some council support.

“The appalling state of disrepair in NYCHA buildings, both in my District and across the city, is a serious health and safety hazard for residents. Too many parents and children have been exposed to either moldy conditions or dangerous lead paint, while families have suffered in the cold this winter without heat or hot water. I am proud to stand with Council Member Cornegy and my colleagues in the City Council in calling on the State to declare a state of emergency on all NYCHA facilities in response to this crisis,”  City Council Member Rory Lancman (D-Queens).

“There are thousands of New Yorkers living in substandard NYCHA housing,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams (D-Queens). “These residents are paying rent like every other tenant and they deserve to have heat and hot water. NYCHA buildings are in crisis and a more profound investment is needed. An immediate declaration of emergency is necessary to make these urgent repairs.”

City Councilman Carlos Menchaca

Council Member Carlos Menchaca (D-Sunset Park, Red Hook) said in hist district NYCHA residents in Red Hook, including families with small children and senior citizens, have endured extreme and inhuman housing conditions due to lack of heating, gas and hot water for extended periods of time.

“Just this weekend, my office contacted NYCHA to resolve several complaints from residents who didn’t have hot water in their buildings. This is unacceptable. It is clear that NYCHA is in crisis and in need of a complete overhaul. I am proud to join my colleagues at the NYC Council in asking Governor Cuomo to declare a state of emergency on NYCHA facilities,” said Menchaca.

Not all city council members lined up behind Cornegy,  however, including Council Members Alicka Ampry-Samuel (Brownsville), the current chair of the council’s Committee on Public Housing, and Richie Torres (D-Bronx) the committee’s former chair.

City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel

“During the past couple of weeks, together with Speaker [Corey] Johnson, we have been working closely with the governor’s office to expedite the installation of boilers and renovation of heating systems in NYCHA developments across the City. Our offices have been working hand-in-hand to access emergency funds for NYCHA, streamline the procurement process, and ensure boilers get fixed so that residents are not living in ice-cold apartments. The Governor and his team have been team players throughout the process, and understand the urgency of this crisis,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

Cornegy responded if they were working with the governor, he was never informed about it.

The de Blasio administration responded that it is addressing the problems residents face with $2.1 billion in capital infrastructure funding and $1.6 billion in operating funds. The administration also said invested $43 million to replace roofs at all 28 Marcy buildings, and have asked the state for $19 million to replace seven boilers at Marcy as part of the $200 million request submitted to the State in 2017.

“The only ‘state intervention’ NYCHA needs is more funding for critical systems like boilers, roofs and elevators,” said de Blasio Spokesperson Olivia Lapeyrolerie.

Cuomo’s press office did not return a request for comment at post time.

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