Feds Looking Into Alleged Kickbacks Involving Jobs For NYCHA Tenants

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A lifelong New York City Housing Authority tenant is alleging a massive kickback scheme, where NYCHA tenant association presidents have been placing tenants into NYCHA jobs to repair Superstorm Sandy damage at prevailing construction wages, but to keep the jobs the tenants have to give weekly “donations” to nefarious characters.

Nsowaa Stewart, 37, a resident of NYCHA’s O’Dwyer Gardens, 2950 West 33rd Street in Coney Island, has filed a complaint of the allegation with the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), who at post time did not return calls as to whether there is a criminal or civil investigation regarding the complaint.

According to Stewart, and an ongoing KCP investigation, the alleged kickback scheme dates back in part from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) handing $3 billion to NYCHA in March 2015 to fix and replace boilers, heating systems and other infrastructure breakage due to Superstorm Sandy.

A large recipient of this money were the nine NYCHA developments in Coney Island that suffered extensive damage from the near hurricane.

The other major component is HUD’s Section 3 mandate that requires employment and other economic opportunities generated by federal assistance to public housing authorities to be directed, whenever possible, to public housing residents and other low and very low-income residents.

Stewart took advantage of this program with participation in NYCHA’s Resident Training Academy (NRTA) 12-week construction program, which she successfully completed and received all her certifications.

The program also requires that workers get the prevailing wage, which Stewart said in her case was $42 per hour. After working on one NYCHA site in Long Island City, Stewart went to Gravesend Houses Tenants Association President Deborah Carter for work in a Coney Island area development.

NYCHA’s South Brooklyn chapter of the Citywide Council of Tenant Presidents tabbed Carter as the designated point person to place Section 3 residents on jobs.

Stewart alleges Carter gave her a job at the Gravesend Houses, but that she would have to pay a weekly “donation” of $150 to local “coalition” member Cedric Harper.

Stewart alleges she met with Harper on the corner of  West 30th Street and Surf Avenue for about three months to give him the money, but then started asking him for how long she would have to continue giving the donations.

Stewart said Harper told her that everyone pays every week and that he had other people that needed jobs if she didn’t continue paying.

Shortly, after these complaints, Stewart said her work days were cut from five days a week to three days to two days until she was told there was no longer work.

Stewart additionally alleges there are a number of similar schemes in which various contactors are complicit with NYCHA tenant presidents and nefarious characters involving kickbacks from Section 3 workers.

Two of the contractors Stewart named are AECOM and Jacobs Project Management Company.

According to city records that KCP obtained, AECOM has about $21.5 million in contracts to do ongoing SANDY related work, and Jacobs has about $46.350 million in contracts to do ongoing SANDY related work.

Carter responded that Stewart is a “God dammed liar” and she is angry because she started working illegally without anybody knowing anything and that is the reason she got fired from another site  – on the Haber Houses on Surf Avenue and West 25th Street.

“It is dangerous and there is money being passed around in Coney Island, but it doesn’t involve me,” said Carter. “I do clean work. I’ve been the resident leader here for 43 years. I don’t do kickbacks or get involved in anything criminal.”

Carter also defended Harper as someone who helps a lot of people get jobs. Harper could not be reached for comment at post time.

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