James Testifies Independent Monitor Is Needed As Part Of NYCHA Settlement

Hochul signs Legislation

Public Advocate and Democratic State Attorney General Candidate Letitia James testified yesterday in U.S. District Court – Southern District of New York that she believes a federal independent monitor to over see the New York City Housing Authority is needed to bring more order and transparency to the city’s public housing.

James testified at the hearing in Lower Manhattan as part of the federal government suing NYCHA last June, asserting it had violated basic federal health and safety regulations, including regulations requiring NYCHA to protect children from lead paint and otherwise to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing.

Additionally, the federal government alleged that NYCHA repeatedly made false statements to HUD and the public regarding its lead paint compliance, and intentionally deceived HUD inspectors.

NYCHA entered into a settlement agreement with the federal government that imposes a federal monitor over the agency and requires the City, among other things, to provide $1.2 billion of additional capital funding to NYCHA over the next five years, and $200 million every year thereafter until the problems are fixed. That settlement is subject to the review and approval of the Court, which was the purpose of yesterday’s hearing and James’ appearance.

Public Advocate Letitia James before giving testimony at the federal hearing regarding the settlement between the federal government and the city regarding NYCHA. Photo by RJ Sonbeek

“I am here today at the courthouse to ensure that NYCHA children and families receive what they have been denied for so long – Justice,” James said.

“Throughout its existence, NYCHA was supposed to stand as proof that permanent subsidized public housing could work on a vast scale–and to an extent it has, but after decades of neglect and underfunding by the state and federal governments and chronic mismanagement at every level, the current conditions at NYCHA buildings are nothing short of deplorable,” she added.

James said that the people who reside in NYCHA are not looking for a quick fix to the problem, but for the settlement to create a long-standing system that will ensure accountability is maintained throughout the process.

“Like a monitor that must be explicitly named and agreed upon in this courtroom. It is clear that leaving a decision of this multitude cannot be made to those who caused the problems in the first place. That is why this settlement can’t be finalized until a monitor is named and agreed upon by all involved,” she said.

The hearing before U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III Lawyers featured testimony from hundreds of NYCHA residents and the three parties in the settlement  – the city, the federal government and NYCHA – all urged Pauley to approve the deal.

Judge Pauley did not immediately rule whether the deal was fair, reasonable and adequate, although he acknowledged that problems at NYCHA were of high magnitude and could not be fixed overnight.