While Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams last week touted a possible solution to the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) woes involving a federal program utilizing private management, Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz (D-Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach) spearheaded a state lawmaker letter telling the feds to back off.
The differing views come as NYCHA and the De Blasio Administration are coming up against a court-ordered Jan. 31 deadline to submit a repair plan acceptable to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
HUD Secretary Ben Carson has said come the deadline if a solid plan is not submitted, everything is on the table including HUD taking over management of NYCHA, which houses 400,000-plus residents.
Cymbrowitz letter urged Carson to leave control of NYCHA to the city and state, and noted several examples around the county, such as in Cairo, Illinois and East St. Louis, where once HUD took over they condemned properties which displaced residents.
“Years in receivership have not solved the problems of other housing authorities, but have instead shown that blanket policies administered from afar just don’t work for the communities they’re supposed to serve. We know our neighbors and their needs, and we will continue to advocate for additional, stable funding for NYCHA, and for smart regulatory fixes that take residents’ concerns into full account – after all, it’s their homes and lives that are at stake,” the letter reads.
“The capital needs of NYCHA are already in the billions, and the need will only grow if we allow the buildings to continue to deteriorate, due to the need for new housing of the thousands of families who will be displaced. NYCHA residents make up a large percentage of the city’s workforce, and are vital to the operation of countless industries. Losing these families to displacement would have a significant impact on the local economy. Maintaining local control of NYCHA could keep these families in their homes, and improve their standard of living,” the letter notes.
Among the Brooklyn co-signers of the letter included Assemblymembers Charles Barron, Dr. Mathylde Frontus, Joseph R. Lentol, Walter T. Mosley, Félix W. Ortiz, Diana C. Richardson, Jo Anne Simon, Latrice Walker and Helene Weinstein.
Meanwhile, Adams brought several Brooklyn NYCHA tenant leaders last week to NYCHA’s Ocean Bay Apartments in Queens to tout the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), a HUD administered program that allows private capital investment and contracts for the development and rehabilitation of deeply affordable rental housing.
He met up with Queens City Councilman Donovan Richards, who helped facilitate the use of the program, which has been a large success at Ocean Bay, with renovations made to both the interior and exterior of the buildings.
Adams and Richards walked through the buildings admiring newly redone bathrooms and boilers with tenants.
“This is more than just about rhetoric, this is about getting stuff done, and when it comes down to it, at the end of the day the focus should always be on residents,” said Richards. “What we’ve accomplished here is only possible because of a strong partnership with the people who actually live here, that’s where it starts and ends.”
Richards noted that NYCHA residents have suffered throughout this past year with frequent heating and water issues, as well as chipping lead paint and unresponsive building managers. The RAD program attempts to rectify that by providing repairs and managing a lot of these issues which can plague NYCHA buildings, he said.
The program aims at not only fixing current issues but preserving buildings with ongoing maintenance and repairs.
RAD allows for residents to have a bathroom flipped in a day’s time, or lets them stay in another apartment while construction is being done- so the work gets done without inconveniencing tenants.
Michael Rooney, founding principal of Management Development Construction, the construction company partnered with NYCHA on the repairs believed that it was important to remain forward thinking.
“The test is one year from now, five years from now, to maintain,” said Rooney.
Adams stressed the importance of the work Richards has done and how it affects NYCHA tenants.
“You have to believe that the people who live here deserve the same quality that you have in your own home,” said Adams. “Nothing personified this trip more than when the councilman told me ‘family members said I invite guests here over the holidays so they can see where I live’- people are proud.”
Richards spoke about the value of advocating and getting people involved in the fixing NYCHA not just because its part of our city but because the people who live there make up our city.
“These are the individuals who drive our city and it’s a shame that they’ve had to live in the condition’s that they’ve lived in for decades,” said Richards. “It’s not about a popularity contest all the time, it’s not about rhetoric, it’s about coming out and truly saying you know that this is not working we have to move in a different direction.”