Schumer, Ampry-Samuel Lead Charge for NYCHA Fixes

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, speaking, and City Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel meet with NYCHA residents to discuss new federal funding to make much-needed repairs and improvement to the public housing stock. Contributed photo

New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments are getting a badly needed $80 billion investment and improvements announced by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer last week. But improvements are extending past the buildings and reaching into the communities for input as well with a new Resident Roundtable, said NYCHA.

Schumer, who’s been working doggedly on this with housing advocates and City Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel (D-Brooklyn), said through federal public housing funds via the just-proposed American Jobs Plan, wrongs can be righted after decades of disinvestment, bad management and federal neglect of NYCHA and all its mostly low-income and struggling residents.

Schumer explained that the initial plan was a $40 billion investment in public housing capital needs from the Biden Administration, but with a solid push, was doubled to address “NYCHA’s repair backlog, years of can-kicking, Republican-led federal disinvestment and delays that have left tenants frustrated.”

“For far too long, our public housing infrastructure needs have been left unaddressed, left to get worse, and have brought serious harm to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers,” said Schumer. “Lead in the bodies of our children. Toxic mold in the lungs of our friends and neighbors. Leaky roofs. Dilapidated playgrounds. Non-working elevators. Unsafe environments. Polluting and expensive boilers and heating systems. The maddening list goes on and on.” 

“However you want to put it: public housing residents, and NYCHA residents in particular, are in need of some real help, and this, right now, is a now-or-never moment. We must repair, upgrade and transform our public housing so it is both livable and sustainable,” added Schumer. 

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and City Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel recently met in Brownsville to discuss issues concerning NYCHA. Photo provided by Ampry-Samuel council staff.

NYCHA houses about 380,299 authorized residents in over 177,611 apartments within 335 housing developments, and serves hundreds of thousands more through programs like Section 9, Permanent Affordability Commitment Together (PACT)/Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), and Section 8’s Leased Housing Program. This money will aim to speedily address all corrective work orders, inspections of apartments or other needed areas, routine maintenance of elevators and faulty heating, and severe violations, like rodents or mold in developments across the five boroughs.

Meanwhile, NYCHA officials said that it’s establishing a roundtable, similar to a community board, in which residents will be able to give input plans and implementation that will launch in June as part of their goals for more community engagement.

The roundtable will include about 30 residents from each development that can weigh in on things like, lease enforcement and compliance, quality of life complaints, safety and security, feedback, and quality assurance.

The Citywide Council of Presidents (CCOP), the official citywide NYCHA resident organization, will appoint five residents to the Roundtable and the remaining positions are open to all NYCHA residents. Each roundtable member will serve for two years in that position.

“NYCHA needs a major infusion of resources and it must come at once. I’ve been meeting with the Senator’s staff regularly and lending my thoughts and expertise in this matter. He assures me that this is doable and we have been strategizing and looking forward to this infrastructure investment. When compared to needs, NYCHA has historically only received enough federal resources to complete what amounts to patchwork,” said Ampry-Samuel, who chairs the City Council’s Public Housing Committee.

Ampry-Samuel said that NYCHA usually does “micro projects” and “small” scale fixes that lend themselves to perpetuating an ineffective system.

“Management at NYCHA credit the lack of capital for their inability to provide upgrades in a manner that pleases residents. Majority Leader Schumer’s call for $80 billion removes that barrier,” said Ampry-Samuel.

Ampry-Samuel said she’s been asking NYCHA Chair Gregory Russ about funding and strategies during public hearings.

Ampry-Samuel said she’s also been meeting with Schumer and his staff regularly for at least two years to help fuel the push for the billions in investments for NYCHA residents, since US Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) first announced her housing infrastructure bill asking for $70 billion back in 2019. 

“There have been Public Housing Infrastructure bills and plans throughout the years but the ones that have been large enough to meaningfully tackle the issues that plague NYCHA have never come to fruition. The fact that Senator Sanders and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez are proposing something even bigger is wonderful. Instead of seeing NYCHA as a badly behaved child, we are finally and  truthfully acknowledging it as the forgotten child,” said Ampry-Samuel.

U.S. Rep Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn/Queens) added in a statement that while the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the country and small businesses, it only deepened the affordable housing crisis and issues in public housing developments. 

“Public Housing residents deserve to live in safe, humane and dignified conditions. That is not presently the case, given the billions of dollars of unmet maintenance and repair needs that have persisted for years,” said Jeffries. “Together with Leader Schumer and the Biden administration, House Democrats are working hard to change those conditions by fighting for at least $80 billion in funding for public housing upgrades and modernization. We will not rest until we get this done.”