Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/839 Mon, 18 Dec 2017 12:56:40 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) NYCHA Prepares to Implement Smoking Ban http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7318:nycha-prepares-to-implement-smoking-ban http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7318:nycha-prepares-to-implement-smoking-ban de blasio anti smoking presser 2020

(photo via the Mayor's Office)


Following the announcement of a nationwide smoking ban in public housing residences last year, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has been preparing to implement the controversial federal policy across its more than 320 developments that house approximately half-a-million residents.

“Smoke-Free NYCHA” involves updating resident leases with language that prohibits smoking, running an awareness campaign to inform residents about the new ban as well as the harms of secondhand smoke, and crafting an enforcement plan for repeat offenders. According to the city's health department, NYCHA residents "smoke at higher rates than other New Yorkers, and suffer from higher rates of chronic disease including heart disease, diabetes, and asthma."

Required by the federal government to have a smoke-free policy in place by July 2018, NYCHA has encountered skepticism and criticism from its residents. Moreover, while anti-smoking advocates applaud the new federal policy and NYCHA’s efforts to implement it, they worry that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration will fail to provide the necessary financial resources to support meaningful tobacco cessation efforts across NYCHA campuses.

De Blasio has expressed support for the ban and has backed other anti-smoking measures, including a recent legislative package he signed into law, aimed at reducing smoking in New York City writ large. The mayor has also invested heavily in NYCHA overall, though City Hall has not yet made competely clear what it will do to support implementation of the NYCHA smoking ban, while the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is working with NYCHA stakeholders to prepare for implementation of the smoking ban.

In late November of 2016, shortly before the end of President Barack Obama’s second term, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) declared that all public housing authorities were required to prohibit smoking within their campuses. "Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, healthy home free from harmful second-hand cigarette smoke," said then HUD Secretary Julian Castro in a press release. "HUD's smoke-free rule is a reflection of our commitment to using housing as a platform to create healthy communities.”     

Upon learning of the new policy, NYCHA, the largest public housing authority in the United States, began to ready its residents and staff. Given that City Council Member Donovan Richards had previously proposed banning smoking in city-funded housing, and earlier experience regulating smoking in its developments, the agency was not unprepared. “We certainly ramped up our planning and collaboration as soon as we heard the rule was being made final, but we already had a foundation of work before that time,” said Andrea Mata, Director of Health Initiatives at NYCHA, in an interview with Gotham Gazette.

She explained that, in 2012, NYCHA began working with the New York City Department of Health (DOH) on a pilot project at 830 Amsterdam, a single building development on the Upper West Side, to create a “resident-led and initiated strategy” to reduce secondhand smoke exposure. After three years, the project culminated with representatives of 85 percent of all units voluntarily signing a pledge to not smoke within the building.

Upon announcement of the federal ban, NYCHA sought to build on the 830 Amsterdam pilot as well as pull from earlier examples of public housing authorities implementing smoking bans within their developments, including those of Philadelphia and Albany.

NYCHA began by reaching out to residents and experts to develop a comprehensive policy. Representatives engaged the Resident Advisory Board, a collection of public housing leaders, conducted community meetings across the city, and are now beginning to brief all local Resident Associations in the five boroughs. They also consulted organizations like the New York University School of Medicine as well as the American Cancer Society for feedback.

In addition to ongoing community engagement, the housing authority is also preparing to update resident leases with language that stipulates adherence to the smoking ban. According to NYCHA’s plan for 2018 released mid-October, the agency will begin informing residents of changes to their lease in early 2018, who will then have the opportunity to comment on the new clause. After revisions, they will mail residents an updated lease.

Finally, NYCHA is in the midst of developing an enforcement process to ensure residents comply. “At this point we don’t have a final policy that we can share, but we’d imagine that it would have a few points of escalation,” explained Sideya Sherman, Executive Vice President for Community Engagement and Partnerships at NYCHA, in an interview with Gotham Gazette.

A policy of “graduated enforcement,” it will begin with warnings, then interventions, continuing to escalate until NYCHA staff announces a “commencement of termination of tenancy proceedings,” said NYCHA spokesperson Jasmine Blake to Gotham Gazette of the outline of the enforcement plan.

The possibility of eviction for offenders has been a point of contention, as has an alleged lack of information about the smoke-free rule being provided by NYCHA to residents. “I think it’s a horrible policy,” said Charlene Nimmons, resident of Wyckoff Gardens and president of the Wyckoff Gardens Resident Association from 2003 to 2015, in a phone call. “There’s this privileged rule and law being forced down upon public housing residents.”

A resident of Fort Greene’s Ingersoll Houses also expressed frustration in comments to DNAinfo earlier this year. “How can they kick you out for something that’s just like a disease, basically?” said Curtis Flemister. “It’s not like you can say, 'I’m just not going to do it if I’m going to get kicked out.'”

“I have not received and have not had any information about it,” said Geraldine Lamb, president of the Bronx’s Castle Hill Resident Association, in an interview with Gotham Gazette.

When the public housing smoking ban was first proposed, in 2015, de Blasio said that “the goal is a good one,” but that there would be “a lot to work through” in terms of implementation. NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye has also expressed concern about enforcement, wanting it to be “resident-led” as opposed to involving the NYPD.

On Monday, City Hall spokesperson Melissa Grace said in a statement, “This administration is dedicated to creating healthy living environments for all New Yorkers, and NYCHA and the City Department of Health are working closely with our public housing residents, advocates and the federal government as this ban takes effect.”

According to the Department of Health (DOHMH), there is a position within its Center for Health Equity that is dedicated to supporting NYCHA's Health Initiatives Unit. Since the start of this year, NYCHA and DOHMH have spoken with more than 1,200 NYCHA residents at community meetings and other activities, and will continue to engage residents to craft the smoke-free NYCHA policy. The process is being led by an advisory group of NYCHA residents, academics, healthcare practitioners, and representatives of community organizations. The group is drafting a set of priorities to help guide implementation of the ban, according to DOHMH, including principles related to education, cessation support, communication, and enforcement.

In December, DOHMH will be launching new efforts to help NYCHA residents connect to smoking cessation resources and to "help them address the longstanding injustices brought by tobacco companies who target low-income communities and communities of color." According to DOHMH, "NYCHA residents have made their priorities clear: they want to live in smoke-free environments, but the implementation of Smoke-free Public Housing must be resident-led, include resources and support from NYCHA and DOHMH, and focused on celebrating success."

City Council Member Ritchie Torres, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Public Housing and grew up in NYCHA, expressed reservations in a Monday interview with Gotham Gazette. “I agree with the sentiment,” Torres said of the smoking ban. “I agree with investing in more programs to curb smoking. But, I disagree with a coercive approach.”

Torres said that while he may not chair the committee next year when a new class of the City Council is seated and new positions assigned (Torres is running to be the speaker of the Council), “We should have a hearing ahead of implementation.”

Despite criticism from residents and skepticism from high-ranking city officials, anti-smoking advocates are impressed with NYCHA’s efforts so far. “They are doing a lot,” affirmed Michael Davoli, Director of New York Metro Government Relations at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “They have a concrete plan.”

However, Davoli questioned the mayor’s and governor’s financial commitment to financing the distribution of effective tobacco cessation services to NYCHA residents, like written materials and nicotine replacement therapy (NRTs). “The question is, is the money going to be put into it to really provide NYCHA the resources to provide smoking cessation,” said Davoli. “This is an opportunity for the mayor and the governor to really help these people quit once and for all.”

When pressed for more information on how much funding the mayor will provide the authority, NYCHA did not provide specifics. “We are working with the Office of the Mayor throughout this process to further support his tobacco and smoking control policies,” said Blake.

Although the amount of money City Hall is willing to commit is unclear, the city’s current efforts against smoking support NYCHA’s. In April of this year, the Health Department launched a media campaign to educate New Yorkers “on the dangers of secondhand smoke at home and encouraging them to make their home smoke-free.” The press release announcing the effort says it “is aligned with the recent smoke-free rule passed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development” that will require NYCHA to go smoke-free.

“We certainly don’t have lots of financial resources and so we’re leveraging our partners to make sure we’re that connecting residents to appropriate services,” explained NYCHA’s Sherman, possibly in reference to NYCHA’s budget woes. “But we certainly are putting our best foot forward to taking a multi-faceted approach to implementing this policy.”

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by Ben Weiss, Gotham Gazette

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NYCHA Prepares to Implement Smoking Ban Mon, 13 Nov 2017 05:00:00 +0000
Under Trump, A Potential Silver Lining for NYCHA http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7152:under-trump-a-potential-silver-lining-for-nycha http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7152:under-trump-a-potential-silver-lining-for-nycha nycha aerial

NYCHA and the city (photo: @ZodetN)


Since the January inauguration of Donald Trump as president, department heads and administrators throughout New York City government have been bracing for negative reverberations, with many expecting slashed federal spending and harmful policy rollbacks.

At least one city agency sees a potential silver lining. Shola Olatoye, the chair and CEO of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) – the authority tasked with running public housing serving about 400,000 city residents – has sent a letter to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with a list of regulations that the agency finds unnecessarily cumbersome or counterproductive.

The letter, dated June 14 of this year, was sent in response to a request for public comment by sent out by HUD as part of its efforts to comply with Executive Order 13777, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs” – Trump’s seventh, signed on January 30 – which is probably best known for requiring that for every new regulation issued by a federal agency, two others must be identified for repeal. The order also requires that, in most cases, agencies cannot issue regulations estimated to increase costs without offsetting that cost with other regulatory savings.

Olatoye mentioned that NYCHA was seeking federal regulatory rollbacks when asked about any potential positives for the authority under the Trump administration during an episode of the “What’s the [Data] Point?” podcast from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission. “I strongly believe the federal government has an obligation—legal obligation—to continue to fund it, support it, and invest in it. Full stop,” Olatoye said of public housing.

“Can we use the, shall we say, bias of this administration towards the private sector, towards deregulation to help us? Absolutely, and we should. We have a three-page list of regulations that would allow us to move faster in the development process,” she added.

The letter, addressed to HUD’s Office of General Counsel, states that NYCHA “believes that many of HUD’s regulations are essential for the federal government to provide safe, quality housing for low-income households,” but adds that “NYCHA believes that through regulatory modifications HUD can increase the effectiveness of [public housing authorities’] core functions.”

The rationale is largely that red tape emanating from D.C. needlessly imposes onerous controls that raise costs and slows down NYCHA’s daily operations. For several specific regulations that NYCHA identifies, it states that required processes are either unnecessary or “less effective than local determinations.”

The recommendations to HUD encompass three broad categories: to “align with private housing industry practices to increase efficiency and further public-private partnerships”; to “utilize state and local data and knowledge to ensure HUD is responsive to market changes and to increase accuracy of HUD expenditures”; and to “reduce duplicative requirements, simplify approval processes, and increase flexibility to increase [public housing authority] efficiency, shift decision-making to the local level, and reduce HUD’s monitoring.”

Each of these is further broken down into particular areas, with lists and brief descriptions of specific active or forthcoming regulations that the agency wants reconsidered.

For example, a subsection under the state and local data subheading asks HUD to modify 24 CFR § 888.113 (e) – a reference to Title 24 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which delineates HUD regulations. That section deals with allowable data sources to determine what constitutes a fair market rent in an area; NYCHA would like HUD to allow the evaluation to take into account data compiled locally by public housing authorities (PHA) to more accurately gauge market conditions. Current standards call for the usage of the American Community Survey and local survey data collected through mail and phone surveys.

Many of the changes proposed by NYCHA would address grievances largely particular to a housing authority of its size and operational complexity (it is the largest PHA in North America, operating over 176,000 apartments in addition to managing the city’s Section 8 rental assistance voucher program). Like the market rent request, several would seek to transfer functions and processes to local control and move certain costs more in line with local standards.

In all there are just over 20 different regulatory stipulations and notices that NYCHA is requesting be modified. A review of the public database of comments submitted to HUD in relation to assessing regulations shows that the federal agency has received documentation from multiple public housing authorities, including the Philadelphia Housing Authority, San Diego Housing Commission, and the Illinois Housing Development Authority, among multiple others. NYCHA’s submission appears to be one of the longest, at 12 pages.

Brian Sullivan, a spokesperson for HUD, said the agency could not comment on whether any particular regulations have yet been identified as priorities for reexamination but that it was currently in the process of going through public comments and determining how to proceed.

A recent New York magazine article reported that the department under recently appointed HUD Secretary Ben Carson has shown itself willing to tear down much of its administrative apparatus. The department’s Region II, which includes New York and New Jersey, also has a new administrator, Lynne Patton – a longtime confidant of the Trump family and event planner with the Trump organization – though it is not clear what role she would play in the regulatory review.

See the full letter below:

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by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

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Under Trump, A Potential Silver Lining for NYCHA Thu, 24 Aug 2017 02:36:23 +0000
A Case for None-Time-Limited Supportive Housing for Young Adults http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6089:a-case-for-none-time-limited-supportive-housing-for-young-adults http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6089:a-case-for-none-time-limited-supportive-housing-for-young-adults bdb thrive nyc booklet

Mayor de Blasio with the city's mental health plan (photo: Mike Appleton)


Recently there has been a great deal of interest in young adult supportive housing without time limits or age caps. We may be witnessing the beginning stages of a paradigm shift in which there is acknowledgement of developmental variations among youth. Both Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and United States Interagency Council on Housing (USICH) consider this as a potentially more effective approach to ending youth homelessness.

Traditionally, housing for youth has been transitional. Even when 'permanent supportive housing' is used, most programs involve length of stay limits (usually 18-24 months), and age caps meant to define true adulthood and capability to live independently without support services.

Transitional programs generally have fairly regimented guidelines with the expectation that "graduation" from the program will enable each youth to move into their own apartment and achieve self-sufficiency. However, many of these youths move in with family or friends "temporarily" or are admitted to another time-limited housing program based on their need of continued services. A large number of these youths/young adults are dealing with past trauma and may have special needs such as mental health and substance abuse issues making it difficult, if not impossible, to live independently.

At West End we believe non-time-limited affordable housing with support services onsite is another effective solution in the spectrum of services for homeless and formerly homeless youth. Our "True Colors" supportive housing programs for formerly homeless LGBT youth are new and innovative examples of this model.

Each residence consists of 30 studio apartments, community space, computer lab/resource library, and laundry facilities. West End staffs each with a program director, clinical case manager, and life skills training manager, along with 24-hour security and a live-in building superintendent.

While tenants must be 18-24 years old upon move-in, they may stay as long as they need or choose providing they comply with their rental lease agreement and basic house rules. Our service delivery involves trauma informed care and harm reduction techniques.

We chose this supportive housing model because we believe the development of independent living skills is an organic process unique to each individual and that arbitrary age and programmatic time frames do not define actual needs or abilities, especially for those who are severely traumatized by homelessness, family rejection, and loss of support.

The success of our residents speaks to the quality and appropriateness of the model. Of the original tenants at the True Colors Residence, which opened four years ago, well over half have moved on to fully independent affordable housing while others still in need of our services remain supportive housing tenants. Equally impressive is the noted decrease in substance abuse, down from 60% to 30%, as well as the reduction of unemployment from 40% to 20%.

The provision of supportive housing without time limits is an effective way to end homelessness for young adults - for more information the USICH webinar on the subject is a great resource. We are pleased by both the Mayor's and the Governor's commitment to increase the supply of supportive housing units and look forward to working with the City and State to provide housing and services for LGBT young adults in need.

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Colleen Jackson is Chief Executive Officer of West End Residences HDFC, Inc. On Twitter @WestEndResNYC.

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A Case for None-Time-Limited Supportive Housing for Young Adults Thu, 14 Jan 2016 18:57:17 +0000