Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/nycha 2017-12-12T16:10:59+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Max & Murphy Podcast: NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye 2017-12-07T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-07T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7355:max-murphy-podcast-nycha-ceo-shola-olatoye Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>December 7, 2017 - Max &amp; Murphy: NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/shola-olayote-277.jpg" alt="shola olayote 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye has been at the center of a firestorm lately related to the public housing authority's lapses in lead paint inspections, violating federal and city laws, filing faulty documentation, and not telling NYCHA residents and the public about the years-long gaps as soon as leadership discovered them.</p> <p>Olatoye faced hours of questioning at a City Council oversight hearing on Tuesday, then joined the podcast on Thursday for some follow-up and other questions about the lead paint situation and more. Olatoye discusses whether she and NYCHA need to regain residents' trust, whether she offered Mayor Bill de Blasio her resignation, and where the conversation around NYCHA -- home to more than 400,000 New Yorkers -- needs to go next.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@jarrettmurphy</a>&nbsp;and guest <a href="https://twitter.com/SholaOlatoye" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SholaOlatoye</a> of <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCHA" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCHA</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/366388889&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/max-murphy-housing.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>December 7, 2017 - Max &amp; Murphy: NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/podcast/shola-olayote-277.jpg" alt="shola olayote 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye has been at the center of a firestorm lately related to the public housing authority's lapses in lead paint inspections, violating federal and city laws, filing faulty documentation, and not telling NYCHA residents and the public about the years-long gaps as soon as leadership discovered them.</p> <p>Olatoye faced hours of questioning at a City Council oversight hearing on Tuesday, then joined the podcast on Thursday for some follow-up and other questions about the lead paint situation and more. Olatoye discusses whether she and NYCHA need to regain residents' trust, whether she offered Mayor Bill de Blasio her resignation, and where the conversation around NYCHA -- home to more than 400,000 New Yorkers -- needs to go next.</p> <p>Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@jarrettmurphy</a>&nbsp;and guest <a href="https://twitter.com/SholaOlatoye" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SholaOlatoye</a> of <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCHA" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCHA</a>. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/366388889&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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What's the State Role in NYCHA Oversight? 2017-11-27T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-27T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7332:what-s-the-state-role-in-nycha-oversight Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/torres_nycha_monitor_idc_presser.jpg" alt="torres nycha monitor idc presser" width="600" height="458" /></p> <p>CM Torres and the call for a state NYCHA monitor (photo: @RitchieTorres)</p> <hr /> <p>As Mayor Bill de Blasio and leaders of the embattled New York City Housing Authority continue to respond to fallout from revelations that NYCHA had failed for years to comply with federal and local laws around lead paint inspections, some elected officials are renewing calls for the state take a more active role in the city’s massive public housing system.</p> <p>NYCHA, which has <a href="https://sites.williams.edu/envi-322-s16/mold-in-new-york-city-public-housing-by-lili-bierer/designed-in-oppression-the-history-of-nyc-public-housing-mirrors-current-poor-conditions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">for decades</a> has been plagued by lapses in safety protocols, sometimes <a href="http://abc7ny.com/news/nycha-was-warned-hours-before-elevator-death-investigation-finds/1267322/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">with tragic results</a>, includes 175,000 housing units home to well over the official tally of 400,000 New Yorkers. A report by the city’s Department of Investigation (DOI), released earlier this month, indicates that NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye knew of deficiencies in lead inspections in early 2016 but signed off on paperwork submitted to the federal government certifying that all the regulations had been met. Olatoye explained that soon after she had become aware of the gap, which began under the prior administration, she alerted NYCHA’s federal regulators and jumpstarted the lead inspections.</p> <p>DOI called for the appointment of a “third-party monitor” to ensure compliance with lead and safety rules as well as to perform regular safety checks on NYCHA units.</p> <p>De Blasio and Olatoye have resisted both the calls for more state oversight and the recommendation for the outside monitor, instead implementing their own set of reforms, including new protocols and a new internal compliance unit, while multiple top NYCHA officials were either forced out or demoted. Though he also sat on the revelations for over a year, de Blasio argued that NYCHA was already addressing the lead inspection shortfalls and admitted that he should have made the issue public sooner. He has strongly pushed back against calls for Olatoye’s removal.</p> <p>As a public authority, the 84-year-old agency -- the oldest and largest such low- and middle-income housing provider in the country -- is technically under the purview of the state, though state law grants the mayor control over appointment of board members and leadership.</p> <p>But in the wake of the lead-inspection revelations, several lawmakers want an increased state role in NYCHA oversight. Members of the state Senate Independent Democratic Conference, led by Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx, held a November 20 press conference to push for a state monitor, as outlined in legislation introduced by Klein earlier this year, which would create an Office of the Independent Monitor within the Department of Homes and Community Renewal, to be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. Klein and other members of the IDC were also joined by City Council Member Ritchie Torres, chair of the Council’s public housing committee, and other elected officials.</p> <p>The state played a larger role in financing and governing the agency <a href="https://law.justia.com/codes/new-york/2014/pbg/article-13/title-1/402/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in the years</a> immediately after World War II, when there was a large state-wide public housing program, but that contribution shrunk over time to near non-existence, and NYCHA <a href="https://council.nyc.gov/budget/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2016/05/NYCHA.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">relies almost entirely</a> on the federal housing agency, HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), for subsidizing its operating and capital needs.</p> <p>While NYCHA has accumulated the $17 billion in capital needs to get into a state of good repair, the authority has also struggled to remain in the black in its yearly operating budget, which has actually been stabilized under de Blasio and Olatoye, even without state money.</p> <p>State-provided operating subsidies to NYCHA were ended by Governor George Pataki in 1998, leaving the housing agency with a $60 million annual operating shortfall, according to NYCHA records. To address its growing annual operating deficit, which was as high as $235 million in 2006, NYCHA transferred many federal subsidies meant for capital improvements into operations, which ensured the system would fall into further disrepair. Since 2006, NYCHA’s personnel has been reduced from 15,000 to 11,000, with many of the jobs lost white collar positions that played a role in compliance. New York City followed the State’s example and by 2004 it had essentially stopped subsidizing NYCHA operations, further crippling the agency, according to according to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/130-opinion/6174-rebuilding-nycha-a-fresh-look" target="_blank" rel="noopener">urban historian and professor Dr. Nicholas Dagen Bloom</a>, co-editor of the anthology <a href="https://press.princeton.edu/titles/10548.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Affordable Housing in New York</a>.</p> <p>“In the past 20 years, there’s a been a federal reduction, but compared to the state and city, HUD is really the only game in town,” said Bloom. “The city and state are almost entirely dependent on HUD for the real or long term oversight. So, there’s kind of a bureaucratic insanity where there is less money, but [NYCHA] is supposed to maintain the same standards.”</p> <p>NYCHA <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7299-de-blasio-s-record-on-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has been stabilized somewhat under de Blasio</a>, with the 2015 release of NextGeneration NYCHA, an ambitious, 10-year strategic plan to get the authority back on track. Thanks to an increase in city investment, the operating budget is no longer running a deficit and plans are moving ahead to bring in more revenue, but NYCHA has not made much headway in addressing the billions of dollars worth of unmet capital needs. As part of the plan, the de Blasio administration relieved NYCHA of more than $100 million in annual bills toward police services and property taxes. In 2015 and 2016, for the first time in years, the authority achieved an operating surplus, one just under HUD’s recommended three-month cushion. However, the most recent $35 million federal cut, <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/federal-aid-reduced-for-new-york-city-housing-authority-1488844639?tesla=y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announced in March</a>, is expected to plummet NYCHA’s operating budget back into the red.</p> <p>Over the past few years, NYCHA has benefited from some capital investment from the city address some infrastructural deficiencies. Since 2015 the city has infused the authority with $1.3 billion to fix 952 roofs, benefiting 175,478 NYCHA residents, as well as $555 million to repair 409 facades, according to a spokesperson for the de Blasio administration. Although the State has historically provided capital funds for NYCHA developments, in 2001, state contributions were reduced from $15 million to $6.4 million a year and dwindled completely by 2007, with the exception of a few one-time investments like $100 million for NYCHA (managed by Dorm Authority for the State of New York) for playgrounds and security cameras in 2015, and $200 million for boilers and elevators in 2017, <a href="https://council.nyc.gov/budget/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2016/05/NYCHA.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to city records</a>.</p> <p>However, infrastructure problems and public health crises persist throughout NYCHA, and since 2015, the IDC and Council Member Torres have been calling for the state to take more fiscal and regulatory responsibility for the city’s public housing system, a recommendation Governor Andrew Cuomo <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2015/05/cuomo-city-at-odds-over-funding-for-nycha-022540" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has in the past shrugged off</a>, incorrectly characterizing the housing authority a “federal agency” and wrongly declaring state contributions as “unprecedented.”</p> <p>Senator Klein’s <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/s5788" target="_blank" rel="noopener">state monitor bill</a> unanimously passed the Senate on the final day of the 2017 legislative session, but has not been considered by the Assembly. Spokespersons for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and the Assembly’s housing committee chair, Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, did not respond to requests for comment on the bill.</p> <p>Joining the calls for a state monitor amid the lead inspection fallout is not only Torres, but also Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who in a letter to Governor Cuomo, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the federal government has demonstrated itself to be an unreliable partner to the city.</p> <p>“Only the state has the ability to appoint a credible monitor to examine NYCHA at this time,” Diaz Jr. said in a statement. “More than 400,000 New Yorkers call our city’s public housing developments their home. The families who call our city’s public housing developments home deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. It is now plainly clear that a state-appointed monitor is the only way to make that happen.”</p> <p>In response to the latest calls for significantly more state involvement in NYCHA, Cuomo spokesperson Abbey Fashouer said in a statement, “We have continuously expressed concerns with NYCHA’s operational failures and these latest allegations -- and potential legal violations -- that the agency knowingly committed by exposing New Yorkers to lead paint are particularly disturbing. We have received the letter, and we are reviewing it with our fellow state partners, the Attorney General and the State Comptroller.”</p> <p>De Blasio, at a press conference last week, appeared resistant to the idea of increased state involvement, emphasizing that the pertinent authority over the city’s public housing system is HUD and stressing that a federal investigation by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York already identified NYCHA’s lead screening lapses in 2016 and that the city was taking steps to remedy it.</p> <p>“The pertinent authority here is the federal government,” said de Blasio at a press conference on November 20. “I think it’s important that agencies respect their fellow agencies. So, this is the top level of government that is the funder of a lot of NYCHA’s operations and has legal oversight responsibility. And for two years, they’ve been involved in this issue. I think that should be respected.”</p> <p>While de Blasio acknowledged that the federal investigation into NYCHA is ongoing and that the city is continuing to cooperate, he said it could lead to a federal monitor of the housing authority, similar to those in place at the NYPD and Department of Correction. Instead of a state or independent monitor at this time, NYCHA is creating an Executive Compliance Department, with Chief Compliance Officer Edna Wells Handy at its head. Handy has been counsel to the NYPD commissioner. The mayor has also rebuffed calls from Public Advocate Tish James to fire Olatoye, defending his public housing chief, saying that she has been instrumental in turning the authority around.</p> <p>“I’m convinced that the leadership we have now is part of the solution to the problems that plague NYCHA,” de Blasio said at the November 20 press conference. De Blasio also referenced the personnel changes beneath Olatoye, though those were only made once the lead inspection scandal had become public through the Department of Investigation, not soon after Olatoye and de Blasio first learned of the inspection lapses.</p> <p>Critics say steps taken by the de Blasio administration are insufficient. "Calling these changes ‘sweeping’ hardly makes them so. ‎An internal compliance department is no substitute for an independent monitor. NYCHA's failure to recognize the need for third-party accountability will only deepen the damage to its credibility," said Council Member Torres.</p> <p>A spokesperson for the DOI, reiterated its call for the external NYCHA monitor to be housed at the independent city agency, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. The spokesperson noted that DOI already has a “robust integrity monitor program” with 18 active monitorships “overseeing an array of integrity issues that include construction, city-funded not for profits, and information technology.”</p> <p>Professor Bloom said he is not surprised there is little enthusiasm from Cuomo’s office for the state to get involved.</p> <p>“The underlying problem is NYCHA residents don’t vote at very high levels -- New York City residents don’t vote -- and upstate, public housing is not a priority. It’s a very small program upstate. [It’s a question of whether] there is the political will,” said Bloom.</p> <p>According to Bloom, the calls for external monitors may be beside the point. While the creation of additional compliance entities may produce more reports (and bureaucracy), without a significant investment of funds to address the lead problem at its root cause, these steps are unlikely to improve quality of life for NYCHA residents. Currently federal regulations require that NYCHA inspect all 55,000 apartments with presumed lead paint, and NYCHA must prioritize apartments with children under six-years-old listed as residents. The city insists that the number of affected apartments is low; that between 2010 and 2016 there were only 17 documented cases requiring lead abatement at 18 NYCHA apartments where children with elevated blood lead levels live. Four of these cases occurring after 2014, according to de Blasio’s office, but <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/city-numbers-lead-poisoning-public-housing-may-be-misleading/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a WNYC report</a> suggests that these numbers may be skewed, since the city defines "elevated lead levels" at 10 micrograms per deciliter -- double the U.S Center for Disease Control standard since 2012.</p> <p>“If you really want to make NYCHA lead-free -- and the case could be made that there should be no lead in any of these apartments -- well, that will require a much more extensive cleaning that will cost a lot of money,” Bloom said. A state-run and financed “lead abatement program” for NYCHA, for example, would likely be welcomed by the housing authority, Bloom added.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio said that two rounds of inspections and amelioration were already underway has vowed that NYCHA would soon been in compliance. On Monday, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/embarrassed-nycha-break-locks-remove-toxic-lead-paint-article-1.3659243" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Daily News reported</a> that NYCHA residents had been notified that inspectors would force entry into units, removing and replacing door locks if tenants were not home during a designated time window.</p> <p>“We will be in compliance with Local Law One next month and then we intend to stay in compliance with Local Law One every year thereafter,” de Blasio said at the November 20 press conference. “And that is important because what that means essentially is as soon as inspections and amelioration ends for one year, you start essentially immediately thereafter for the next year. So there will be a continuous inspection cycle from this point on. Any resources that NYCHA needs for that effort will be provided.”</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/torres_nycha_monitor_idc_presser.jpg" alt="torres nycha monitor idc presser" width="600" height="458" /></p> <p>CM Torres and the call for a state NYCHA monitor (photo: @RitchieTorres)</p> <hr /> <p>As Mayor Bill de Blasio and leaders of the embattled New York City Housing Authority continue to respond to fallout from revelations that NYCHA had failed for years to comply with federal and local laws around lead paint inspections, some elected officials are renewing calls for the state take a more active role in the city’s massive public housing system.</p> <p>NYCHA, which has <a href="https://sites.williams.edu/envi-322-s16/mold-in-new-york-city-public-housing-by-lili-bierer/designed-in-oppression-the-history-of-nyc-public-housing-mirrors-current-poor-conditions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">for decades</a> has been plagued by lapses in safety protocols, sometimes <a href="http://abc7ny.com/news/nycha-was-warned-hours-before-elevator-death-investigation-finds/1267322/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">with tragic results</a>, includes 175,000 housing units home to well over the official tally of 400,000 New Yorkers. A report by the city’s Department of Investigation (DOI), released earlier this month, indicates that NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye knew of deficiencies in lead inspections in early 2016 but signed off on paperwork submitted to the federal government certifying that all the regulations had been met. Olatoye explained that soon after she had become aware of the gap, which began under the prior administration, she alerted NYCHA’s federal regulators and jumpstarted the lead inspections.</p> <p>DOI called for the appointment of a “third-party monitor” to ensure compliance with lead and safety rules as well as to perform regular safety checks on NYCHA units.</p> <p>De Blasio and Olatoye have resisted both the calls for more state oversight and the recommendation for the outside monitor, instead implementing their own set of reforms, including new protocols and a new internal compliance unit, while multiple top NYCHA officials were either forced out or demoted. Though he also sat on the revelations for over a year, de Blasio argued that NYCHA was already addressing the lead inspection shortfalls and admitted that he should have made the issue public sooner. He has strongly pushed back against calls for Olatoye’s removal.</p> <p>As a public authority, the 84-year-old agency -- the oldest and largest such low- and middle-income housing provider in the country -- is technically under the purview of the state, though state law grants the mayor control over appointment of board members and leadership.</p> <p>But in the wake of the lead-inspection revelations, several lawmakers want an increased state role in NYCHA oversight. Members of the state Senate Independent Democratic Conference, led by Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx, held a November 20 press conference to push for a state monitor, as outlined in legislation introduced by Klein earlier this year, which would create an Office of the Independent Monitor within the Department of Homes and Community Renewal, to be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. Klein and other members of the IDC were also joined by City Council Member Ritchie Torres, chair of the Council’s public housing committee, and other elected officials.</p> <p>The state played a larger role in financing and governing the agency <a href="https://law.justia.com/codes/new-york/2014/pbg/article-13/title-1/402/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in the years</a> immediately after World War II, when there was a large state-wide public housing program, but that contribution shrunk over time to near non-existence, and NYCHA <a href="https://council.nyc.gov/budget/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2016/05/NYCHA.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">relies almost entirely</a> on the federal housing agency, HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), for subsidizing its operating and capital needs.</p> <p>While NYCHA has accumulated the $17 billion in capital needs to get into a state of good repair, the authority has also struggled to remain in the black in its yearly operating budget, which has actually been stabilized under de Blasio and Olatoye, even without state money.</p> <p>State-provided operating subsidies to NYCHA were ended by Governor George Pataki in 1998, leaving the housing agency with a $60 million annual operating shortfall, according to NYCHA records. To address its growing annual operating deficit, which was as high as $235 million in 2006, NYCHA transferred many federal subsidies meant for capital improvements into operations, which ensured the system would fall into further disrepair. Since 2006, NYCHA’s personnel has been reduced from 15,000 to 11,000, with many of the jobs lost white collar positions that played a role in compliance. New York City followed the State’s example and by 2004 it had essentially stopped subsidizing NYCHA operations, further crippling the agency, according to according to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/130-opinion/6174-rebuilding-nycha-a-fresh-look" target="_blank" rel="noopener">urban historian and professor Dr. Nicholas Dagen Bloom</a>, co-editor of the anthology <a href="https://press.princeton.edu/titles/10548.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Affordable Housing in New York</a>.</p> <p>“In the past 20 years, there’s a been a federal reduction, but compared to the state and city, HUD is really the only game in town,” said Bloom. “The city and state are almost entirely dependent on HUD for the real or long term oversight. So, there’s kind of a bureaucratic insanity where there is less money, but [NYCHA] is supposed to maintain the same standards.”</p> <p>NYCHA <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7299-de-blasio-s-record-on-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has been stabilized somewhat under de Blasio</a>, with the 2015 release of NextGeneration NYCHA, an ambitious, 10-year strategic plan to get the authority back on track. Thanks to an increase in city investment, the operating budget is no longer running a deficit and plans are moving ahead to bring in more revenue, but NYCHA has not made much headway in addressing the billions of dollars worth of unmet capital needs. As part of the plan, the de Blasio administration relieved NYCHA of more than $100 million in annual bills toward police services and property taxes. In 2015 and 2016, for the first time in years, the authority achieved an operating surplus, one just under HUD’s recommended three-month cushion. However, the most recent $35 million federal cut, <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/federal-aid-reduced-for-new-york-city-housing-authority-1488844639?tesla=y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announced in March</a>, is expected to plummet NYCHA’s operating budget back into the red.</p> <p>Over the past few years, NYCHA has benefited from some capital investment from the city address some infrastructural deficiencies. Since 2015 the city has infused the authority with $1.3 billion to fix 952 roofs, benefiting 175,478 NYCHA residents, as well as $555 million to repair 409 facades, according to a spokesperson for the de Blasio administration. Although the State has historically provided capital funds for NYCHA developments, in 2001, state contributions were reduced from $15 million to $6.4 million a year and dwindled completely by 2007, with the exception of a few one-time investments like $100 million for NYCHA (managed by Dorm Authority for the State of New York) for playgrounds and security cameras in 2015, and $200 million for boilers and elevators in 2017, <a href="https://council.nyc.gov/budget/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2016/05/NYCHA.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">according to city records</a>.</p> <p>However, infrastructure problems and public health crises persist throughout NYCHA, and since 2015, the IDC and Council Member Torres have been calling for the state to take more fiscal and regulatory responsibility for the city’s public housing system, a recommendation Governor Andrew Cuomo <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2015/05/cuomo-city-at-odds-over-funding-for-nycha-022540" target="_blank" rel="noopener">has in the past shrugged off</a>, incorrectly characterizing the housing authority a “federal agency” and wrongly declaring state contributions as “unprecedented.”</p> <p>Senator Klein’s <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/s5788" target="_blank" rel="noopener">state monitor bill</a> unanimously passed the Senate on the final day of the 2017 legislative session, but has not been considered by the Assembly. Spokespersons for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and the Assembly’s housing committee chair, Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz, did not respond to requests for comment on the bill.</p> <p>Joining the calls for a state monitor amid the lead inspection fallout is not only Torres, but also Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who in a letter to Governor Cuomo, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the federal government has demonstrated itself to be an unreliable partner to the city.</p> <p>“Only the state has the ability to appoint a credible monitor to examine NYCHA at this time,” Diaz Jr. said in a statement. “More than 400,000 New Yorkers call our city’s public housing developments their home. The families who call our city’s public housing developments home deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. It is now plainly clear that a state-appointed monitor is the only way to make that happen.”</p> <p>In response to the latest calls for significantly more state involvement in NYCHA, Cuomo spokesperson Abbey Fashouer said in a statement, “We have continuously expressed concerns with NYCHA’s operational failures and these latest allegations -- and potential legal violations -- that the agency knowingly committed by exposing New Yorkers to lead paint are particularly disturbing. We have received the letter, and we are reviewing it with our fellow state partners, the Attorney General and the State Comptroller.”</p> <p>De Blasio, at a press conference last week, appeared resistant to the idea of increased state involvement, emphasizing that the pertinent authority over the city’s public housing system is HUD and stressing that a federal investigation by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York already identified NYCHA’s lead screening lapses in 2016 and that the city was taking steps to remedy it.</p> <p>“The pertinent authority here is the federal government,” said de Blasio at a press conference on November 20. “I think it’s important that agencies respect their fellow agencies. So, this is the top level of government that is the funder of a lot of NYCHA’s operations and has legal oversight responsibility. And for two years, they’ve been involved in this issue. I think that should be respected.”</p> <p>While de Blasio acknowledged that the federal investigation into NYCHA is ongoing and that the city is continuing to cooperate, he said it could lead to a federal monitor of the housing authority, similar to those in place at the NYPD and Department of Correction. Instead of a state or independent monitor at this time, NYCHA is creating an Executive Compliance Department, with Chief Compliance Officer Edna Wells Handy at its head. Handy has been counsel to the NYPD commissioner. The mayor has also rebuffed calls from Public Advocate Tish James to fire Olatoye, defending his public housing chief, saying that she has been instrumental in turning the authority around.</p> <p>“I’m convinced that the leadership we have now is part of the solution to the problems that plague NYCHA,” de Blasio said at the November 20 press conference. De Blasio also referenced the personnel changes beneath Olatoye, though those were only made once the lead inspection scandal had become public through the Department of Investigation, not soon after Olatoye and de Blasio first learned of the inspection lapses.</p> <p>Critics say steps taken by the de Blasio administration are insufficient. "Calling these changes ‘sweeping’ hardly makes them so. ‎An internal compliance department is no substitute for an independent monitor. NYCHA's failure to recognize the need for third-party accountability will only deepen the damage to its credibility," said Council Member Torres.</p> <p>A spokesperson for the DOI, reiterated its call for the external NYCHA monitor to be housed at the independent city agency, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. The spokesperson noted that DOI already has a “robust integrity monitor program” with 18 active monitorships “overseeing an array of integrity issues that include construction, city-funded not for profits, and information technology.”</p> <p>Professor Bloom said he is not surprised there is little enthusiasm from Cuomo’s office for the state to get involved.</p> <p>“The underlying problem is NYCHA residents don’t vote at very high levels -- New York City residents don’t vote -- and upstate, public housing is not a priority. It’s a very small program upstate. [It’s a question of whether] there is the political will,” said Bloom.</p> <p>According to Bloom, the calls for external monitors may be beside the point. While the creation of additional compliance entities may produce more reports (and bureaucracy), without a significant investment of funds to address the lead problem at its root cause, these steps are unlikely to improve quality of life for NYCHA residents. Currently federal regulations require that NYCHA inspect all 55,000 apartments with presumed lead paint, and NYCHA must prioritize apartments with children under six-years-old listed as residents. The city insists that the number of affected apartments is low; that between 2010 and 2016 there were only 17 documented cases requiring lead abatement at 18 NYCHA apartments where children with elevated blood lead levels live. Four of these cases occurring after 2014, according to de Blasio’s office, but <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/city-numbers-lead-poisoning-public-housing-may-be-misleading/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a WNYC report</a> suggests that these numbers may be skewed, since the city defines "elevated lead levels" at 10 micrograms per deciliter -- double the U.S Center for Disease Control standard since 2012.</p> <p>“If you really want to make NYCHA lead-free -- and the case could be made that there should be no lead in any of these apartments -- well, that will require a much more extensive cleaning that will cost a lot of money,” Bloom said. A state-run and financed “lead abatement program” for NYCHA, for example, would likely be welcomed by the housing authority, Bloom added.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio said that two rounds of inspections and amelioration were already underway has vowed that NYCHA would soon been in compliance. On Monday, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/embarrassed-nycha-break-locks-remove-toxic-lead-paint-article-1.3659243" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Daily News reported</a> that NYCHA residents had been notified that inspectors would force entry into units, removing and replacing door locks if tenants were not home during a designated time window.</p> <p>“We will be in compliance with Local Law One next month and then we intend to stay in compliance with Local Law One every year thereafter,” de Blasio said at the November 20 press conference. “And that is important because what that means essentially is as soon as inspections and amelioration ends for one year, you start essentially immediately thereafter for the next year. So there will be a continuous inspection cycle from this point on. Any resources that NYCHA needs for that effort will be provided.”</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
City Council Ends Term with Flurry of Oversight Hearings 2017-11-19T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-19T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7328:city-council-ends-term-with-flurry-of-oversight-hearings Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/mmv_hearing_john_mccarten_city_council.jpg" alt="mmv hearing john mccarten city council" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Speaker Mark-Viverito (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><em>[Note: this article has been updated based on fluctuations in the City Council calendar]</em></p> <p>A flurry of oversight hearings are filling the City Council calendar as the Council enters its final month of the four-year session, most notably a hearing slated to address controversies over NYCHA’s falsified lead inspection reports, a hearing to discuss the city’s progress in closing Rikers Island jails, and a hearing on integrating the city's segregated public schools.</p> <p><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx">More than a dozen oversight hearings</a> are slated for Council committee discussion between November 20 and December 19 as this current iteration of the Council ends its term. A new class of Council members, many of whom are current officeholders who won reelection this fall, will be sworn in just after the new year, with a new Council Speaker chosen at the first full-body “stated meeting” in early January.</p> <p>At oversight hearings, Council members typically question the relevant top officials in the mayoral administration about the topic at hand, before testimony from other stakeholders, like advocates, non-governmental experts, or members of the public. While the hearings can be informative to Council members, journalists, advocates, and the broader public, further Council action will likely be taken in the next session, when many committee chair positions will have changed hands.</p> <p>Along with the oversight hearings on the NYCHA lead controversy and initial steps being taken toward closing Rikers jails, some of the scheduled oversight hearings deal with fighting homelessness, the NYPD’s role in school safety, mental health services for military veterans, evaluating workforce development programs, “the feasibility of microgrids,” and more.</p> <p>The oversight hearing scheduled to discuss closing Rikers, set for December 4, comes on the heels of the de Blasio administration’s release of a request for proposals to assess existing jails as potential sites to accommodate additional inmates and the overall need for space across the boroughs other than State Island, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has said no new jail will be opened.</p> <p>A 10-year plan issued by the mayor’s office in June committed to reducing the city’s jail population from the now roughly 9,500 to 5,000 within this time frame, while ensuring space in four borough jails for that smaller number of detainees.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is term-limited out of office at the end of the year, has been a driving force behind the mission to close Rikers jails. At a press conference on Thursday, she told Gotham Gazette that the hearing will be important in terms of examining progress on several fronts important to the larger goal.</p> <p>“There’s already sites that exist and what we have to do is look at how we can create a modern day facility that really addresses some of the concerns that were raised and the recommendations made in the independent commission report,” she said, referring to the issue of identifying space and the RFP being put out by the city whereby a consultant will be hired to study resources and need. She also referred to the report put forth by a commission she empaneled led by former New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, which crafted its own 10-year plan for closing Rikers jails.&nbsp;"There’s stuff to talk about, there’s other recommendations and action items that have to be taken, action that has to be taken and we can’t do that alone so it’s a matter of figuring out, where do we stand, what’s next to do, how quickly can we get it done,” Mark-Viverito said.</p> <p>The timeline for closing Rikers, the designation of responsibility, locations for housing detainees, the rate of population decline within the correctional facility, and a number of recent bail reform laws are topics of interest for the oversight hearing according to Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, chair of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice, which will host the hearing. Crowley will lead it, likely along with Mark-Viverito.</p> <p>“This would be the most ideal way of wrapping up the session because it’s an immense endeavor and one that clearly the Department of Corrections doesn’t have the talents right now and the ability to address,” Crowley told Gotham Gazette in an interview. “I’m hoping that we can put together recommendations for the mayor’s office to help make this plan more of a reality.”</p> <p>The NYCHA lead hearing was a recent addition to the slate, called by City Council Member Ritchie Torres, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Public Housing, in light of a Department of Investigations report revealing that NYCHA submitted false documentation of lead paint safety inspections never completed. The hearing, set for December 5, will discuss the practice and steps being taken to make things right, Torres said. According to the report, NYCHA failed to perform apartment inspections in 2013, 2014 and 2015 despite not having conducted the approximate 55,000 annual inspections required to satisfy the federal rule.</p> <p>The DOI report asserted that false paperwork was submitted even after NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye learned of the department’s non-compliance with city and federal rules. Olatoye is expected to appear before the committee during the oversight hearing next month. “I want to ask the chairperson about the agency’s practice of misleading the federal government about conducting lead paint inspections. Why did those practices transpire? When did she find out those practices were happening? How long did it take her before she revealed it to the general public and revealed it to DOI?” Torres told Gotham Gazette in an interview.</p> <p>In response to the DOI report and fallout, NYCHA announced personnel and programmatic changes. Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio has stated his support for Olatoye, whose departure has been called for by several people, most notably Public Advocate Letitia James.</p> <p>The Department of Investigation, Council Member Torres, and Public Advocate James, among others, have called for an independent monitor to oversee NYCHA inspections in the future. “NYCHA no longer has the credibility to monitor its own lead paint inspections. The only hope for restoring public confidence is an independent monitor,” Torres said.</p> <p>On December 7, the Council's education committee will hold an oversight hearing on "diversity in New York City schools," whereby the Council will check in on progress in reports from the Department of Education mandated by legislation co-sponsored by Council Members Brad Lander and Ritchie Torres.</p> <p>"This hearing will begin with testimony from the NYC Department of Education (DOE) about the plan they released in the spring (<a href="https://bradlander.nationbuilder.com/r?u=http%3A%2F%2Fschools.nyc.gov%2FNR%2Frdonlyres%2FD0799D8E-D4CD-45EF-A0D5-8F1DB246C2BA%2F0%2Fdiversity_final.pdf&amp;e=822327e927f5ca70ec4cc0c3c103361c2111bace&amp;utm_source=bradlander&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=wxy_response&amp;n=2" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://bradlander.nationbuilder.com/r?u%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fschools.nyc.gov%252FNR%252Frdonlyres%252FD0799D8E-D4CD-45EF-A0D5-8F1DB246C2BA%252F0%252Fdiversity_final.pdf%26e%3D822327e927f5ca70ec4cc0c3c103361c2111bace%26utm_source%3Dbradlander%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_campaign%3Dwxy_response%26n%3D2&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1511288945029000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGfBMLho06w-CXN2EyIlxv1Yv-KFg">“Equity and Excellence for All: Diversity in New York City Public Schools”</a>), the third-annual&nbsp;<a href="https://bradlander.nationbuilder.com/r?u=http%3A%2F%2Fschools.nyc.gov%2Fcommunity%2Fcity%2Fpublicaffairs%2FDemographic%2BReports.htm&amp;e=822327e927f5ca70ec4cc0c3c103361c2111bace&amp;utm_source=bradlander&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=wxy_response&amp;n=3" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://bradlander.nationbuilder.com/r?u%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fschools.nyc.gov%252Fcommunity%252Fcity%252Fpublicaffairs%252FDemographic%252BReports.htm%26e%3D822327e927f5ca70ec4cc0c3c103361c2111bace%26utm_source%3Dbradlander%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_campaign%3Dwxy_response%26n%3D3&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1511288945029000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHQtfHPwaIrq96mcC5n-8qWVyAEuA">“School Diversity Accountability Act” report</a>&nbsp;(just released last week), and other efforts such as their recently-announced&nbsp;<a href="https://bradlander.nationbuilder.com/r?u=http%3A%2F%2Fschools.nyc.gov%2FOffices%2Fmediarelations%2FNewsandSpeeches%2F2017-2018%2FD1Diversity.htm&amp;e=822327e927f5ca70ec4cc0c3c103361c2111bace&amp;utm_source=bradlander&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=wxy_response&amp;n=4" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://bradlander.nationbuilder.com/r?u%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fschools.nyc.gov%252FOffices%252Fmediarelations%252FNewsandSpeeches%252F2017-2018%252FD1Diversity.htm%26e%3D822327e927f5ca70ec4cc0c3c103361c2111bace%26utm_source%3Dbradlander%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_campaign%3Dwxy_response%26n%3D4&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1511288945029000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGw0oqxEL7Z_kduvhxi2X0DPPokuA">plan for District 1</a>&nbsp;and the work they are beginning for District 15 middle-schools," according to an announcemnt from Lander's office.</p> <p>"After that -- and just as important -- the hearing will also provide an opportunity for the City Council to hear public testimony from students, parents, educators, and advocates working to combat school segregation and create truly integrated schools," the Lander announcement adds.</p> <p>An oversight hearing to discuss career pathways and workforce development systems is also scheduled, for November 27. New York City’s population is notably underprepared for the workforce, with more than 3.3 million residents over the age of 25 lacking an associate’s degree or other level of college education, according to July 2016 <a href="https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/newyorkcitynewyork/PST045216" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Census data</a> estimates. Those with degrees are concentrated largely within Manhattan. The city’s launch of the Career Pathways program in 2014 was an initial step in addressing the issue; committed to improving working conditions for lower-wage workers emphasizing training and education and creating connections with city employers. While the program has shown some promise in reforming and overhauling the city’s approach to skill-building programs, Career Pathways still lacks permanent funding and has yet to establish the necessary system of referrals and partnerships, according to <a href="https://nycfuture.org/research/building-the-workforce-of-the-future" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> released by Center for an Urban Future in 2016.</p> <p>The oversight hearing will likely include an update on the status of the Career Pathways program from the city’s Department of Small Business Services and testimony from Stacy Woodruff of the Workforce Professionals Training Institute on changes within the job market, according to Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., chair of the Committee on Small Business.</p> <p>“November’s small business committee hearing will be geared towards gaining a better understanding of the progress of the Career Pathways program announced in 2014. As New York’s economy continues to evolve, it is essential we understand the ways in which we can anticipate that evolution and ensure we prepare New Yorkers for the jobs that will come along with it,” said Cornegy, whose committee will co-host the hearing with the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, chaired by Council Member Daneek Miller.</p> <p>Earlier this year, Mayor de Blasio announced a new plan to use city resources to spur 100,000 new, good-paying jobs, with an emphasis on making sure that current city residents and those who have long-lived in the city are able to fill the new jobs. The Career Pathways program is seen by many in economic development and job training circles as key to this effort, but experts say that it has been underfunded by the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>Under this City Council, a bill was passed and signed by the mayor in 2016 to establish a separate Department of Veterans Affairs, outside of the Mayor’s Office. The new department has a much bigger staff and budget than the old Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, and works to place veterans in jobs through Workforce1 centers, reduce homelessness among military veterans, connect veterans to benefits and services, including mental health care. An oversight meeting on Monday, November 20 included discussion of the city’s progress in providing mental health services for veterans.</p> <p>The hearing was co-hosted by the Committee on Mental Health, chaired by Council Member Andrew Cohen, and the Committee on Veterans, chaired by Council Member Eric Ulrich.</p> <p>“This is the end of the City Council session so it’s the last opportunity to check in here on the status of the newly created Department of Veterans, the overall services available to veterans. I’d like to make an inquiry into the nexus between Thrive[NYC] and our veterans, the number of veterans being serviced through Thrive and just kind of an overall taking the temperature of where we’re at in terms of connecting veterans with mental health services,” said Cohen, referring to the de Blasio administration’s large mental health care program spearheaded by First Lady Chirlane McCray.</p> <p>Also on the City Council calendar is an oversight hearing that took place Tuesday, November 21 to discuss “the feasibility of microgrids.” Local energy grids capable of disconnecting from central power sources and operating autonomously, microgrids are used to provide power when the traditional grid has been compromised by an emergency or major power outage. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which left 800,000 city residents without power, microgrids could offer an important alternative in helping deal with future storms.</p> <p>Such grids also enable greater use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, potentially allowing city residents more flexibility in their energy sources. “These types of small electricity grids have the potential to change the way we generate and consume power “ said Council Member Costa Constantinides, chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, in a statement to Gotham Gazette prior to the hearing, which his committee hosted in conjunction with the Committee on Consumer Affairs, chaired by Council Member Rafael Espinal. “We hope to learn more about how microgrids could be implemented in our city, how consumers could save money on utility bills, and hear feedback from environmental advocacy groups,” said Constantinides.</p> <p>On Monday, November 20, the committees on housing and on general welfare held an oversight hearing on how the city’s housing department coordinates with the city’s homeless services department and its welfare agency “to address the homelessness crisis.”</p> <p>Other <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">scheduled</a>&nbsp;oversight hearings, some of which have now occurred, include: a public safety committee hearing on “NYPD’s School Safety’s Role and Efforts to Improve School Climate”; the committees on higher education and technology on “CUNY Tech Incubators”; the committees on health and immigration on “Immigrant Access to Healthcare”; the governmental operations committee on “DCAS’s Energy Management and Energy Efficiency Initiatives”; the economic development committee on “NYC’s Sagging Air Cargo Industry”; the recovery and resiliency committee on “Update on assisting vulnerable populations in emergency evacuations”; the juvenile justice committee on “Trauma-Informed Services in the Juvenile Justice System”; the contracts committee on “Examining Existing Supports and Needs of Underrepresented Business Owners in City Procurement”; the aging committee on “Supporting Unpaid Caregivers”; the technology committee on "MODA's Data and Verification Plan"; the housing committee on "Housing Development Fund Corps. (HDFCs) &amp; Transparency"; the environmental protection committee on "The City’s Wastewater Infrastructure – Current Condition and Future Plans"; the economic development committee on "Economic Impact of Vacant Storefronts"; and a few others.&nbsp;</p> <p>(Note: be sure to re-check <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the Council calendar</a> as hearings are often postponed or canceled.)</p> <p>(Note: this article has been updated with information about an additional hearing.)</p> <p>

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by Grace Dixon for Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

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&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/mmv_hearing_john_mccarten_city_council.jpg" alt="mmv hearing john mccarten city council" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Speaker Mark-Viverito (photo: John McCarten/City Council)</p> <hr /> <p><em>[Note: this article has been updated based on fluctuations in the City Council calendar]</em></p> <p>A flurry of oversight hearings are filling the City Council calendar as the Council enters its final month of the four-year session, most notably a hearing slated to address controversies over NYCHA’s falsified lead inspection reports, a hearing to discuss the city’s progress in closing Rikers Island jails, and a hearing on integrating the city's segregated public schools.</p> <p><a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx">More than a dozen oversight hearings</a> are slated for Council committee discussion between November 20 and December 19 as this current iteration of the Council ends its term. A new class of Council members, many of whom are current officeholders who won reelection this fall, will be sworn in just after the new year, with a new Council Speaker chosen at the first full-body “stated meeting” in early January.</p> <p>At oversight hearings, Council members typically question the relevant top officials in the mayoral administration about the topic at hand, before testimony from other stakeholders, like advocates, non-governmental experts, or members of the public. While the hearings can be informative to Council members, journalists, advocates, and the broader public, further Council action will likely be taken in the next session, when many committee chair positions will have changed hands.</p> <p>Along with the oversight hearings on the NYCHA lead controversy and initial steps being taken toward closing Rikers jails, some of the scheduled oversight hearings deal with fighting homelessness, the NYPD’s role in school safety, mental health services for military veterans, evaluating workforce development programs, “the feasibility of microgrids,” and more.</p> <p>The oversight hearing scheduled to discuss closing Rikers, set for December 4, comes on the heels of the de Blasio administration’s release of a request for proposals to assess existing jails as potential sites to accommodate additional inmates and the overall need for space across the boroughs other than State Island, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has said no new jail will be opened.</p> <p>A 10-year plan issued by the mayor’s office in June committed to reducing the city’s jail population from the now roughly 9,500 to 5,000 within this time frame, while ensuring space in four borough jails for that smaller number of detainees.</p> <p>City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is term-limited out of office at the end of the year, has been a driving force behind the mission to close Rikers jails. At a press conference on Thursday, she told Gotham Gazette that the hearing will be important in terms of examining progress on several fronts important to the larger goal.</p> <p>“There’s already sites that exist and what we have to do is look at how we can create a modern day facility that really addresses some of the concerns that were raised and the recommendations made in the independent commission report,” she said, referring to the issue of identifying space and the RFP being put out by the city whereby a consultant will be hired to study resources and need. She also referred to the report put forth by a commission she empaneled led by former New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, which crafted its own 10-year plan for closing Rikers jails.&nbsp;"There’s stuff to talk about, there’s other recommendations and action items that have to be taken, action that has to be taken and we can’t do that alone so it’s a matter of figuring out, where do we stand, what’s next to do, how quickly can we get it done,” Mark-Viverito said.</p> <p>The timeline for closing Rikers, the designation of responsibility, locations for housing detainees, the rate of population decline within the correctional facility, and a number of recent bail reform laws are topics of interest for the oversight hearing according to Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, chair of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice, which will host the hearing. Crowley will lead it, likely along with Mark-Viverito.</p> <p>“This would be the most ideal way of wrapping up the session because it’s an immense endeavor and one that clearly the Department of Corrections doesn’t have the talents right now and the ability to address,” Crowley told Gotham Gazette in an interview. “I’m hoping that we can put together recommendations for the mayor’s office to help make this plan more of a reality.”</p> <p>The NYCHA lead hearing was a recent addition to the slate, called by City Council Member Ritchie Torres, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Public Housing, in light of a Department of Investigations report revealing that NYCHA submitted false documentation of lead paint safety inspections never completed. The hearing, set for December 5, will discuss the practice and steps being taken to make things right, Torres said. According to the report, NYCHA failed to perform apartment inspections in 2013, 2014 and 2015 despite not having conducted the approximate 55,000 annual inspections required to satisfy the federal rule.</p> <p>The DOI report asserted that false paperwork was submitted even after NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye learned of the department’s non-compliance with city and federal rules. Olatoye is expected to appear before the committee during the oversight hearing next month. “I want to ask the chairperson about the agency’s practice of misleading the federal government about conducting lead paint inspections. Why did those practices transpire? When did she find out those practices were happening? How long did it take her before she revealed it to the general public and revealed it to DOI?” Torres told Gotham Gazette in an interview.</p> <p>In response to the DOI report and fallout, NYCHA announced personnel and programmatic changes. Meanwhile, Mayor de Blasio has stated his support for Olatoye, whose departure has been called for by several people, most notably Public Advocate Letitia James.</p> <p>The Department of Investigation, Council Member Torres, and Public Advocate James, among others, have called for an independent monitor to oversee NYCHA inspections in the future. “NYCHA no longer has the credibility to monitor its own lead paint inspections. The only hope for restoring public confidence is an independent monitor,” Torres said.</p> <p>On December 7, the Council's education committee will hold an oversight hearing on "diversity in New York City schools," whereby the Council will check in on progress in reports from the Department of Education mandated by legislation co-sponsored by Council Members Brad Lander and Ritchie Torres.</p> <p>"This hearing will begin with testimony from the NYC Department of Education (DOE) about the plan they released in the spring (<a href="https://bradlander.nationbuilder.com/r?u=http%3A%2F%2Fschools.nyc.gov%2FNR%2Frdonlyres%2FD0799D8E-D4CD-45EF-A0D5-8F1DB246C2BA%2F0%2Fdiversity_final.pdf&amp;e=822327e927f5ca70ec4cc0c3c103361c2111bace&amp;utm_source=bradlander&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=wxy_response&amp;n=2" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://bradlander.nationbuilder.com/r?u%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fschools.nyc.gov%252FNR%252Frdonlyres%252FD0799D8E-D4CD-45EF-A0D5-8F1DB246C2BA%252F0%252Fdiversity_final.pdf%26e%3D822327e927f5ca70ec4cc0c3c103361c2111bace%26utm_source%3Dbradlander%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_campaign%3Dwxy_response%26n%3D2&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1511288945029000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGfBMLho06w-CXN2EyIlxv1Yv-KFg">“Equity and Excellence for All: Diversity in New York City Public Schools”</a>), the third-annual&nbsp;<a href="https://bradlander.nationbuilder.com/r?u=http%3A%2F%2Fschools.nyc.gov%2Fcommunity%2Fcity%2Fpublicaffairs%2FDemographic%2BReports.htm&amp;e=822327e927f5ca70ec4cc0c3c103361c2111bace&amp;utm_source=bradlander&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=wxy_response&amp;n=3" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://bradlander.nationbuilder.com/r?u%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fschools.nyc.gov%252Fcommunity%252Fcity%252Fpublicaffairs%252FDemographic%252BReports.htm%26e%3D822327e927f5ca70ec4cc0c3c103361c2111bace%26utm_source%3Dbradlander%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_campaign%3Dwxy_response%26n%3D3&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1511288945029000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHQtfHPwaIrq96mcC5n-8qWVyAEuA">“School Diversity Accountability Act” report</a>&nbsp;(just released last week), and other efforts such as their recently-announced&nbsp;<a href="https://bradlander.nationbuilder.com/r?u=http%3A%2F%2Fschools.nyc.gov%2FOffices%2Fmediarelations%2FNewsandSpeeches%2F2017-2018%2FD1Diversity.htm&amp;e=822327e927f5ca70ec4cc0c3c103361c2111bace&amp;utm_source=bradlander&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=wxy_response&amp;n=4" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://bradlander.nationbuilder.com/r?u%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fschools.nyc.gov%252FOffices%252Fmediarelations%252FNewsandSpeeches%252F2017-2018%252FD1Diversity.htm%26e%3D822327e927f5ca70ec4cc0c3c103361c2111bace%26utm_source%3Dbradlander%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_campaign%3Dwxy_response%26n%3D4&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1511288945029000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGw0oqxEL7Z_kduvhxi2X0DPPokuA">plan for District 1</a>&nbsp;and the work they are beginning for District 15 middle-schools," according to an announcemnt from Lander's office.</p> <p>"After that -- and just as important -- the hearing will also provide an opportunity for the City Council to hear public testimony from students, parents, educators, and advocates working to combat school segregation and create truly integrated schools," the Lander announcement adds.</p> <p>An oversight hearing to discuss career pathways and workforce development systems is also scheduled, for November 27. New York City’s population is notably underprepared for the workforce, with more than 3.3 million residents over the age of 25 lacking an associate’s degree or other level of college education, according to July 2016 <a href="https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/newyorkcitynewyork/PST045216" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Census data</a> estimates. Those with degrees are concentrated largely within Manhattan. The city’s launch of the Career Pathways program in 2014 was an initial step in addressing the issue; committed to improving working conditions for lower-wage workers emphasizing training and education and creating connections with city employers. While the program has shown some promise in reforming and overhauling the city’s approach to skill-building programs, Career Pathways still lacks permanent funding and has yet to establish the necessary system of referrals and partnerships, according to <a href="https://nycfuture.org/research/building-the-workforce-of-the-future" target="_blank" rel="noopener">report</a> released by Center for an Urban Future in 2016.</p> <p>The oversight hearing will likely include an update on the status of the Career Pathways program from the city’s Department of Small Business Services and testimony from Stacy Woodruff of the Workforce Professionals Training Institute on changes within the job market, according to Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr., chair of the Committee on Small Business.</p> <p>“November’s small business committee hearing will be geared towards gaining a better understanding of the progress of the Career Pathways program announced in 2014. As New York’s economy continues to evolve, it is essential we understand the ways in which we can anticipate that evolution and ensure we prepare New Yorkers for the jobs that will come along with it,” said Cornegy, whose committee will co-host the hearing with the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, chaired by Council Member Daneek Miller.</p> <p>Earlier this year, Mayor de Blasio announced a new plan to use city resources to spur 100,000 new, good-paying jobs, with an emphasis on making sure that current city residents and those who have long-lived in the city are able to fill the new jobs. The Career Pathways program is seen by many in economic development and job training circles as key to this effort, but experts say that it has been underfunded by the de Blasio administration.</p> <p>Under this City Council, a bill was passed and signed by the mayor in 2016 to establish a separate Department of Veterans Affairs, outside of the Mayor’s Office. The new department has a much bigger staff and budget than the old Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, and works to place veterans in jobs through Workforce1 centers, reduce homelessness among military veterans, connect veterans to benefits and services, including mental health care. An oversight meeting on Monday, November 20 included discussion of the city’s progress in providing mental health services for veterans.</p> <p>The hearing was co-hosted by the Committee on Mental Health, chaired by Council Member Andrew Cohen, and the Committee on Veterans, chaired by Council Member Eric Ulrich.</p> <p>“This is the end of the City Council session so it’s the last opportunity to check in here on the status of the newly created Department of Veterans, the overall services available to veterans. I’d like to make an inquiry into the nexus between Thrive[NYC] and our veterans, the number of veterans being serviced through Thrive and just kind of an overall taking the temperature of where we’re at in terms of connecting veterans with mental health services,” said Cohen, referring to the de Blasio administration’s large mental health care program spearheaded by First Lady Chirlane McCray.</p> <p>Also on the City Council calendar is an oversight hearing that took place Tuesday, November 21 to discuss “the feasibility of microgrids.” Local energy grids capable of disconnecting from central power sources and operating autonomously, microgrids are used to provide power when the traditional grid has been compromised by an emergency or major power outage. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which left 800,000 city residents without power, microgrids could offer an important alternative in helping deal with future storms.</p> <p>Such grids also enable greater use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, potentially allowing city residents more flexibility in their energy sources. “These types of small electricity grids have the potential to change the way we generate and consume power “ said Council Member Costa Constantinides, chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, in a statement to Gotham Gazette prior to the hearing, which his committee hosted in conjunction with the Committee on Consumer Affairs, chaired by Council Member Rafael Espinal. “We hope to learn more about how microgrids could be implemented in our city, how consumers could save money on utility bills, and hear feedback from environmental advocacy groups,” said Constantinides.</p> <p>On Monday, November 20, the committees on housing and on general welfare held an oversight hearing on how the city’s housing department coordinates with the city’s homeless services department and its welfare agency “to address the homelessness crisis.”</p> <p>Other <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">scheduled</a>&nbsp;oversight hearings, some of which have now occurred, include: a public safety committee hearing on “NYPD’s School Safety’s Role and Efforts to Improve School Climate”; the committees on higher education and technology on “CUNY Tech Incubators”; the committees on health and immigration on “Immigrant Access to Healthcare”; the governmental operations committee on “DCAS’s Energy Management and Energy Efficiency Initiatives”; the economic development committee on “NYC’s Sagging Air Cargo Industry”; the recovery and resiliency committee on “Update on assisting vulnerable populations in emergency evacuations”; the juvenile justice committee on “Trauma-Informed Services in the Juvenile Justice System”; the contracts committee on “Examining Existing Supports and Needs of Underrepresented Business Owners in City Procurement”; the aging committee on “Supporting Unpaid Caregivers”; the technology committee on "MODA's Data and Verification Plan"; the housing committee on "Housing Development Fund Corps. (HDFCs) &amp; Transparency"; the environmental protection committee on "The City’s Wastewater Infrastructure – Current Condition and Future Plans"; the economic development committee on "Economic Impact of Vacant Storefronts"; and a few others.&nbsp;</p> <p>(Note: be sure to re-check <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/Calendar.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the Council calendar</a> as hearings are often postponed or canceled.)</p> <p>(Note: this article has been updated with information about an additional hearing.)</p> <p>

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by Grace Dixon for Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

&nbsp;</p>
NYCHA Prepares to Implement Smoking Ban 2017-11-13T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-13T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7318:nycha-prepares-to-implement-smoking-ban Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/de_blasio_anti_smoking_presser_2020.jpg" alt="de blasio anti smoking presser 2020" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo via the Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>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 <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/12/08/is-it-fair-to-ban-public-housing-tenants-from-smoking" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">controversial federal policy</a> across its more than 320 developments that house approximately half-a-million residents.</p> <p>“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."</p> <p>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.</p> <p>De Blasio <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2015/11/de-blasio-on-federal-public-housing-smoking-ban-the-goal-is-a-good-one-027973" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">has expressed support</a> for the ban and has backed other anti-smoking measures, including <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/565-17/mayor-de-blasio-signs-sweeping-legislation-curb-smoking-tobacco-usage#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a recent legislative package</a> he signed into law, aimed at reducing smoking in New York City writ large. The mayor has also <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7299-de-blasio-s-record-on-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">invested heavily in NYCHA overall</a>, 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.</p> <p>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 <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/30/nyregion/us-will-ban-smoking-in-public-housing-nationwide.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">prohibit smoking within their campuses</a>. "Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, healthy home free from harmful second-hand cigarette smoke," said then HUD Secretary Julian Castro <a href="https://www.hud.gov/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2016/HUDNo_16-184" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in a press release</a>. "HUD's smoke-free rule is a reflection of our commitment to using housing as a platform to create healthy communities.” &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>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 <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens-councilman-proposes-ban-smoking-nyc-housing-article-1.2415286" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">City Council Member Donovan Richards had previously proposed banning smoking in city-funded housing</a>, 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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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 <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nycha/downloads/pdf/FY18-Final-Annual-Plan-101817.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NYCHA’s plan for 2018 released mid-October</a>, 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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.”</p> <p>A resident of Fort Greene’s Ingersoll Houses also expressed frustration <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170119/fort-greene/public-housing-smoking-ban-nycha-hud" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in comments to DNAinfo</a> 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.'”</p> <p>“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.</p> <p>When the public housing smoking ban was first proposed, in 2015, <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2015/11/de-blasio-on-federal-public-housing-smoking-ban-the-goal-is-a-good-one-027973" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">de Blasio said</a> 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 <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/12/nyregion/public-housing-nationwide-may-be-subject-to-smoking-ban.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">expressed concern</a> about enforcement, wanting it to be “resident-led” as opposed to involving the NYPD.</p> <p>On Monday, City Hall spokesperson Melissa Grace said in a statement,&nbsp;“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.”<br /> <br />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,&nbsp;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.<br /> <br />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,&nbsp;"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."<br /> <br />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.”</p> <p>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.”</p> <p>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.”</p> <p>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.”</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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 <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/about/press/pr2017/pr028-17.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">press release</a> 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.</p> <p>“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.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Weiss, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/de_blasio_anti_smoking_presser_2020.jpg" alt="de blasio anti smoking presser 2020" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo via the Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>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 <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/12/08/is-it-fair-to-ban-public-housing-tenants-from-smoking" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">controversial federal policy</a> across its more than 320 developments that house approximately half-a-million residents.</p> <p>“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."</p> <p>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.</p> <p>De Blasio <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2015/11/de-blasio-on-federal-public-housing-smoking-ban-the-goal-is-a-good-one-027973" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">has expressed support</a> for the ban and has backed other anti-smoking measures, including <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/565-17/mayor-de-blasio-signs-sweeping-legislation-curb-smoking-tobacco-usage#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a recent legislative package</a> he signed into law, aimed at reducing smoking in New York City writ large. The mayor has also <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7299-de-blasio-s-record-on-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">invested heavily in NYCHA overall</a>, 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.</p> <p>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 <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/30/nyregion/us-will-ban-smoking-in-public-housing-nationwide.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">prohibit smoking within their campuses</a>. "Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, healthy home free from harmful second-hand cigarette smoke," said then HUD Secretary Julian Castro <a href="https://www.hud.gov/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2016/HUDNo_16-184" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in a press release</a>. "HUD's smoke-free rule is a reflection of our commitment to using housing as a platform to create healthy communities.” &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>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 <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens-councilman-proposes-ban-smoking-nyc-housing-article-1.2415286" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">City Council Member Donovan Richards had previously proposed banning smoking in city-funded housing</a>, 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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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 <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nycha/downloads/pdf/FY18-Final-Annual-Plan-101817.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NYCHA’s plan for 2018 released mid-October</a>, 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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.”</p> <p>A resident of Fort Greene’s Ingersoll Houses also expressed frustration <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170119/fort-greene/public-housing-smoking-ban-nycha-hud" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in comments to DNAinfo</a> 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.'”</p> <p>“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.</p> <p>When the public housing smoking ban was first proposed, in 2015, <a href="https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2015/11/de-blasio-on-federal-public-housing-smoking-ban-the-goal-is-a-good-one-027973" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">de Blasio said</a> 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 <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/12/nyregion/public-housing-nationwide-may-be-subject-to-smoking-ban.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">expressed concern</a> about enforcement, wanting it to be “resident-led” as opposed to involving the NYPD.</p> <p>On Monday, City Hall spokesperson Melissa Grace said in a statement,&nbsp;“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.”<br /> <br />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,&nbsp;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.<br /> <br />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,&nbsp;"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."<br /> <br />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.”</p> <p>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.”</p> <p>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.”</p> <p>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.”</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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 <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/about/press/pr2017/pr028-17.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">press release</a> 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.</p> <p>“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.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Weiss, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Dissecting Mayor De Blasio's Record As He Seeks Reelection 2017-11-01T23:26:00+00:00 2017-11-01T23:26:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7221:dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/37117856722_b1e7513769_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio Chirlane McCray City Hall Reelection Parade" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio &amp; First Lady Chirlane McCray (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As Mayor Bill de Blasio, a first-term Democrat, seeks reelection this fall, a close examination of his record is essential. De Blasio came into power promising to address inequlality in a variety of forms, including income, educational, policing, racial, and opportunity inequities he identified during his 2013 campaign. In this year's election de Blasio is running in part on his record, which is headlined by the implementation of his campaign promise to provide universal pre-kindergarten for the city's four-year-olds. But, there is much more to the mayor's record than UPK, which has clearly been <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/10/17/de-blasios-win-on-pre-k-is-making-an-easy-campaign-even-easier-115084" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">his biggest success</a>.</p> <p>In this series, Gotham Gazette, with election coverage partners City Limits and WNYC radio, examines de Blasio's record on a variety of important issues. While this is not completely exhaustive, it should be helpful to voters and others seeking to evaluate de Blasio this fall. With our partners, Gotham Gazette will release articles and audio pieces on the following aspects of de Blasio's record -- those already published are linked below.</p> <p>Election Day is Tuesday, November 7.</p> <ul> <li>Ethics &amp; Transparency: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7258-de-blasio-s-record-on-ethics-and-transparency" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayor De Blasio's Record on Ethics and Transparency</a> (Gotham Gazette, October 2017)</li> <li>Discussion on WNYC, with Ben Max of GG: <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/how-ethic-and-transparent-has-bill-de-blasios-term-been" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">De Blasio's Big Lesson: Transparency Matters</a></li> </ul> <ul> <li>Economy &amp; Jobs: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7270-de-blasio-s-record-on-jobs-and-the-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayor De Blasio's Record on Jobs and The Economy</a> (Gotham Gazette, October 2017)</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Poverty &amp; Inequality: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7280-de-blasio-s-record-on-poverty-and-inequality" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayor De Blasio's Record on Poverty and Inequality</a> (Gotham Gazette, November 2017)</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Budgeting &amp; Fiscal Health: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7300-de-blasio-s-record-on-budgeting-and-fiscal-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayor De Blasio's Record on Budgeting and Fiscal Health</a> (Gotham Gazette, November 2017)</li> </ul> <ul> <li>NYCHA: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7299-de-blasio-s-record-on-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayor De Blasio's Record on NYCHA</a> (Gotham Gazette, November 2017)</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Environment: <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/11/02/on-the-environment-de-blasio-defied-expectations-with-bold-goals-but-now-must-deliver/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">On the Environment, De Blasio Defied Expectations with Bold Goals, But Now Must Deliver</a> (City Limits, November 2017)</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Policing: <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/10/16/bill-de-blasios-police-reform-agenda-has-achieved-much-and-disappointed-many/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bill de Blasio's Police Reform Record Has Achieved Much and Disappointed Many</a> (City Limits, October 2017)</li> <li>Discussion on WNYC, with Jarrett Murphy of CL: <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/analyzing-bill-de-blasios-record-crime-and-policing/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A Rocky Blue Line Divides De Blasio and Police</a></li> </ul> <ul> <li>Housing: <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/10/04/bill-de-blasio-is-still-in-his-first-term-and-were-already-debating-his-housing-legacy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bill de Blasio is Still in His First Term and We're Already Debating His Housing Legacy</a> (City Limits, October 2017)</li> <li>Discussion on WNYC, with Jarrett Murphy of CL: <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/analyzing-housing-after-four-years-bill-de-blasio" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Analyzing Housing After Four De Blasio Years</a></li> </ul> <ul> <li>Homelessness: <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/de-blasios-homelessness-struggle/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">De Blasio's Homelessness Struggle</a> (WNYC, October 2017)</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Transit: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6855-de-blasio-s-piecemeal-transportation-agenda" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">De Blasio's 'Piecemeal' Transportation Agenda</a> (Gotham Gazette, April 2017)</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Homelessness: <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/bill-de-blasios-big-homelessness-problem" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bill de Blasio's Big Homelessness Problem</a> (Gotham Gazette/The Daily Beast, July 2017)</li> </ul> <p>More to read/view/hear:</p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2017/10/19/a-look-at-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-on-nyc-transportation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A look at Mayor de Blasio's record on transportion</a> (NY1)&nbsp;</li> <li><a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2017/10/03/bill-de-blasio-record-on-crime-as-mayor-nyc-nypd" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A look at Mayor de Blasio's record on policing</a> (NY1)</li> </ul> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/37117856722_b1e7513769_z.jpg" alt="Mayor de Blasio Chirlane McCray City Hall Reelection Parade" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio &amp; First Lady Chirlane McCray (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As Mayor Bill de Blasio, a first-term Democrat, seeks reelection this fall, a close examination of his record is essential. De Blasio came into power promising to address inequlality in a variety of forms, including income, educational, policing, racial, and opportunity inequities he identified during his 2013 campaign. In this year's election de Blasio is running in part on his record, which is headlined by the implementation of his campaign promise to provide universal pre-kindergarten for the city's four-year-olds. But, there is much more to the mayor's record than UPK, which has clearly been <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/10/17/de-blasios-win-on-pre-k-is-making-an-easy-campaign-even-easier-115084" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">his biggest success</a>.</p> <p>In this series, Gotham Gazette, with election coverage partners City Limits and WNYC radio, examines de Blasio's record on a variety of important issues. While this is not completely exhaustive, it should be helpful to voters and others seeking to evaluate de Blasio this fall. With our partners, Gotham Gazette will release articles and audio pieces on the following aspects of de Blasio's record -- those already published are linked below.</p> <p>Election Day is Tuesday, November 7.</p> <ul> <li>Ethics &amp; Transparency: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7258-de-blasio-s-record-on-ethics-and-transparency" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayor De Blasio's Record on Ethics and Transparency</a> (Gotham Gazette, October 2017)</li> <li>Discussion on WNYC, with Ben Max of GG: <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/how-ethic-and-transparent-has-bill-de-blasios-term-been" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">De Blasio's Big Lesson: Transparency Matters</a></li> </ul> <ul> <li>Economy &amp; Jobs: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7270-de-blasio-s-record-on-jobs-and-the-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayor De Blasio's Record on Jobs and The Economy</a> (Gotham Gazette, October 2017)</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Poverty &amp; Inequality: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7280-de-blasio-s-record-on-poverty-and-inequality" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayor De Blasio's Record on Poverty and Inequality</a> (Gotham Gazette, November 2017)</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Budgeting &amp; Fiscal Health: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7300-de-blasio-s-record-on-budgeting-and-fiscal-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayor De Blasio's Record on Budgeting and Fiscal Health</a> (Gotham Gazette, November 2017)</li> </ul> <ul> <li>NYCHA: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7299-de-blasio-s-record-on-nycha" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayor De Blasio's Record on NYCHA</a> (Gotham Gazette, November 2017)</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Environment: <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/11/02/on-the-environment-de-blasio-defied-expectations-with-bold-goals-but-now-must-deliver/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">On the Environment, De Blasio Defied Expectations with Bold Goals, But Now Must Deliver</a> (City Limits, November 2017)</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Policing: <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/10/16/bill-de-blasios-police-reform-agenda-has-achieved-much-and-disappointed-many/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bill de Blasio's Police Reform Record Has Achieved Much and Disappointed Many</a> (City Limits, October 2017)</li> <li>Discussion on WNYC, with Jarrett Murphy of CL: <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/analyzing-bill-de-blasios-record-crime-and-policing/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A Rocky Blue Line Divides De Blasio and Police</a></li> </ul> <ul> <li>Housing: <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/10/04/bill-de-blasio-is-still-in-his-first-term-and-were-already-debating-his-housing-legacy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bill de Blasio is Still in His First Term and We're Already Debating His Housing Legacy</a> (City Limits, October 2017)</li> <li>Discussion on WNYC, with Jarrett Murphy of CL: <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/analyzing-housing-after-four-years-bill-de-blasio" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Analyzing Housing After Four De Blasio Years</a></li> </ul> <ul> <li>Homelessness: <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/de-blasios-homelessness-struggle/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">De Blasio's Homelessness Struggle</a> (WNYC, October 2017)</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Transit: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6855-de-blasio-s-piecemeal-transportation-agenda" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">De Blasio's 'Piecemeal' Transportation Agenda</a> (Gotham Gazette, April 2017)</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Homelessness: <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/bill-de-blasios-big-homelessness-problem" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bill de Blasio's Big Homelessness Problem</a> (Gotham Gazette/The Daily Beast, July 2017)</li> </ul> <p>More to read/view/hear:</p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2017/10/19/a-look-at-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-on-nyc-transportation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A look at Mayor de Blasio's record on transportion</a> (NY1)&nbsp;</li> <li><a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2017/10/03/bill-de-blasio-record-on-crime-as-mayor-nyc-nypd" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A look at Mayor de Blasio's record on policing</a> (NY1)</li> </ul> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
De Blasio's Record on NYCHA 2017-11-05T04:00:00+00:00 2017-11-05T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7299:de-blasio-s-record-on-nycha Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/17687877270_9177ab92f9_z_2.jpg" alt="de Blasio NYCHA Olatoye" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>De Blasio, Olatoye &amp; others in 2015 (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong><em>This article is part of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">a series on Mayor de Blasio's first term record</a>&nbsp;as he seeks reelection this fall, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">Find all pieces of the series here</a>.</em></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p>Despite steadily shrinking federal support for public housing, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has made significant gains in public safety and in balancing its annual operating budget under Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is up for reelection on Tuesday. His support for NYCHA, where about half a million low-income New Yorkers live, has set him apart from his predecessors, Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani, neither of whom matched de Blasio’s financial and programmatic commitment to the city’s public housing authority and residents, according to documents and experts.</p> <p>Early in his tenure, de Blasio and Shola Olatoye, the chair and CEO of NYCHA appointed by the new mayor in 2014, unveiled a major overhaul plan to help stabilize and modernize public housing in New York City. At the time, the authority was on the edge of a fiscal cliff, with billions in unmet capital needs and yearly deficits in operating expenses, with residents often living in substandard and inhumane conditions. The plan, which has shown success over three-plus years, has not been without its critics.</p> <p>Despite signs of further improvement down the road, NYCHA continues to have major problems, including too many units still in disrepair, and there has been vocal pushback from residents concerning the administration’s willingness to lease NYCHA land to private developers. This is part of the “infill” program for underutilized property, wherein the city and its partners will construct mostly affordable housing, while raising additional revenue to benefit the public housing system.</p> <p>Furthermore, some public housing advocates say that, while de Blasio’s additional financial support has been welcome, only a truly proportional dedication of resources will transform the city’s public housing into a state of good repair.</p> <p>During this mayoral campaign, there has been little discussion of NYCHA, including of de Blasio’s record in attempting to improve conditions, services, and finances at its 328 developments around the five boroughs. Given both the acute needs and the administration’s attempts to address them, more scrutiny is necessary.</p> <p><strong>De Blasio’s First Steps</strong><br />As a candidate in 2013, de Blasio diagnosed the crumbling public housing conditions and negative balance sheet as a management problem, vowing to replace NYCHA Chair John Rhea if elected. The mayor, then public advocate, also repeatedly criticized Mayor Bloomberg’s land lease program plan, which would lease public land to private developers and require that 20 percent of developments be dedicated to affordable housing. Like other de Blasio critiques of Bloomberg, he felt that Bloomberg was being too generous to wealthy real estate barons and not demanding enough benefit for communities.</p> <p>De Blasio promised to emphasize health and safety repairs within the authority by eliminating NYCHA’s maintenance backlog and hiring a dedicated workforce able to perform substantive reforms, according to his <a href="http://www.archivoelectoral.org/archivo/doc/One%20New%20York%20Rising%20TogetherBillDeBlasioDemocraticPrimariasDemocratasAlcaldeNYEEUU2013.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">One New York, Rising Together</a> campaign booklet. He also promised to dedicate a portion of vacant NYCHA apartments to homeless families.</p> <p>Upon taking office, de Blasio’s administration inherited a public housing emergency. With an annual operating deficit of $77 million and a roughly $17 billion capital need for infrastructure repairs, NYCHA had been depleted by 2014 through years of federal, state, and city disinvestment, all while its capital needs and operating costs continued to rise. The nation’s largest public housing authority -- including its hundreds of thousands of residents -- was in crisis.</p> <p>“Half of our buildings were 60 years of age or older. We were facing a $17 billion capital deficit,” said Karina Totah, NYCHA Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, in an interview with Gotham Gazette. “We had operating deficits for several years and a large vulnerable population of both seniors and young people.”</p> <p>The agency also faced higher crime rates than surrounding areas, gaps in community programming, and accusations of financial mismanagement, not only in annual budgets, but in daily operations. For example, a <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nycha-board-sitting-1b-fed-cash-article-1.1126326" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2012 Daily News report</a> uncovered nearly $1 billion in unspent federal funds intended for repairs to the public housing stock. Reports in that vein, often in the Daily News, would continue into de Blasio’s term.</p> <p>In addition, soon after taking his new office in 2014, Comptroller Scott Stringer <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5835-18-months-of-nycha-scrutiny-reform-and-conflict-de-blasio" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">released a series of audits and reports</a> detailing unsatisfactory living conditions and poor financial management within NYCHA. This documentation helped put de Blasio on the spot to more fully address problems at the authority, and quickly.</p> <p>Additional reports found that NYCHA kept apartments off rent rolls for an average of seven years while doing major repairs and that the authority drastically under-reported repair backlogs for the sake of record keeping.</p> <p>De Blasio issued several immediate fixes before unveiling a major, sweeping plan. The mayor relieved the authority of its annual policing fees (roughly $52 million that the city had previously insisted NYCHA pay to the NYPD), began security camera installation at several housing developments, and allocated $101 million towards reducing crime in public housing developments. This announcement was quickly followed by the launch of the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/pmmr2016/mayors_action_plan_for_neighborhood_safety.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety</a>, a program designed to reduce violence in 15 NYCHA developments with high crime rates.</p> <p>In February 2014, de Blasio also appointed Olatoye, former Vice President for Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit organization that finances and advocates for affordable housing, to lead NYCHA.</p> <p>A year later, de Blasio and Olatoye released <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/nextgen-nycha.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NextGeneration NYCHA</a>, an ambitious, 10-year strategic plan designed to pull the authority out of debt and to address long unmet capital needs, while also enhancing quality of life for NYCHA residents. “The plan will save over ten years $4.6 billion in capital needs,” de Blasio said <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/326-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-nextgeneration-nycha--comprehensive-plan-secure-the" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">during the plan’s unveiling,</a> “And on the expense side of the NYCHA budget, in the course of this plan we will generate a surplus of $230 million over the next decade.”</p> <p>The authority’s operating budget achieved a surplus in both 2015 and 2016 and has no recent update to the 2011 estimate of $17 billion in unmet capital needs. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will cut a minimum of $35 million from the department’s budget this year, and potentially as much as $150 million, a possibly devastating loss for the authority.</p> <p>NextGen NYCHA lays out guidelines for preserving public housing stock, presenting a land-lease program somewhat similar to Bloomberg’s, which has become the most controversial aspect of the turnaround effort. Other priorities in the plan include improving landlord services such as maintenance repairs and development safety, and engaging residents through job placement and broader social service resources.</p> <p>An evaluation of de Blasio’s public housing record as he seeks a second term hinges on his administration’s execution of NextGen NYCHA.</p> <p><strong>Policing and Maintenance</strong><br />Through the NextGen program and other initiatives, the de Blasio administration has sought to reduce crime, improve maintenance response, and increase energy efficiency within developments.</p> <p>Crime within NYCHA developments became a focal point during de Blasio’s early tenure as city data showed increases in crime rates, up <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/336-14/fact-sheet-making-new-york-city-s-neighborhoods-housing-developments-safer#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">31 percent</a> in the first six months of the mayor’s term. In response to the upward trend, the Mayor and NYPD implemented the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety. Introduced in July 2014 and separate from the NextGen program, the plan provided additional safety measures in 15 of the authority’s highest crime developments. The program installed security infrastructure, provided broader access to employment programs and community centers, and has sought to strengthen communication between residents and police.</p> <p>The program has been effective to a degree in reversing the upward trend of public housing crime rates. Violent crime within the 15 targeted developments decreased by 11.2 percent between 2014 and 2015, the program’s first year, according to a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/pmmr2016/mayors_action_plan_for_neighborhood_safety.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">preliminary management report</a> from the mayor’s office.</p> <p>Developments have seen improvement over time, according to some NYCHA residents.</p> <p>“The indication that things had begun to change was that we stopped hearing gunshots and I think in the last quarter there had been no gunshots reported in almost eight months,” said Geraldine Lamb, Castle Hill Residents Association President, in an interview in late October at the Bronx development.</p> <p>While its first year was largely successful, bringing crime rates among the targeted developments to par with the rates of other developments, its achievements in 2016 were far more incremental according to a <a href="https://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/poverty-and-progress-new-york-ix-crime-trends-public-housing-2015-16-9013.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study from the Manhattan Institute</a>. Overall crime rates continued to climb among non-MAP NYCHA developments while MAP locations’ rates stagnated. Meanwhile the number of violent crimes committed within MAP locations rose.</p> <p>“At the time that MAP was rolled out with the combined package there was a dip in crime that then petered out,” said Alex Armlovich, author of the study. Armlovich expressed support for the city’s rollout of MAP-tested safety features in other developments despite these mixed results.</p> <p>Lamb, of Castle Hill, expressed particular support for the community policing initiative, which recruits officers who have lived in public housing themselves or who have family members living in public housing. “They know what they’re dealing with and the people that live in public housing,” said Lamb. “And it’s working.”</p> <p>Additional safety measures include the removal of sidewalk scaffolding and the installation of security cameras and lighting. The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice conducted a study of the effect of light on crime in which 40 public housing developments received 400 exterior lights, the results of the study are set to be released later in the year. The mayor also announced the removal of eight miles of sidewalk shedding as part of ongoing safety efforts, in a July 2015 <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/473-15/de-blasio-administration-removal-over-43-000-feet-sidewalk-shedding-nycha">press conference</a>. As of June 2017, the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/396-17/de-blasio-administration-completion-camera-installation-22-nycha-developments" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">de Blasio administration</a> had announced the installation of new security cameras at 22 developments and the upgrade of 38 existing camera sets.</p> <p>NYCHA has long faced accusations of neglect over buildings in disrepair, conditions de Blasio condemned after spending a night in public housing with other Democratic primary candidates during the 2013 race. In the NextGeneration plan, de Blasio committed to faster repairs and more transparent metrics.</p> <p>“Our goal, starting with a set of developments over the next year and then expanding out throughout all the developments of the housing authority, is to set a one-week timeline for basic, straightforward repairs,” said de Blasio<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/326-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-nextgeneration-nycha--comprehensive-plan-secure-the" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> at a press conference announcing the program</a> in May 2015.</p> <p>As of September 2017, the average wait time for basic maintenance repairs is four days according to <a href="https://eapps.nycha.info/NychaMetrics" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NYCHA Metrics.</a> A <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/FK14_102A.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> from Comptroller Stringer revealed the unreliability of reported repair times in 2014, but found that 81.7 percent of repairs met the stated goal of a 7 day timeline for simple repairs. Still, the problems are staggering -- some larger housing developments have upwards of 2,500 open work orders.</p> <p>These problems persist despite the introduction of the FlexOps program, designed to provide better repair service through flexible and staggered maintenance shifts, as well as the MyNYCHA app, which had saved the city $960,000, according to the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nycha/downloads/pdf/ngn-2-year-anniversary.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NextGeneration two-year progress report</a>, released May 2017. Part of NYCHA’s challenge has been adjusting work hours for its union labor force so that residents can have a better opportunity to be home to greet repair workers.</p> <p>A comptroller <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-audit-reveals-tens-of-thousands-of-backlogged-repairs-at-nycha-little-progress-despite-nychas-assurances/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a>, examining maintenance and repairs from January 1, 2013 through July 31, 2014, unveiled a backlog of more than 50,000 repairs and a policy for “fixing” repairs for the purposes of record-keeping when residents weren’t home to allow maintenance into the room.</p> <p>This practice of closing out repairs is still commonplace according to Lisa Kenner, Van Dyke Resident Association president. “Lately, I know people who said they were waiting for them and they never came, they closed the tickets out,” said Kenner, in an interview with the Gotham Gazette at the Brooklyn development.</p> <p>“We’ve increased our efforts around quality assurance and quality control to make sure that we’re going in and checking on work orders that are complete to make sure that they are done and done well,” said Karina Totah, NYCHA Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. Totah pointed to positive progress in maintenance responses as a result of the MyNYCHA app and efforts to improve property management efficiency through programs including NextGeneration Operations, a subsection of NYCHA guidelines for improving landlord services.</p> <p>Resident Lisa Kenner remains unhappy with the city’s approach. “If you have water leaks, they want to put bandaids on it,” said Kenner, who taught herself to wax and buff the floor of her own basement office, which doubles as a storage room for folding furniture and outdated computer monitors, she said. She doesn’t trust maintenance to take care of the room’s upkeep.</p> <p><strong>Financial Stability</strong><br />Facing a dire financial situation, the authority under de Blasio first looked to overturn legacy costs weighing down the budget. The largest among these were annual policing payments to the NYPD and PILOT fees, annual payments which take the place of property taxes for NYCHA. De Blasio removed NYPD payments from NYCHA’s budget in the earlier tenure and relieved the Authority of PILOT payments under the NextGeneration plan. These fees amounted to $70 million and $30 million respectively, according to <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/038-17/mayor-de-blasio-investing-1-billion-replace-roofs-more-700-nycha-buildings-combatting" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a report from the mayor’s office.</a></p> <p>Beyond these quick but significant relief measures, the NextGen plan prescribed more efficient rental and fee collection (low rates of rent and fee collection have been perpetual NYCHA challenges), advocated to maximize use of ground floor spaces and a consolidated central office workforce.</p> <p>Efforts by new leadership showed some quick progress -- in both 2015 and 2016, NYCHA operated at a narrow surplus. Yet, a recent <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/room-breathe" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> from the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) attributed this to changes in federal rent structure, increased federal operating subsidies, and increased city subsidies and support. “There really are a combination of factors that drove NYCHA’s financial improvement, NextGen NYCHA is a portion of that. It’s smaller than the effect of general changes and also actions taken by the city,” said Sean Campion, author of the CBC report, in an interview.</p> <p>Revenue from rental collection also grew between 2015 and 2016, resulting in a collection of $5 million above the expected revenue according to the <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nycha/downloads/pdf/nycha-2017-budget-book.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">adopted budget for fiscal year 2017</a>.</p> <p>However, this growth is again largely due to a 2014 change in federal rent structures, requiring residents who choose to pay “flat rents” (rather than income-based rents) to cover 80 percent of the apartment’s fair market rent. Despite city efforts to improve collections, the monthly rent collection rate has decreased almost every month since September 2016, according to <a href="https://eapps.nycha.info/NychaMetrics/Charts/PublicHousingChartsTabs/?section=public_housing&amp;tab=tab_repairs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NYCHA Metrics</a>.</p> <p>According to NYCHA’s <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nycha/downloads/pdf/FY18-Final-Annual-Plan-101817-Executive-Summary.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Final Agency Plan for Fiscal Year 2018</a>, the current fiscal year, it has been successful thus far in maximizing the revenue and uses of ground floor spaces, generating $860,000 in new revenue from 19 new and 33 renewed leases for retail and professional uses.</p> <p>There are still avenues for continued savings that the authority has yet to pursue. “On the expense side, their biggest piece of it is that their operating expenses on a per unit basis are relatively high and particularly when you compare them to privately managed rental buildings,” said Campion of CBC. In addition, despite repeated proposals for raising parking fees to the market rate, the city has thus far been unable to follow through, though Olatoye, the NYCHA CEO, has said that parking-related reforms are coming.</p> <p>Looming over this recent progress are real and proposed federal cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. If proposals are approved, years of financial progress could be wiped out. “These cuts to HUD would strip nearly every dollar from public housing infrastructure and threaten our day-to-day operations,” Olatoye said in <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/press/pr-2017/statement-potus-budget-proposal-20170523.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement</a> in May on the federal budget proposal.</p> <p><strong>Reforming Resident Services</strong><br />While most landlords limit themselves to maintaining buildings and collecting rent, NYCHA sees itself, ultimately, as a social safety net. The average NYCHA resident remains in public housing for 22 years and makes $22,300 per year. <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/about-nycha.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">On NYCHA’s website</a>, the authority states that its mission “is to increase opportunities for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.” &nbsp;This involves facilitating access to ancillary services, like community and senior centers, job training and placement, and broadband internet.</p> <p>NYCHA receives no direct funding from the federal government to support local community programming. Instead, the agency uses funds from its operational budget to cover costs. With NYCHA as cash-strapped as it is, the NextGen plan includes outsourcing services provided by the agency, to nonprofits and other city agencies.</p> <p>Part of this initiative involved transferring the management of 24 community centers and 17 senior centers to the Department of Youth and Community Development and the Department for the Aging.</p> <p>Some residents were unhappy with the change. ”When they let that DYCD come in and take over the community center, it sucks!” said Lisa Kenner, president of the Van Dyke Houses Tenant Association. She complained that DYCD raised the daily fee for renting community center space, making it inaccessible to residents who need affordable areas to host parties, get-togethers, and other community events.</p> <p>In addition to relying on outside parties to finance and run services previously done by NYCHA, the housing authority decided to create a 501c(3) nonprofit to leverage donations from private donors that could be used for community development and to engage in new public-private partnerships. The Fund for Public Housing announced in 2016 an ambitious goal of raising $200 million within its first three years.</p> <p>More than a year-and-a-half later, the Fund had <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7160-nonprofit-supporting-nycha-adds-to-early-fundraising-programs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">raised only a small portion of that, $1.5 million</a>, as of this August, according to Olatoye, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7119-what-s-the-data-point-17-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">on a recent episode of What’s the [Data] Point?,</a> a podcast by Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission. The nonprofit is forging ahead, though, and has partnered with donors on writing design guidelines for NYCHA buildings, constructing new playgrounds, and increasing resident access to free tax preparation programs. NYCHA and Fund for Public Housing leaders are encouraged, though, and hopeful that the Fund will continue to make steady progress and evenutally lure some major donors.</p> <p>NextGen NYCHA also included a goal to increase job placements for residents to 4,000 annually by 2025. Before 2015, NYCHA had been placing approximately 2,000 residents each year in new jobs, according to NextGen.</p> <p>Sideya Sherman, Executive Vice President for Community Engagement and Partnerships at NYCHA, explained that the NextGen approach involves connecting with approximately 60 outside job placement providers, administering their own training programs with grant funding, and expanding JobsPlus, a federal program.</p> <p>“A really important piece of our strategy is not only connecting residents to external services, but attracting resources and services to NYCHA communities and on campus,” she said in an interview with Gotham Gazette. Between May 2015 and May 2017, NYCHA had found employment for 5,663 residents, an average of 2,832 residents per year.</p> <p><strong>Preserving Existing Housing Stock</strong><br />As owner and manager of more than 320 developments, NYCHA is tasked with the preservation of almost 2,500 buildings. The authority, however, still faces the projected $17 billion bill for repairs across all properties (known as its “capital” needs, for things like roofs, boilers, and more).</p> <p>As opposed to previous administrations, de Blasio has made significant financial commitments to public housing in New York City. In 2015, he committed $300 million over three years for roof repair across in-need NYCHA properties. In 2017, he committed another $1 billion over ten years for roofs.</p> <p>“Years of federal and state disinvestment have led to deteriorating buildings, depriving tenants of the level of housing they deserve,” <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/301-15/de-blasio-administration-300-million-nycha-roof-replacement-the-next-three-years" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">de Blasio said in a 2015 press release</a>. “By making these critical investments in our aging NYCHA buildings, we are both protecting our residents – many of whom are children – and saving money spent on repairing these buildings.”</p> <p>Notwithstanding the mayor’s financial commitment, the implementation of roof repairs across NYCHA properties has been uneven. In a June 2017 audit, Comptroller Stringer found that many NYCHA construction projects between January 2013 and November 2015 <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/audit-report-on-the-new-york-city-housing-authoritys-oversight-of-contracts-involving-building-envelope-rehabilitation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">were ineffectively monitored</a>. For example, NYCHA reported that an effort to repair roofs at the Lafayette Houses in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn was successful, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nycha-signs-botched-brooklyn-roof-repairs-article-1.3409354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">despite no records of the agency inspecting the property</a>. This construction project was funded using some of the first $300 million pledged by the mayor earlier that year. Efforts in 2016 and 2017 have yet to be examined in detail.</p> <p>De Blasio’s financial pledges to NYCHA occurred amid creative efforts by NYCHA to leverage private funds to repair and renovate its properties. The agency aimed to enroll a substantial portion of its developments into the recently established federal program entitled RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration). NYCHA has already run a sizeable Section 8 voucher program, which is funded through federal dollars. Expanding that and adding the RAD program have let private developers and management companies invest capital in NYCHA developments, with NYCHA maintaining ultimate ownership of all NYCHA properties.</p> <p>The results have been encouraging to some. Using federal relief funds from Hurricane Sandy, tax credits, state bonds, and private equity, NYCHA was able to refurbish 1,395 apartments, raise 24 boiler rooms to roof level to avoid future floods, and construct floodwalls to protect against future storms at the Ocean Bay development in Far Rockaway.</p> <p>At least one resident of Ocean Bay is happy with the changes. Rita Joseph used to be “embarrassed” to show people her apartment, according to <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/08/this-nyc-housing-project-works-whats-different-here.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article in New York Magazine</a>. Now, she confidently strolls through her building’s spotless lobby.</p> <p>Perhaps the most controversial part of the NextGen NYCHA plan has been the “infill” projects, or the leasing of NYCHA land to private developers, to raise money for repairs while helping the mayor meet his goal of creating and preserving 300,000 affordable housing units by 2026.</p> <p>The infill projects called for in the NextGen plan consist of two types: 100% affordable housing and 50/50 developments, where half the units are market-rate and half have affordability caps on the rent. As of now, there are nine scheduled 100% affordable projects and four 50/50 projects in the works.</p> <p>Susan J. Popkin, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said in an interview with Gotham Gazette that NYCHA’s infill strategy is unique compared to other American housing authorities. The viability for NYCHA boils down to the inflated cost of real estate in New York City, something other authorities do not have at their disposal.</p> <p>Critics say that these projects are lagging behind or that they are inappropriate altogether, and a dangerous step toward privatization.</p> <p>On the other hand, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/nycha-crumbles-money-making-development-slow-coming-article-1.3537134" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Daily News recently published an editorial</a> criticizing NYCHA for its slow place in putting these developments into practice.</p> <p>NYCHA, however, says its advances are encouraging. “We are really happy with our progress. I don’t think we would say we would be behind,” said Ilana Maier, Deputy Communications Officer at NYCHA.</p> <p>Some residents at developments targeted for these structure are unsatisfied, though critics don’t provide viable alternatives that can help NYCHA bring in new revenue to dig itself out of a hole with which the state and federal governments do not seem concerned.</p> <p>In reference to the proposed 50/50 project at Holmes Towers, Alicia Harris, a resident of the Upper East development, <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170601/yorkville/holmes-towers-rally-nycha-nextgen-tower-development" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said to DNAinfo</a>, "When you talk about 45 stories, where are the kids gonna play? It will take away space for the kids."</p> <p>Charlene Nimmons, president of the Wyckoff Gardens Tenants Association from 2003 to 2015, echoed Harris’ dissatisfaction in an interview with Gotham Gazette. “You’re pushing it down our throats,” she said in response to the proposed plan to build a 50/50 building on two parking lots in the Wyckoff Gardens development.</p> <p>And Lisa Kenner, president of the Van Dyke Houses Tenants Association, criticized the two proposed 100% affordable housing projects on her development’s land. “They just want to sell stuff, instead of sitting down and looking at it.”</p> <p><strong>Moving Forward with Fingers Crossed</strong><br />Despite criticism of NYCHA’s infill development, ongoing problems with day-to-day management, and the huge capital need, experts have been impressed with de Blasio’s increased commitment and strategic approach to public housing. Handed an almost impossible situation—given the lack of federal funding and conditions at NYCHA—his administration has made progress in making the authority financially solvent, at least operationally, with some hope for the future.</p> <p>“Given the funding constraints, they are doing the best they can,” said Popkin of the Urban Institute.</p> <p>Others have also lauded the administration’s engagement with public housing residents, as opposed to his predecessors. “He has made it a point to visit public housing,” said Nicholas Bloom, Associate Professor at the New York Institute of Technology and a NYCHA scholar, to Gotham Gazette. “His office has been engaged.”</p> <p>And some NYCHA residents, while acknowledging the limitations on the mayor, have been generally positive. “I believe that he has kept his promises to the best of his ability because he has a City Council to deal with and all of the state elected officials to deal with, including the governor,” said Geraldine Lamb, president of the Castle Hill Residents Association.</p> <p>However, praise for NYCHA’s progress comes with caveats. Despite de Blasio’s financial commitments, public housing advocates demand greater city investment. “That kind of financial commitment has not been made by his office,” explained Bloom, referring to the type of dedication of funds toward NYCHA that would really shock the system.</p> <p>Because NYCHA is technically a state authority and not historically funded by the city, the agency receives scraps from the city budget, rather than a significant allocation of resources. As part of NYCHA’s $3.26 billion operating budget for 2017, $1.9 billion is provided by the federal government, $1 billion from tenant rental revenue, and another $200 million from New York State, according to <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/budget/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2017/03/NYCHA-exec.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a report on NYCHA’s finances issued by the City Council</a>; while $81.9 million comes from the city government, just 2.5% of NYCHA’s total 2017 budget. That’s why Bloom recommends that the state government should “turn NYCHA into a city agency,” to incentivize the city to better allocate funds for the struggling housing authority.</p> <p>Short of that, the city is moving forward with its plans, and hoping for good news from Washington, D.C. and Albany. “NextGen NYCHA is a pretty ambitious plan,” said Sean Campion of Citizens Budget Commission, “and they’re making relatively good progress towards it in a really difficult political environment.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p><strong><em>This article is part of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">a series on Mayor de Blasio's first term record</a>&nbsp;as he seeks reelection this fall, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">Find all pieces of the series here</a>.</em></strong></p> <p>***<br />by Grace Dixon and Ben Weiss<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/17687877270_9177ab92f9_z_2.jpg" alt="de Blasio NYCHA Olatoye" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>De Blasio, Olatoye &amp; others in 2015 (photo:&nbsp;Demetrius Freeman/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p><strong><em>This article is part of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">a series on Mayor de Blasio's first term record</a>&nbsp;as he seeks reelection this fall, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">Find all pieces of the series here</a>.</em></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p>Despite steadily shrinking federal support for public housing, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has made significant gains in public safety and in balancing its annual operating budget under Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is up for reelection on Tuesday. His support for NYCHA, where about half a million low-income New Yorkers live, has set him apart from his predecessors, Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani, neither of whom matched de Blasio’s financial and programmatic commitment to the city’s public housing authority and residents, according to documents and experts.</p> <p>Early in his tenure, de Blasio and Shola Olatoye, the chair and CEO of NYCHA appointed by the new mayor in 2014, unveiled a major overhaul plan to help stabilize and modernize public housing in New York City. At the time, the authority was on the edge of a fiscal cliff, with billions in unmet capital needs and yearly deficits in operating expenses, with residents often living in substandard and inhumane conditions. The plan, which has shown success over three-plus years, has not been without its critics.</p> <p>Despite signs of further improvement down the road, NYCHA continues to have major problems, including too many units still in disrepair, and there has been vocal pushback from residents concerning the administration’s willingness to lease NYCHA land to private developers. This is part of the “infill” program for underutilized property, wherein the city and its partners will construct mostly affordable housing, while raising additional revenue to benefit the public housing system.</p> <p>Furthermore, some public housing advocates say that, while de Blasio’s additional financial support has been welcome, only a truly proportional dedication of resources will transform the city’s public housing into a state of good repair.</p> <p>During this mayoral campaign, there has been little discussion of NYCHA, including of de Blasio’s record in attempting to improve conditions, services, and finances at its 328 developments around the five boroughs. Given both the acute needs and the administration’s attempts to address them, more scrutiny is necessary.</p> <p><strong>De Blasio’s First Steps</strong><br />As a candidate in 2013, de Blasio diagnosed the crumbling public housing conditions and negative balance sheet as a management problem, vowing to replace NYCHA Chair John Rhea if elected. The mayor, then public advocate, also repeatedly criticized Mayor Bloomberg’s land lease program plan, which would lease public land to private developers and require that 20 percent of developments be dedicated to affordable housing. Like other de Blasio critiques of Bloomberg, he felt that Bloomberg was being too generous to wealthy real estate barons and not demanding enough benefit for communities.</p> <p>De Blasio promised to emphasize health and safety repairs within the authority by eliminating NYCHA’s maintenance backlog and hiring a dedicated workforce able to perform substantive reforms, according to his <a href="http://www.archivoelectoral.org/archivo/doc/One%20New%20York%20Rising%20TogetherBillDeBlasioDemocraticPrimariasDemocratasAlcaldeNYEEUU2013.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">One New York, Rising Together</a> campaign booklet. He also promised to dedicate a portion of vacant NYCHA apartments to homeless families.</p> <p>Upon taking office, de Blasio’s administration inherited a public housing emergency. With an annual operating deficit of $77 million and a roughly $17 billion capital need for infrastructure repairs, NYCHA had been depleted by 2014 through years of federal, state, and city disinvestment, all while its capital needs and operating costs continued to rise. The nation’s largest public housing authority -- including its hundreds of thousands of residents -- was in crisis.</p> <p>“Half of our buildings were 60 years of age or older. We were facing a $17 billion capital deficit,” said Karina Totah, NYCHA Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, in an interview with Gotham Gazette. “We had operating deficits for several years and a large vulnerable population of both seniors and young people.”</p> <p>The agency also faced higher crime rates than surrounding areas, gaps in community programming, and accusations of financial mismanagement, not only in annual budgets, but in daily operations. For example, a <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nycha-board-sitting-1b-fed-cash-article-1.1126326" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2012 Daily News report</a> uncovered nearly $1 billion in unspent federal funds intended for repairs to the public housing stock. Reports in that vein, often in the Daily News, would continue into de Blasio’s term.</p> <p>In addition, soon after taking his new office in 2014, Comptroller Scott Stringer <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5835-18-months-of-nycha-scrutiny-reform-and-conflict-de-blasio" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">released a series of audits and reports</a> detailing unsatisfactory living conditions and poor financial management within NYCHA. This documentation helped put de Blasio on the spot to more fully address problems at the authority, and quickly.</p> <p>Additional reports found that NYCHA kept apartments off rent rolls for an average of seven years while doing major repairs and that the authority drastically under-reported repair backlogs for the sake of record keeping.</p> <p>De Blasio issued several immediate fixes before unveiling a major, sweeping plan. The mayor relieved the authority of its annual policing fees (roughly $52 million that the city had previously insisted NYCHA pay to the NYPD), began security camera installation at several housing developments, and allocated $101 million towards reducing crime in public housing developments. This announcement was quickly followed by the launch of the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/pmmr2016/mayors_action_plan_for_neighborhood_safety.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety</a>, a program designed to reduce violence in 15 NYCHA developments with high crime rates.</p> <p>In February 2014, de Blasio also appointed Olatoye, former Vice President for Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit organization that finances and advocates for affordable housing, to lead NYCHA.</p> <p>A year later, de Blasio and Olatoye released <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/nextgen-nycha.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NextGeneration NYCHA</a>, an ambitious, 10-year strategic plan designed to pull the authority out of debt and to address long unmet capital needs, while also enhancing quality of life for NYCHA residents. “The plan will save over ten years $4.6 billion in capital needs,” de Blasio said <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/326-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-nextgeneration-nycha--comprehensive-plan-secure-the" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">during the plan’s unveiling,</a> “And on the expense side of the NYCHA budget, in the course of this plan we will generate a surplus of $230 million over the next decade.”</p> <p>The authority’s operating budget achieved a surplus in both 2015 and 2016 and has no recent update to the 2011 estimate of $17 billion in unmet capital needs. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will cut a minimum of $35 million from the department’s budget this year, and potentially as much as $150 million, a possibly devastating loss for the authority.</p> <p>NextGen NYCHA lays out guidelines for preserving public housing stock, presenting a land-lease program somewhat similar to Bloomberg’s, which has become the most controversial aspect of the turnaround effort. Other priorities in the plan include improving landlord services such as maintenance repairs and development safety, and engaging residents through job placement and broader social service resources.</p> <p>An evaluation of de Blasio’s public housing record as he seeks a second term hinges on his administration’s execution of NextGen NYCHA.</p> <p><strong>Policing and Maintenance</strong><br />Through the NextGen program and other initiatives, the de Blasio administration has sought to reduce crime, improve maintenance response, and increase energy efficiency within developments.</p> <p>Crime within NYCHA developments became a focal point during de Blasio’s early tenure as city data showed increases in crime rates, up <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/336-14/fact-sheet-making-new-york-city-s-neighborhoods-housing-developments-safer#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">31 percent</a> in the first six months of the mayor’s term. In response to the upward trend, the Mayor and NYPD implemented the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety. Introduced in July 2014 and separate from the NextGen program, the plan provided additional safety measures in 15 of the authority’s highest crime developments. The program installed security infrastructure, provided broader access to employment programs and community centers, and has sought to strengthen communication between residents and police.</p> <p>The program has been effective to a degree in reversing the upward trend of public housing crime rates. Violent crime within the 15 targeted developments decreased by 11.2 percent between 2014 and 2015, the program’s first year, according to a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/operations/downloads/pdf/pmmr2016/mayors_action_plan_for_neighborhood_safety.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">preliminary management report</a> from the mayor’s office.</p> <p>Developments have seen improvement over time, according to some NYCHA residents.</p> <p>“The indication that things had begun to change was that we stopped hearing gunshots and I think in the last quarter there had been no gunshots reported in almost eight months,” said Geraldine Lamb, Castle Hill Residents Association President, in an interview in late October at the Bronx development.</p> <p>While its first year was largely successful, bringing crime rates among the targeted developments to par with the rates of other developments, its achievements in 2016 were far more incremental according to a <a href="https://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/poverty-and-progress-new-york-ix-crime-trends-public-housing-2015-16-9013.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study from the Manhattan Institute</a>. Overall crime rates continued to climb among non-MAP NYCHA developments while MAP locations’ rates stagnated. Meanwhile the number of violent crimes committed within MAP locations rose.</p> <p>“At the time that MAP was rolled out with the combined package there was a dip in crime that then petered out,” said Alex Armlovich, author of the study. Armlovich expressed support for the city’s rollout of MAP-tested safety features in other developments despite these mixed results.</p> <p>Lamb, of Castle Hill, expressed particular support for the community policing initiative, which recruits officers who have lived in public housing themselves or who have family members living in public housing. “They know what they’re dealing with and the people that live in public housing,” said Lamb. “And it’s working.”</p> <p>Additional safety measures include the removal of sidewalk scaffolding and the installation of security cameras and lighting. The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice conducted a study of the effect of light on crime in which 40 public housing developments received 400 exterior lights, the results of the study are set to be released later in the year. The mayor also announced the removal of eight miles of sidewalk shedding as part of ongoing safety efforts, in a July 2015 <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/473-15/de-blasio-administration-removal-over-43-000-feet-sidewalk-shedding-nycha">press conference</a>. As of June 2017, the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/396-17/de-blasio-administration-completion-camera-installation-22-nycha-developments" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">de Blasio administration</a> had announced the installation of new security cameras at 22 developments and the upgrade of 38 existing camera sets.</p> <p>NYCHA has long faced accusations of neglect over buildings in disrepair, conditions de Blasio condemned after spending a night in public housing with other Democratic primary candidates during the 2013 race. In the NextGeneration plan, de Blasio committed to faster repairs and more transparent metrics.</p> <p>“Our goal, starting with a set of developments over the next year and then expanding out throughout all the developments of the housing authority, is to set a one-week timeline for basic, straightforward repairs,” said de Blasio<a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/326-15/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-nextgeneration-nycha--comprehensive-plan-secure-the" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> at a press conference announcing the program</a> in May 2015.</p> <p>As of September 2017, the average wait time for basic maintenance repairs is four days according to <a href="https://eapps.nycha.info/NychaMetrics" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NYCHA Metrics.</a> A <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/FK14_102A.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> from Comptroller Stringer revealed the unreliability of reported repair times in 2014, but found that 81.7 percent of repairs met the stated goal of a 7 day timeline for simple repairs. Still, the problems are staggering -- some larger housing developments have upwards of 2,500 open work orders.</p> <p>These problems persist despite the introduction of the FlexOps program, designed to provide better repair service through flexible and staggered maintenance shifts, as well as the MyNYCHA app, which had saved the city $960,000, according to the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nycha/downloads/pdf/ngn-2-year-anniversary.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NextGeneration two-year progress report</a>, released May 2017. Part of NYCHA’s challenge has been adjusting work hours for its union labor force so that residents can have a better opportunity to be home to greet repair workers.</p> <p>A comptroller <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/newsroom/comptroller-stringer-audit-reveals-tens-of-thousands-of-backlogged-repairs-at-nycha-little-progress-despite-nychas-assurances/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a>, examining maintenance and repairs from January 1, 2013 through July 31, 2014, unveiled a backlog of more than 50,000 repairs and a policy for “fixing” repairs for the purposes of record-keeping when residents weren’t home to allow maintenance into the room.</p> <p>This practice of closing out repairs is still commonplace according to Lisa Kenner, Van Dyke Resident Association president. “Lately, I know people who said they were waiting for them and they never came, they closed the tickets out,” said Kenner, in an interview with the Gotham Gazette at the Brooklyn development.</p> <p>“We’ve increased our efforts around quality assurance and quality control to make sure that we’re going in and checking on work orders that are complete to make sure that they are done and done well,” said Karina Totah, NYCHA Vice President for Strategic Initiatives. Totah pointed to positive progress in maintenance responses as a result of the MyNYCHA app and efforts to improve property management efficiency through programs including NextGeneration Operations, a subsection of NYCHA guidelines for improving landlord services.</p> <p>Resident Lisa Kenner remains unhappy with the city’s approach. “If you have water leaks, they want to put bandaids on it,” said Kenner, who taught herself to wax and buff the floor of her own basement office, which doubles as a storage room for folding furniture and outdated computer monitors, she said. She doesn’t trust maintenance to take care of the room’s upkeep.</p> <p><strong>Financial Stability</strong><br />Facing a dire financial situation, the authority under de Blasio first looked to overturn legacy costs weighing down the budget. The largest among these were annual policing payments to the NYPD and PILOT fees, annual payments which take the place of property taxes for NYCHA. De Blasio removed NYPD payments from NYCHA’s budget in the earlier tenure and relieved the Authority of PILOT payments under the NextGeneration plan. These fees amounted to $70 million and $30 million respectively, according to <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/038-17/mayor-de-blasio-investing-1-billion-replace-roofs-more-700-nycha-buildings-combatting" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a report from the mayor’s office.</a></p> <p>Beyond these quick but significant relief measures, the NextGen plan prescribed more efficient rental and fee collection (low rates of rent and fee collection have been perpetual NYCHA challenges), advocated to maximize use of ground floor spaces and a consolidated central office workforce.</p> <p>Efforts by new leadership showed some quick progress -- in both 2015 and 2016, NYCHA operated at a narrow surplus. Yet, a recent <a href="https://cbcny.org/research/room-breathe" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> from the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) attributed this to changes in federal rent structure, increased federal operating subsidies, and increased city subsidies and support. “There really are a combination of factors that drove NYCHA’s financial improvement, NextGen NYCHA is a portion of that. It’s smaller than the effect of general changes and also actions taken by the city,” said Sean Campion, author of the CBC report, in an interview.</p> <p>Revenue from rental collection also grew between 2015 and 2016, resulting in a collection of $5 million above the expected revenue according to the <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nycha/downloads/pdf/nycha-2017-budget-book.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">adopted budget for fiscal year 2017</a>.</p> <p>However, this growth is again largely due to a 2014 change in federal rent structures, requiring residents who choose to pay “flat rents” (rather than income-based rents) to cover 80 percent of the apartment’s fair market rent. Despite city efforts to improve collections, the monthly rent collection rate has decreased almost every month since September 2016, according to <a href="https://eapps.nycha.info/NychaMetrics/Charts/PublicHousingChartsTabs/?section=public_housing&amp;tab=tab_repairs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">NYCHA Metrics</a>.</p> <p>According to NYCHA’s <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nycha/downloads/pdf/FY18-Final-Annual-Plan-101817-Executive-Summary.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Final Agency Plan for Fiscal Year 2018</a>, the current fiscal year, it has been successful thus far in maximizing the revenue and uses of ground floor spaces, generating $860,000 in new revenue from 19 new and 33 renewed leases for retail and professional uses.</p> <p>There are still avenues for continued savings that the authority has yet to pursue. “On the expense side, their biggest piece of it is that their operating expenses on a per unit basis are relatively high and particularly when you compare them to privately managed rental buildings,” said Campion of CBC. In addition, despite repeated proposals for raising parking fees to the market rate, the city has thus far been unable to follow through, though Olatoye, the NYCHA CEO, has said that parking-related reforms are coming.</p> <p>Looming over this recent progress are real and proposed federal cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. If proposals are approved, years of financial progress could be wiped out. “These cuts to HUD would strip nearly every dollar from public housing infrastructure and threaten our day-to-day operations,” Olatoye said in <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/press/pr-2017/statement-potus-budget-proposal-20170523.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement</a> in May on the federal budget proposal.</p> <p><strong>Reforming Resident Services</strong><br />While most landlords limit themselves to maintaining buildings and collecting rent, NYCHA sees itself, ultimately, as a social safety net. The average NYCHA resident remains in public housing for 22 years and makes $22,300 per year. <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/about-nycha.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">On NYCHA’s website</a>, the authority states that its mission “is to increase opportunities for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.” &nbsp;This involves facilitating access to ancillary services, like community and senior centers, job training and placement, and broadband internet.</p> <p>NYCHA receives no direct funding from the federal government to support local community programming. Instead, the agency uses funds from its operational budget to cover costs. With NYCHA as cash-strapped as it is, the NextGen plan includes outsourcing services provided by the agency, to nonprofits and other city agencies.</p> <p>Part of this initiative involved transferring the management of 24 community centers and 17 senior centers to the Department of Youth and Community Development and the Department for the Aging.</p> <p>Some residents were unhappy with the change. ”When they let that DYCD come in and take over the community center, it sucks!” said Lisa Kenner, president of the Van Dyke Houses Tenant Association. She complained that DYCD raised the daily fee for renting community center space, making it inaccessible to residents who need affordable areas to host parties, get-togethers, and other community events.</p> <p>In addition to relying on outside parties to finance and run services previously done by NYCHA, the housing authority decided to create a 501c(3) nonprofit to leverage donations from private donors that could be used for community development and to engage in new public-private partnerships. The Fund for Public Housing announced in 2016 an ambitious goal of raising $200 million within its first three years.</p> <p>More than a year-and-a-half later, the Fund had <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7160-nonprofit-supporting-nycha-adds-to-early-fundraising-programs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">raised only a small portion of that, $1.5 million</a>, as of this August, according to Olatoye, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7119-what-s-the-data-point-17-billion" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">on a recent episode of What’s the [Data] Point?,</a> a podcast by Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission. The nonprofit is forging ahead, though, and has partnered with donors on writing design guidelines for NYCHA buildings, constructing new playgrounds, and increasing resident access to free tax preparation programs. NYCHA and Fund for Public Housing leaders are encouraged, though, and hopeful that the Fund will continue to make steady progress and evenutally lure some major donors.</p> <p>NextGen NYCHA also included a goal to increase job placements for residents to 4,000 annually by 2025. Before 2015, NYCHA had been placing approximately 2,000 residents each year in new jobs, according to NextGen.</p> <p>Sideya Sherman, Executive Vice President for Community Engagement and Partnerships at NYCHA, explained that the NextGen approach involves connecting with approximately 60 outside job placement providers, administering their own training programs with grant funding, and expanding JobsPlus, a federal program.</p> <p>“A really important piece of our strategy is not only connecting residents to external services, but attracting resources and services to NYCHA communities and on campus,” she said in an interview with Gotham Gazette. Between May 2015 and May 2017, NYCHA had found employment for 5,663 residents, an average of 2,832 residents per year.</p> <p><strong>Preserving Existing Housing Stock</strong><br />As owner and manager of more than 320 developments, NYCHA is tasked with the preservation of almost 2,500 buildings. The authority, however, still faces the projected $17 billion bill for repairs across all properties (known as its “capital” needs, for things like roofs, boilers, and more).</p> <p>As opposed to previous administrations, de Blasio has made significant financial commitments to public housing in New York City. In 2015, he committed $300 million over three years for roof repair across in-need NYCHA properties. In 2017, he committed another $1 billion over ten years for roofs.</p> <p>“Years of federal and state disinvestment have led to deteriorating buildings, depriving tenants of the level of housing they deserve,” <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/301-15/de-blasio-administration-300-million-nycha-roof-replacement-the-next-three-years" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">de Blasio said in a 2015 press release</a>. “By making these critical investments in our aging NYCHA buildings, we are both protecting our residents – many of whom are children – and saving money spent on repairing these buildings.”</p> <p>Notwithstanding the mayor’s financial commitment, the implementation of roof repairs across NYCHA properties has been uneven. In a June 2017 audit, Comptroller Stringer found that many NYCHA construction projects between January 2013 and November 2015 <a href="https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/audit-report-on-the-new-york-city-housing-authoritys-oversight-of-contracts-involving-building-envelope-rehabilitation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">were ineffectively monitored</a>. For example, NYCHA reported that an effort to repair roofs at the Lafayette Houses in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn was successful, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nycha-signs-botched-brooklyn-roof-repairs-article-1.3409354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">despite no records of the agency inspecting the property</a>. This construction project was funded using some of the first $300 million pledged by the mayor earlier that year. Efforts in 2016 and 2017 have yet to be examined in detail.</p> <p>De Blasio’s financial pledges to NYCHA occurred amid creative efforts by NYCHA to leverage private funds to repair and renovate its properties. The agency aimed to enroll a substantial portion of its developments into the recently established federal program entitled RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration). NYCHA has already run a sizeable Section 8 voucher program, which is funded through federal dollars. Expanding that and adding the RAD program have let private developers and management companies invest capital in NYCHA developments, with NYCHA maintaining ultimate ownership of all NYCHA properties.</p> <p>The results have been encouraging to some. Using federal relief funds from Hurricane Sandy, tax credits, state bonds, and private equity, NYCHA was able to refurbish 1,395 apartments, raise 24 boiler rooms to roof level to avoid future floods, and construct floodwalls to protect against future storms at the Ocean Bay development in Far Rockaway.</p> <p>At least one resident of Ocean Bay is happy with the changes. Rita Joseph used to be “embarrassed” to show people her apartment, according to <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/08/this-nyc-housing-project-works-whats-different-here.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article in New York Magazine</a>. Now, she confidently strolls through her building’s spotless lobby.</p> <p>Perhaps the most controversial part of the NextGen NYCHA plan has been the “infill” projects, or the leasing of NYCHA land to private developers, to raise money for repairs while helping the mayor meet his goal of creating and preserving 300,000 affordable housing units by 2026.</p> <p>The infill projects called for in the NextGen plan consist of two types: 100% affordable housing and 50/50 developments, where half the units are market-rate and half have affordability caps on the rent. As of now, there are nine scheduled 100% affordable projects and four 50/50 projects in the works.</p> <p>Susan J. Popkin, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said in an interview with Gotham Gazette that NYCHA’s infill strategy is unique compared to other American housing authorities. The viability for NYCHA boils down to the inflated cost of real estate in New York City, something other authorities do not have at their disposal.</p> <p>Critics say that these projects are lagging behind or that they are inappropriate altogether, and a dangerous step toward privatization.</p> <p>On the other hand, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/nycha-crumbles-money-making-development-slow-coming-article-1.3537134" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Daily News recently published an editorial</a> criticizing NYCHA for its slow place in putting these developments into practice.</p> <p>NYCHA, however, says its advances are encouraging. “We are really happy with our progress. I don’t think we would say we would be behind,” said Ilana Maier, Deputy Communications Officer at NYCHA.</p> <p>Some residents at developments targeted for these structure are unsatisfied, though critics don’t provide viable alternatives that can help NYCHA bring in new revenue to dig itself out of a hole with which the state and federal governments do not seem concerned.</p> <p>In reference to the proposed 50/50 project at Holmes Towers, Alicia Harris, a resident of the Upper East development, <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170601/yorkville/holmes-towers-rally-nycha-nextgen-tower-development" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said to DNAinfo</a>, "When you talk about 45 stories, where are the kids gonna play? It will take away space for the kids."</p> <p>Charlene Nimmons, president of the Wyckoff Gardens Tenants Association from 2003 to 2015, echoed Harris’ dissatisfaction in an interview with Gotham Gazette. “You’re pushing it down our throats,” she said in response to the proposed plan to build a 50/50 building on two parking lots in the Wyckoff Gardens development.</p> <p>And Lisa Kenner, president of the Van Dyke Houses Tenants Association, criticized the two proposed 100% affordable housing projects on her development’s land. “They just want to sell stuff, instead of sitting down and looking at it.”</p> <p><strong>Moving Forward with Fingers Crossed</strong><br />Despite criticism of NYCHA’s infill development, ongoing problems with day-to-day management, and the huge capital need, experts have been impressed with de Blasio’s increased commitment and strategic approach to public housing. Handed an almost impossible situation—given the lack of federal funding and conditions at NYCHA—his administration has made progress in making the authority financially solvent, at least operationally, with some hope for the future.</p> <p>“Given the funding constraints, they are doing the best they can,” said Popkin of the Urban Institute.</p> <p>Others have also lauded the administration’s engagement with public housing residents, as opposed to his predecessors. “He has made it a point to visit public housing,” said Nicholas Bloom, Associate Professor at the New York Institute of Technology and a NYCHA scholar, to Gotham Gazette. “His office has been engaged.”</p> <p>And some NYCHA residents, while acknowledging the limitations on the mayor, have been generally positive. “I believe that he has kept his promises to the best of his ability because he has a City Council to deal with and all of the state elected officials to deal with, including the governor,” said Geraldine Lamb, president of the Castle Hill Residents Association.</p> <p>However, praise for NYCHA’s progress comes with caveats. Despite de Blasio’s financial commitments, public housing advocates demand greater city investment. “That kind of financial commitment has not been made by his office,” explained Bloom, referring to the type of dedication of funds toward NYCHA that would really shock the system.</p> <p>Because NYCHA is technically a state authority and not historically funded by the city, the agency receives scraps from the city budget, rather than a significant allocation of resources. As part of NYCHA’s $3.26 billion operating budget for 2017, $1.9 billion is provided by the federal government, $1 billion from tenant rental revenue, and another $200 million from New York State, according to <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/budget/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2017/03/NYCHA-exec.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a report on NYCHA’s finances issued by the City Council</a>; while $81.9 million comes from the city government, just 2.5% of NYCHA’s total 2017 budget. That’s why Bloom recommends that the state government should “turn NYCHA into a city agency,” to incentivize the city to better allocate funds for the struggling housing authority.</p> <p>Short of that, the city is moving forward with its plans, and hoping for good news from Washington, D.C. and Albany. “NextGen NYCHA is a pretty ambitious plan,” said Sean Campion of Citizens Budget Commission, “and they’re making relatively good progress towards it in a really difficult political environment.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;">**********</p> <p><strong><em>This article is part of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">a series on Mayor de Blasio's first term record</a>&nbsp;as he seeks reelection this fall, in partnership with WNYC radio and City Limits.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7221-dissecting-mayor-de-blasio-s-record-as-he-seeks-reelection">Find all pieces of the series here</a>.</em></strong></p> <p>***<br />by Grace Dixon and Ben Weiss<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.&nbsp;</p> Following Up with Comptroller Stringer on Several Debate Moments 2017-10-26T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-26T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7279:following-up-with-comptroller-stringer-on-several-debate-moments Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/faulkner_stringer_nyc_votes_crop.jpg" alt="faulkner stringer comptroller debate election" width="600" height="458" /></p> <p>Faulkner, left, and Stringer, at the Comptroller debate (photo via @NYCVotes)</p> <hr /> <p>It appears that a relatively small number of people watched <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7260-comptroller-debate-focuses-on-stringer-s-record" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the lone debate</a> in the election for New York City Comptroller, which occurred on Tuesday, October 17 between incumbent Democrat Scott Stringer and his Republican challenger, Michel Faulkner. It is one of three citywide races, along with those for Mayor and Public Advocate, happening this fall.</p> <p>Conventional wisdom is that Stringer will handily win a second term on November 7, as he has the full backing of the Democratic establishment and significant fundraising and name recognition advantages over Faulkner and the other candidates who will be on the ballot: Libertarian Party nominee Alex Merced and Green Party nominee Julia Willebrand.</p> <p>During the hourlong debate, broadcast <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2017/10/18/ny1-city-comptroller-debate-michel-faulkner-scott-stringer-nyc-manhattan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">on NY1 television</a> and WNYC radio, Stringer mostly played it safe and defended his record, at times, especially early on, barely reacting as Faulkner criticized him from an adjacent podium. But in a handful of moments Stringer said especially newsworthy or curious things, taking positions or making statements worthy of follow-up. Gotham Gazette sent a short series of inquiries to the comptroller’s office for more information.</p> <p><strong>Closing Rikers Island</strong><br />The debate moment that got the most attention was Stringer declaring that the Rikers Island jail complex should be closed in three years, far short of the ten-year timeline announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow Democrat also favored to win reelection this year. Stringer was well ahead of de Blasio is backing the notion of closing the notorious jail complex, but had not made such a splashy public declaration of his desired timeframe.</p> <p>“Let’s do it in three years,” Stringer said at the debate, when asked about closing Rikers by WNYC’s Brigid Bergin, one of the panelists asking questions, and raising more than a few eyebrows of those who follow city politics closely. “It is inhumane. I’ve walked those corridors, I’ve talked to inmates. I’ve done the data analysis. And it is inhumane.”</p> <p>Asked for more detail on how Stringer got to the three-year goal and what that “data analysis” looked like, the comptroller’s office told Gotham Gazette that the ten-year timeline is simply too long, that if New York wants to be a leader in criminal justice reform, it must move faster. A Stringer spokesperson said the comptroller has floated the three-year timeline at community events, but offered no specifics for how the comptroller got there.</p> <p><strong>NYCHA Home Ownership</strong><br />At the comptroller debate, Faulkner explained his call for allowing some NYCHA residents an opportunity to own their apartments. Stringer expressed surprising support for the idea, which his office then walked back.</p> <p>“I believe that the NYCHA residents, the long-term residents should have an equity stake in NYCHA right now,” Faulkner said at the debate.</p> <p>Asked by moderator Errol Louis of NY1 whether NYCHA residents should indeed have a path to ownership, Stringer said, “I think that’s a wonderful idea, but let’s also figure out a way to actually make that happen. It’s easy to talk about it, but look, we have to get more access to loans, to credit, if we’re really going to change the landscape of home ownership for the people who struggle in our city but are building and investing their sweat equity in our communities. That is something that we have to look at, and I would definitely look towards that.”</p> <p>In a follow-up to the debate, Gotham Gazette asked Stringer’s office about his apparent openness to some home ownership among NYCHA tenants and what that might mean for a privatization of the nation’s largest public housing system. A spokesperson tried to make it abundantly clear that the comptroller does not believe in privatization of NYCHA in any way. The spokesperson said that Stringer didn’t want to shut the door in principle on encouraging homeownership if there is a viable path that does not eliminate much affordable housing. The details of such a plan would be essential, the spokesperson stressed.</p> <p>During the NYCHA discussion at the debate, Stringer touted his many audits of the housing authority and called for new funding streams, including his push for tens of millions of dollars in Battery Park City Authority proceeds to go toward NYCHA fixes.</p> <p><strong>A Specific Affordable Housing Plan</strong><br />A large group of churchgoers, NYCHA residents, senior citizens, and advocates recently rallied near City Hall to push for <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7249-city-hall-pushes-back-on-proposal-that-hits-core-tension-of-housing-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an affordable housing plan</a> from the Metro-IAF coalition led by two Brooklyn pastors and affordable housing builders. The plan, which has been <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7249-city-hall-pushes-back-on-proposal-that-hits-core-tension-of-housing-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rebuffed by the de Blasio administration</a>, calls for major additional investments in NYCHA repairs, 15,000 new units of senior housing on NYCHA land, and more.</p> <p>Stringer spoke at the City Hall rally, expressing his support for the plan, and reiterated it at the comptroller debate, referencing it without being specifically asked about it.</p> <p>“There is a broad coalition of churches that have come together to build, within NYCHA, 15,000 senior housing units,” Stringer said during the debate. “My office is looking at those numbers, I think it’s a realistic plan. I think that anything we do to build within NYCHA developments has to be with the community -- to go back to something that we don’t do a lot of anymore, which is community-based planning.”</p> <p>Asked why Stringer had come out in support of the plan to then say that his office is still looking at the numbers, the comptroller’s office said Stringer reviewed the Metro-IAF plan and believes it is viable, partly because it requires increased housing subsidies from the city that would allow for deeper levels of affordability, a desirable outcome the comptroller has been calling for more broadly as he has consistently criticized the de Blasio administration’s housing plan. More review is needed on the specifics, including how much more in subsidy the city can afford, the Stringer spokesperson said.</p> <p>Stringer looks forward to continuing the conversation, Gotham Gazette was told.</p> <p><strong>The Mayor’s Affordable Housing Plan More Broadly</strong><br />Including with regard to the Metro-IAF plan, Stringer has repeatedly said that de Blasio’s larger affordable housing plan is not affordable enough, that it is not reaching enough New Yorkers most in need. It has been part of his push to see the city build more affordable housing on city-owned vacant lots, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7251-key-to-affordable-housing-development-vacant-lots-remain-source-of-controversy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the source of much controversy and back-and-forth with the de Blasio administration</a>.</p> <p>Stringer said at the debate that “right now” the city is “building luxury developments with some affordable housing that is not affordable.” Apartments being built in East New York, for example, are not affordable to families currently living there, he said, in apparent reference to the neighborhood rezoning plan passed by the de Blasio administration with the City Council. “[I]t’s not adequate,” Stringer said of the overall approach, adding, “we have to be bigger in thinking about housing.”</p> <p>In response to a follow-up question from Gotham Gazette, Stringer’s spokesperson said that the current city housing plan is not geared enough toward those in deeper poverty and with current subsidies favoring low-income households, those with extremely low-income or virtually no income face even more pressure, especially when the rezonings are taken into consideration, given that they can risk furthering the threats of displacement.</p> <p>Stringer wants to see more work done with not-for-profit developers, the spokesperson said, and to add anti-displacement zoning to undercut tenant harassment.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7260-comptroller-debate-focuses-on-stringer-s-record" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Comptroller Debate Focuses on Stringer's Record</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/faulkner_stringer_nyc_votes_crop.jpg" alt="faulkner stringer comptroller debate election" width="600" height="458" /></p> <p>Faulkner, left, and Stringer, at the Comptroller debate (photo via @NYCVotes)</p> <hr /> <p>It appears that a relatively small number of people watched <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7260-comptroller-debate-focuses-on-stringer-s-record" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the lone debate</a> in the election for New York City Comptroller, which occurred on Tuesday, October 17 between incumbent Democrat Scott Stringer and his Republican challenger, Michel Faulkner. It is one of three citywide races, along with those for Mayor and Public Advocate, happening this fall.</p> <p>Conventional wisdom is that Stringer will handily win a second term on November 7, as he has the full backing of the Democratic establishment and significant fundraising and name recognition advantages over Faulkner and the other candidates who will be on the ballot: Libertarian Party nominee Alex Merced and Green Party nominee Julia Willebrand.</p> <p>During the hourlong debate, broadcast <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2017/10/18/ny1-city-comptroller-debate-michel-faulkner-scott-stringer-nyc-manhattan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">on NY1 television</a> and WNYC radio, Stringer mostly played it safe and defended his record, at times, especially early on, barely reacting as Faulkner criticized him from an adjacent podium. But in a handful of moments Stringer said especially newsworthy or curious things, taking positions or making statements worthy of follow-up. Gotham Gazette sent a short series of inquiries to the comptroller’s office for more information.</p> <p><strong>Closing Rikers Island</strong><br />The debate moment that got the most attention was Stringer declaring that the Rikers Island jail complex should be closed in three years, far short of the ten-year timeline announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow Democrat also favored to win reelection this year. Stringer was well ahead of de Blasio is backing the notion of closing the notorious jail complex, but had not made such a splashy public declaration of his desired timeframe.</p> <p>“Let’s do it in three years,” Stringer said at the debate, when asked about closing Rikers by WNYC’s Brigid Bergin, one of the panelists asking questions, and raising more than a few eyebrows of those who follow city politics closely. “It is inhumane. I’ve walked those corridors, I’ve talked to inmates. I’ve done the data analysis. And it is inhumane.”</p> <p>Asked for more detail on how Stringer got to the three-year goal and what that “data analysis” looked like, the comptroller’s office told Gotham Gazette that the ten-year timeline is simply too long, that if New York wants to be a leader in criminal justice reform, it must move faster. A Stringer spokesperson said the comptroller has floated the three-year timeline at community events, but offered no specifics for how the comptroller got there.</p> <p><strong>NYCHA Home Ownership</strong><br />At the comptroller debate, Faulkner explained his call for allowing some NYCHA residents an opportunity to own their apartments. Stringer expressed surprising support for the idea, which his office then walked back.</p> <p>“I believe that the NYCHA residents, the long-term residents should have an equity stake in NYCHA right now,” Faulkner said at the debate.</p> <p>Asked by moderator Errol Louis of NY1 whether NYCHA residents should indeed have a path to ownership, Stringer said, “I think that’s a wonderful idea, but let’s also figure out a way to actually make that happen. It’s easy to talk about it, but look, we have to get more access to loans, to credit, if we’re really going to change the landscape of home ownership for the people who struggle in our city but are building and investing their sweat equity in our communities. That is something that we have to look at, and I would definitely look towards that.”</p> <p>In a follow-up to the debate, Gotham Gazette asked Stringer’s office about his apparent openness to some home ownership among NYCHA tenants and what that might mean for a privatization of the nation’s largest public housing system. A spokesperson tried to make it abundantly clear that the comptroller does not believe in privatization of NYCHA in any way. The spokesperson said that Stringer didn’t want to shut the door in principle on encouraging homeownership if there is a viable path that does not eliminate much affordable housing. The details of such a plan would be essential, the spokesperson stressed.</p> <p>During the NYCHA discussion at the debate, Stringer touted his many audits of the housing authority and called for new funding streams, including his push for tens of millions of dollars in Battery Park City Authority proceeds to go toward NYCHA fixes.</p> <p><strong>A Specific Affordable Housing Plan</strong><br />A large group of churchgoers, NYCHA residents, senior citizens, and advocates recently rallied near City Hall to push for <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7249-city-hall-pushes-back-on-proposal-that-hits-core-tension-of-housing-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an affordable housing plan</a> from the Metro-IAF coalition led by two Brooklyn pastors and affordable housing builders. The plan, which has been <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7249-city-hall-pushes-back-on-proposal-that-hits-core-tension-of-housing-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rebuffed by the de Blasio administration</a>, calls for major additional investments in NYCHA repairs, 15,000 new units of senior housing on NYCHA land, and more.</p> <p>Stringer spoke at the City Hall rally, expressing his support for the plan, and reiterated it at the comptroller debate, referencing it without being specifically asked about it.</p> <p>“There is a broad coalition of churches that have come together to build, within NYCHA, 15,000 senior housing units,” Stringer said during the debate. “My office is looking at those numbers, I think it’s a realistic plan. I think that anything we do to build within NYCHA developments has to be with the community -- to go back to something that we don’t do a lot of anymore, which is community-based planning.”</p> <p>Asked why Stringer had come out in support of the plan to then say that his office is still looking at the numbers, the comptroller’s office said Stringer reviewed the Metro-IAF plan and believes it is viable, partly because it requires increased housing subsidies from the city that would allow for deeper levels of affordability, a desirable outcome the comptroller has been calling for more broadly as he has consistently criticized the de Blasio administration’s housing plan. More review is needed on the specifics, including how much more in subsidy the city can afford, the Stringer spokesperson said.</p> <p>Stringer looks forward to continuing the conversation, Gotham Gazette was told.</p> <p><strong>The Mayor’s Affordable Housing Plan More Broadly</strong><br />Including with regard to the Metro-IAF plan, Stringer has repeatedly said that de Blasio’s larger affordable housing plan is not affordable enough, that it is not reaching enough New Yorkers most in need. It has been part of his push to see the city build more affordable housing on city-owned vacant lots, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7251-key-to-affordable-housing-development-vacant-lots-remain-source-of-controversy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the source of much controversy and back-and-forth with the de Blasio administration</a>.</p> <p>Stringer said at the debate that “right now” the city is “building luxury developments with some affordable housing that is not affordable.” Apartments being built in East New York, for example, are not affordable to families currently living there, he said, in apparent reference to the neighborhood rezoning plan passed by the de Blasio administration with the City Council. “[I]t’s not adequate,” Stringer said of the overall approach, adding, “we have to be bigger in thinking about housing.”</p> <p>In response to a follow-up question from Gotham Gazette, Stringer’s spokesperson said that the current city housing plan is not geared enough toward those in deeper poverty and with current subsidies favoring low-income households, those with extremely low-income or virtually no income face even more pressure, especially when the rezonings are taken into consideration, given that they can risk furthering the threats of displacement.</p> <p>Stringer wants to see more work done with not-for-profit developers, the spokesperson said, and to add anti-displacement zoning to undercut tenant harassment.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7260-comptroller-debate-focuses-on-stringer-s-record" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Comptroller Debate Focuses on Stringer's Record</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Hall Pushes Back on Proposal that Hits Core Tension of Housing Plan 2017-10-12T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-12T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7249:city-hall-pushes-back-on-proposal-that-hits-core-tension-of-housing-plan Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/housing_rally_sign_via_nyccomptroller.jpg" alt="housing rally sign via nyccomptroller" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>City Hall ralliers with Metro-IAF-NY (photo: @NYCComptroller)</p> <hr /> <p>Thousands of New Yorkers, many of them residents of public housing, braved the rain on Monday, October 9, to rally outside City Hall to push Mayor Bill de Blasio to adopt a new direction for his affordable housing plan. Their alternative proposal, which had been presented by the leading advocates to the mayor ten days prior, calls for a radical investment in building new housing for low-income families, especially seniors, which critics say has largely been left out of the mayor’s current housing strategy.</p> <p>But there’s disagreement over whether the plan is feasible and if the city, without state or federal resources, can commit to a sweeping addendum to an already ambitious affordable housing plan.</p> <p>The leaders of the community proposal and rally, reverends from Brooklyn, achieved significant attention for their plan and support from elected officials, in part because their critique of de Blasio’s housing program touched the core tension of what some see as a solid, fairly moderate approach, but others call too timid to address the affordability crisis facing the city and its residents and, in some cases, a catalyst of detrimental gentrification.<br /> <br />De Blasio’s Housing New York plan aims to build about 80,000 new affordable units and preserve another 120,000 by 2024. By June 30, the end of fiscal year 2017, the city had financed 77,651 units -- 25,342 or 33 percent new units and 52,309 or 67 percent preserved. The mayor has declared the plan on time and within budget and earlier this year he also announced an additional $1.9 billion investment to create 10,000 more affordable housing for low-income earners, including 5,000 more dedicated senior housing units, for a total of 15,000 senior units under the plan. There are also projects in the pipeline to build 10,000 new units on underutilized NYCHA property.</p> <p>But the organizers of Monday’s rally -- leaders of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation and East Brooklyn Congregations, made up of church-going members, homeowners associations, schools, and senior centers -- say the plan isn’t building enough housing quickly enough, particularly for those at the lowest income tiers, and is ignoring the need for more senior housing. Their plan seeks to address these deficiencies, though the de Blasio administration says it is already doing most of what is being sought in the plan, while other aspects are not possible at this time.</p> <p>Of the 77,651 units financed by the administration so far, 11,505 were for families of three making less than $25,770 a year, or 30 percent on the area median income (AMI), and another 13,277 were for families making between $25,771-$42,950 (31-50 percent AMI).</p> <p>The Metro IAF-EBC proposal specifically calls for 15,000 new senior housing units on underutilized NYCHA land, which it foresees would allow 50,000 people on NYCHA waitlists and in homeless shelters to move into apartments vacated by those seniors. The plan also advocates for refurbishing NYCHA developments across the city. Its proponents, while vehemently behind it, note that it is a starting point for discussion with the mayor and his team.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio, in a letter on October 7 responding to the coalition, wrote that he shares “the same values and goals: to build safe, clean, and affordable housing for all of our families at a faster rate than we have ever done.”</p> <p>“I also agree with you that we have to make tough choices if we’re going to turn a corner in this crisis, and invest in our original affordable housing: NYCHA,” he added, before agreeing to collaborate, in a general sense, on the coalition’s ideas. He made no specific promises.</p> <p>In an appearance on NY1 the night of the rally, Metro IAF-EBC coalition leader Rev. Shaun Lee, pastor of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church in Brooklyn, said de Blasio’s response had been “disrespectful” so far. “They tried to placate us but they’re not really taking the plan seriously,” he told anchor Errol Louis.</p> <p>Rev. David Brawley, from St. Paul Community Baptist Church, said on the show that the mayor had promised them a “thoughtful response” that did not seem forthcoming. “We don’t consider a form letter, just because it has a seal on it and a signature, a thoughtful response,” he said. “We think a commitment is a thoughtful response. Even a question, a date to meet again, is a thoughtful response. Not simply a form letter.”</p> <p>The coalition has prominent allies, including Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James, both of whom spoke at the group’s City Hall rally. A spokesperson for Stringer told Gotham Gazette that the comptroller believes the coalition proposal is financially feasible in conjunction with the administration’s current plan. The spokesperson did not elaborate when asked for details.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration, although agreeing with the principle behind the plan, disagrees with that notion. Some of the ideas in the plan, said spokesperson Melissa Grace, are currently also being implemented.</p> <p>“We agree with the group’s goals, and are already advancing them in many places across the city,” said Grace, in an email. “Deeper affordability? Those very lowest-income apartments now represent nearly 30 percent of our housing plan. Building on underused NYCHA land for seniors? We’ve closed on two senior projects, with more coming. We welcome the chance to work together to accomplish more.”</p> <p>Among the pitfalls of the plan, the administration points out, are that it would require heavy subsidies from the city -- building only deeply affordable housing is extremely expensive -- and it ignores the need to build middle-income housing, something de Blasio regularly explains he is steadfastly committed to. Indeed, the proposal predicts creating 15,000 new affordable housing units would cost about $3.83 billion, including about $1.875 billion in city subsidies, through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).</p> <p>NYCHA also has a $17 billion capital backlog, and the advocates have been vague about how the city could address that without federal or state funding, other than insisting that the mayor must get “creative and imaginative” with funding solutions. “The money is there. The question is, where’s the leadership,” Brawley said in a phone interview. The coalition says the city must make good on NYCHA capital repairs so that, if its plan moves forward, people want to move into the NYCHA apartments that seniors would vacate as they move into the new homes being built, often into smaller units than they may now occupy, allowing larger families to move in.</p> <p>The proposal did identify at least $225 million each year in new revenue sources the city could use -- $40 million in excess revenue from the Battery Park City Authority and $185 million paid by NYCHA to the city for sanitation, water and other services. A Metro IAF spokesperson also emphasized, as have its leaders, that the pace of NYCHA “infill” projects -- like the senior projects Grace referred to -- has been too slow and that four years into the affordable housing program, few have broken ground. Grace later pointed out that the $40 million was already committed to affordable housing projects, including in communities with NYCHA developments.&nbsp;</p> <p>One aspect of the plan also proposes an alternative financing model for new developments through tax credits, tax-exempt bonds and Section 8 vouchers for 100 percent of the units. Using Section 8 vouchers, which are limited, at new projects on NYCHA land is also problematic, according to the administration. If Section 8 vouchers are applied, the city would require a waiver from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to allocate units to current NYCHA residents. HUD has in the past has approved an allocation of 25 percent for an area the size of a community board, according to City Hall. The Metro IAF spokesperson said, however, that these provisions of the plan are not necessarily red lines and that they are open to change.</p> <p>The crucial point of the plan, said Brawley, is that the city needs to move beyond incremental increases in affordable units. “The city’s gonna have to work to do a critical mass of units. A few hundred units here or there will not do,” he said. He brushed aside the issues built into the system of constructing new housing -- the city’s process for competitive bids and the lengthy review of land use applications.</p> <p>Public Advocate James, who brought Brawley to the general election mayoral debate on Tuesday night as her guest, has also recently started calling for a much more ambitious overall program of building new affordable housing, putting forth ideas like building more over rail yards across the five boroughs.</p> <p>It remains to be seen whether de Blasio will be amenable to implementing some of the ideas from Brawley’s coalition -- Metro IAF has worked with the city to build multiple affordable housing complexes before. In the meantime, Brawley and Lee have vowed a sustained advocacy campaign. “We’ve increased pressure on mayors in the past to make things happen,” Brawley said. “And that’s what we’ll do. We’re going to see this plan through.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/housing_rally_sign_via_nyccomptroller.jpg" alt="housing rally sign via nyccomptroller" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>City Hall ralliers with Metro-IAF-NY (photo: @NYCComptroller)</p> <hr /> <p>Thousands of New Yorkers, many of them residents of public housing, braved the rain on Monday, October 9, to rally outside City Hall to push Mayor Bill de Blasio to adopt a new direction for his affordable housing plan. Their alternative proposal, which had been presented by the leading advocates to the mayor ten days prior, calls for a radical investment in building new housing for low-income families, especially seniors, which critics say has largely been left out of the mayor’s current housing strategy.</p> <p>But there’s disagreement over whether the plan is feasible and if the city, without state or federal resources, can commit to a sweeping addendum to an already ambitious affordable housing plan.</p> <p>The leaders of the community proposal and rally, reverends from Brooklyn, achieved significant attention for their plan and support from elected officials, in part because their critique of de Blasio’s housing program touched the core tension of what some see as a solid, fairly moderate approach, but others call too timid to address the affordability crisis facing the city and its residents and, in some cases, a catalyst of detrimental gentrification.<br /> <br />De Blasio’s Housing New York plan aims to build about 80,000 new affordable units and preserve another 120,000 by 2024. By June 30, the end of fiscal year 2017, the city had financed 77,651 units -- 25,342 or 33 percent new units and 52,309 or 67 percent preserved. The mayor has declared the plan on time and within budget and earlier this year he also announced an additional $1.9 billion investment to create 10,000 more affordable housing for low-income earners, including 5,000 more dedicated senior housing units, for a total of 15,000 senior units under the plan. There are also projects in the pipeline to build 10,000 new units on underutilized NYCHA property.</p> <p>But the organizers of Monday’s rally -- leaders of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation and East Brooklyn Congregations, made up of church-going members, homeowners associations, schools, and senior centers -- say the plan isn’t building enough housing quickly enough, particularly for those at the lowest income tiers, and is ignoring the need for more senior housing. Their plan seeks to address these deficiencies, though the de Blasio administration says it is already doing most of what is being sought in the plan, while other aspects are not possible at this time.</p> <p>Of the 77,651 units financed by the administration so far, 11,505 were for families of three making less than $25,770 a year, or 30 percent on the area median income (AMI), and another 13,277 were for families making between $25,771-$42,950 (31-50 percent AMI).</p> <p>The Metro IAF-EBC proposal specifically calls for 15,000 new senior housing units on underutilized NYCHA land, which it foresees would allow 50,000 people on NYCHA waitlists and in homeless shelters to move into apartments vacated by those seniors. The plan also advocates for refurbishing NYCHA developments across the city. Its proponents, while vehemently behind it, note that it is a starting point for discussion with the mayor and his team.</p> <p>Mayor de Blasio, in a letter on October 7 responding to the coalition, wrote that he shares “the same values and goals: to build safe, clean, and affordable housing for all of our families at a faster rate than we have ever done.”</p> <p>“I also agree with you that we have to make tough choices if we’re going to turn a corner in this crisis, and invest in our original affordable housing: NYCHA,” he added, before agreeing to collaborate, in a general sense, on the coalition’s ideas. He made no specific promises.</p> <p>In an appearance on NY1 the night of the rally, Metro IAF-EBC coalition leader Rev. Shaun Lee, pastor of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church in Brooklyn, said de Blasio’s response had been “disrespectful” so far. “They tried to placate us but they’re not really taking the plan seriously,” he told anchor Errol Louis.</p> <p>Rev. David Brawley, from St. Paul Community Baptist Church, said on the show that the mayor had promised them a “thoughtful response” that did not seem forthcoming. “We don’t consider a form letter, just because it has a seal on it and a signature, a thoughtful response,” he said. “We think a commitment is a thoughtful response. Even a question, a date to meet again, is a thoughtful response. Not simply a form letter.”</p> <p>The coalition has prominent allies, including Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James, both of whom spoke at the group’s City Hall rally. A spokesperson for Stringer told Gotham Gazette that the comptroller believes the coalition proposal is financially feasible in conjunction with the administration’s current plan. The spokesperson did not elaborate when asked for details.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration, although agreeing with the principle behind the plan, disagrees with that notion. Some of the ideas in the plan, said spokesperson Melissa Grace, are currently also being implemented.</p> <p>“We agree with the group’s goals, and are already advancing them in many places across the city,” said Grace, in an email. “Deeper affordability? Those very lowest-income apartments now represent nearly 30 percent of our housing plan. Building on underused NYCHA land for seniors? We’ve closed on two senior projects, with more coming. We welcome the chance to work together to accomplish more.”</p> <p>Among the pitfalls of the plan, the administration points out, are that it would require heavy subsidies from the city -- building only deeply affordable housing is extremely expensive -- and it ignores the need to build middle-income housing, something de Blasio regularly explains he is steadfastly committed to. Indeed, the proposal predicts creating 15,000 new affordable housing units would cost about $3.83 billion, including about $1.875 billion in city subsidies, through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).</p> <p>NYCHA also has a $17 billion capital backlog, and the advocates have been vague about how the city could address that without federal or state funding, other than insisting that the mayor must get “creative and imaginative” with funding solutions. “The money is there. The question is, where’s the leadership,” Brawley said in a phone interview. The coalition says the city must make good on NYCHA capital repairs so that, if its plan moves forward, people want to move into the NYCHA apartments that seniors would vacate as they move into the new homes being built, often into smaller units than they may now occupy, allowing larger families to move in.</p> <p>The proposal did identify at least $225 million each year in new revenue sources the city could use -- $40 million in excess revenue from the Battery Park City Authority and $185 million paid by NYCHA to the city for sanitation, water and other services. A Metro IAF spokesperson also emphasized, as have its leaders, that the pace of NYCHA “infill” projects -- like the senior projects Grace referred to -- has been too slow and that four years into the affordable housing program, few have broken ground. Grace later pointed out that the $40 million was already committed to affordable housing projects, including in communities with NYCHA developments.&nbsp;</p> <p>One aspect of the plan also proposes an alternative financing model for new developments through tax credits, tax-exempt bonds and Section 8 vouchers for 100 percent of the units. Using Section 8 vouchers, which are limited, at new projects on NYCHA land is also problematic, according to the administration. If Section 8 vouchers are applied, the city would require a waiver from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to allocate units to current NYCHA residents. HUD has in the past has approved an allocation of 25 percent for an area the size of a community board, according to City Hall. The Metro IAF spokesperson said, however, that these provisions of the plan are not necessarily red lines and that they are open to change.</p> <p>The crucial point of the plan, said Brawley, is that the city needs to move beyond incremental increases in affordable units. “The city’s gonna have to work to do a critical mass of units. A few hundred units here or there will not do,” he said. He brushed aside the issues built into the system of constructing new housing -- the city’s process for competitive bids and the lengthy review of land use applications.</p> <p>Public Advocate James, who brought Brawley to the general election mayoral debate on Tuesday night as her guest, has also recently started calling for a much more ambitious overall program of building new affordable housing, putting forth ideas like building more over rail yards across the five boroughs.</p> <p>It remains to be seen whether de Blasio will be amenable to implementing some of the ideas from Brawley’s coalition -- Metro IAF has worked with the city to build multiple affordable housing complexes before. In the meantime, Brawley and Lee have vowed a sustained advocacy campaign. “We’ve increased pressure on mayors in the past to make things happen,” Brawley said. “And that’s what we’ll do. We’re going to see this plan through.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated.</p>
Pushing New Affordable Housing Plan, Activists Plan Massive City Hall Rally 2017-10-06T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-06T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7240:pushing-new-affordable-housing-plan-activists-plan-massive-city-hall-rally Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/affordable-housing.jpg" alt="affordable housing" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>&nbsp;De Blasio unveils his housing plan (photo: Ed Reed)</p> <hr /> <p>As elected officials and candidates march in the annual Columbus Day parade on Monday, a separate gathering of members of church congregations, senior centers, schools, and homeowners associations will convene outside City Hall to present an affordable housing plan that they believe is a viable alternative to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s current program.</p> <p>The coalition of Metro Industrial Areas Foundation and East Brooklyn Congregations plans to lead 5,000 people in the rally on Monday to push the mayor to adopt their proposal. “Monday is about a plan that we have vetted and that we think is the right plan for the city,” said coalition leader Reverend David Brawley, the pastor of St. Paul Community Baptist Church, in a phone interview Friday.</p> <p>Brawley and his partners recently confronted de Blasio about their plan at a town hall in East New York, just after having presented the plan to him three days prior, at which time the mayor said he had already said he hoped to have an answer by the time of their Columbus Day rally and was sticking to that answer. The proposal hits on key criticisms of the de Blasio administration’s approach to affordable housing: that it doesn’t go far enough, especially with regard to the poorest and neediest New Yorkers.</p> <p>The proposal envisions creating 15,000 units of senior housing on underutilized NYCHA land and vacant city-owned lots within four years. That, in turn, would free up space in NYCHA developments to house 50,000 people who currently sit on waitlists or live in shelters, according to the plan, which includes detailed development costs and financing mechanisms for deeply affordable housing, including more city subsidies. Aside from the housing plan, the advocates will also push the city to criminally prosecute predatory landlords.</p> <p>The coalition is also calling for “top-to-bottom rehabilitation” of NYCHA developments to ensure that public housing residents live in quality homes. NYCHA has faced decades of underinvestment, at the city, state, and federal levels, and currently has a nearly $18 billion capital need for infrastructure upgrades. Under de Blasio, the city has invested much more in NYCHA and is implementing a turnaround plan that has helped stabilize its operating budget, though astronomical capital costs remain.</p> <p>“We’re not naive,” said Brawley, “We know its an $18 billion need. But the feds won’t do it, the state won’t do it. We need city leadership. We’re gonna have to be far more creative and imaginative.”</p> <p>The de Blasio administration has, to a degree, turned around the public housing authority’s abysmal operations and financing through the NextGeneration NYCHA program, under the leadership of NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. For the first time in years, the authority <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/06/05/nycs-public-housing-was-turning-a-corner-then-came-donald-trump/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cleared</a> its operating deficit, and has been breaking ground on public-private partnerships to build new developments, referred to as “infill,” on NYCHA land. The administration has announced plans to create 100 percent affordable housing on underutilized property on nine NYCHA sites and 50 percent affordable housing on four sites. A separate nonprofit called the Fund for Public Housing has also been raising private philanthropic donations to support the cash-strapped agency and recently launched an online crowdfunding portal to supplement sustainability projects.</p> <p>But Brawley believes these efforts have been insufficient. “The current plan, as well intentioned as it might be, is too slow, it’s too little and very shortly it’s gonna be too late,” he said.</p> <p>He also said the mayor’s affordable housing plan -- which involves creating and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing in ten years -- does not benefit those communities and populations that face the most dire need for housing. “It’s not reaching people who need it the most,” he said. “Not much has happened so far at all. So they can scrap it and put all options on the table.”</p> <p>Since 2014, the administration touts having <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/housing/action/by-the-numbers.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">created or preserved</a> 77,651 affordable homes, with 24,293 financed in fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30. Of those 24,293 homes, 40 percent were for a family of three with an annual income of less than $43,000, while 4,014 were for the lowest tier, a family making less than $26,000, and advocates have been pushing the city to create more units at these levels of deep affordability.</p> <p>Brawley’s church is located in East New York, one of the few neighborhoods where the administration has managed to pass a comprehensive rezoning plan that involves changing land use rules to allow more density and encourage the creation of affordable housing, along with other economic development objectives. The plan was met with significant criticism from community groups that argued it did not reach the deep affordability needed for one of the poorest districts in the city. “A lot of times, it feels like plans are done to the community,” said Brawley, raising an oft-repeated criticism that the administration does little to incorporate community voices in such rezonings (the current East Harlem rezoning proposal faces opposition for much the same reason).</p> <p>[Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7211-nonprofit-linked-to-nycha-creates-crowdfunding-portal-for-sustainability-projects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nonprofit Linked To NYCHA Creates Crowdfunding Portal For Sustainability Projects</a>]</p> <p>Brawley and other leaders met with Mayor de Blasio last week at Gracie Mansion to present their plan. On Monday, at the mayor’s town hall in East New York, Brawley asked the mayor for an answer, standing with about 20 coalition members. De Blasio joked that the wheels of government did not move that fast but promised to have a response before the rally.</p> <p>By Friday afternoon, the mayor had yet to provide one.&nbsp;</p> <p>“We’re hopeful that he’ll be a man of his word,” Brawley said. “We’re hoping for a thoughtful and serious response to a serious plan. We’re expecting a commitment to affordability, to our seniors, to our community.”</p> <p>And if the mayor’s answer in unsatisfactory? “We’ll do what we have to do to change his mind,” he said.</p> <p>Mayoral spokesperson Melissa Grace said in an email Saturday, "We are big supporters of building affordable housing, including senior housing on underutilized NYCHA property. We’ve taken that fight on across the city and welcome the organizing and partnership of this and any group pressing to deepen those efforts. We look forward to working together.”</p> <p>Rev. Shaun Lee, pastor of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, hopes Monday’s rally will impress upon the mayor the need to prioritize deeper levels of affordability. “Time has proven, when the mayor is passionate about something, he does what he needs to do to get it done, we saw that with universal pre-kindergarten,” he said. “We want him to be just as passionate about real affordable housing.”</p> <p>Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer are expected to attend the rally as well. James recently suggested that the administration needs to reexamine options for building new affordable housing on a larger scale. At an October 3 <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0DjK5FmSIg&amp;t=4507s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">news conference</a>, Gotham Gazette asked Mayor de Blasio if his administration had considered doing so. “We look for every opportunity and we are constantly asking ourselves, ‘Can we in some way improve upon the existing effort?’” he said. But he expressed skepticism about implementing a new building program in the absence of state or federal aid.</p> <p>“Let’s be honest about this...We’re probably stuck right now through 2020 with effectively no new housing aid from Washington,” de Blasio said. “And then the state really hasn’t delivered on any of the programs they said they were going to create for us. So we’re on our own, anxious to do more but I don’t know where the resources would be for something really big at this point. We’ll keep looking for them though.”</p> <p>Asked about the housing plan from Metro Industrial Areas Foundation and East Brooklyn Congregations, Stringer said in a statement, “We're no doubt facing a crisis, and we need to use every tool in the kit to provide relief. We need housing that's actually affordable — and we need to protect those long-time residents who raised their families, played by the rules, and helped build their communities to stay in them. That means protecting our seniors, modernizing NYCHA, and ensuring that we deliver a city that is fair to all.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated to include comment from a mayoral spokesperson.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/affordable-housing.jpg" alt="affordable housing" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>&nbsp;De Blasio unveils his housing plan (photo: Ed Reed)</p> <hr /> <p>As elected officials and candidates march in the annual Columbus Day parade on Monday, a separate gathering of members of church congregations, senior centers, schools, and homeowners associations will convene outside City Hall to present an affordable housing plan that they believe is a viable alternative to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s current program.</p> <p>The coalition of Metro Industrial Areas Foundation and East Brooklyn Congregations plans to lead 5,000 people in the rally on Monday to push the mayor to adopt their proposal. “Monday is about a plan that we have vetted and that we think is the right plan for the city,” said coalition leader Reverend David Brawley, the pastor of St. Paul Community Baptist Church, in a phone interview Friday.</p> <p>Brawley and his partners recently confronted de Blasio about their plan at a town hall in East New York, just after having presented the plan to him three days prior, at which time the mayor said he had already said he hoped to have an answer by the time of their Columbus Day rally and was sticking to that answer. The proposal hits on key criticisms of the de Blasio administration’s approach to affordable housing: that it doesn’t go far enough, especially with regard to the poorest and neediest New Yorkers.</p> <p>The proposal envisions creating 15,000 units of senior housing on underutilized NYCHA land and vacant city-owned lots within four years. That, in turn, would free up space in NYCHA developments to house 50,000 people who currently sit on waitlists or live in shelters, according to the plan, which includes detailed development costs and financing mechanisms for deeply affordable housing, including more city subsidies. Aside from the housing plan, the advocates will also push the city to criminally prosecute predatory landlords.</p> <p>The coalition is also calling for “top-to-bottom rehabilitation” of NYCHA developments to ensure that public housing residents live in quality homes. NYCHA has faced decades of underinvestment, at the city, state, and federal levels, and currently has a nearly $18 billion capital need for infrastructure upgrades. Under de Blasio, the city has invested much more in NYCHA and is implementing a turnaround plan that has helped stabilize its operating budget, though astronomical capital costs remain.</p> <p>“We’re not naive,” said Brawley, “We know its an $18 billion need. But the feds won’t do it, the state won’t do it. We need city leadership. We’re gonna have to be far more creative and imaginative.”</p> <p>The de Blasio administration has, to a degree, turned around the public housing authority’s abysmal operations and financing through the NextGeneration NYCHA program, under the leadership of NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. For the first time in years, the authority <a href="https://citylimits.org/2017/06/05/nycs-public-housing-was-turning-a-corner-then-came-donald-trump/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cleared</a> its operating deficit, and has been breaking ground on public-private partnerships to build new developments, referred to as “infill,” on NYCHA land. The administration has announced plans to create 100 percent affordable housing on underutilized property on nine NYCHA sites and 50 percent affordable housing on four sites. A separate nonprofit called the Fund for Public Housing has also been raising private philanthropic donations to support the cash-strapped agency and recently launched an online crowdfunding portal to supplement sustainability projects.</p> <p>But Brawley believes these efforts have been insufficient. “The current plan, as well intentioned as it might be, is too slow, it’s too little and very shortly it’s gonna be too late,” he said.</p> <p>He also said the mayor’s affordable housing plan -- which involves creating and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing in ten years -- does not benefit those communities and populations that face the most dire need for housing. “It’s not reaching people who need it the most,” he said. “Not much has happened so far at all. So they can scrap it and put all options on the table.”</p> <p>Since 2014, the administration touts having <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/housing/action/by-the-numbers.page" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">created or preserved</a> 77,651 affordable homes, with 24,293 financed in fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30. Of those 24,293 homes, 40 percent were for a family of three with an annual income of less than $43,000, while 4,014 were for the lowest tier, a family making less than $26,000, and advocates have been pushing the city to create more units at these levels of deep affordability.</p> <p>Brawley’s church is located in East New York, one of the few neighborhoods where the administration has managed to pass a comprehensive rezoning plan that involves changing land use rules to allow more density and encourage the creation of affordable housing, along with other economic development objectives. The plan was met with significant criticism from community groups that argued it did not reach the deep affordability needed for one of the poorest districts in the city. “A lot of times, it feels like plans are done to the community,” said Brawley, raising an oft-repeated criticism that the administration does little to incorporate community voices in such rezonings (the current East Harlem rezoning proposal faces opposition for much the same reason).</p> <p>[Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7211-nonprofit-linked-to-nycha-creates-crowdfunding-portal-for-sustainability-projects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nonprofit Linked To NYCHA Creates Crowdfunding Portal For Sustainability Projects</a>]</p> <p>Brawley and other leaders met with Mayor de Blasio last week at Gracie Mansion to present their plan. On Monday, at the mayor’s town hall in East New York, Brawley asked the mayor for an answer, standing with about 20 coalition members. De Blasio joked that the wheels of government did not move that fast but promised to have a response before the rally.</p> <p>By Friday afternoon, the mayor had yet to provide one.&nbsp;</p> <p>“We’re hopeful that he’ll be a man of his word,” Brawley said. “We’re hoping for a thoughtful and serious response to a serious plan. We’re expecting a commitment to affordability, to our seniors, to our community.”</p> <p>And if the mayor’s answer in unsatisfactory? “We’ll do what we have to do to change his mind,” he said.</p> <p>Mayoral spokesperson Melissa Grace said in an email Saturday, "We are big supporters of building affordable housing, including senior housing on underutilized NYCHA property. We’ve taken that fight on across the city and welcome the organizing and partnership of this and any group pressing to deepen those efforts. We look forward to working together.”</p> <p>Rev. Shaun Lee, pastor of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, hopes Monday’s rally will impress upon the mayor the need to prioritize deeper levels of affordability. “Time has proven, when the mayor is passionate about something, he does what he needs to do to get it done, we saw that with universal pre-kindergarten,” he said. “We want him to be just as passionate about real affordable housing.”</p> <p>Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer are expected to attend the rally as well. James recently suggested that the administration needs to reexamine options for building new affordable housing on a larger scale. At an October 3 <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0DjK5FmSIg&amp;t=4507s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">news conference</a>, Gotham Gazette asked Mayor de Blasio if his administration had considered doing so. “We look for every opportunity and we are constantly asking ourselves, ‘Can we in some way improve upon the existing effort?’” he said. But he expressed skepticism about implementing a new building program in the absence of state or federal aid.</p> <p>“Let’s be honest about this...We’re probably stuck right now through 2020 with effectively no new housing aid from Washington,” de Blasio said. “And then the state really hasn’t delivered on any of the programs they said they were going to create for us. So we’re on our own, anxious to do more but I don’t know where the resources would be for something really big at this point. We’ll keep looking for them though.”</p> <p>Asked about the housing plan from Metro Industrial Areas Foundation and East Brooklyn Congregations, Stringer said in a statement, “We're no doubt facing a crisis, and we need to use every tool in the kit to provide relief. We need housing that's actually affordable — and we need to protect those long-time residents who raised their families, played by the rules, and helped build their communities to stay in them. That means protecting our seniors, modernizing NYCHA, and ensuring that we deliver a city that is fair to all.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - this article has been updated to include comment from a mayoral spokesperson.</p>
With Federal Help, A Big Project Reset Shows the Way at NYCHA 2017-09-28T22:04:59+00:00 2017-09-28T22:04:59+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7225:with-federal-help-a-big-project-reset-shows-the-way-at-nycha Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_2/rad-1.jpg" alt="rad 1" width="600" height="400" /></p> <hr /> <p><em>This is the second in a two-part series on transformations and experiments happening at NYCHA. Read part one: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7223-at-nycha-a-small-project-high-concept-reset" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">At NYCHA, A Small Project-High Concept Reset</a>.</em></p> <p>The conversion of the Ocean Bay (Bayside) project, housing 4,000 Rockaways residents, to private management through the federal Housing and Urban Development’s Residence Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program is far advanced. Ocean Bay flooded badly during Superstorm Sandy and has been on temporary boilers since the floods. While the damage was most severe to the mechanical systems rather than apartments, lobbies, elevators, or interior&nbsp;hallways, post-Sandy the complex continued to decline with problems of trash, leaking&nbsp;ceilings, and more.</p> <p>Ocean Bay is also isolated: close to the beach and other housing projects but not much else. There isn’t a decent grocery store, or much of any stores or community services, within walking distance. But there are assets, if you know where to look.</p> <p>The first major asset is the 1,395 apartments in 24 towers, nearly all still occupied by now former NYCHA families. Livable apartments in hot-market New York City are attractive opportunities, particularly if they are, as is the case here, delivered without an underlying mortgage. To simply develop the equivalent number of housing units might costs as much as $750 million (1,400 units at $400,000 each), take years of permits, incur many delays, etc.</p> <p>Similar dilapidated public housing units would be less valuable in other cities, and many towers of similar scale and style have been destroyed across the country, but New York is different because of the demand for all housing, public or private.</p> <p>The second major asset is the multiple set of government subsidies available to the&nbsp;developer. RDC Development, a joint venture between MDG Design + Construction and&nbsp;Wavecrest Management Team, has borrowed money in private markets that might not be available in less desirable housing markets. Most of the $560 million in renovation funding, including private loans, is also secured by the government including a future role for Section 8 (for operating support), FEMA (resiliency for future storms), federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (attracting private-sector lending), New York State’s Housing Finance Agency (state-secured financing), and NYSERDA (energy conservation).</p> <p>When you put all the layered subsidies on top of mortgage free units, you start to understand private-sector interest in these conversions. The developer expects to collect developer fees and some construction profits; the management company, Wavecrest, will also be able to collect management fees in the long term if all goes well.</p> <p>It would be wrong, however, to view this conversion as easy money. The developer is taking a major risk on the current tenants as the future rent returns plus government subsidies will have to be sufficient to operate the buildings, maintain them, pay management fees, and cover the debt service. The developer/management will also have to keep NYCHA management happy in the long term, including using NYCHA waiting lists for future tenants, despite whatever shifting political winds may come along. And no one knows what will happen to federal housing subsidy programs in the coming years.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_2/rad-2.jpg" alt="rad 2" width="500" height="375" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p><strong>Redesigning What Matters First</strong><br />The layout of the complex is moderately attractive by NYCHA standards. The four central towers are just nine stories tall each, so most of the apartments at Ocean Bay are located in the 20 six-story buildings flanking the central high rises. The grounds, despite having flooded, boast mature London Plane trees. The complex was moderately updated during the Hope VI process two decades ago including some cosmetic improvements to the grounds, elevator lobbies, and apartments.</p> <p>The apartments are decent size by NYCHA standards and quite a few are very large (five bedrooms). The developer has a solid eye to what matters for resident satisfaction. Some of the&nbsp;original apartments were in very poor shape, with severe water damage, but most apartments have required upgrades and moderate renovation rather than gutting. The developer is thus switching out cabinets, laying down new vinyl strip floors, updating bathrooms, patching ceilings, and so forth. Current apartment configurations will remain as is. The apartments turn out respectable as a result of these modernizations; costs and complexity remain within the parameters of a renovation project.</p> <table style="width: 500px; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" cellspacing="5" cellpadding="5"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_2/rad-3b.jpg" alt="rad 3b" width="266" height="185" /></td> <td><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_2/rad-4.jpg" alt="rad 4" width="250" height="193" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>Big-ticket, long-term quality of life repairs are the focus of building-wide renovation. The developer is adding a more reliable and efficient heating system (on the roof to avoid future floods), new roofs, new windows, lintel brick repointing, lobby renovations, solar panels, and a protective berm and water retention swales. The developer is deferring cosmetic exterior additions and extensive landscape plans, which are still planned, until the site has been stabilized and any unexpected problems are addressed.</p> <p>Delivering quality basics today means steam-cleaning and shining up existing floors and glazed brick halls inherited from NYCHA, widening the trash chutes that often overflowed, and running an expensive, and more efficient, heating system along those hallways. It means new windows that are similar in look to the old ones, but open more easily to help aid air circulation. It means new cabinets that provide an immediate sense of improvement. It means a protective berm for future floods and resilient electrical system. It is these investments that will distinguish the project in terms of livability from other postwar NYCHA projects in the years to come.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_2/rad-5.jpg" alt="rad 5" width="500" height="333" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <table style="width: 500px; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" cellspacing="5" cellpadding="5"> <tbody> <tr> <td><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_2/rad-6.jpg" alt="rad 6" width="250" height="333" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></td> <td style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_2/rad-7.jpg" alt="rad 7" width="250" height="333" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>The private management has also dispensed with NYCHA’s expensive labor system. This change has financial implications (lower operating costs) in the long term. Wavecrest, an experienced property management company, is now in charge of the entire complex—from rent collection to general maintenance. NYCHA employees opted to be moved to other NYCHA properties rather than transition to Wavecrest which would have meant more modest benefits, looser work rules (under a new union), and higher expectations.</p> <p>The aim of the renovation and new management is to reset the tenant-management relationship and collect rent more consistently than NYCHA by being a better property manager. Wavecrest’s management fees, and the financial security of the property, is dependent upon steady rent collection. If Wavecrest can maintain higher standards in the long term, the project can enter a new era of stability. So far, says the developer, the rental collection under private management has been meeting expectations. It should be noted that the developer cannot, like Mitchell Lama conversions, rent empty apartments at market rents. This project thus retains its deep affordability for the foreseeable future.</p> <p>Families accustomed to NYCHA’s de facto tolerance for late or no payment, and significant amounts of problematic behavior in courtyards and hallways, will need to adjust to private sector standards. The signs are encouraging that the new environment is already improving the quality of life. The developer reports reductions in the level of graffiti and other costly damage.</p> <p>The developer is not, however, relying on resident satisfaction alone. Ocean Bay is massive, at 33 acres, with many entrances, stairwells, hallways, etc. It is also isolated and the neighborhood retains an air of disinvestment. The developer, per consultant advice, plans to install an electronic fob system for entry and movement through lobbies and other building private spaces, typical of market-rate buildings. In addition, 400 cameras will be installed across the site. These will be actively monitored by a private security company out-of-state. Security staff observing project activities will not only be able to report problems to the police, but will be able to speak directly to people caught on camera through a broadcast system. The aim of this “voice of god” is to help tenants feel the management presence -- in a good way, we hope.</p> <p>There are plenty of additional opportunities for upgrades. NYCHA and the developer&nbsp;decided to delay but not rule out infill development of large open spaces within the project. Ocean Bay could benefit from additional housing or commercial operations that would enliven the area. Additional affordable housing units would also be welcome. In Europe, for instance, large and isolated public housing projects have been infilled with a mix of subsidized, market, and retail buildings to reduce the isolation and create more lively communities. Yet Ocean Bay has so many upfront issues that stabilizing the project as a living space came first. Infill is also politically controversial and can be a distraction. Without any additions, Ocean Bay already offers tenants a higher standard of living, but will also remain both geographically and socially isolated for the time being. The beach is, however, just a few blocks away.</p> <p><em>This is the second in a two-part series on transformations and experiments happening at NYCHA. Read part one: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7223-at-nycha-a-small-project-high-concept-reset" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">At NYCHA, A Small Project-High Concept Reset</a>.</em></p> <p>***<br /> <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=1I-ZPh8AAAAJ&amp;hl=en" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nicholas Dagen Bloom</a> is an Associate Professor at NYIT and author of “Public Housing That Worked.” Matthias Altwicker, AIA, is an associate professor of architecture at NYIT and principal and founder of Studio A+H.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_2/rad-1.jpg" alt="rad 1" width="600" height="400" /></p> <hr /> <p><em>This is the second in a two-part series on transformations and experiments happening at NYCHA. Read part one: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7223-at-nycha-a-small-project-high-concept-reset" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">At NYCHA, A Small Project-High Concept Reset</a>.</em></p> <p>The conversion of the Ocean Bay (Bayside) project, housing 4,000 Rockaways residents, to private management through the federal Housing and Urban Development’s Residence Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program is far advanced. Ocean Bay flooded badly during Superstorm Sandy and has been on temporary boilers since the floods. While the damage was most severe to the mechanical systems rather than apartments, lobbies, elevators, or interior&nbsp;hallways, post-Sandy the complex continued to decline with problems of trash, leaking&nbsp;ceilings, and more.</p> <p>Ocean Bay is also isolated: close to the beach and other housing projects but not much else. There isn’t a decent grocery store, or much of any stores or community services, within walking distance. But there are assets, if you know where to look.</p> <p>The first major asset is the 1,395 apartments in 24 towers, nearly all still occupied by now former NYCHA families. Livable apartments in hot-market New York City are attractive opportunities, particularly if they are, as is the case here, delivered without an underlying mortgage. To simply develop the equivalent number of housing units might costs as much as $750 million (1,400 units at $400,000 each), take years of permits, incur many delays, etc.</p> <p>Similar dilapidated public housing units would be less valuable in other cities, and many towers of similar scale and style have been destroyed across the country, but New York is different because of the demand for all housing, public or private.</p> <p>The second major asset is the multiple set of government subsidies available to the&nbsp;developer. RDC Development, a joint venture between MDG Design + Construction and&nbsp;Wavecrest Management Team, has borrowed money in private markets that might not be available in less desirable housing markets. Most of the $560 million in renovation funding, including private loans, is also secured by the government including a future role for Section 8 (for operating support), FEMA (resiliency for future storms), federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (attracting private-sector lending), New York State’s Housing Finance Agency (state-secured financing), and NYSERDA (energy conservation).</p> <p>When you put all the layered subsidies on top of mortgage free units, you start to understand private-sector interest in these conversions. The developer expects to collect developer fees and some construction profits; the management company, Wavecrest, will also be able to collect management fees in the long term if all goes well.</p> <p>It would be wrong, however, to view this conversion as easy money. The developer is taking a major risk on the current tenants as the future rent returns plus government subsidies will have to be sufficient to operate the buildings, maintain them, pay management fees, and cover the debt service. The developer/management will also have to keep NYCHA management happy in the long term, including using NYCHA waiting lists for future tenants, despite whatever shifting political winds may come along. And no one knows what will happen to federal housing subsidy programs in the coming years.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_2/rad-2.jpg" alt="rad 2" width="500" height="375" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <p><strong>Redesigning What Matters First</strong><br />The layout of the complex is moderately attractive by NYCHA standards. The four central towers are just nine stories tall each, so most of the apartments at Ocean Bay are located in the 20 six-story buildings flanking the central high rises. The grounds, despite having flooded, boast mature London Plane trees. The complex was moderately updated during the Hope VI process two decades ago including some cosmetic improvements to the grounds, elevator lobbies, and apartments.</p> <p>The apartments are decent size by NYCHA standards and quite a few are very large (five bedrooms). The developer has a solid eye to what matters for resident satisfaction. Some of the&nbsp;original apartments were in very poor shape, with severe water damage, but most apartments have required upgrades and moderate renovation rather than gutting. The developer is thus switching out cabinets, laying down new vinyl strip floors, updating bathrooms, patching ceilings, and so forth. Current apartment configurations will remain as is. The apartments turn out respectable as a result of these modernizations; costs and complexity remain within the parameters of a renovation project.</p> <table style="width: 500px; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" cellspacing="5" cellpadding="5"> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_2/rad-3b.jpg" alt="rad 3b" width="266" height="185" /></td> <td><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_2/rad-4.jpg" alt="rad 4" width="250" height="193" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>Big-ticket, long-term quality of life repairs are the focus of building-wide renovation. The developer is adding a more reliable and efficient heating system (on the roof to avoid future floods), new roofs, new windows, lintel brick repointing, lobby renovations, solar panels, and a protective berm and water retention swales. The developer is deferring cosmetic exterior additions and extensive landscape plans, which are still planned, until the site has been stabilized and any unexpected problems are addressed.</p> <p>Delivering quality basics today means steam-cleaning and shining up existing floors and glazed brick halls inherited from NYCHA, widening the trash chutes that often overflowed, and running an expensive, and more efficient, heating system along those hallways. It means new windows that are similar in look to the old ones, but open more easily to help aid air circulation. It means new cabinets that provide an immediate sense of improvement. It means a protective berm for future floods and resilient electrical system. It is these investments that will distinguish the project in terms of livability from other postwar NYCHA projects in the years to come.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_2/rad-5.jpg" alt="rad 5" width="500" height="333" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></p> <table style="width: 500px; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" cellspacing="5" cellpadding="5"> <tbody> <tr> <td><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_2/rad-6.jpg" alt="rad 6" width="250" height="333" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></td> <td style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_2/rad-7.jpg" alt="rad 7" width="250" height="333" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p>The private management has also dispensed with NYCHA’s expensive labor system. This change has financial implications (lower operating costs) in the long term. Wavecrest, an experienced property management company, is now in charge of the entire complex—from rent collection to general maintenance. NYCHA employees opted to be moved to other NYCHA properties rather than transition to Wavecrest which would have meant more modest benefits, looser work rules (under a new union), and higher expectations.</p> <p>The aim of the renovation and new management is to reset the tenant-management relationship and collect rent more consistently than NYCHA by being a better property manager. Wavecrest’s management fees, and the financial security of the property, is dependent upon steady rent collection. If Wavecrest can maintain higher standards in the long term, the project can enter a new era of stability. So far, says the developer, the rental collection under private management has been meeting expectations. It should be noted that the developer cannot, like Mitchell Lama conversions, rent empty apartments at market rents. This project thus retains its deep affordability for the foreseeable future.</p> <p>Families accustomed to NYCHA’s de facto tolerance for late or no payment, and significant amounts of problematic behavior in courtyards and hallways, will need to adjust to private sector standards. The signs are encouraging that the new environment is already improving the quality of life. The developer reports reductions in the level of graffiti and other costly damage.</p> <p>The developer is not, however, relying on resident satisfaction alone. Ocean Bay is massive, at 33 acres, with many entrances, stairwells, hallways, etc. It is also isolated and the neighborhood retains an air of disinvestment. The developer, per consultant advice, plans to install an electronic fob system for entry and movement through lobbies and other building private spaces, typical of market-rate buildings. In addition, 400 cameras will be installed across the site. These will be actively monitored by a private security company out-of-state. Security staff observing project activities will not only be able to report problems to the police, but will be able to speak directly to people caught on camera through a broadcast system. The aim of this “voice of god” is to help tenants feel the management presence -- in a good way, we hope.</p> <p>There are plenty of additional opportunities for upgrades. NYCHA and the developer&nbsp;decided to delay but not rule out infill development of large open spaces within the project. Ocean Bay could benefit from additional housing or commercial operations that would enliven the area. Additional affordable housing units would also be welcome. In Europe, for instance, large and isolated public housing projects have been infilled with a mix of subsidized, market, and retail buildings to reduce the isolation and create more lively communities. Yet Ocean Bay has so many upfront issues that stabilizing the project as a living space came first. Infill is also politically controversial and can be a distraction. Without any additions, Ocean Bay already offers tenants a higher standard of living, but will also remain both geographically and socially isolated for the time being. The beach is, however, just a few blocks away.</p> <p><em>This is the second in a two-part series on transformations and experiments happening at NYCHA. Read part one: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7223-at-nycha-a-small-project-high-concept-reset" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">At NYCHA, A Small Project-High Concept Reset</a>.</em></p> <p>***<br /> <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=1I-ZPh8AAAAJ&amp;hl=en" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nicholas Dagen Bloom</a> is an Associate Professor at NYIT and author of “Public Housing That Worked.” Matthias Altwicker, AIA, is an associate professor of architecture at NYIT and principal and founder of Studio A+H.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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