Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/980 Sun, 21 Oct 2018 10:29:10 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) What's The [Data] Point? 90%, with NYCHA Interim Chair Stan Brezenoff http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=8005:what-s-the-data-point-90-with-nycha-interim-chair-stan-brezenoff http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=8005:what-s-the-data-point-90-with-nycha-interim-chair-stan-brezenoff whats the data point


What's The [Data] Point? Episode 56 -- 90%, with NYCHA Interim Chair Stan Brezenoff [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

Stan Brezenoff

90% is the share of NYCHA units CBC estimates may not be cost effect to repair by 2027 under the current trajectory of deterioration. NYCHA Interim Chair and CEO Stan Brezenoff joined CBC to discuss the policy and funding challenges facing NYCHA, and how he plans to tackle key areas in desperate need of improvement.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Maria Doulis of CBC (@MariaDoulis). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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What's The [Data] Point? 90%, with NYCHA Interim Chair Stan Brezenoff Fri, 19 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
At Brooklyn Town Hall, Angry NYCHA Residents Told to Vote as a Bloc http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7978:at-brooklyn-town-hall-angry-nycha-residents-told-to-vote-as-a-bloc http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7978:at-brooklyn-town-hall-angry-nycha-residents-told-to-vote-as-a-bloc superstorm sandy aftermath

(photo via NYCHA)


The myriad issues plaguing the New York City Housing Authority came to the fore at a town hall on Wednesday night, with NYCHA residents excoriating public officials and officials scrambling to respond.

The town hall, hosted by BRIC TV at its downtown Brooklyn studio, featured an audience mainly consisting of NYCHA residents and a panel of City Council Members Alicka Ampry-Samuel and Ritchie Torres, NYCHA tenant leader Lisa Kenner, New York Daily News reporter Greg Smith, and NYCHA historian Nicholas Dagen Bloom, along with a short pre-recorded interview with city Comptroller Scott Stringer. The event was moderated by BRIC’s Brian Vines.

The issues affecting NYCHA, including but not limited to an alleged cover-up relating to lead paint in apartments, approximately $32 billion in unmet capital needs, and a lack of transparency in management have hung low over the de Blasio administration for the past year. The city, beginning in the Bloomberg Administration, was revealed to have falsified documents submitted to the federal government relating to lead paint inspections in apartments, setting off an additionally intensified period of controversy beyond what was already been a mountain of challenges and persistent struggles for the authority to provide adequate housing and find the revenue needed to upgrade its deteriorating housing stock, which includes roughly 180,000 units across the city, home to about 400,000 New Yorkers.

The Daily News reported in June that the de Blasio administration had used a blood-lead level benchmark significantly higher than the federal standard, resulting in only 19 children living in NYCHA being identified as having elevated lead levels; by the federal standards, 820 children in NYCHA had elevated levels, a number revised to over 1,100 in August. And last winter, hundreds of thousands of NYCHA residents were left without working heat and hot water because of defective boilers in critical need of repair.

A federal consent decree, which has yet to be formalized by a judge, would have New York City spend $2 billion on critical repairs and appoint a federal monitor to oversee the ailing Housing Authority. The judge has yet to name a monitor. In practice, the deadline has been extended twice by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, first from July 11 to September 12, and then from September 12 to whatever date the judge formalizes the consent decree.

When tenants testified in court about NYCHA conditions on September 26, the judge, William Pauley, expressed shock at their stories, and has been hesitant to approve the consent decree without changes.

Several speakers had been personally affected by the lead paint scandal, with their children facing the possibility of lifelong repercussions as a result of the lead-infested apartments they spent their formative years in.

“Y’all exposed them to lead dust and continue to disrespect me and violate me,” said Lynone Faison, a resident of the Ingersoll Houses in Fort Greene whose child was exposed to lead. Faison said she would prefer living on the street to living in her apartment, but was refraining from doing so because she was worried that ACS would take her children.

“I’m not going to let you just keep walking all over us. I look at you two,” she said, referring to Ampry-Samuel and Torres, the elected officials on the panel, “I’m telling you snakes, you all need to be fired. You all need to be fired. I’m sorry, but you need to be fired, you’re not helping me.”

Another woman, a former resident of the Al Smith Houses on the Lower East Side, detailed how her son had been exposed to lead during her pregnancy; she left NYCHA after giving birth, when the woman she and her husband had been caring for passed away and the city evicted them. She also referenced the stark inequality that has been spotlighted in the development’s vicinity.

“Our children are seeing these rapid changes happening in the world, and they are being told that they are not part of it,” she said. “So we want to ask questions, you know, we want to ask questions. When will our children be part of it? If these developments are happening -- within months, they’re renovating houses. I mean, what on earth, months it takes to renovate a house, but years and years of lead poisoning [in NYCHA]. I mean, this is a genocide here.”

Ampry-Samuel is the current chair of the Public Housing Committee, and Torres is a former chair of that committee and the current chair of the Oversight Committee, which has looked into NYCHA and helped reveal some of the recent issues that have come to light. Both grew up in NYCHA housing, Ampry-Samuel in Brownsville and Torres in Throggs Neck, and relayed their experiences in public housing frequently throughout the hearing.

“I don’t believe or have faith that anyone cares about us at all,” Ampry-Samuel told the woman from Al Smith Houses. “As an elected official, it’s difficult, but I can speak my truth and I can speak what I’ve seen because I’m not worried about my next election. I’m not worried about the next office that I’m gonna run for because I’m just worried about how I’m gonna, in a sense, protect the people, protect my people. And when I look at the mayor’s housing plan, and I look at all these infill deals, at no point at all do they take into consideration the NYCHA voice.”

Infill is the controversial process by which the city is allowing private development on NYCHA land to create new housing, some of it affordable, as well as new revenue for NYCHA.

Despite their ties to NYCHA and efforts to provide oversight, the politicians in the room were heavily criticized as detached from conditions on the ground, taking home a $150,000 salary, and being funded by real estate interests. Questioners repeatedly expressed derision at the panelists not answering their questions, even those on the panel who are not politicians. The frustration of the NYCHA residents characterized the mood of the event.

“How do they get to go forward with RAD or infill when they’re under a federal investigation,” asked Karen Blondell, a resident of Red Hook Houses since 1982. RAD refers to Rental Assistance Demonstration, an Obama-era program that privatizes building management and changes ownership of the property to a public-private partnership, with funding coming from Section 8 vouchers rather than Section 9 public housing subsidies. One complex, the Ocean Bay Apartments in Rockaway, has undergone full RAD conversion. Initial results have appeared somewhat promising in the city, and elected officials have praised the use of the program, though many residents are worried that the program is de facto privatization of public housing.

Ampry-Samuel has been supportive of the RAD program in the past and has sided with the de Blasio administration on its expansion. However, she agreed with Blondell that critical repairs must be made the top priority of the authority.

“I don’t think NYCHA should move forward with anything right now,” Ampry-Samuel said of major new programs, “because there’s questionable management, there’s questionable dealings, and if there’s any kind of investigation happening right now, if Judge Pauley is reviewing the consent decree, I don’t think they should be moving forward. What they can be doing is just making sure that they’re fixing the heat and hot water systems right now that are happening as we’re going into the heating season, and they can make sure they’re going into the apartments doing what they’re supposed to be doing with the lead abatements.”

Blondell replied that her apartment underwent a long-awaited lead inspection last week, but the “industrial hygienist” who showed up for the inspection was armed only with a flashlight.

“Come on now, come on, I could do better testing by sending away for a kit to the EPA,” she said.

In response, Torres signaled his critiques of the consent decree.

“There’s no evidence that more monitoring is going to improve public housing,” Torres said. “We’ve had a monitor for mold for five years, and we’re no closer to remediating mold in public housing.” A vocal critic of the mayor and his housing policies in particular, Torres said at the town hall that affordable housing under the mayor’s plans are not actually affordable for the people they’re intended for -- some have called for incorporating NYCHA into the larger city affordable housing plan so that it gets more attention and is more clearly approached as part of a valuable stock of rent-regulated apartments, or for at least more closely aligning affordable housing and NYCHA plans.

There have been ample calls for prosecutions of NYCHA officials involved in the lead scandal. Though NYCHA is under federal investigation and its offices have been raided by authorities, prosecutors have not announced any charges.

“When we as residents had to deal with zero tolerance from the Clinton administration to present time, how is it okay for NYCHA to have falsified, fraudulently reported about lead, mold, and everything else, and no one’s being criminally charged,” Blondel asked. Smith noted in response that an active criminal investigation into NYCHA is currently taking place to look into fraudulent lead paint filings.

One woman, a former tenants association president at Washington Houses in East Harlem, referred to tenants association leaders as “crooks.”

“That tenant participation activity money that was meant to be spent for us in these developments to create programs and things for our families and so forth, that’s HUD money, we don’t even know what’s happening with it. We was promised there was gonna be a hearing, that ain’t happened yet,” she said.

Kenner, the tenant leader, spoke in defense of tenants associations.

“As president, you do not get paid, you know, it’s a thankless job,” Kenner said. “But you live where you live, and you want better for your people and yourself.”

The woman from Washington Houses vociferously criticized the city government and the Council members, and advocated for direct action against the city as a means of securing tenants’ rights.

“The only way we’re gonna get justice is by shutting 250 Broadway down,” she said in reference to where main NYCHA and City Council offices are located.

Smith made a similar call later in the program, saying that the hundreds of thousands of NYCHA residents should vote as a bloc.

“If NYCHA residents, there are 400,000 people who live in New York City housing. So if you have an organized effort to vote with one voice, you will have a voice that people will actually listen to,” Smith said. This message received a mixed response in the room, and Vines reiterated a point made earlier about how NYCHA residents did not have monolithic thoughts on all issues.

“NYCHA is not a monolith,” Vines said. “We’re not all of the same mind on everything. Is it going to take those 400,000-plus residents of NYCHA to become single-issue voters, regardless of what your politics may be, if your home comes first? Is that really a viable answer?”

To that question, Torres responded in the affirmative and endorsed Smith’s proposal.

“Of course,” Torres said. “What’s more important than your home? I mean, if the political leadership of the city has no regard for your basic living conditions, are refusing to provide you heat or hot water, or protect you from lead poisoning, or lying to you repeatedly, of course you should hold them accountable. And if I have a constituent who’s living in disrepair, I have an obligation to make sure they get their repairs. Of course I do. You should hold us accountable.”

Watch the full BRIC TV NYCHA town hall

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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At Brooklyn Town Hall, Angry NYCHA Residents Told to Vote as a Bloc Thu, 04 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Politics Created NYCHA; Only Politics Will Save It http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7966:politics-created-nycha-only-politics-will-save-it http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7966:politics-created-nycha-only-politics-will-save-it nycha housing andrewjacksonhousing bronx hazard governor

(photo via the Governor's office)


The New York City Housing Authority’s first developments in the 1930s rose from the frustrations of a massive working class tired of sweating and suffering in crappy tenements. NYCHA grew in the decades that followed, to about 175,000 apartments, thanks to consistent support from politicians under tremendous pressure from everyday New Yorkers, housing advocates, and the media.

Politics saved NYCHA multiple times from the fate of public housing in other American cities. The civil rights movement forced NYCHA to desegregate its projects after the 1930s. Outrage over management in the late 1950s led to a sacking of callous leadership handpicked by Robert Moses. New York’s Congressional delegation convinced their colleagues in both the 1970s and 1990s to assume responsibility for tens of thousands of city and state public housing projects.

NYCHA residents, New York politicians, and many advocates, however, failed to adjust fast enough to a new national political reality. The rest of America, including most federal officials overseeing the program, viewed public housing as a dead program by the 1990s -- and treated it as such. Federal officials have since then intentionally refused to fund NYCHA’s capital or operating needs at a level sufficient to maintain the quality of life to which residents had become accustomed.

Frustrated residents for years disconnected from the political process despite the growing threat of aging apartments and buildings. Other affordable housing preservation and development programs took priority for many housing advocates and elected officials. City, federal, and state politicians pointed fingers at each other. The results of disinvestment are on display despite NYCHA apartments remaining full and much desired in New York.

In just a few years of crisis, however, it already seems the wheel is turning. Residents and housing advocates have kept the heat on politicians, feeding a steady stream of heartbreaking images and stories to the media and the courts. Elected officials can’t pick up the paper or turn on the TV without reading about a problem, often in their district. Crisis on an unprecedented scale has forced the issue to the front time and again: Sandy flooding, deep freeze, mold, lead.

Has the result of all this bad press been the abandonment of public housing as in other cities? No. Where bad press led to demolition in other cities, in New York negative attention seems to be leading to a steady and growing flow of money to renovate public housing. Demolition could still happen in New York but knocking down NYCHA is still a third rail of politics here -- and unimaginably complex to boot. We simply don’t have additional homes, short- or long-term, for more than 400,000 poor people.

Already, the totals won for NYCHA are mounting: $3 billion for Sandy reconstruction from FEMA; billions from the city so far and billions more promised (thanks to a consent decree) for roofs, boilers, lead tests, and more; hundreds of millions promised from the state. NYCHA has also quietly done what it can with remaining federal capital funds since the 1990s to stabilize conditions, working from the outside in on building envelope bricks and roofs. NYCHA successfully used the federal RAD program to upgrade housing for thousands of residents now living under private sector management—and plans for thousands of additional apartments in this program are underway.

Renovation of such a big system moves much more slowly than residents want and often fails to address immediate needs in their apartments -- but it is happening. That refitting of public housing is happening at all, rather than demolition, speaks to tenant activism of NYCHA residents and their advocates. When a crisis hit public housing elsewhere, politicians have used a crisis to demolish, not rebuild housing (New Orleans after Katrina, for instance, demolished vast projects).

New York’s public housing movement, however, needs to be creative and flexible in the next steps. Residents and their allies should use their political power to pressure politicians to reform labor unions at NYCHA so tenants get economical and high-quality service. Residents and advocates have given the unions a free pass, but this is a strategic mistake because, without a revolution in the hours, roles, and compensation of NYCHA maintenance and custodial staff (comprising 40 percent of NYCHA’s annual budget), NYCHA residents are not going to enjoy major improvements in their quality of life.

Residents and advocates also need to force the Mayor to come up with a reasonable long-term plan for investment. While an immediate commitment of the estimated $31 billion needed for top-to-bottom renovation is unrealistic, even a lot less can upgrade the quality of life. The city, for instance, needs to integrate NYCHA into its annual capital planning process. Given the growing importance of NYCHA to reducing homelessness, and of infill sites to the city’s affordable housing plans, it only makes sense that NYCHA gets a larger share of city support. Residents should also light a fire under Democratic majorities in Albany and the Governor to find money for additional renovation and public-private partnerships.

NYCHA remains a crucial service for many New Yorkers and one that helps preserve diverse neighborhoods in the face of gentrification. And just because a housing system delivers a product that many people wouldn’t choose for themselves doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable to lots of other people with fewer choices or different values. Mass services like public housing, public transit, and public education will always “lose” money because the people who need and use them generally lack the money to pay the real cost of running a complex urban service whether it be for a subsidized apartment, a subway ride, or a public classroom. It is, however, up to the recipients of these systems to use the political system to secure and protect these essential services.

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Nicholas Dagen Bloom is a professor at New York Institute of Technology and author of many books.

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

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Politics Created NYCHA; Only Politics Will Save It Tue, 02 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
What's The [Data] Point? $31.8 billion in NYCHA need, with Sean Campion http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7814:what-s-the-data-point-31-8-billion-in-nycha-need-with-sean-campion http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7814:what-s-the-data-point-31-8-billion-in-nycha-need-with-sean-campion whats the data point


What's The [Data] Point? Episode 47 -- $31.8 billion, with Sean Campion [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

sean campion wtdp2

NYCHA needs about $32 billion in upgrades over five years to enter a state of good repair. The housing authority is in nothing short of a crisis, both in terms of its overall needs, which have been building for decades, and the recent lead paint scandal, which has led to a federal consent decree with the city and incoming federal monitor. Just after the new NYCHA needs assessment and its $32 billion price tag was recently released, Citizens Budget Commission released its own report about NYCHA's dire situation and where the authority must go to have a chance to survive. The report's author, Sean Campion, joined the podcast to discuss CBC's findings and recommendations. 

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Maria Doulis of CBC (@MariaDoulis). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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What's The [Data] Point? $31.8 billion in NYCHA need, with Sean Campion Thu, 19 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Scott Stringer on His ‘Agency Watch List,’ De Blasio’s Housing Plan & Restructuring NYCHA http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7796:scott-stringer-on-his-agency-watch-list-de-blasio-s-housing-plan-restructuring-nycha http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7796:scott-stringer-on-his-agency-watch-list-de-blasio-s-housing-plan-restructuring-nycha scott stringer comptroller

Comptroller Scott Stringer and Deputy Comptroller Marjorie Landau (photo: @NYCComptroller)


Comptroller Scott Stringer, the city’s chief fiscal officer who placed three city agencies on a new “watch list” in February due to concerns about their escalating spending and questionable return on investment, said recently that his office will be holding public hearings to provide stronger oversight, better transparency, and more urgency for reforms.

“We need more robust public hearings to the agencies, we need to demand more accountability from our government, and if we’re really going to be a progressive government, we need to ask whether the programs we’re putting forth are meeting the needs of struggling New Yorkers,” Stringer said during a recent appearance on the What’s The [Data] Point? podcast from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission. “I’m going to continue to think about ways the comptroller’s office can hold these agencies accountable.”

During the discussion, Stringer not only explained his watch list, but also repeatedly criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio over what Stringer sees as an insufficient affordable housing plan; explained his belief that New York City public housing needs a new management structure; and said that the city is not budgeting responsibly.

As part of his analysis of the city budget, Stringer singled out the Department of Homeless Services, Department of Education, and Department of Correction as agencies whose spending was of most concern, forming his initial “watch list,” which includes a new web portal with detailed information about the three and plans for more robust examination of their spending and effectiveness.

In addition to public hearings, Stringer’s office inspects agencies through audits, investigations, and reports. The comptroller’s office is also responsible for approving contracts that city agencies enter with outside vendors. While Stringer mentioned on the podcast a general plan to hold his own public hearings on the watch list agencies, his office declined to provide more information in response to follow-up questions.

Stringer included the Department of Homeless Services on his watch list after determining that despite citywide spending for homelessness across all agencies more than doubling from $1.1 billion in 2013 to an anticipated $2.6 billion in 2019, the number of individuals living in shelters has grown from 49,000 in 2013 to more than 61,000 in early 2018.  

Stringer said unravelling the homeless crisis in New York City starts with taking accountability for unnecessary expenditures.

“I think we have to look at changing policy and I think we have to look at making sure every dollar counts because if we continue to house people in commercial hotels that cost $100 million and if we continue to stuff people into these terribly conditioned homeless shelters, that’s the core of what we believe in that has to change,” Stringer said. “Budgets are priorities, but you have to be smart about expenditure and analyze whether that money is doing the right thing by the people.”

While Mayor Bill de Blasio has put a variety of plans in place to combat homelessness, it has been one of the central struggles of his time in office. Stringer and de Blasio are both Democrats who were elected to their current positions in 2013 and reelected in 2017. They will both be term-limited out of office at the end of 2021; Stringer is widely expected to run for mayor in the upcoming election cycle.

When resetting his approach to homelessness a second time, in early 2017, de Blasio announced a plan to open 90 new shelters while leaving notoriously troubled cluster site shelter apartments and expensive commercial hotels. He also said the plan, which includes ongoing and enhanced mechanisms like rental subsidies and free lawyers for housing court, would result in a very modest decrease in the homeless population.

"What is the plan to really reduce homelessness?,” Stringer said. “Do not even say to me that, well, ‘our plan is to reduce homelessness by 2,500 in five years.’ At the cost of $3 billion? You’ve got to be kidding me. I mean everybody wake up here."

As for the Department of Education, another “watch list” agency, Stringer’s office has found that the DOE was spending inefficiently and he has questioned its ballooning central staff. In a trial test of eight schools, Comptroller audits found that one third of computer hardware was unaccounted for with no follow-up actions to implement basic controls. Stringer’s staff also discovered that despite a $1 billion investment in high-speed broadband, one in three teachers are still displeased with the service. Moreover, in what Stinger’s office called “a rampant waste and lack of accountability,” $2.7 billion in no-bid contracts were doled out by DOE.

“I don’t want to see a 24% increase in administrative costs at DOE,” Stringer said on the podcast. “I want money to go into the classroom.”

Stringer included the Department of Correction on his watch list in order to highlight increases in spending and violence despite a decrease in inmate populations at city jails. Since 2008, the average daily inmate population dropped from 13,850 to 9,500 in 2017 (and as of July 2, it was just about 8,200). However, the average annual cost to house an inmate more than doubled over that same period. Over the last decade, the number of violent incidents at city jails more than tripled.

“At Department of Correction, this is something amazing, population is going down, but violence is going up,” Stringer said on the podcast. “And now we’re spending $270,000 a year [per inmate] on holding 9,000 inmates on Rikers Island. OK, this is madness.”

The agency watch list relates to overall budgeting by the mayor and the City Council, and to the effectiveness of spending on key city services, as well as how much the city is spending overall, its long-term financial commitments, and its reserves. Mayor de Blasio and the Council recently passed an $89.2 billion budget for fiscal year 2019, which began July 1. The size of the city budget has increased dramatically under de Blasio, and Stringer has been sounding alarm bells all along about the rate of spending, the lack of a recommended savings program that was used under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and potentially insufficient reserves for the inevitable economic downturn.

On the podcast, Stringer said the city’s projected “budget cushion” — reserves as a percentage of city operating expenses — must be bolstered.

“I do think that there’s been a lost opportunity as it relates to putting more money aside for a rainy day,” Stringer said. “And we have now a record budget of $89 billion...I think we are going down a road that could cost us or hurt in the long run.”

The current budget reserves are about 9 percent of projected 2019 spending, about $8.5 billion in reserves, lower than what Stringer says is the optimal range of 12 to 18 percent. The “budget cushion” debate is a long-running one between the mayor and the comptroller. De Blasio has repeatedly stated that the city has “record” reserves, which is true in terms of absolute numbers, but as a percentage of spending, Stringer remains concerned.

Reserves are vital, Stringer explains, because when crisis inevitably hits the city, it often hurts the most vulnerable people, which was was the case after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and after Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, he said. Stringer has called on de Blasio to compel his agency commissioner to “scrub” their departments for savings, recommending the type of program Bloomberg used where he insisted on commissioners identify a certain percentage of their budgets for slashing, even if the cuts were not followed through on. De Blasio has not required this of his agency heads, instead instituting a voluntary savings program.

“Well, let’s go scrub the agencies for efficiencies,” Stringer said on the podcast. “That’s something that hasn’t happened in four years. Lets go agency by agency. Say to commissioners, ‘Look, there’s new technology. You haven’t looked at how to save money in an agency in four years.’ Previous mayors used to scrub those budgets and say, ‘Hold on with those expenses.’ That’s one way to do it. The city, the mayor’s refused to do that, I disagree with him. Get in there, get those savings, put is aside for that rainy day.”

As for de Blasio’s affordable housing plan -- which seeks to build or preserve 300,000 rent-regulated units by 2026 -- Stringer had perhaps his harshest words.

"There’s no real affordable housing plan to meet the needs the poorest New Yorkers," Stringer told podcast hosts Maria Doulis and Ben Max. “[W]e need a robust new housing plan," Stringer said.

"We need to think about a new subsidy program. Problem is, right now, for-profit developers is a lot of cases are, yes, they're building more density, and bigger projects in places in Brooklyn like East New York, but the reality is the affordable housing that they’re proposing, the [affordability] is not reflective of the population of the community, so the affordability is not affordable in the community, and we are gentrifying people out of the communities they built,” Stringer said.

And on the New York City Housing Authority, NYCHA, home to more than 400,000 residents of public housing that is falling apart and in need of more than $30 billion of repairs and upgrades, Stringer said it is time to change the governance model.

"That’s why I said to all who would listen, that we need to change the management structure at NYCHA,” Stringer said on the podcast. “It is abysmal. You’ve got a seven member board that doesn’t know what’s up. You’ve got a Chair, and then a [general] manager -- depending on the politics within NYCHA, one has power, the other one doesn’t, vice versa. Even in this crisis, you know, we don’t have a counsel, a chief financial officer in NYCHA, these positions are going unfilled, there’s no capacity in NYCHA.”

“I mean look, City Hall, wake up, do your part,” Stringer said, to ensure there’s “a structure in place” to oversee spending of billions of dollars and work with the federal monitor that will soon be hired based on a consent decree the city has entered with federal investigators. “But at the end of the day, the monitor doesn’t run it, management runs it, so we need one Chair, one person in charge,” Stringer continued. “Also, this is a time to get private industry involved, let’s get the best in the business from around the city, from all walks of life to begin looking at this amazing challenge before NYCHA falls apart.”

De Blasio’s office declined to respond to the comptroller’s criticisms and proposals.

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by Jordan Kimmel, Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

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Scott Stringer on His ‘Agency Watch List,’ De Blasio’s Housing Plan & Restructuring NYCHA Tue, 10 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Amid Crisis, A Promising Model for NYCHA http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7785:amid-crisis-a-promising-model-for-nycha http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7785:amid-crisis-a-promising-model-for-nycha wald ramps

(image via NYCHA)


Recently, there has been a great deal of attention paid to the deterioration of New York City’s public housing stock and the plight of families living in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments. We’ve seen a vigorous debate over how we got here, who is responsible, and who should control NYCHA going forward. While headlines surrounding NYCHA have been overwhelmingly negative, there is good news that illustrates the promise of better quality of life for NYCHA tenants.

Last week, the Citizens Housing & Planning Council (CHPC), a nonprofit civic research organization, released an interim report from a study on an innovative pilot program that began in December 2014. The pilot shifted management of six Section 8 properties located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, to Triborough Preservation Partners, a joint venture between NYCHA, L+M Development Partners, and BFC Partners.

The transaction made available $80 million in new capital funds for renovations at buildings containing 874 units and introduced new property management. This money went towards new boilers and elevators; making buildings and units more energy efficient; improving landscaping and common areas; new kitchens and bathrooms inside the apartments, and providing security upgrades. Importantly, no residents were displaced as these renovations occurred.

We evaluated the impact of the changes at these sites before and during construction, comparing them with a control group of six NYCHA developments of similar size and characteristics. Research included collecting data on repair requests, resident turnover, energy use, and rent collection, interviews with property management staff, as well as a tenant survey conducted in partnership with Baruch College Survey Research.

The word “privatization” is a grenade that gets thrown a lot in discussions of NYCHA and does not appear in our study. As a research organization, we will leave it to others to characterize this pilot program. But here are the facts: NYCHA retains 50% ownership. The rental assistance is paid for by a Section 8 contract funded by the federal government. The renovations, approximately $90,000 per unit, were funded primarily using Low Income Housing Tax Credits and Tax-Exempt Bonds from the New York City Housing Development Corporation. Both NYCHA and HDC retain the right to approve or deny any proposed sale of the property.  

A private property management company (C+C management) is now responsible for day-to-day operations at the site. As a result of the renovations, the new management company is currently responding to only one-fifth as many repair requests. Electricity usage has gone down, and rent collection has improved. At the same time, turnover rose and re-rental time took longer.

The tenant survey determined that Triborough residents’ ratings of their housing surpassed those in the control group in almost every measure, with residents’ ratings of their own apartments, the overall building, and elevators outpacing NYCHA residents’ ratings by at least 2:1.

Not only did we see obvious, physical improvements in conditions at building sites, we saw how the improvements impacted the day-to-day lives of tenants – in their comfort, sense of safety, and how they felt about their homes and surroundings. Tenants, many of whom felt trepidation about this approach, have seen results and can see that their fears did not come to fruition.

For instance, residents felt safer (65% in the pilot group felt very safe, compared with 37% in the control group), that day-to-day management was responsive (86% in the pilot group, compared with 55% in the control group), and that emergency repairs were addressed (73% in the pilot group, compared with 47% in the control group). And, interestingly, residents in the pilot group were almost 30 percentage points more likely to recommend their building to a friend or family member.

Our findings were only the first, encouraging step; we plan to continue to collect and review more data during the post-construction period.

NYCHA faces a number of daunting challenges, illustrated by the report that came out Monday morning detailing the $31.8 billion that NYCHA needs over the next five years to address unmet capital repairs. Tackling these challenges alone would be impossible. Tough times call for innovative thinking, and the City should be commended for creating a structure that brings in new partners and new resources that ensure affordability and a set of incentives that has significantly improved the quality of life for residents.  

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Jessica Katz is executive director of the Citizens Housing & Planning Council. On Twitter @chpcny.

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Amid Crisis, A Promising Model for NYCHA Mon, 02 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
NYCHA Decree an Opportunity to Awaken Potent Political Force http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7754:nycha-decree-an-opportunity-to-awaken-potent-political-force http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7754:nycha-decree-an-opportunity-to-awaken-potent-political-force red hook design update nycha

(photo via NYCHA)


In 2014, in an interview about living conditions in public housing since Superstorm Sandy devastated the Rockaways, a tenant leader lamented, “...we were on the steps of City Hall today. I’m tired. I’m sick and tired having to come in the same spot to fight the same fight. It’s crazy that as public housing residents, we have to go through what we have to go through just for a decent place to live.” Another tenant leader later mused, “Where are the people that used to be here who had our best interests at heart?”  

Fast-forward to 2018, and the Citywide Council of Presidents, an elected body representing over 400,000 tenants of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), took the unprecedented step of suing the agency. Residents pointed to high-profile health and safety failures including a lapse in lead paint inspections with fraudulent reports to the contrary from former Chair Shola Olatoye and sporadic heat and hot water during a frigid winter.

Their claims have been robustly confirmed by a multi-year federal investigation into NYCHA’s operations, with the city and federal government entering a consent decree last week that commits $2.2 billion over 10 years, overseen by a court-appointed monitor. Tenant plaintiffs also allege that NYCHA has failed to include residents in policymaking, as U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines mandate. 

It is this sense of powerlessness and lack of political incorporation of tenants in NYCHA’s oft-described “city within a city” that I investigate in Rockaway, where almost 10,000 public housing residents live. New York City built extensive public housing along its waterfront throughout the twentieth century. Rockaway’s marginal location created an affordable landscape for building public housing, with beach bungalows torn down as slum clearance to make way for the developments between 1951 and 1973.

Today, 23 percent of Queens’ public housing is in Rockaway, versus only five percent of the population of this “borough of homeowners.” Rockaway has some of the highest percentages of income-restricted properties in New York City, incorporating almost one in three rental units.

Homeowners in Rockaway look askance at the concentration of public housing there, accusing the city of “dumping” unwanted poverty at their doorstep since at least the 1950s. Local homeowners told me, “All the housing projects...Rockaway has its burden and we have its share and it also kind of diminishes our ability to be politically active. It’s putting more people on us, diluting our ability to be strong,” and “If it’s bad, it’s NYCHA. If it’s the fix, it’s NYCHA. And if it’s the repair, it’s NYCHA.”

Faced with this antipathy, living with mold, mildew, leaks, and heat and hot water outages in crumbling, aging properties, tenants over the years developed pronounced political apathy, manifest in very low turnout in tenant council elections, absence at community recovery meetings, and lack of participation in advocates’ surveys of post-Sandy living conditions. “We could have gotten more than 600 people surveyed if people had faith or had hope or believed that something’s going to come of it,” one tenant council officer said.

My research shows that the disaster recovery experiences of NYCHA residents have been materially different than those of their neighbors who own homes or rent in the private-housing market. These disparities are the direct result of several detrimental factors and policies, including (1) the racialized, gendered, and classist stigma of living in public housing; (2) HUD regulations that stipulate tenants’ political power and channel it narrowly towards working with local public housing authorities; (3) an opaque status that allows NYCHA to operate without clear, accountable managerial and budgetary oversight at the state and local levels; and (4) the spatial isolation of NYCHA developments, which cuts public housing residents off from their neighbors and creates different environmental impacts from Sandy. Taken together, these constraints have isolated NYCHA residents from the political activism of their neighbors and limited their political power at every level of government.

After Sandy, for example, Rockaway public housing tenants lost easy access to polling places, suffered closure of community spaces and resident council offices, and felt NYCHA’s workforce development was insufficient to connect residents to post-Sandy reconstruction. They felt unwelcome at local community meetings, and recovery policy priorities – Build it Back, the reconstruction of the Rockaway Boardwalk – were mostly irrelevant to them. Residents thus experienced stigma from their political and social isolation, and a reduced capacity to vote, gather and share information, and pursue meaningful, accessible work.

While city, state, and federal officials fight over whether decades of budget cuts or chronic mismanagement is to blame for the decrepit living conditions at NYCHA, tenants have turned to the court system to claim their right to “decent, safe, and sanitary housing.” The New York Times reports mixed tenant views on whether federal oversight and substantial investment will make much difference. Yet, the consent decree affirms that NYCHA communities are worth fighting for. It also presents a critical opportunity to expand tenant organizing and empowerment within the developments and in their surrounding neighborhoods, using a combination of public-private funding and building on the work of advocacy organizations like Community Voices Heard that have long represented the low-income women, elderly, disabled, and families of color that disproportionately reside in public housing.

Expanding tenants’ rights and political power is as essential as managerial reforms and financial investments. As one Rockaway tenant council president put it, “Rockaway was built into six communities with presidents. If we all come together and say, ‘We got all these registered voters here. What are you going to do for us?’”

Another leader echoed this sentiment, “There’s enough people in NYCHA alone, in Rockaway, to overturn an election. I tell them...‘We all stand together. You can do anything you want.’”

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Leigh Graham is an assistant professor of urban policy and planning at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and The Graduate Center, CUNY. 

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NYCHA Decree an Opportunity to Awaken Potent Political Force Wed, 20 Jun 2018 04:00:00 +0000
De Blasio and City Council Agree on $89.2 Billion Budget, Funding Key Council Priorities http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7731:de-blasio-and-city-council-agree-on-89-2-billion-budget-funding-key-council-priorities http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7731:de-blasio-and-city-council-agree-on-89-2-billion-budget-funding-key-council-priorities de Blasio Corey Johnson budget City Hall

De Blasio & Johnson shake on it (photo: William Alatriste)


Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on Monday announced an agreement on an $89.15 billion budget for the 2019 fiscal year that includes key Council priorities that the mayor had been hesitant to fund for months.

“This budget is profoundly responsible, it is balanced, it is progressive and it is early,” de Blasio said at the ceremonial budget handshake with Johnson and other Council members at City Hall on Monday evening, about three weeks before the July 1 deadline that is the start of next fiscal year.

The latest spending plan is a slight uptick from the mayor’s $89.06 billion executive budget proposal released in April, and a total $480 million increase from the $88.67 billion preliminary proposal put forward by the administration in February. Overall, it reflects a $16.45 billion increase from the $72.7 billion budget that de Blasio inherited when he took office in 2014. Asked about that significant growth, de Blasio said on Monday, “It’s an investment model, it’s a strategic investment concept,” insisting that much of the city’s prosperity over the last few years stemmed from his administration’s responsible spending and fiscal management.

The money has certainly been there to spend, even as the budget has grown so large, the city has put record sums in reserves, though watchdogs do warn of long-term fiscal impacts of the large growth in public sector headcount de Blasio has overseen.

It was Johnson’s first budget as speaker and he notched a massive victory, convincing an initially reluctant de Blasio to provide $106 million to partially fund the ‘Fair Fares’ program that will provide half-priced MetroCards to New Yorkers that live below the federal poverty line. The Council members in attendance struck an especially celebratory tone.

“I believe that Speaker Johnson said the words ‘Fair Fares’ to me an unfair number of times,” de Blasio mused of Johnson’s almost single-minded focus on the issue in the lead up to the budget deal. The speaker headed a concerted campaign for the program, using digital and social media and grassroots advocacy. All but three members of the City Council had expressed their support for it by this week; it was clearly the speaker’s top priority in negotiations with the mayor.

De Blasio said Monday that the program will launch in January 2019 and run through the rest of the fiscal year, and will be implemented by the city rather than the MTA, in a similar fashion to the Human Resource Administration’s cash assistance and food stamp programs. Following the six-month rollout, the city will evaluate participation and cost to decide on future funding, Johnson later said as he insisted that both he and the mayor will continue to push for an additional millionaires tax approved in Albany to fully fund the program.

The mayor also added $225 million in funding to reserves, conceding nearly half of the Council’s $500 million demand for more rainy day funds. About $125 million was added to the general reserve, bringing it to $1.25 billion each year, and $100 million to the Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund, increasing it to $4.35 billion, while the capital stabilization reserve remained static at $250 million.

De Blasio also touted other top items that had been outlined in earlier iterations of the budget, namely $125 million in increased fair school funding, added resources for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), an expansion of 3-K for all, and funding for police body cameras.

“This spending plan will strengthen our social safety net and do more for New Yorkers who are struggling to get by on less,” Johnson said as he thanked the mayor for “good faith” negotiations over the last few months.

“We are taking a sharp-eyed, sober approach to the future,” he added, detailing a few of the initiatives funded in the budget, including $150 million in additional capital funding over three years to improve accessibility for the disabled at city schools and an expansion of of the summer youth employment program from 70,000 to 75,000 slots.

Johnson also highlighted the hundreds of millions of dollars that the city previously committed to the MTA Subway Action Plan, as Johnson had wanted it to but de Blasio did not, after the state budget forced the city's hand. He also stressed additional investment in supportive housing, to accelerate the pace of units opening.

The deal, according to a press release from the mayor's office, also increases and baselines funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program "to $20 million annually" and adds $3.5 million "for additional litter basket pickup" to avoid trash can overflow on street corners.

The final budget does not include a $400 property tax rebate for thousands of homeowners -- another key Council priority -- since the administration and Council announced late last month that they would convene a property tax commission to review the system and propose reforms. The commission is expected to begin its work with the July 1 start of the new fiscal year and will hold ten hearings to seek public input.

The budget agreement announcement came hours after another, more tense news conference at City Hall where de Blasio addressed the city’s agreement, announced Monday morning, with federal prosecutors to accept a federal monitor for NYCHA. The deal also requires the city to provide billions more in funding for the ailing housing authority over the several years, and that funding will be reflected in the capital budget when it passes the City Council later this month, de Blasio said.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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De Blasio and City Council Agree on $89.2 Billion Budget, Funding Key Council Priorities Mon, 11 Jun 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Investigation Commissioner on Examining NYPD, NYCHA and Correction http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7710:investigation-commissioner-on-examining-nypd-nycha-and-correction http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7710:investigation-commissioner-on-examining-nypd-nycha-and-correction Mark Peters DOI Cy Vance

Commissioner Peters at a press conference (photo: @NYC_DOI)


It took Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Police Department two years to accept what the city’s Department of Investigation had uncovered in 2015, DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said recently: that quality-of-life crime enforcement, like marijuana arrests, does little to reduce violent crime and that these arrests disproportionately affect people of color.

When the DOI came out with the report detailing these findings, it experienced pushback from the mayor, who publicly questioned the accuracy and methodology behind the data, as well as from then-NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. But, at a City Council hearing last month, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, who succeeded Bratton, not only agreed that marijuana arrests had little bearing on the reduction of violent crime but also acknowledged the need for a comprehensive study on why these arrests disproportionately affect communities of color -- something DOI’s 2015 report recommended.

“Would it be better if everybody agreed on that two years earlier?,” asked Peters, the DOI commissioner since 2014, on a recent episode of the What’s The [Data] Point podcast from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission. “Sure. But the point is, two years later, the NYPD in fact has accepted the basic premise of our report [and] has agreed to do the thing we think needs to be done.”

Since Peters took over DOI after being nominated by de Blasio and confirmed by the City Council, the department’s work – including investigations into the NYPD, the city’s public housing authority (NYCHA), the Department of Correction, and other city agencies – has made many waves, including by frustrating de Blasio on several occasions as it has uncovered waste, fraud and abuse in city government. It is a testimony to the agency’s cherished independence, according to Peters, which is critical to earning and increasing the public’s trust in government and its ability to tackle serious problems.

Establishing a clear sense of independence at the department, however, was something Peters had to work early on to establish given that, as treasurer, he had been a key part of de Blasio’s mayoral campaign in 2013. But as DOI has released both incremental and bombshell reports over the past four-plus years, Peters has earned praise from skeptics. He has also overseen the doubling of personnel at DOI, in large part due to building out the new office of the Inspector General of the NYPD, which has produced some of the most controversial work of the Peters-de Blasio era, after its creation was enshrined into law by the City Council in 2013 over a veto by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The Role of DOI and its Commissioner
“DOI’s role is to provide transparency,” Peters said, and, when necessary, “to demonstrate ‘what we have now is not working.’”

His department is one of the oldest law enforcement entities in New York. It has jurisdiction to root out corruption, waste, and abuse throughout city government, as well as in companies that do business with or are regulated by the city, such as the construction industry. DOI has a unique ability and mandate, and looks at both specific instances of wrongdoing and larger systems that may be ineffective or corrupt.

DOI is designed in the city charter to be largely independent from the mayor, though the mayor does nominate the commissioner, who must also be approved by the City Council.

“I’d like to think that the mayor picked me because I’ve spent really the 20-odd years before in law enforcement and, in particular, doing both law enforcement and anti-corruption work,” said Peters, whose resumé includes titles like Chief of the Public Corruption Unit and Deputy Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau for the office of the New York State Attorney General. He also previously worked at various civil rights organizations, such as serving as the Senior Staff Attorney at Children’s Inc., a national organization helping abused children.

Doubts about Peters’ potential independence dominated public discourse around the time of his confirmation hearings in 2014. Since then, however, contention among DOI, the mayor, and the agencies that DOI investigates – such as the aforementioned tension over the DOI’s 2015 report regarding quality-of-life, AKA broken windows, policing – have laid those doubts to rest. Of his progress so far, Peters said, “I’d like to believe that, four years on, people are reasonably comfortable that we’ve been independent and that we will continue to be independent.”

One of the first things that Peters did as the newly appointed DOI commissioner, he said on the podcast, was talk to the mayor about increasing the department’s funding in order to acquire the appropriate amount of staff, especially in regards to overseeing the NYPD.

Subsequently, since 2013 the headcount of personnel at DOI has doubled and its budget has similarly increased by 58 percent, rising from $30.6 million in 2013 to $48.2 million today.

“Without that,” said Peters, “all the laws in the world saying ‘You’ve got the authority to do it’ are meaningless if you don’t have the troops to actually get the work done.”

Investigating the NYPD
The city charter has always granted DOI the jurisdiction to create an inspector general for the NYPD, along with the rest of the city government, but while DOI serves as inspector general for all city government and launched specific inspectors for other agencies, one never materialized for the NYPD. “Institutions are governed by a series of laws, but they are also governed by a series of practices and traditions,” Peters said when asked why there hadn’t been an NYPD IG before the City Council legislation. “That’s just true.”

The law passed by the Council in 2013 “essentially said, ‘You’ve always had the power to do this, now we are directing you that you must do this,’” Peters said.

As a result, the DOI hired about 50 new staff members, including Philip K. Eure, the first and current Inspector General for the NYPD. Along with the 2015 report on broken windows policing, a philosophy and resulting practice supported by Bratton, O’Neill, and de Blasio, DOI has released other NYPD reports, including one this year that shed light on the NYPD’s handling of sexual assault cases.

According to Peters, the report showed that while the number of sexual assault cases have increased by 65 percent in the last decade, staffing for the special victims division remained flat, with only 67 detectives assigned to work adult sex crimes. As a result of the understaffing, a policy relegated ‘acquaintance rape’ (as opposed to ‘stranger rape’) to be sent out from the investigation units to the precincts, where many officers may be unequipped to deal with such cases. The facilities in which the police interview sexual assault victims were additionally deemed inadequate given the sensitivity of the cases. And, perhaps most importantly, DOI obtained documents that revealed that even the top ranks of the NYPD knew about these problems and were not taking sufficient measures to remedy them.

NYPD officials pushed back on the report and attacked DOI for not interviewing the then-chief of detectives. They, along with the mayor, urged caution about believing the findings of the report and said that it was being further examined and that the new chief of detectives would be reevaluating everything under his purview anyway.

At a City Council hearing last month, NYPD officials acknowledged the poor state of interview facilities for the victims of sexual assault and said they would invest in fixing them. While the NYPD’s formal response to the report is expected at the end of June, Peters sees progress in how much attention and potential change is resulting from the DOI report.

“I think what’s happened is you’ve seen we’ve sped up the process of getting at this problem without people having to go to court and use litigation,” Peters said, referring to the lawsuits brought against the NYPD in response to the high rates of stop-and-frisk, a practice deemed unconstitutional in terms of how the NYPD targeted people of color. “As an old civil rights lawyer, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with litigation, but it’s not the most efficient way of changing things.”

Peters stressed the value of DOI’s work in terms of transparency. “The only way for the City Council to hold really good, thoughtful hearings is for them to have something like our reports,” said Peters. “Because that’s the baseline material that allows you to then ask questions of the NYPD. If you wanna have the NYPD come in and testify and you wanna ask them the hard questions...the first thing you need is all of DOI’s work telling you what’s going on.”

The Department of Correction and Closing Rikers
Last summer, the de Blasio administration announced plans to lower the city’s incarcerated population and shut down the Rikers Island jails, while creating additional jail space in four borough-based facilities. While public policy is under the jurisdiction of the mayor and the City Council, it is the DOI’s job to make sure that policy and programs work.

“Part of making it successful is pointing out that, in and of itself, taking Rikers and moving it to borough facilities...is not gonna solve the problems of violence and contraband smuggling that we’re seeing,” Peters said, discussing work DOI has done to examine problems at city jails, including those on Rikers.

A report that the DOI issued earlier this year found that the problems of violence and contraband smuggling, which are rampant at Rikers, are happening at similar levels at the jail facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Peters estimated that about 50 correction officers and facility staff have been arrested so far for involvement in contraband schemes, such as accepting bribes in exchange for smuggling. Additionally, undercover officers were also able to smuggle weapons and drugs into the borough-based jail facilities.

“I don’t see any reason to believe that that level of arrests is necessarily gonna go down over the next year or so,” Peters said. “So we still have a huge amount of work that needs to be done to get at those problems.”

As a result, Peters doesn’t see the plan to shutter Rikers as a silver bullet solution to the city’s jail problems. “As we plan for this, we need to continue planning for how do we deal with security and mental health and contraband smuggling,” he said.

Safety Violations at NYCHA
When DOI investigated the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) late last year, it found that the public housing authority not only violated lead paint, smoke detector, and elevator safety procedures, but also falsified documents to the federal government that said it was complying with safety protocols.

The report DOI produced based on NYCHA misconduct led to public discussion over the failings of the agency as well as to City Council hearings, where NYCHA officials committed to making internal changes based on the findings of the report. Peters believes that a recent leadership change at NYCHA is linked to the DOI investigation that outed the safety violations and false paperwork.

“We said, ‘Look, NYCHA is failing to meet the standards that the city and the federal government have already set for lead safety,’” Peters said. “In other words, no, we’re not experts on how much lead exposure is safe, but the city and the federal government have said, ‘Here are the rules.’ What we then do is come along and say, ‘You’re not following the rules.’”

In general, NYCHA is underfunded and lacks the proper resources to fix some major problems, Peters said. To get rid of the mold in NYCHA apartments, for example, the agency would have to fix the roofs, which is difficult to do without the federal funding NYCHA has historically relied upon. According to Peters, the federal government hasn’t paid its fair share to NYCHA over the past decade.

“DOI has not spent a lot of time criticizing NYCHA or investigating issues of NYCHA that are related to that kind of funding,” Peters said, explaining, though, that NYCHA must still be organized, honest, and as efficient as possible, “because telling NYCHA that you need the money is true, but they know that. We all know that. And we do not have oversight authority over the federal government.”

Simultaneously, other areas of NYCHA, such as following the standard safety protocols for lead paint or smoke detectors, are not related to federal government funding. Instead, it is a matter of management doing its job.

Unearthing these problems of mismanagement and malfeasance at NYCHA, and throughout city government and beyond, is the crux of DOI’s mission.

“Part of the reason I think it’s important to have a permanent independent inspector general is we’re not going anywhere,” Peters said. “Our investigations into NYCHA aren’t finished. We are continuing to look at this...so that if NYCHA, having said they’re going to deal with this, doesn’t, we’ll be back in six months and we’ll be able to say to the Council and the public and to journalists and to all of you, ‘Here’s what really happened.’”

[Listen: What's The [Data] Point? 402, with Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters]

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by Chelsey Sanchez, Gotham Gazette
@chelseynsanchez  @GothamGazette

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Investigation Commissioner on Examining NYPD, NYCHA and Correction Mon, 04 Jun 2018 04:00:00 +0000
What's The [Data] Point? 402, with Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7676:what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7676:what-s-the-data-point-402-with-mark-peters whats the data point


What's The [Data] Point? Episode 41 -- 402, with DOI Commissioner Mark Peters [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

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Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters is one of the most feared officials in New York City. The power of his office has few limits as it investigates waste, fraud, and abuse in and around city government. DOI issues reports, makes arrests, and really gets under the hood of city agencies.

Under Peters, who took office in 2014, DOI has issued bombshell reports about the NYPD, NYCHA, the Department of Correction, and other city agencies and entities. Peters joined the podcast to discuss the work of the office, which has grown substantially during his tenure, his relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who nominated him to the position but has criticized his work on several occasions, and more.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Maria Doulis of CBC (@MariaDoulis). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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What's The [Data] Point? 402, with Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters Thu, 17 May 2018 04:00:00 +0000