Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics


Adams 2021: Housing - Save NYCHA

Even before the pandemic, we knew that tens-of-billions of dollars was needed to make basic improvements to NYCHA complexes throughout the city. The virus exposed even more immediate issues We need an all-in approach to raise enough money to save NYCHA tenants from dilapidated buildings and deteriorating apartments.

  • Save NYCHA through bold moves like allowing the agency to sell air rights.
  • Keep NYCHA tenants informed to hold the agency accountable.
  • Support tenants impacted by lead paint with greater accountability and immediate assistance.

Sell NYCHA’s air rights to raise billions for NYCHA tenants.

We can literally pull $8 billion out of the air for NYCHA. The agency has air rights to some 80 million square feet over its properties that could generate income for capital repairs to more than 300 buildings, where desperately needed repairs are chronically slow, often dragging out for months or longer. That money will allow us to greatly improve the quality of life for more than 500,000 NYCHA tenants, roughly 90 percent of whom are people of color.

Close the NYCHA money pit by forcing the agency to be transparent.

NYCHA’s lack of transparency is unconscionable. The agency pours some $450 million into fixing up its housing complexes but still made the city’s worst landlord list in 2018 and 2019. The agency is opaque about where the money goes and the progress of much-needed repairs. This has led to deplorable conditions, leaks, gaping holes and non-working elevators for months on end. For example, NYCHA residents filed some 200,000 bug and rodent complaints in 2018 and 2019, and NYCHA elevator outages reportedly hit an average of 121 per day in 2018.

My administration will apply crystal clear transparency through constant reporting of progress on apartment and building repairs, as well as spending, posted in real-time through a dashboard. We will also do an audit to see what budgeted money has actually been spent. And we will promote further transparency and tracking by placing QR codes on buildings as a way for anyone to point, click and track progress. 

Get more money out of the federal government for City housing.

NYCHA tenants are understandably skeptical of the City program to get more money out of the federal government by transitioning some complexes to private management under the PACT to Preserve program. But the program can also unlock billions of dollars to improve their homes.

To raise needed revenue and give tenants more control over the process, we will provide free legal counsel to tenants going through the conversion and give them veto power. This will ensure that tenants can select an attorney they trust to fight for their needs so they get the better housing promised to them.

Bring real-time accountability with NYCHAStat.

If you don’t inspect what you expect, it’s all suspect. Rent-paying residents deserve to know the hard facts on efforts to improve the developments they call home, and NYCHA employees need to see where to mobilize resources for repairs. Just as CompSTAT began to improve policing performance decades ago, I believe a data-driven approach to asset management can improve NYCHA’s performance in serving its tenants, as well as deliver the accountability and transparency that has long been lacking.

Support tenants impacted by lead paint with greater accountability and immediate assistance.

Revelations of widespread lead paint exposure by the NYCHA federal monitor underscore the complete disregard the City has shown to Black and Brown children. I can’t help but think that if this were taking place in Sutton Place in Manhattan and not Sutter Avenue in Brownsville, the City’s response would be very different. Right now, we need to expedite remediation efforts, with help from the federal government, provide rent relief to impacted families, and ensure real accountability for any officials who are found to have misled tenants and the public about the extent of the problem.

Specifically, NYCHA must skip contracting procedures and immediately engage any city-based company licensed to do this remediation work that will pay prevailing wage and start work on an emergency basis, and it must not charge rent to any tenant living in any impacted apartment until the lead is remediated. Additionally, I will push for any individual(s) found responsible by the federal monitor or any other oversight body for concealing the extent of lead exposure to face legal accountability, as determined by the outcome of an investigation into potential criminal negligence or malfeasance.

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