Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/980 Mon, 22 Jul 2019 05:55:46 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Advocates See Irony in Cuomo's Thinly-Veiled Shots at De Blasio Over City Problems https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8677-advocates-see-irony-in-cuomo-s-thinly-veiled-shots-at-de-blasio-over-city-problems https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8677-advocates-see-irony-in-cuomo-s-thinly-veiled-shots-at-de-blasio-over-city-problems cuomo bdb amazon

Cuomo & de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


Governor Andrew Cuomo believes in action, rather than rhetoric, and rarely shies away from criticizing those who he believes fail to live up to their promises, including his fellow Democrats. He’s also appeared particularly irritated by the ascendent progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which has challenged him, unfairly he argues, and offers what he says are pie-in-the-sky talking points over the types of achievable results he’s delivered.

Cuomo brought the critiques together on Friday in an op-ed in the New York Daily News, where he inveighed about underfunded schools, the problem-plagued Rikers Island jail complex and the plan to close it, New York City’s homelessness crisis, and the mismanaged city public housing authority (NYCHA). That same day, Cuomo complained of a rising homeless problem on the city’s subways, calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), an entity he effectively controls, to confront it in its upcoming reorganization plan. 

But on each of those issues, Cuomo, now in his third term, offered no concrete solutions of his own, and advocates who have watched him hold the reins of power for eight-and-a-half years say his rhetoric distracts from his own policy failures while pinning the blame on others. In this case, the unnamed target was clearly New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is now running for president on what the mayor calls a long list of progressive accomplishments in the nation’s largest city.

In many instances, including the op-ed, Cuomo’s indulges in discussion of “what it means to be progressive” appear to be his attempts to differentiate himself from de Blasio, among others.

“The common denominator of these great failures — Rikers, poor schools, NYCHA — is obvious,” Cuomo wrote in the op-ed, “poor, powerless minorities and basic civil rights violations. Addressing them should be the cornerstone of a true progressive agenda, and yet they continue to languish.” 

He went on to criticize “Democratic failures” that fuel Republican success, before taking a shot at the 2020 Democratic presidential field. “Today, every 2020 Democratic presidential candidate is articulating the same basic ‘progressive’ goals: more economic opportunity, better public education, affordable health care, etc. To me, the far more important question is how we achieve these goals and who has the ability to get it done,” he wrote (Cuomo has repeatedly expressed support for former Vice President Joe Biden). 

The governor all but shouted from the rooftops that the common denominator on all those issues is de Blasio, a favorite target of his criticism despite the long history the two share. Cuomo’s acrimony towards what he sees as faux progressivism is never as obvious as when it’s directed at the second term mayor, and the two have spent more time arguing over issues they agree on rather than working on solutions.

Cuomo has been quick to fault de Blasio for the city’s homelessness crisis, the long-running problems at NYCHA, and what he inaccurately called a “stalled” plan to close Rikers. Inequity in school funding is another area where Cuomo, despite his own significant power to effect change, has taken a cudgel to the mayor. While de Blasio has struggled to varying degrees with each of the problems Cuomo mentioned, the mayor and others have also sought more state support than the city has received.

The mayor’s office clearly understood who the op-ed was targeting. “We agree - being progressive requires more than just talk,” said Jane Meyer, a spokesperson for de Blasio, in an email. “That’s why we back our words up with action. Our plan to close down Rikers is one year ahead of schedule, we have helped over 117,000 New Yorkers avoid or exit shelter, and we are testing 135,000 NYCHA apartments for lead to eradicate exposure.”

It is not lost on many close watchers and stakeholders that the issues Cuomo has railed about, and targeted de Blasio on, have of course been ripe for gubernatorial action, especially from a governor who has repeatedly sought to outshine, undermine, and overstep the mayor, whose shortcomings are not to be dismissed.

But overall, those working on solutions in the areas Cuomo mentioned say his op-ed says as much, if not more, about him than anyone he sought to call out. 

Rikers Island
In a conference call with reporters on Friday, Cuomo repeated his criticism of the Rikers closure plan, saying the state Legislature should have acted to close it long ago and that de Blasio’s plan “was unworkable from the day it was announced” -- a claim that does not appear supported by fact at this point in the process currently unfolding.

Though he was ready to offer help -- “Tell me what you need from the state’s point of view and we’ll be however helpful that we can,” Cuomo said -- he did not provide any concrete ideas. And he seemed to suggest that elected officials in the city would be best served if they moved ahead with the plan despite community opposition, which is what appears to be happening, contrary to Cuomo calling the plan unworkable and stalled. 

Brandon Holmes, the New York City campaign coordinator for JustLeadershipUSA, which has spearheaded the #CloseRikers campaign, chalked up Cuomo’s rhetoric to a “political game” with the mayor and one that undermines a successful ongoing effort to move towards a closure of the jail complex. Instead, he called out Cuomo’s yearslong efforts to either oppose or water down criminal justice reforms making their way through the state Legislature. 

Holmes noted, for instance, that Cuomo opposed the complete elimination of cash bail (it was severely limited for use in non-violent offenses under new legislation this year, which will be a big boost to the Rikers closure efforts given the expected reduction in remand), did not voice support for reforms to the parole system or eliminating solitary confinement.

“Cuomo didn’t support all of these things that would not only improve conditions for people who are currently incarcerated but also ensure that thousands more New Yorkers would never come into contact or return to prison in the first place, and he didn’t support any of that,” he said. “This is really just a political move. I don’t know what games he thinks he’s playing but he really should stay out of the picture and allow advocates and people who are formerly incarcerated to continue leading this movement to decarcerate New York which we’ve had to force him and drag him along the way to doing.”

While Cuomo did champion major bail and other criminal justice reforms that did move this year after Democrats won the state Senate, the governor’s critiques of de Blasio’s efforts to close the Rikers Island jails appear to boil down to calling the timeline too long, which is certainly debatable, though the governor has not followed up that criticism with anything concrete, and the unfounded jabs at the replacement plan, which is moving through the city’s land use review process.

Homelessness
Cuomo has repeatedly criticized the rise of homelessness in New York City, which continued to climb during de Blasio’s first several years as mayor but has plateaued after billions of dollars in additional spending by the city administration. De Blasio has himself repeatedly mentioned homelessness as his biggest failing as mayor, where he said he did not quickly enough grasp the magnitude of the problem and how many city resources needed to be dedicated toward it.

But Cuomo’s more recent tirade was directed more specifically at homelessness on the subway system. “[I]t's something we've all lived with as New Yorkers, but what's striking to me is how much worse it is and it's not just a question of looking at the numbers and the statistics, it's visibly worse,” said Cuomo, who has not ridden the subway in two-and-a-half years, on the press call. 

Cuomo called on the MTA, which is currently undergoing a top-to-bottom reorganization of its bureaucratic structure, to tackle the issue without relying on assistance from the city, while he again appeared to distance himself from actually providing state help.

“We need social service outreach workers. We need police in a supporting role. We need transportation accommodations. And the MTA has to have a concerted, efficient, professional effort where outreach workers make contact with homeless people on trains and in terminals doing assessment on-site as to the issues that are being presented by the homeless individual,” he said. “If the homeless individual is violating the laws or the regulations of the MTA, then help that person get the assistance they need. Be it a shelter, supportive housing, mental health facilities.” 

But the governor’s comments about additional policing, just a month after a separate announcement that the MTA would add 500 new police officers to patrol the subways for fare evasion (funded by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office), struck some experts as misguided.

Jacquelyn Simone, policy analyst at nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement Friday that the state should redouble its investments in permanent solutions such as affordable and supportive housing. “However Gov. Cuomo’s reference to increased policing of homeless people in the subways is misplaced,” she added. “We have always advised State and City leaders that the answer is most definitely not more policing because summonses and harassing vulnerable people to make them move simply pushes them deeper into the shadows without helping them obtain the services and housing each one of them needs. If Gov. Cuomo wants to fix the problem, let him step up with more housing and services specifically targeted for homeless people, stop shifting the cost of shelters off to localities, and stop the prison-to-shelter pipeline from the State’s correctional facilities.”

Cuomo’s has touted state investments in affordable and supportive housing, but experts have shown it has been slow to materialize, and the governor has refused to support a more significant state investment into housing subsidies that the city has provided to those leaving shelter.

JustLeadershipUSA’s Holmes offered rhetorical questions: “He comes out with this investment saying he’s gonna fund additional police officers into the MTA to solve those problems. What if he actually put that money towards providing permanent housing for people who are experiencing chronic homelessness? What if he put that money into repairing public housing buildings across the city?”  

NYCHA
The city’s public housing authority has suffered a series of setbacks and self-inflicted problems over the last many years, not the least of which involved the falsification of lead inspection records that led to a federal lawsuit and eventual oversight from a federal monitor. The authority also has an estimated $32 billion capital repair backlog, though the de Blasio administration was able to bring its operational expenses under control after years of deficits, in part by putting more city funds toward the authority.   

For over two years, however, while the agency faced investigation, Cuomo has refused to release about $450 million in state funding allocated for repair and maintenance, citing the agency’s mismanagement. “Progressives all espouse the need for affordable housing, but the incompetence of NYCHA has been tolerated for years with children being housed without heat and exposed to lead poisoning, without any coherent solution,” Cuomo said in his op-ed.

The governor also seized on NYCHA as an issue last year, as he was running for a third term, holding a number of NYCHA-related government events at various public housing developments, promising some conditional funding, and threatening a state monitor, pending the outcome of the federal examination.

The governor has not been a frequent NYCHA visitor since winning his primary last September, and he did not allocate any additional NYCHA funding in the new state budget passed April 1.

School Funding
“On public education, I think the op-ed is a bit of an indictment of his own policies,” said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, an education advocacy group, and a frequent Cuomo critic who supported the governor’s primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, in last year’s election.

AQE has long pushed for fully funding the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court decision, which would require billions more in state “foundation aid” funding for underfunded schools in poorer schools districts. Cuomo has repeatedly denied that funding, arguing that the state has no remaining obligation under the CFE decision, and this year pushed his own alternative “education equity” formula that would require districts to direct more funding toward their poorer schools.

In his op-ed, Cuomo critiqued the state Legislature for failing to increase funding for poorer school districts without also increasing funds for richer ones, but his formula accomplishes the same outcome. The governor pushed through additional requirements for New York City to report on how state education aid is being delivered to specific schools. 

“He has utterly failed to deliver for high-need schools in this state,” Easton added. “This year the Legislature proposed a plan that would increase funding over the next four years for high-need school districts by $3 billion and he aggressively blocked it.”

Cuomo has at once touted that the state continues to increase overall education funding to record levels each year, and also said that the state cannot keep throwing more money at education, citing the highest per-pupil spending in the country, by far.

He’s backed an expansion of charter schools, particularly in New York City, an effort that stalled this year under full Democratic control of the Legislature despite the state cap on charters for the city having been hit. De Blasio and Easton are staunch opponents of charter schools, which supporters point out often deliver better education than traditional public schools in low-income communities of color, while critics say they often don’t educate representative student bodies, are test-prep factories, and starve district schools of resources.

Easton derided the governor’s so-called pragmatism as one driven more by fiscal conservatism, and noted that the disparity in per-pupil funding between richer and poorer school districts has only gone up under Cuomo’s tenure (though the Legislature certainly has a hand in that as well). 

“I think he’s just lashing out. He’s lashed out at de Blasio, he’s lashed out at AOC, he’s lashed out at Cabán,” he said. “He’s lashing out at anyone who’s actually a progressive. He wants the definition of progressive to probably be center-right like he is. That’s just not the reality. The truth is, what the op-ed also shows is that progressives are defining the agenda that Democrats have to respond to. He’s got that intuition, he’s always had the intuition that he needs to brand himself as a progressive but he’s a lot better at branding than he is at delivering on some of the most important progressive priorities.”

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Advocates See Irony in Cuomo's Thinly-Veiled Shots at De Blasio Over City Problems Tue, 16 Jul 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Seize the Albany Opportunity to Do More for NYCHA https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8604-don-t-leave-albany-without-new-investment-in-nycha https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8604-don-t-leave-albany-without-new-investment-in-nycha gov cuomo comm

Danny Barber, left, is the author; with Gov. Cuomo & others (photo: the Governor's office)


I stood with Governor Cuomo last year when he showed how bad conditions in public housing have gotten after decades of federal neglect. With the governor’s leadership, NYCHA was allocated $250 million in last year’s state budget. While that money was held up due to the appointment of a federal monitor, the need for additional funds remains again this year.

Major capital repairs are needed to keep residents safe and healthy in all five boroughs. Leaks, mold, pests, broken elevators, and lead are a constant worry for us 400,0000 public housing residents as we try to get to work or school or care for our families at home.

The Assembly called for $300 million and the Senate asked for $250 million in the annual state budget process earlier this year. So far, NYCHA has gotten zero. This surprises me given the governor’s commitment and the tumultuous year NYCHA has had, leaving residents with great uncertainty about the future status of our homes.

State lawmakers have a chance to redeem themselves and commit to fighting to preserve NYCHA by appropriating capital funds before the end of this year’s legislative session, which is scheduled to finish this week and is expected to include decisions on capital allocations.

Albany also has an opportunity to create a more just and equitable tax policy while funding public housing, and it won’t cost a dime in state budget money.

This year, New York City will give away about $600 million to homeowners through the Cooperative and Condominium Property Tax Abatement, which reduces real property taxes for owner-occupiers by 17.5% to 28.1%, depending on assessed value. With the abatement scheduled to sunset this week, Albany lawmakers have an opportunity to provide a long-term funding solution for public housing.

Reform legislation has been introduced in the Assembly by Robert Rodriguez with a companion bill in the Senate sponsored by the housing committee chair Senator Brian Kavanagh. This bill preserves the tax abatement for 90% of homeowners, while eliminating tax breaks for the top 10% of luxury coops and condos.

By ending this tax break for the top 10% of luxury owners now, $170 million in tax revenue will be collected each year. The reform legislation earmarks this revenue for capital repairs in public housing, which can help bring NYCHA into compliance with federal regulations protecting tenants from health hazards such as mold, lead, and vermin.

More than 320,000 cooperative and condominium homeowners received an average tax break of $1,890 in fiscal year 2019 but benefits to luxury homeowners far exceed this average. President Trump, for example, was eligible for $48,000 in tax relief when he resided in Trump Tower. This reform bill will end tax breaks for luxury owners who don’t need them. New York City’s Housing and Vacancy Survey indicates that 10% of all coop and condo owners citywide earn more than $350,000 per year. That number contrasts sharply with $24,000, the average income for residents in public housing.

Albany lawmakers will have to decide if they want to renew the current abatement and perpetuate housing inequality or if they want to reform it by ending tax breaks to luxury properties and fund repairs that will benefit many thousands of public housing residents. The choice seems simple.

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Danny Barber is Chair of the Citywide Council of Presidents of NYCHA residents, representing 400,000 public housing residents. He is also President of Jackson Houses Resident Inc., Chairman of the South Bronx District Council of Presidents Inc., and a member of Community Board 1.

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

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Seize the Albany Opportunity to Do More for NYCHA Sun, 16 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Interim NYCHA CEO Kathryn Garcia on the Federal Monitor and Future of Public Housing in New York https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8562-interim-nycha-ceo-on-the-federal-monitor-and-future-of-public-housing-in-new-york https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8562-interim-nycha-ceo-on-the-federal-monitor-and-future-of-public-housing-in-new-york de Blasio NYCHA lead

Mayor de Blasio & Kathryn Garcia, right (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


Four months on the job, NYCHA Interim Chair and CEO Kathryn Garcia remains optimistic and determined about the future of the New York City public housing authority, home to more than 400,000 New Yorkers and several major crises. Garcia, who was the city’s sanitation commissioner for about five years until taking leave to fill in as the head of NYCHA, appeared on WBAI’s Max & Murphy show, where she discussed the de Blasio administration’s plans and programs to address problems at the housing authority, which is now under federal monitorship.

“NYCHA is huge organization and in many ways you can think of it as a small city, the size of Miami,” Garcia said. “One of the things I wanted to put in place while I was here is the on-boarding of the federal monitor, which started a few weeks after the agreement was signed to make sure we were setting up systems to come into compliance and have a successful monitorship.”

Garcia discussed working with the monitor, Bart Schwartz, and said she does not believe she is in the running to be named as the permanent NYCHA chair and CEO -- Mayor de Blasio and federal authorities have extended their own deadline to name a new NYCHA leader until the end of June. She also detailed some of what NYCHA is doing to address its long-term financial troubles, including the controversial plan to allow developers to build new private apartment buildings, with a mix of “affordable” and market-rate housing, on under-utilized NYCHA land.

In terms of getting Schwartz integrated and beginning their working relationship, Garcia said they were doing “big-picture planning on issues of compliance” and “setting up the three departments -- compliance, safety, and quality assurance,” and addressing lead paint, “hopefully eventually coming off having a monitor.”

“But there’s also a longer-term goal,” Garica said, of “how do we drive investment into these buildings. Because they are assets of the city and critical homes for all of the residents.” It’s important, she said, to consider a variety of newer options, including the “Obama-era RAD program, or what we call the Build to Preserve program to ensure residents are seeing impact as quickly as possible,” referring to the Rental Administration Demonstration program that allows for private management of NYCHA buildings and added federal dollars, as well as the “infill” private development on NYCHA land.

For Garcia, and whomever replaces her, the challenges are immense -- not only has the public housing authority had a lead paint scandal that it is now aggressively attempting to mitigate, but overall NYCHA has a $30-plus billion needs assessment for the housing stock to be brought to a state of good repair over the next five or so years. That need includes things like roofs, boilers, elevators, and more.

On the show, Garcia noted that “one role NYCHA is serving is it’s the only bastion of affordable housing left in some of these neighborhoods, so it’s doubly important for us to make a commitment to it.”

“[W]e don’t have a lot of options at this point in terms of the incredible need,” she said at one point, pointing to the administration’s plan to lease NYCHA land to developers who will fund millions of dollars in repairs at the NYCHA properties where they build.

NYCHA is operating under Schwartz’s eye after the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) threatened receivership and federal prosecutors turned up major safety issues. At the end of January, Mayor de Blasio and HUD Secretary Ben Carson came to a deal, approved by a judge and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, that included the monitor.

The month before, in December 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled “NYCHA 2.0,” a ten-year plan to repair public housing in the city by bringing in $24 billion. The plan includes funding for capital repairs across the NYCHA system and tackling problems such as lead paint, mold, elevator malfunctions, heat outages, and vermin infestations, which have increasingly plagued the city’s public housing in recent years. The plan represents three-quarters of NYCHA’s $31.8 billion overall capital needs.

Garcia acknowledged that it has been “somewhat more complicated” to run an agency under federal monitorship, but also said that “outside eyes” can often be helpful in tackling a complex issue such as NYCHA.

[LISTEN: Max & Murphy Podcast: NYCHA Interim CEO Kathryn Garcia]

Garcia remains “hopeful” that the state and federal governments will increase their funding for NYCHA, but she, like de Blasio, appears realistic that major help is unlikely any time soon. She did note, though, that an allocated $450 million in state money is on the verge of finally being spent on NYCHA repairs, and she explained that “one of the reasons we’re looking to these programs that convert from traditional public housing funding to section 8 is it’s been historically more fully funded than traditional public housing.”

On the RAD program and whether it should raise concerns of NYCHA “privatization” as some have claimed, Garcia said, “we are leveraging the private market to bring additional funding into NYCHA.” She emphasized that NYCHA will still own the land and will ensure that residents are protected in development.

Despite some initial pushback to the “NYCHA 2.0” plan, Garcia called the Build to Preserve program, which would see private development on NYCHA-owned land, “another tool in our toolbox to drive funding into NYCHA’s buildings” and “one of three legs” along with RAD and selling air rights. She also said the program would not work or be appropriate everywhere.

“I completely understand why NYCHA residents would be anxious about it because historically people got moved out of their homes and they never came back,” Garcia said, but then also promised, “we are taking a completely different approach to this,” pledging a lot of communication, no residential displacement, and investment of revenue directly into the home campus.

Saying there aren’t other options to address NYCHA’s needs, Garcia added, “This is a way to take...value from the campuses and do two things really: make sure residents do well and also increase the supply of housing and affordable housing in the City of New York, which is of course always in dire need.”

On the lead crisis at NYCHA, Garcia said, “We stabilized thousands of apartments that had presumed or lead-based paint with children under six. We still have a lot more to do...We don’t know where all the lead paint is, and that is why we kicked off what is called the XRF initiative, which is X-raying the paint and being able to tell whether it has any lead. We started that on April 15...It will take us till end of 2020 to get that done because we are planning to test 134,000 apartments.”

Some issues present “relatively straightforward fixes, like baseboards were painted lead, but nothing else in the apartment, while there will probably also be apartments where lead paint was used on every wall and those will obviously be much more significant jobs,” she said. X-raying all the paint is the “critical first step,” she said.

Asked her assessment as to what really went wrong around lead paint inspections, Garcia said, “I obviously wasn’t here to assess exactly what all the steps were...One of the things that I think is true is a basic failure to understand what the requirements were and how much work it was going to take under HUD regulations and getting systems in place to really ensure that that happened,” later adding that it was also about complying with “local law.”

“This an easy place to get trapped in putting out the fire of the day,” she continued, “and not stepping back and saying are we hitting all the milestones we need to hit to ensure that we are coming into compliance and to ensure that we are building a future here.”

She also said “lead-based paint is...inherently a maintenance issue,” because “it’s not dangerous if it’s not peeling and chipping off the walls,” but when leaks are allowed to fester and apartments are not regularly painted, problems arise.

Another big part of NYCHA 2.0 is the plan to convert 62,000 of its 176,000 public housing units to Section 8, through programs such as RAD. Sarah Watson, the deputy director of the Citizen Housing and Planning Council, appearing on Max & Murphy just after Garcia, compared this to a similar strategy that was used to fix London’s public housing in the 1980s.

“The UK did hit a similar sort of crisis around public housing around 40 years ago, so has spent 40 years trying to deal with a very similar issue, which is it’s somewhat easy for government to build housing but it’s difficult for them to figure out how to keep that going” without dramatically increasing subsidies, she said.

About a third of London residents were living in 770,000 public housing units in 1980. This is compared to the 400,000-plus New Yorkers living in 176,000 units today. The UK’s solution had two parts. First was allowing public housing residents to buy their homes and second was repairing the remaining public housing stock. “One of the most radical acts of housing policy ever seen was giving families the right overnight to buy their house or apartment,” according to Watson.

She also said that the first phase then saw “a downside effect of being left with the worst quality housing stock with the most troubled and low-income residents.”

While she acknowledges that replicating London’s plan may not be a complete fix, Watson said that fixing NYCHA “will take some radical new approaches and certainly some bold leadership,” like what happened in the United Kingdom. London’s public housing included a substantial number of homes in addition to apartments and “it was a little harder to get apartments to sell.”

[LISTEN: Max & Murphy Podcast: NYCHA Interim CEO Kathryn Garcia]

[LISTEN: Max & Murphy Podcast: Lessons from London for How to Fix NYCHA]

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by Andrew Millman, Gotham Gazette

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Ben Max contributed to this story.

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Interim NYCHA CEO Kathryn Garcia on the Federal Monitor and Future of Public Housing in New York Mon, 03 Jun 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: NYCHA Interim CEO Kathryn Garcia https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8559-max-murphy-podcast-nycha-s-future-with-interim-ceo-kathryn-garcia https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8559-max-murphy-podcast-nycha-s-future-with-interim-ceo-kathryn-garcia kathryn garcia wbai 600

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


May 29, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: NYCHA's Future, with Interim CEO Kathryn Garcia

kathryn garcia wbaiKathryn Garcia, the city's sanitation commissioner for most of Mayor Bill de Blasio's tenure, was recently named interim chair and CEO of NYCHA, tasked with steering the public housing authority through tumultuous times, including the beginning of a federal monitorship. Garcia joined the show to give her perspective on NYCHA, how the monitor is working so far, how she's appoached the job, lead paint remediation, the "NYCHA 2.0" plan that the mayor announced in December, and more.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: NYCHA Interim CEO Kathryn Garcia Wed, 29 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Lessons from London for How to Fix NYCHA https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8560-max-murphy-podcast-lessons-from-london-for-how-to-fix-nycha https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8560-max-murphy-podcast-lessons-from-london-for-how-to-fix-nycha sarah watson wbai 600

(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


May 29, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Lessons from London for How to Fix NYCHA

sarah watson wbaiSarah Watson of Citizens Housing & Planning Council joined the show to discuss how London dealt with its crumbling public housing decades ago and what lessons may be informative as New York City tries to chart its path ahead in saving and fixing NYCHA.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Lessons from London for How to Fix NYCHA Wed, 29 May 2019 04:00:00 +0000
What's The [Data] Point? 5, with former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8386-what-s-the-data-point-5-with-former-deputy-mayor-alicia-glen https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8386-what-s-the-data-point-5-with-former-deputy-mayor-alicia-glen whats the data point


What's The [Data] Point? Episode 69 -- 5, with former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

wtdp alica glen deputy mayorAlicia Glen was Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development under Mayor Bill de Blasio for more than five years, until she recently left the administration after being the chief architect of its signature affordable housing plan, a broad variety of economic development initiatives, and more. Glen joined the podcast (for the second time) for an "exit interview" on her legacy as deputy mayor, key issues facing the city and where the city is headed, the city's overall economic competitiveness, the Amazon deal that was undone, NYCHA, whether she would ever run for elected office herself, and other topics.

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? 5, with former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen Tue, 26 Mar 2019 04:00:00 +0000
City Council Public Housing Chair Weighs in on HUD Deal, NYCHA’s Future https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8287-city-council-public-housing-chair-weighs-in-on-hud-deal-nycha-s-future https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8287-city-council-public-housing-chair-weighs-in-on-hud-deal-nycha-s-future Ampry-Samuel NYCHA

Alicka Ampry-Samuel (photo: Jeff Reed/City Council)


As Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced his “NYCHA 2.0” plan to secure the future of the city’s public housing authority, an agreement with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that includes a new federal monitor of NYCHA, and a new interim chair to lead the authority, the City Council member charged with oversight of NYCHA has some questions.

Alicka Ampry-Samuel is the chair of the City Council’s public housing committee and represents parts of central Brooklyn, home to many NYCHA residences. During a recent appearance on the Max & Murphy show on WBAI radio, Ampry-Samuel explained some of her concerns about the latest NYCHA-related developments, said that de Blasio had not reached out to her ahead of announcing that Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia would be named interim NYCHA chair, and promised a public hearing on the city’s deal with HUD in the coming months.

Ampry-Samuel had measured praise for de Blasio’s NYCHA 2.0 plan, which includes fairly aggressive measures to bring in new revenue to address the housing authority’s $30 billion-plus in physical needs, but she joined the chorus of critics who have questioned the mayor’s deal with HUD that includes no new federal money for NYCHA.

“We are seeing better things, but tell that to the person who’s suffering right now,” Ampry-Samuels said of the general situation across NYCHA, particularly relative to last winter, when there were widespread heat and hot water outages. “It’s hard for them to receive that response because they’re thinking, ‘What about me?’ That’s not the case in my home.”

On January 31, de Blasio announced at a press conference with Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson a deal that includes the federal government taking more direct oversight of NYCHA in response to years of crisis, criticism, management turmoil, and federal law enforcement inquiry.

Opponents have criticized the deal as giving too much power to a federal government that has often been at odds with the de Blasio administration and not supportive enough of public housing. The deal includes no new federal funding but a federal monitor who will be tasked with tracking NYCHA’s actions.

“Who is this person?” Ampry-Samuel said of the impending monitor. “Do they care about public housing, or is just a business-minded person who’s coming in to change and reform management, coming in to change the operational structure? Or is this someone who’s going to come in and look at NYCHA 2.0 and raising revenue to deal with the $32 million capital repairs it needs.”

Ampry-Samuel took a measured, pragmatic approach throughout the discussion. “With there now being federal monitor, this is opportunity to have an independent voice and be able to sit down with residents and the City of New York and say, ‘These are the things you have in place’ and review it. Go line by line and say, ‘You have not been able to do what you needed to do in the past and this is a way forward.’”

In December, de Blasio announced NYCHA 2.0, a revamped comprehensive plan to reform NYCHA and bring in more than $20 billion in revenue to repair the crumbling and dangerous public housing home to more than 400,000 New Yorkers. Some of the measures de Blasio had either rejected in the past or supported in far more limited fashion, but he said that without large-scale federal help, the city had no other viable options.

According to a de Blasio press release, the plan will resolve $24 billion in repairs, including renovations for 175,000 residents. Some of that will depend on new development on underused NYCHA land, such as parking lots, where a mix of market-rate and affordable housing will be erected. Ampry-Samuel appeared to acknowledge the elements of the plan as necessities, despite the fact that many have expressed grave concerns about such “infill” housing. The development process must be community-led, she said, and the money from development must be reinvested in the particular NYCHA projects where the new housing is built.

“We have to figure out ways to bring money in, but we have to make sure that the residents who are already part of the fabric of that development benefit from all the deals,” she said. “And we have to make sure it doesn’t happen to them -- it happens with them.”

Just last week de Blasio announced his next choice for interim chair of NYCHA: Kathryn Garcia, commissioner of the city’s Department of Sanitation, whom de Blasio had also recently put in charge of lead remediation efforts, which came out of the NYCHA lead paint scandal. Garcia replaces outgoing interim chair Stanley Brezenoff who recently criticized the city’s deal with HUD.

“I can’t figure why [the next NYCHA chair] is someone who has no housing background, no one with experience to that level,” said Ampry-Samuel. “She’s a great woman, with a great career, she rose through the ranks at Sanitation, but we can’t play musical chairs with this type of situation.”

A permanent chair, perhaps Garcia, is expected to be named after the federal monitor is in place, given that the monitor will have a say in approving de Blasio’s choice to head the authority.

The City Council Committee on Public Housing plans to hold an oversight hearing with Garcia, the administration, and a HUD representative on the deal between HUD and the city and NYCHA in the next several weeks, Ampry-Samuel said. She called for the creation of a chief resident officer as an advisor to the chair of NYCHA. The position, she hopes, could spur a greater relationship between NYCHA and NYCHA residents, though there are also tenant councils.

Asked about a time frame for the hearing she promised, Ampry-Samuel was hesitant to provide specifics, given how unsettled things are and how fresh the deal with HUD was, but she said she looked forward to a public discussion of all the recent changes and those to come.

[Listen: Max & Murphy Podcast: The Future of NYCHA with City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel]

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by Truman Stephens, Gotham Gazette

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City Council Public Housing Chair Weighs in on HUD Deal, NYCHA’s Future Thu, 14 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: The Future of NYCHA with City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8262-max-murphy-podcast-the-future-of-nycha-with-city-council-member-alicka-ampry-samuel https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8262-max-murphy-podcast-the-future-of-nycha-with-city-council-member-alicka-ampry-samuel mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits


February 7, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel

alicka ampry samuel 150

City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel chairs the Council's public housing committee and represents a Brooklyn district with a large NYCHA presence. She joined the show to discuss NYCHA's future, including the recent agreement between Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the mayor's previously-announced plans to raise revenue to fund more than $30 billion in needed repairs and upgrades, as well as de Blasio's announcement of a new interim NYCHA chair.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: The Future of NYCHA with City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel Wed, 06 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Private Sector Failure Requires NYCHA’s Preservation https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8216-private-sector-failure-requires-nycha-s-preservation https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8216-private-sector-failure-requires-nycha-s-preservation mayor private

(photo: Mayor's Office)


Many New Yorkers likely wonder why Mayor de Blasio wants to spend $24 billion on saving the aging towers of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Much of this public housing consists of plain brick towers, which the city built rapidly from the 1930s to the 1960s, in a dated “towers in the park” design, now worn down from decades of hard use. In Singapore and much of Europe, government policy has targeted public housing of this age and type for billions in spending to remake projects to match changing urban tastes, family size, and rising densities.

But in the United States and New York there is no equivalent housing program with the funds to replace NYCHA’s 175,000 apartments (400,000 registered tenants), which rent on average at just $550 per month. The mayor, in the unprecedented $24 billion NYCHA 2.0 plan he released in December, is forced to rely on a complicated and potentially uncertain financing plan integrating city, state, federal, and private funds; private sector management of fully one-third of NYCHA’s portfolio; and hoped for revenues from “infill” ground leases and sales of air rights.

Added together the plan’s various elements will still barely provide for basic renovation when spread across a massive system that has a minimum of $31 billion in capital needs; NYCHA 2.0 certainly won’t cover redevelopment to a twenty-first century standard. Even if New York had the funds for massive redevelopment, it would still be a risky proposition to take NYCHA projects offline (many of which have 1,000 units or more each). NYCHA is already full to overflowing and the private market lacks sufficient low-cost units to accommodate relocation needs.

The risk is high in losing any of NYCHA’s units because the most endangered commodity in New York City is the privately-operated apartment that rents for less than $1,000 -- with rent-regulated units in particularly perilous straits. Public housing is now such a crucial part of that low-cost market that to lose the system, or even part of it, would, according to the respected Regional Plan Association, drive up homelessness, take housing from working-class people, and worsen conditions citywide because the market cannot replace the units.

A Brief History of Massive Failure

private building(Lewis Hine, Elizabeth Street, 1912. Library of Congress)

Today’s private sector housing failure is nothing new; instead, lousy and expensive housing has been a persistent dimension of New York City life for over a century. The city was once dominated by thousands of privately owned tenement buildings that crowded land and people together at density levels the world had never seen before. The creation of the subway in 1904 relieved that pressure for a time, allowing for a mass exodus to newer tenements, apartment buildings, or small homes in the outer boroughs. NYCHA also launched in the 1930s as an all-out attack on these tenements.

Tougher housing regulations and the suburban boom accelerated the tenement exodus from the 1930s onward, but many tenements in areas such as East Harlem and the Lower East Side backfilled with migrants from the south and Puerto Rico in the mid-twentieth century. Owners of many vestigial tenements abandoned or burned many of them from the ‘60s to the ‘80s.

Gentrification since the 1970s in New York City generated a new twist on private sector failure. Landlords of surviving apartment buildings good and bad won revisions in rent control and stabilization since the 1970s. They have used these lenient rules ever since to raise rents or drive out long-time tenants. Many private landlords haven’t cared if a tenant family must pay 50 percent or more of their income on rent. Dangerous conditions in many of these lower-rent buildings, which are not as widely publicized as those at NYCHA, are a mixed bag with irregular heat, lead exposure, and mold common.

Private Sector Saviors?
Many private real estate companies have, in fairness, played a crucial role in affordable housing management and development since the 1960s. Indeed, the various tax credits and breaks, and zoning bonuses, have created new “affordable” units that are modern and comfortable. Yet the supply of these units is relatively small (as they are often a minority percentage of a building); apartments time out of affordability after a specified period (requiring new public financing); and most apartments are targeted for income levels higher than public housing.

The result is scarcity and insufficient affordable housing production: the odds of landing one of the new privately developed and managed affordable units produced in 2018 was just 1 in 592. At the current rate of new private construction in Mayor de Blasio’s broader housing plan, which produced a record 7,857 affordable units in 2018, it would still take two decades or more just to replace NYCHA’s 175,000 units.

The real estate industry has also stepped up to play a central role in the conversion of public housing to private sector management and may end up running about 66,000 units of NYCHA housing under what NYCHA calls PACT (nationally it is RAD). Builders also hope to ground-lease NYCHA sites that could provide funding for renovation of surrounding buildings and additional affordable and market-rate units.

Private companies aren’t taking on these NYCHA projects or infill projects for entirely altruistic reasons, of course. Infill projects, even with affordable components, can be profitable. Private managers who take over existing NYCHA projects are being handed thousands of well-located, structurally-sound, mostly debt-free, fully-tenanted, property tax-free, federally-subsidized (Section 8) apartments they can borrow money from banks to renovate. Managing and renovating these buildings is a heavy lift, but there is a significant upside if done right.

Time to Step Up!
The private sector, even given these good steps, is still not doing enough for either NYCHA or the average low-income renter. Without a large-scale program of new production, the region will continue to be uncompetitive as business shifts to places where lower and even middle-income people can afford to live decently. The city’s private sector is booming today, for sure, but so is the national economy. When times get tight, New York City may seem much less attractive. A desperate population is also likely to be drawn to draconian rent regulations, higher taxes, and more “socialistic” policies to try and level the playing field. It isn’t pretty when recessions hit New York.

Both real estate interests and large employers should be putting more of their energy and funds into expanding affordable housing programs at the state and federal levels. Only when the real estate industry starts producing tens of thousands of affordable units per year do they earn a right to speak about NYCHA’s future and/or redevelopment. It also wouldn’t hurt if a business titan or two stood up for public housing funding and improvements.

Instead of putting so much of its energy into fighting rent stabilization or marketing overpriced apartments to foreign investors, business leaders could take a cue from their wealthy predecessors. Governors Roosevelt, Lehman, and Rockefeller developed and fought hard for creative programs to boost low-cost housing production. Or they can look west. Microsoft’s new commitment of $500 million to affordable housing in Seattle reflects, hopefully, a new era of commitment from employers to making more equitable housing market.

Where is New York City’s Microsoft of affordable housing?

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Nicholas Dagen Bloom is a professor at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) and a NYCHA scholar, and has a new book on state/urban policies: How States Shaped Postwar America.

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

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Private Sector Failure Requires NYCHA’s Preservation Wed, 23 Jan 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Top Stories of 2018 & What to Watch in 2019 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8162-max-murphy-podcast-top-stories-of-2018-what-to-watch-in-2019 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8162-max-murphy-podcast-top-stories-of-2018-what-to-watch-in-2019 mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits


December 26, 2018 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Top Stories of 2018 & What to Watch in 2019

This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project
Find the rest of the series here

mxm logoFor our year-end show we look back at the top storylines of 2018 in New York politics and preview our top storylines to watch for 2019!

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

agenda19v2 a

This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project
Find the rest of the series here

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Top Stories of 2018 & What to Watch in 2019 Thu, 27 Dec 2018 05:00:00 +0000