The true population served by the New York City Housing Authority has always been hard to pin down because the customary tally of more than 620,000 people overlooks multitudes who have been welcomed into legal residents' units but aren’t named on a lease or otherwise listed in authority records. But indisputable evidence of their existence is collected each week by the city’s Department of Sanitation. In trucks.
The waste-collection data suggest the Housing Authority's actual ranks are at least 100,000 larger than the official number.
Last Friday, NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye was speaking at an annual summit hosted by the Municipal Art Society when she mentioned Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and the informal, rubbish-based census.
“She can tell [our population] based on our tonnage,” Olatoye said.
Specifically, the authority estimates that the city’s Strongest collect 380 million pounds of refuse each year from NYCHA developments. If the average New Yorker each piles 756 pounds of trash into garbage trucks annually, as data from the latest Mayor’s Management Report indicates, then accordingly about 502,600 people are living in NYCHA projects.