Tuesday, August 28, 2018
How NYCHA became de Blasio's biggest problem
On the same day the scandal-scarred New York City Housing Authority was publicly acknowledging that it had violated a series of federal standards over the past year, the two city officials charged with overseeing it were occupied with other matters.
Mayor Bill de Blasio was rolling out his latest plan to raise money for his national political ambitions, and Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor who oversees housing, was discussing her proposal to build more statues of women across New York City on "The Brian Lehrer Show."
The juxtaposition highlighted what has become clear since de Blasio took office in 2014: Decaying buildings that house some 400,000 New Yorkers have rarely topped the priority list, and the administration is only now beginning to embrace policies that could have made a difference years ago.
Through a review of City Hall decisions and interviews with more than three dozen current and former government officials, politicians and people who work in the affordable housing industry — many of whom wished to remain anonymous to speak freely about a controversial subject — a picture emerged of a government conflicted over how to handle an agency with entrenched problems that call for an implausible increase in federal funding.
In de Blasio, NYCHA is overseen by a cautious politician, unwilling to challenge unions over work rules that impact building maintenance and leery of upsetting tenants concerned with private development on public land. Glen has presented different challenges: She declined to incorporate public housing into her affordable housing plan, rendering it less urgent and less subsidized, sources said. And where the mayor has acknowledged some ownership of NYCHA, despite its structure as a quasi-federal entity, she publicly distanced herself — a characterization she strongly disputes.
De Blasio campaigned on a promise of attending to those he believed former Mayor Michael Bloomberg ignored. Few embody that population better than public housing residents — who are predominantly black, Hispanic and financially struggling — yet they remain among the most disadvantaged in de Blasio’s New York.
NYCHA’s problems have now become unignorable.