Two days after Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a sweeping civil settlement with the federal government over New York City’s public housing system, federal and local investigators seized documents and other items Wednesday from a Queens office of the city’s housing authority.
The investigators questioned housing officials, cloned computer hard drives and took the city-issued cellphone of a senior manager overseeing lead abatement, according to two people briefed on the matter.
Then they returned on Thursday.
The surprise visit rattled officials and pierced the veneer of common purpose presented by Mayor de Blasio on Monday when he announced that the city would commit at least $1.2 billion in extra funding for needed repairs in New York City Housing Authority buildings. With the agreement with the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey S. Berman, the city avoided a civil trial that would have examined longstanding problems at the authority, including failure to test for hazardous lead paint over several years.
“We agreed to create a common game plan,” Mr. de Blasio said.
The searches were conducted by the city’s Department of Investigation, the inspector general for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency, and they appeared to catch top officials at the housing authority off-guard. The investigators arrived at the building on 49th Avenue in Long Island City without a search warrant, relying instead on the city agency’s power to directly access city records without a warrant, according to one of the people briefed on the raid.