By Bill Parry
The city has received an ultimatum from the federal government: it has until Jan. 31, 2019, to develop a plan of action to remediate NYCHA’s longstanding issues with management, lead, mold, heat, elevators and vermin or the agency falls into receivership.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson sent the warning in a letter to NYCHA on Dec. 14.
If an acceptable arrangement is not reached, HUD intends to declare NYCHA in substantial default of its legal obligation to provide decent, safe and healthy housing to its residents.
“I will not hesitate to exercise my legal authority to impose more serious sanctions,” Carson said. “The families who are enduring unimaginably poor housing conditions deserve better from their housing authority. We need bold new solutions for an old problem and I earnestly hope the city is serious about turning a new page for NYCHA.”
The ultimatum came just hours before the city, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the federal government, presented a joint status report to federal Judge William Pauley, who rejected a proposes proposed settlement to a lawsuit filed by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman.
“This filing is another step on the road to fixing NYCHA,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “We are in the middle of productive conversations with Secretary Carson and the U.S. Attorney to improve the quality of life for the 400,000 New Yorkers who cal NYCHA home. We all agree that the best outcome relies upon the city and federal government working together, and we look forward to continuing these discussions.”
Carson’s letter arrived two days after de Blasio introduced “NYCHA 2.0,” a $24 billion, 10-year comprehensive plan to deliver top-to-bottom renovations to housing stock and improve health and safety conditions for NYCHA’s 400,000 residents, that would include a combination of private management, air rights sales and luxury housing leases on NYCHA property.
The mayor also reached a tentative contract agreement with Teamsters Local 237, which represents public housing caretakers and supervisors, that would implement the first changes to work hours at public housing developments in 50 years.
“That means residents will have faster service and staff working mornings, nights and weekends to better maintain buildings,” de Blasio said. “These improvements are coupled with wage increases that are fair to the workers and fair to New York City taxpayers.”
De Blasio has spoken out against a federal takeover arguing that NYCHA was better off under city control. Now he hopes the steps taken last week are enough to prove the city is on the right track.
”This has been a week of real reform in our efforts to turn NYCHA around after decades of neglect,” de Blasio said. “We have secured a new labor agreement to bring seven-day custodial services to NYCHA for the first time in 50 years. We released a detailed plan to renovate tens of thousands of apartments, and we are putting new management fixes in place to hold NYCHA more accountable to its residents. This is positive momentum, and we all need to work together to ensure it continues.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr