Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer visited the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City — the largest public housing development in North America — to urge the Biden administration to double its funding for public housing in the American Jobs Plan.
Schumer joined community leaders and called for at least an $80 billion investment in federal public housing funds to remedy decades of disinvestment, bad management and federal neglect.
“For far too long, our public housing infrastructure needs have been left unaddressed, left to get worse, and have brought serious harm to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers,” Schumer said. “Lead in the bodies of our children. Toxic mold in the lungs of our friends and neighbors. Leaky roofs. Dilapidated playgrounds. Non-working elevators. Unsafe environments. Polluting and expensive boilers and heating systems.The maddening list goes on and on.”
The administration’s plan calls for $40 billion for public housing across the entire nation when repairs in New York City’s public housing system are estimated to be $40 billion.
“However you want to put it: public housing residents, and NYCHA residents in particular, are in need of some real help, and this, right now, is a now-or-never moment. We must repair, upgrade and transform our public housing so it is both livable and sustainable,” Schumer said. “One of my number one priorities in any infrastructure package is to double down on the president’s original proposal and fight for at least $80 billion in new funds to meet the capital repair needs of public housing agencies across the country, especially those of NYCHA.”
Bishop Mitchell Taylor, the co-founder and CEO of Urban Upbound, who has lived in and around Queensbridge his entire life, added that public housing neighborhoods have been “overlooked and underserved” for far too long.
“For most residents of public housing life can be a living hell,” Taylor said. “With a $40 billion capital deficit looming, help is not a request, it’s a demand. I implore President Biden to increase funding for public housing nationally.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris, who represents the NYCHA complexes across western Queens, added that the city’s public housing developments have been systematically pushed to the side, stripped of funding and left to crumble.
“NYCHA residents have the right to live with dignity and respect — with functioning elevators, pipes, utilities, and under clean, healthy conditions,” Gianaris said. “This is an investment in our neighbors and the future of public housing. We cannot leave these families behind.”
Meanwhile, Gianaris announced his NYCHA Utility Accountability Act passed in the Senate Wednesday, which will provide relief to residents who experience long-term water, gas, electric and heat outages. The legislation was prompted by a three-month gas outage at the Astoria Houses last winter.
“Monthslong utility outages are unacceptable for any New Yorker, whether in private or public housing,” Gianaris said. “NYCHA residents should not be expected to pay full rent, which typically includes utilities, when they are not receiving the service.”
Claudia Coger, the longtime president of the Astoria Houses Tenants Association, thanked Gianaris for hearing the voices of the beleaguered residents.
“Tenants at Astoria Houses, and throughout NYCHA, consistently wait too long for basic repairs and deserve just compensation,” Coger said. “I look forward to the Assembly passing the legislation soon as well.”