HUD Secretary Ben Carson visits NYCHA

Cyril Josh Barker | 12/20/2018, 11:42 a.m.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson came to the city to meet with Mayor Bill de Blasio and other ...
Ben Carson CNN

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson came to the city to meet with Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials about conditions in NYCHA buildings.

Carson toured conditions in Queensbridge Housing in Long Island City. de Blasio and Carson were joined by the Rev. A.R. Bernard of Brooklyn’s Christian Cultural Center. Carson and DeBlasio met privately, along with New York Congressional members.

Last Friday, HUD sent a letter to NYCHA stating that by Jan. 31, the agency has to produce a plan of action acceptable to HUD that remediates NYCHA’s long-standing issues with management, lead, mold, heat, elevators and vermin.

“Declaring substantial default is never our first choice, but unless and until New York City can produce an acceptable roadmap forward, I will not hesitate to exercise my legal authority to impose more serious sanctions,” said Ben Carson. “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.”

Images of NYCHA residents in the Bronx struck a chord with local elected officials last week when residents were seen getting water from fire hydrants when their water was shut off.

Last week, de Blasio unveiled NYCHA 2.0, a plan to preserve public housing. The mayor’s office says the plan will resolve $24 billion in repairs to NYCHA. The ten-year plan will deliver renovations for 175,000 residents, fund essential capital repairs across the rest of NYCHA’s portfolio and launch new repair strategies to tackle lead paint, mold, elevators, heat and vermin.

“These are the kind of top-to-bottom renovations NYCHA residents have waited decades to see,” said de Blasio. “They will make an enormous difference in the lives of the 400,000 New Yorkers who call NYCHA home and make up the backbone of our neighborhoods. With new leadership, new resources and new programs, we are going to deliver the change NYCHA residents deserve.”

NYCHA Interim Chair and CEO Stanley Brezenoff said the plan will deliver nearly $24 billion in major repair needs over the next decade.

“I thank Mayor de Blasio and his administration for their staunch support of public housing and look forward to our continued work to make NYCHA a better and more responsive landlord,” he said.

Although the plan might sound like relief to NYCHA residents, many continue to battle with issues. Two stories about troubles in NYCHA have raised serious concern.

The first coming out of the Bronx where reports indicate Throggs Neck Houses resident Patrice Sneed, who is wheelchair bound, has to get her neighbors to carry her up and down the stairs when she leaves or returns to her apartment. She said NYCHA has not put her in an accessible apartment because her form was filled out incorrectly.

“I feel like I am held captive in my apartment because I cannot leave it when I need to leave it or when I want to leave it,” she said.

The other story comes out of Hewitt Place Houses in the Bronx, where resident Viviana Wrenn reported she has to dress her baby in his snowsuit at night because it’s so cold in her apartment. Wrenn and her baby depend on a space heater to keep warm because there is no heat. She also has issues with mice in her kitchen.

“He will be shivering and crying in the middle of the night,” said Wrenn. “I’ll dress him and he doesn’t like wearing layers. Why do we have to reach out to the media? Why do we have to fight for them to actually care about us?”

As other stories come out about conditions at NYCHA buildings across the city, families continue to be distressed by living in public housing. The announcement of a new initiative for repairs sounds like welcome news, but will it work?