NYCHA’s future rests with Trump’s Ben Carson

Stephon Johnson | 1/3/2019, 10:24 a.m.
The next four weeks can decide the fate of public housing in New York City.
Ben Carson CNN

The next four weeks can decide the fate of public housing in New York City.

Late in December, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson toured the Queensbridge Houses, and then met with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to discuss the state and the fate of the New York City Housing Authority.

Earlier in December, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and the New York City Housing Authority filed a joint status report updating the federal court on the progress of fixing the living conditions in NYCHAs properties.

HUD officials also sent a letter to NYCHA, stating that the agency had until Jan. 31 to produce a worthy action plan to fix NYCHA’s issues of mold, heat, vermin, elevators, lead problems and corrupt management.

Carson said that he’d do anything necessary to remedy his and President Donald Trump’s issues with NYCHA.

“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,” stated 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.”

According to HUD, these actions would give Carson a wide range of options under the United States Housing Act of 1937 to remedy NYCHA’s situation on the federal government’s terms.

HUD officials have stated that any plan presented regarding NYCHA that doesn’t include fixing sanitary issues, management, reduction of “unwarranted costs” etc. is a non-starter.

In a Dec. 28 interview on WNYC radio’s “The Brian Lehrer Show,” the mayor pointed to NYCHA’s situation as one of his biggest failures and road blocks in 2018. De Blasio bundled NYCHA’s problems with the city’s ongoing homeless issue.

“I think we’ve done some really important things in terms of reducing street homelessness, but we’ve got a lot more to do and we’ve got to get the shelter population down,” said de Blasio. “I think in the sort of the pending category, I would say, is the question of NYCHA. We clearly—I can say that the situation for our public housing residents is not what it should be. It’s unacceptable to me. We made a lot of investments. We’ve made a lot of changes. We have new leadership.”

De Blasio continued, “But we’ve got to turn the corner in 2019, and that starts with coming to an understanding with the federal government so we can move forward. So, that one—very much in the front of my mind right now.”

The mayor recently announced a plan to renovate NYCHA apartments and preserve public housing via expansion of Section 8 conversion and programs such as Build to Preserve, Transfer to Preserve and Fix to Preserve. Build to Preserve will spend close to $2 billion in capital repairs through new developments on NYCHA land, Transfer to Preserve will use the sale of underutilized development rights, aka air rights, to make up to $1 billion in capital repairs and Fix to Preserve will focus on issues such as mold, pests, lead and infrastructure.

In the meantime, NYCHA residents want their needs met like any other New York City tenants, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. used social media to get that point across.

This past weekend, Diaz took to Instagram to note the pileup of garbage around the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Houses in the Soundview section of the Bronx. “Hey @nychagram @nycmayor, how about we try to start the new year off right for the tenants of the Sotomayor Houses?” said Diaz on Instagram. “These are disgusting, unacceptable conditions that foster rats and vermin infestations. This needs to be cleaned ASAP.”

Diaz went back to the location a day later to find all of the garbage removed and the area clean. Diaz told the AmNews that public housing is at its best when it’s a collective effort by the powers that be to do right by the people.

“The situation facing our public housing tenants requires involvement at every level of government,” said Diaz. “NYCHA needs all of the help it can get. While NYCHA must have strong partners in the federal government and an increase in federal funding, we cannot allow our public housing system to fall into receivership. NYCHA must remain within the city’s control, and it is incumbent on the mayor to develop a plan going forward that allows that to happen.”