Because of alleged shady bookkeeping and a lazy attitude toward oversight, the New York City Housing Authority did not live up to its promise to help its own.
Section 3 of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Act mandates that NYCHA set aside a certain percentage of jobs for public housing residents and low-income New Yorkers when the cost of a project exceeds $100,000. According to New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, NYCHA did not hold up its end of the bargain.
As part of Stringer’s new audit, in a random sample of 29 of 224 contracts given out between 2010 and 2012, the comptroller found that contractors inflated the amount they paid and the number of NYCHA hires they made on 17 different jobs. According to the comptroller, the vendors claimed to have spent $1.5 million on NYCHA hires. Stringer’s audit concludes that the amount was $475,000 more than they actually spent.
Stringer said that when he went to NYCHA officials about their failure to catch this discrepancy, they refused to acknowledge to him that there was an issue. “As a result of mismanagement, NYCHA residents and others missed out on hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential wages,” Stringer said during a news conference outside the Ingersoll Houses in Brooklyn. “They believe they did not have a problem,” he said. “I’m calling on NYCHA to get their house in order. It’s time for NYCHA to get serious about providing a helping hand to their residents.”
Stringer also added that NYCHA refused to admit that it was derelict in its duties, despite the fact that the audit covered contracts from the Michael Bloomberg administration. Coupled with inadequate follow up to contracts doled out, lack of verification of records submitted to NYCHA by contractors and compliance and monitoring issues, Stringer said the NYCHA situation was a recipe for disaster.
“We went to NYCHA and said, ‘These contractors aren’t doing what they’re supposed to,’” Stringer said. “They told us, ‘We’re doing just fine, we don’t need to go after these contractors.’ This is not a good start, and the residents are here to say enough is enough.”
NYCHA fired back with a statement of its own, saying that they honored their end of the bargain when it came to providing jobs. “While we appreciate the city comptroller’s effort to look into this important policy, the report fails to show the full picture: Through year-end 2013, NYCHA contractors spent $2.4 million on wages for NYCHA residents, representing 85 contracts open at the end of last year. And through October 2013, NYCHA and our contractors generated 1,600 jobs for NYCHA residents,” read part of NYCHA’s statement. “Increasing job opportunities for our residents is a top priority for NYCHA’s new administration. We are committed to continue and improve successful, sustainable job training and long-term career development efforts that have led to strong job growth and retention.”