de Blasio's budget continues minimal funds for NYCHA in face of Federal probe into toxic conditions [Updated]

Mayor de Blasio has announced plans that will force NYCHA residents to wait 10 years before leaky roofs are repaired

930 HALSEY STREET, A PROJECT-BASED, SECTION 8 BUILDING FORMERLY OWNED BY THE NEW YORK CITY HOUSING AUTHORITY IN BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, BROOKLYN, RECEIVED MAJOR IMPROVEMENTS IN THE TIME BEFORE THE BUILDING WAS SOLD TO A CONSORTIUM OF PRIVATE REAL ESTATE DEVELOPERS. THE ABOVE PHOTOGRAPH IS DATED SEPTEMBER 2014, THREE MONTHS BEFORE THE STRUCTURED FINANCE TRANSACTION CLOSED, DEMONSTRATING THAT SOME OF THE BUILDINGS SOLD MAY NOT HAVE BEEN AS DILAPIDATED AS NYCHA HAD CLAIMED. THE SALE OF THE PORTFOLIO OF BUILDINGS WAS TRANSACTED WITHOUT PUBLIC INPUT. AN ACCUSATION HAS BEEN MADE THAT THE DE BLASIO ADMINISTRATION WAS INVOLVED IN THE SALE. DEVELOPERS, WHO BOUGHT INTO THE PORTFOLIO OF BUILDINGS, ARE POLITICALLY-CONNECTED SUPPORTERS OF MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO. SOURCE : GOOGLE STREET VIEW

930 HALSEY STREET, A PROJECT-BASED, SECTION 8 BUILDING FORMERLY OWNED BY THE NEW YORK CITY HOUSING AUTHORITY IN BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, BROOKLYN, RECEIVED MAJOR IMPROVEMENTS IN THE TIME BEFORE THE BUILDING WAS SOLD TO A CONSORTIUM OF PRIVATE REAL ESTATE DEVELOPERS. THE ABOVE PHOTOGRAPH IS DATED SEPTEMBER 2014, THREE MONTHS BEFORE THE STRUCTURED FINANCE TRANSACTION CLOSED, DEMONSTRATING THAT SOME OF THE BUILDINGS SOLD MAY NOT HAVE BEEN AS DILAPIDATED AS NYCHA HAD CLAIMED. THE SALE OF THE PORTFOLIO OF BUILDINGS WAS TRANSACTED WITHOUT PUBLIC INPUT. AN ACCUSATION HAS BEEN MADE THAT THE DE BLASIO ADMINISTRATION WAS INVOLVED IN THE SALE. DEVELOPERS, WHO BOUGHT INTO THE PORTFOLIO OF BUILDINGS, ARE POLITICALLY-CONNECTED SUPPORTERS OF MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO. SOURCE : GOOGLE STREET VIEW

By LOUIS FLORES

As Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) faces a reported, tough reëlection year, troubled by the possible outcome of several Federal investigations into the Government of the City of New York, including of the Municipal public housing authority, he has proposed minimally extending an existing annual $100 million budget allocation to the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA, to fund long, overdue capital repairs, according to a report published by The New York Daily News. City Hall spun the allocation as a 10-plan that totaled a $1 billion commitment, but a noted critic of Mayor de Blasio's public housing policy described the allocation as woefully insufficient, given the profound problems with living conditions at NYCHA's public housing developments. Speaking of the toxic mold that has been shown to be ignored by the de Blasio administration at NYCHA, Fr. Francis Skelly, a Bronx community religious leader, said, "Ten years is an eternity for the children and adults who suffer with respiratory conditions now," adding that, "The health threats are urgent," according to the report published by The New York Daily News.

Fr. Skelly is a member of Metro IAF, an advocacy group that has sued NYCHA to compel mold abatement at the City's public housing system. Several reports published by The New York Daily News have revealed dangerous living conditions at NYCHA's public housing complexes, including the presence of toxic mold and lead paint. After Progress Queens received and reviewed data about NYCHA's maintenance request logs, Progress Queens published reports about the presence of lead in drinking water and other hazards. The most recent report published by Progress Queens calculated the rate at which NYCHA just closed maintenance requests without documenting whether maintenance requests were fully resolved. Mayor de Blasio's extension of a minimum budget allocation for NYCHA was publicly described as being directed at repairing leaky roofs, and no mention was made by City Hall whether the 10-year, $1 billion plan would address issues with lead, mold, mildew, asbestos, or other hazardous substances or conditions presently existing at NYCHA's public housing developments. As is typical of the de Blasio administration's treatment of press that is critical of his administration, advance questions submitted by Progress Queens to the City Hall press office were not answered.

Because Mayor de Blasio's financial assistance for NYCHA was segmented into future budget allocations over 10 years, it is not known why Mayor de Blasio could not structure the allocation to finance the repayment of construction bonds that could provide one lump-sum amount of the net present value of the 10-year budget allocations. Theoretically, a lump-sum amount could effect swifter roof repairs at NYCHA public housing developments. Because Mayor de Blasio appears to be acknowledging a Municipal obligation to adequately provide funding to close NYCHA's capital improvement budget deficit, it is not known why he waited into his fourth year in office to address the obligation or why NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye had not demanded from City Hall earlier or larger budget allocations to address the leaky roofs or other toxic conditions. Advance questions submitted by Progress Queens to NYCHA for information for this report were not answered.

NYCHA leader intent to support de Blasio's plan to sell or lease City real property to developers

Thus far, NYCHA CEO Olatoye has not been moved by pressure coming from community or nonprofit housing advocacy work done by extra-Governmental groups. While advocates for public housing, including members of Metro IAF, have called on NYCHA CEO Olatoye to resign, by and large, housing advocates in New York City have refused to escalate public pressure on Mayor de Blasio to solve once and for all the horrifying living conditions, including infestations of rodents and maggots, reported to exist at some of NYCHA's public housing developments. A nonprofit fundraising arm, the Fund for Public Housing, was established by NYCHA to further the neoliberal efforts to seek private, instead of public, investment in public housing. NYCHA CEO Olatoye served as the Fund for Public Housing's founding chair, and, according to information obtained by Progress Queens, many civic activists confuse the Fund for Public Housing as an autonomous advocacy group for public housing, when, instead, its purpose is not to defend access to public housing as a human right.* In the past, NYCHA CEO Olatoye has indicated her intention to dispose of NYCHA real property, including of its green spaces and properties that are connected to its Section 8 program, even if it means disposing of the City real property over the objections of NYCHA's tenants.

Despite the lip service given by Mayor de Blasio to his intention to end the economic divide between the rich and the poor, it is not known why Mayor de Blasio believes it is acceptable to make NYCHA tenants to wait 10 years for leaky roofs to be repaired. As reported by Progress Queens, some of NYCHA's project-based, Section 8 apartment buildings received major repairs prior to their sale to a consortium of private sector real estate developers. It is not known how Mayor de Blasio reconciles NYCHA's tenants having to wait for major repairs, whilst tenants of some of NYCHA's privatised Section 8 buildings saw major repairs prior to the sale of their apartment buildings.

A convergence of the neoliberal political tide that has swept over Washington, Albany, and New York has drowned the New Deal promise that access to housing is a human right. Under adverse political conditions, public housing has been radically defunded, resulting in the poor living standards at NYCHA. As reported by Progress Queens, it is believed that the neoliberal political intention of allowing NYCHA's stock of public housing to continue to deteriorate serves the political intent of Mayor de Balsio and his neoliberal political allies to privatise public housing, possibly to the advantage of his political donors from the real estate industry.

The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the top Federal prosecutor in New York's southern district, is reportedly leading a wide-ranging investigation of the Government of the City of New York, one aspect of which involves a probe of Mayor de Blasio's campaign finance activities. A separate Federal investigation, also reportedly being led by the office of U.S. Attorney Bharara, is examining the living condition standards at NYCHA. On the same day when U.S. Attorney Bharara was receiving an award for "Outstanding Prosecutor" at the annual convention of the New York State Bar Association, Mayor de Blasio admitted that he met with investigators from the office of District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. (D-Manhattan) in connection with the State investigation that is paralleling the Federal investigation. Source : Louis Flores/Progress Queens

The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the top Federal prosecutor in New York's southern district, is reportedly leading a wide-ranging investigation of the Government of the City of New York, one aspect of which involves a probe of Mayor de Blasio's campaign finance activities. A separate Federal investigation, also reportedly being led by the office of U.S. Attorney Bharara, is examining the living condition standards at NYCHA. On the same day when U.S. Attorney Bharara was receiving an award for "Outstanding Prosecutor" at the annual convention of the New York State Bar Association, Mayor de Blasio admitted that he met with investigators from the office of District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. (D-Manhattan) in connection with the State investigation that is paralleling the Federal investigation. Source : Louis Flores/Progress Queens

The official acts rendered by the de Blasio administration, including those involving Municipal real estate policy, are reportedly the subject of a wide-ranging, Federal corruption investigation described in press reports as trying to determine whether Mayor de Blasio sold Government approvals in exchange for campaign contributions from the real estate development industry. Some aspects of that wide-ranging, Federal corruption investigation has resulted in the empaneling of at least two grand juries in Manhattan and possibly a third in Brooklyn. After Mayor de Blasio's 2013 committee to elect was assessed approximately $48,000 in fines by the municipal campaign finance regulatory authority for having violated 10 campaign finance regulations, Mayor de Blasio embarked on a campaign to use City resources to possibly influence the jury pool, according to a report published by Progress Queens. Once Municipal official, James Patchett, who was reportedly embroiled in the process that allowed the luxury condominium conversion of Rivington House, a former AIDS hospice in the Lower East Side, was named as CEO of the New York City Economic Development Corporation in a move that appeared to reward Mr. Patchett for his keeping mum during the investigations of the de Blasio administration.

An update about NYCHA's $3 billion Sandy grant came from FEMA, not City Hall

FEMA has clarified that funding from the Federal and New York State Governments will pay for $2,887 billion in repairs and resiliency improvements to thirty-three (33) of NYCHA's public housing developments. This information was provided by FEMA and transferred onto a spreadsheet by Progress Queens and posted online. The Federal Government's responsibility for this amount totaled $2,386 billion after the State Government's responsibility and the insurance deductibles were applied. Source : FEMA/Google Docs

FEMA has clarified that funding from the Federal and New York State Governments will pay for $2,887 billion in repairs and resiliency improvements to thirty-three (33) of NYCHA's public housing developments. This information was provided by FEMA and transferred onto a spreadsheet by Progress Queens and posted online. The Federal Government's responsibility for this amount totaled $2,386 billion after the State Government's responsibility and the insurance deductibles were applied. Source : FEMA/Google Docs

News that the de Blasio administration was extending existing funding commitment to NYCHA for the next 10 years was devoid of any update about the status of the reported $3 billion grant made by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for repairs to NYCHA's public housing complexes following damage sustained during Hurricane Sandy. The grant was announced to much political fanfare by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) in March 2015. In the time since, NYCHA has not confirmed the status of the grant or repairs. A request made by Progress Queens to FEMA on Tuesday for information about the status of the grant returned information, which Progress Queens transferred into a spreadsheet and posted online. According to an explanation of the figures provided by FEMA, the funding was paid to New York State over a range of dates in 2015. Progress Queens made a request for information to the office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (D-New York) to confirm the status of the funding. If a response is provided by the State Comptroller's Office, an update will be made to this report.**

UPDATES : Sections of this report were updated (*) to reflect clarification of the extra-Governmental housing advocacy work and (**) to provide additional information about FEMA's grant to NYCHA.

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