NYCHA faces budget cut as it awaits outcome of Federal investigation into authority's physical condition standards

Metro Plaza North, in Spanish Harlem in Manhattan, is a public housing apartment building owned by the New York City Housing Authority. According to records obtained by Progress Queens under the State's Freedom of Information Law, an apartment in Metro Plaza North tested positive for lead in drinking water at a level that was highest of tests conducted at NYCHA apartments. Source : Louis Flores/Progress Queens/File Photograph

Metro Plaza North, in Spanish Harlem in Manhattan, is a public housing apartment building owned by the New York City Housing Authority. According to records obtained by Progress Queens under the State's Freedom of Information Law, an apartment in Metro Plaza North tested positive for lead in drinking water at a level that was highest of tests conducted at NYCHA apartments. Source : Louis Flores/Progress Queens/File Photograph

By LOUIS FLORES

The Trump administration has notified the New York City Housing Authority that it can expect a budget cut of at least $35 million in the Federal Government's budget for this fiscal year, according to a report published by The Wall Street Journal. The anticipated budget cut comes at a time when NYCHA is grappling with an estimated capital improvement budget deficit of $17 billion. The Municipal housing authority also awaits the outcome of a reported Federal investigation into the physical condition standards of its public housing developments.

The report published by The Wall Street Journal described the budget cut as being anticipated by NYCHA officials. In the most recent proposed Municipal budget presented by Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City), City Hall announced its intention to maintain a minimal, existing funding stream of $100 million per year for NYCHA for the next ten years. By holding City funding for NYCHA constant, Mayor de Blasio failed to offset the anticipated loss in funding being experienced by NYCHA.

Because the City of New York is failing to provide NYCHA with any material increase in funding to make up for the anticipated cut in Federal funding to be made by President Donald Trump (R) to domestic social programs, the de Blasio administration is leaving NYCHA to fend for itself. Under such conditions, NYCHA is expected to continue its privatisation plan that will sell or lease strategic public assets to real estate developers.

Now that the Trump administration has announced a budget cut for NYCHA, it is not known whether Mayor de Blasio will be moved to reconsider increasing Municipal funding for the housing authority. Several advance questions submitted by Progress Queens to the City Hall press office were not answered.

The reported Federal investigation into the physical condition standards at NYCHA is expected to yield a report of findings and recommendations. Because of NYCHA's precarious financial shape, it is not known how the U.S. Attorney's Office, which is reportedly conducting the investigation, will be able to compel the City of New York to make substantial capital upgrades to NYCHA's portfolio of public housing developments. Advance questions submitted by Progress Queens to the press office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara were not answered for this report.

NYCHA's tenants have lived with reports of mold, mildew, lead paint, lead in drinking water, and asbestos due to budgetary constraints that Municipal officials largely refused to address

A review of NYCHA's maintenance logs performed by Progress Queens revealed that NYCHA routinely closes maintenance requests made by tenants without recording whether underlying problems with mold, mildew, lead, or asbestos were ever fully addressed. Another review of data showed that NYCHA recorded an inexplicable spike in mildew complaints and a drop in mold complaints, even as the Municipal housing authority has been subject to a class-action, civil lawsuit compelling the agency to remove mold from public housing apartments. Even though NYCHA's tenants have periodically organised protests to demand capital improvements to public housing developments, Mayor de Blasio, NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye, and New York City Councilmember Ritchie Torres (D-The Bronx), the latter, who serves as chair of the public housing committee in the Municipal legislature, have remained committed to plans to privatise NYCHA.

That Mayor de Blasio has remained passive in his treatment of NYCHA as it faces a Federal investigation over questions about its ability to provide habitable apartments to its tenants reflects a pattern. Federal prosecutors have had to investigate the Rikers Island jail complex over allegations of Constitutional rights violations and public schools and 421(a) rental apartment buildings over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Federal investigation of Rikers Island produced a wide-ranging settlement that was viewed as making progress in the realm of criminal justice reform by improving inmate conditions and addressing Constitutional rights violations. However, inmates of Rikers Island have complained that they perceive jail conditions to remain violent. Even when City officials are given a directive to follow to implement reforms, a pattern also seen in the class-action mold litigation case against NYCHA, City officials appear to refuse to comply with orders to make reforms. Even if NYCHA were not facing budgetary pressures, it is not known how Federal prosecutors conducting the investigation into NYCHA's physical conditions standards would be able to compel City housing officials to actually make capital improvements to public housing developments.

With each intervention by Federal prosecutors into the management of strategic Municipal services to ensure a properly-working Government, it appears that City officials refuse to comply with orders to make reform. It is not known what motivates such pattern of resistance. Concerns have been raised that Municipal officials may be deliberately attempting to frustrate Federal prosecutors in an attempt to bring to an end Federal investigations of Municipal affairs. The press offices for neither City Hall nor U.S. Attorney Bharara would answer questions about the de Blasio administration's record of managing the delivery of basic Municipal services.

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