NYCHA misrepresented rate of inspections of public housing apartments suspected of containing lead paint : report

By LOUIS FLORES

The New York City Housing Authority failed to annually inspect apartments suspected of containing lead paint. The failure to make the annual inspections contradicted certifications made to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by the Municipal housing authority. Instead of annual inspections, the apartments suspected of containing lead paint were said to have been inspected every other year during a period of time, according to allegations.  The allegations were made in a report published by The New York Daily News.

The report was silent about concerns over the presence of toxic lead in other media, such as in drinking water. A report published by Progress Queens identified apartments owned by the Municipal housing authority that tested positive for lead in drinking water in excess of one threshold used by Federal regulations.

Information about the change in annual inspections was provided to The New York Daily News by the New York City Department of Investigation, according to the report. The provision of the information by the Municipal investigatory authority to The New York Daily News comes in the face of a reported Federal investigation into the physical condition standards of New York City's public housing authority. Despite the unhealthy living conditions faced by public housing tenants, the outcome of the reported Federal investigation has not yet been made public, even though, in a 16 March 2016 Court filing, prosecutors reportedly leading the Federal investigation claimed that obtaining health records at that time then was "in the interest of justice." The Municipal housing authority faces a multi-billion dollar capital improvement budget deficit, one that the de Blasio administration refuses to address. Instead, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) has focused on forcing the Municipal housing authority to transfer public housing into the Federal Section 8 program, which allows private real estate investors to buy into public housing in a push for privatisation for strategic public assets.

The Municipal housing authority reportedly claimed to have altered the rate of its inspectionss of apartments suspected of containing lead paint in order to reduce its backlog of maintenance requests made by its tenants. According to a review of the Municipal housing authority's maintenance logs performed by Progress Queens, maintenance requests made by tenants were largely marked "CLOSED" without any indication that the issue about which tenants were complaining were ever actually resolved.

The maintenance logs were provided to Progress Queens by the Municipal housing authority in response to a request filed under the State's Freedom of Information Law. Information made public by the Municipal housing authority was used by Progress Queens to create a look-up table, and the look-up table made it possible to identify the location of the apartments that were the site of complaints noted in the maintenance logs. The location of apartments in public housing developments suspected of containing lead paint were never provided to Progress Queens by the Municipal housing authority. However, the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district, the Federal law enforcement agency conducting the reported Federal investigation into the public housing authority's physical condition standards, is believed to be in possession of the information that identifies the location of the apartments suspected of containing lead paint. It is not known if Federal investigators have been able to cross-reference the location of apartments suspected of containing lead paint with the maintenance logs, which would contain information about tenants complaining of lead paint, for example. Advance questions submitted by Progress Queens to the U.S. Attorney's Office were not answered.

According to information obtained by Progress Queens, Federal investigators may lack experience to be able to conduct analysis on large amounts of data.  A report published by The New York Times noted that the Municipal housing authority dumped over 400 million records of information on Federal investigators in an effort to allegedly bury investigations with large amounts of information. Some of the data files provided to Progress Queens by the Municipal housing authority were so large that it was impossible to open many of the data files using Microsoft Excel or the Python programming language. Some of the largest data files provided to Progress Queens were corruptly exported, and, were it not for expert programming assistance provided to Progress Queens, it would have not been possible to conduct data analysis of the data files.

At the same time when the New York City Housing Authority has faced the reported Federal investigation into its physical condition standards, the Municipal housing authority has also been subject to the oversight of a special master in a class action lawsuit over mold abatement. The class action lawsuit was filed, in part, by Marc Cohan, of counsel at the National Center for Law & Economic Justice, Inc. Mr. Cohan's wife, New York State Supreme Court Appellate Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, recently survived being targeted in a failed political attempt to deny Her Honour a nominations required to earn Justice Ling-Cohan a place on the reëlection ballot in the 2016 election cycle. Operatives with the New York County Democratic Committee denied allegations that real estate interests were exerting influence to deny Justice Ling-Cohan reëlection, according to press reports.

Advocacy groups have thus far failed to pressure the de Blasio administration to offer a real solution to address the toxic physical condition standards at New York City's public housing developments. Some Government reform activists await the outcome of the reported Federal investigation for indication whether Federal prosecutors will compel material improvements in the living standards of public housing tenants.

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