By LOUIS FLORES
The $3 billion grant made by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to the city's public housing authority is barely sufficient to make repairs and storm resiliency upgrades to half of the buildings in public housing developments that were damaged as a result of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, a new report found.
The gaping shortfall in the FEMA grant represents a further and serious setback for the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA.
Details of the shortfall were published in a report by The New York Daily News, according to an analysis conducted by its reporters.
NYCHA did not make available an official for an interview for this report. In accordance with City Hall's blacklist treatment of news organizations that are critical of Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City), the City Hall press office did not answer a request for an interview made by Progress Queens.
After Hurricane Sandy made landfall, city officials identified 402 NYCHA buildings that sustained heavy damage, yet only 219 of those buildings with receive FEMA-funded upgrades, according to The New York Daily News report.
In the three years time since Hurricane Sandy swept through New York City, City Hall has continued to put off the funding of major repairs to NYCHA. This pattern of neglect carried over from the administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R-New York) to the de Blasio administration, creating a serious situation that compromises the habitability of some NYCHA apartments and leading to repair backlogs that has created a crisis for NYCHA residents.
In recent months, several organisations have begun to express growing concerns about Mayor de Blasio's neglect of NYCHA.
A coalition of groups represented by the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation has sued NYCHA to force the housing authority to address the most severe of repair problems : the removal of mold from apartments. However, the housing authority has ignored the settlement in that case. To restore credibility and accountability at NYCHA, tenants and officials with the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation have called on NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye to step down.
In the face of NYCHA's budget woes and other criticisms of the housing authority, the de Blasio administration has proposed a controversial plan that has privatised a portfolio of NYCHA's project-based, Section 8 buildings and proposes to privatise undeveloped parking lots, green spaces, and playgrounds. Monies raised from the sale or leasing of NYCHA's properties will be used to help the housing authority offset its operating and capital budget deficits. As reported by Progress Queens, the monies expected to be raised by the privatisation of NYCHA are not being earmarked to address the emergency repair backlog at the housing authority, leading to further neglect.
As reported by Progress Queens, the controversial sale of the project-based, Section 8 buildings was negotiated in secret, was made with no prior public input, and involved politically-connected real estate developers with close ties to the de Blasio administration. Moreover, in a controversial move, the disposition of public property was made without subjecting the sale transaction to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP, as required by Section 197c of the City Charter. Officials with NYCHA, City Hall, the New York City Department of Investigation, and the New York City Office of the Comptroller refuse to address how ULURP was subverted for the sale of the Section 8 buildings. More questions exist as to whether the de Blasio administration plans to further sidestep ULURP in connection with the land leases of undeveloped NYCHA lots, also referred to as NYCHA's infill plan.
Despite objections by NYCHA's tenants to the housing authority's privatisation plans, NYCHA CEO Olatoye has been firm that she will move forward with the de Blasio administrations plans for NYCHA over tenants' objections.
In recent weeks, disparate groups of tenant advocates and government reform activists have been creating solidarity demonstrations and forming coalition groups to fight the de Blasio administration's neglect of NYCHA, which many see as necessary for the administration to justify its privatization efforts.
On the #S17 anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, various groups and advocates held a press conference on the steps of City Hall to link Mayor de Blasio's neglect of NYCHA with the administration's broader support for gentrification that is creating displacement for New York's lower and middle-income residents.
Last week, more than 100 NYCHA tenants marched on Gracie Mansion, the official mayoral residence, to protest Mayor de Blasio's infill plan for NYCHA.
As reported by Progress Queens, Mayor de Blasio has curried political favor with the city's wealthy and influential real estate developers, turning to developers for funding for his official political campaign committees and for the nonprofit lobbying arms that act as political extensions of City Hall, particularly the Campaign for One New York.
Mayor de Blasio's close association with real estate developers, amongst other questionable relationships and policy troubles, has contributed to a growing perception that he has been exploiting the language of progressive reform for mere public relations purposes. The theme of Mayor de Blasio's progressive inauthenticity will be the subject of a coalition protest scheduled for Thursday evening as the mayor hosts a 2017 campaign fundraiser at the Sheraton in Midtown Manhattan.