By LOUIS FLORES
As the fight for the new speaker of the New York City Council was settled with the selection of Councilmember Corey Johnson (D-Chelsea), reportedly almost at the sole discretion of U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens), Council Speaker Johnson promised that, in respect of his new leadership post, "I'm taking it very seriously," he said, during an interview granted on Monday to public radio station WNYC 93.9 FM.
Council Speaker Johnson added, "But, also, we're going to have fun," he said, repeating, "We're going to have fun. I love to dance !"
The celebratory mood for the new Council speaker comes at a time of political good fortune for the new top Municipal legislative leader : With his speakership comes the authority and discretion to make nominal appointments that allow the Council speaker to collect political chits from others. Although many of the secondary leadership and Central Staff appointments will reportedly be made with influence from U.S. Rep. Crowley, Council Speaker Johnson makes those appointments formal in a traditional process described in a report published by The Gotham Gazette as "rewarding friends and punishing foes."
But with feast also comes famine, as the approximately 400,000 residents of the New York City Housing Authority have been being dealing, at various times, with no heat during a brutal winter storm and a growing habitability crisis over exposures to toxic mold and lead. According to news reports, Mayor Bill de Balsio (D-New York City) said he knew of the risks of exposure to lead to NYCHA tenants, but he did nothing about it. The City Council is empowered to hold hearings and to demand documents and to hold any City Agencies accountable, including the Mayor's Office. Driving any aggressive oversight agenda falls within the authority and discretion available to Council Speaker Johnson.
For this report, members of the City Council Press Office and Chief of Staff Erik Bottcher, who serve City Council Speaker Johnson, did not immediately answer a request for an interview with Council Speaker Johnson.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district, which is reportedly conducting an investigation into the physical condition standards at NYCHA, has refused to provide any information to Progress Queens about the status of their investigation. Beginning in June 2016, Progress Queens published extensive reports based on Government data about NYCHA's tenants' complaints as reflected in the public housing agency's maintenance logs. Leading up to those reports and after, Councilmember Ritchie Torres (D-Fordham), then the chair of the City Council committee on public housing, endorsed continued efforts to convert public housing into Section 8 housing, so that the City's public housing stock could be privatised. NYCHA reportedly faces a capital improvement budget deficit estimated to be as large as $17 billion.