Last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he would declare a state of emergency for the New York City Housing Authority. The idea was to expedite repairs at the city’s properties, which suffer from an infamous maintenance backlog, but details as to what the declaration would mean were scarce.
Bolstered by a Design/Build Authorization folded into the state’s FY 2019 budget, however, Cuomo on Monday released his plan. It includes $250 million in emergency state resources, and a directive for the mayor, city council speaker and president of the NYCHA Citywide Council of Presidents to select an independent manager to oversee repairs. It also suspends a number of NYCHA laws around procurement.
“At its inception, NYCHA addressed a dire public housing crisis by offering shelter and stability to New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs, but years of mismanagement and neglect have left NYCHA residents with some of the worst living conditions I have ever witnessed,” Cuomo said in a statement. “After seeing how these families are forced to live their lives every single day, I made a pledge to the people of New York that I would not sign the budget unless funding was dedicated to address the human tragedy that is NYCHA housing.”
The executive order is “the latest salvo in an escalating conflict between the governor and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration over the management of the beleaguered housing authority,” according to the New York Times. De Blasio has suggested that the governor is simply trying “to score political points” with his attention to NYCHA, and was absent when Cuomo made his announcement Monday.
But though the city and state have historically passed the blame over NYCHA mismanagement back and forth, the lack of federal funding plays a big role in the properties’ backlog.
“Since 2000, federal funding for public housing operations has met the annual need only three times, while funding for repairs has been cut by 53 percent, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities,” Oscar Perry Abello wrote for Next City last year.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.