The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) said Wednesday that it’s failed to meet federal requirements to inspect for hazardous lead, as well as other areas of noncompliance.
The troubled agency — which suffers from deep federal funding deficits, and not just city and state mismanagement, as Next City has covered at length — is currently in the midst of what the New York Times calls a “reckoning.”
In March, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he would declare a state of emergency so that NYCHA could expedite work on its $32 billion maintenance backlog. The next month, he released a plan that set aside $250 million in emergency state resources and suspended a number of internal NYCHA laws around procurement. The plan also featured 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. Several months later, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an agreement with federal prosecutors to provide upwards of $1 billion to the authority over the next four years.
Now the agency is in the midst of a top-to-bottom review, hoping to create a system for tracking both compliance and shortcomings, the Times reports. The revelations about lead will now be sent to the office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), along with a series of other not-so-flattering findings, namely that the agency may be out of compliance in the areas of staff training, tenant protections and emergency management plans.
“Nycha expects additional areas will be added to this list as the review continues,” Anne-Marie Flatley, the vice president for performance management and analytics at NYCHA, said according to the Times.
The announcement that the agency is out of compliance around lead inspection follows a startling admission from the de Blasio administration — that officials found elevated levels of lead exposure in more than 800 children living in the city’s housing supply between 2012 and 2016, and failed to follow up.
Still, despite the many glaring examples of mismanagement around NYCHA units, the country’s largest supply of public housing is still a valuable asset, and needs to be treated as such — particularly by the media. As Samantha Maldonado reported for Next City in May:
Recent news coverage has focused on heat and hot water outages during the winter, rats, leaky roofs, mold and questionable lead inspections. In March and April alone, Governor Andrew Cuomo, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, and Mayor Bill de Blasio visited five NYCHA developments between them and all decried the conditions.
Although many residents and advocates don’t dispute the problems shown — and in fact, they appreciate the attention toward so many longstanding issues — they don’t necessarily think the general public is getting the full picture of what it’s like to live in public housing.
“There’s a fine line between highlighting deficiencies and not losing sight of the value,” Nicholas Dagen Bloom, a professor at New York Institute of Technology author of “Public Housing that Worked,” told Maldonado.
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.