The city has agreed to pay the firm of a federal monitor overseeing the New York City Housing Authority up to $12 million for its first year of service, according to a draft copy of the contract published by Politico.
Bart Schwartz, a former Manhattan prosecutor, was named to the post by federal housing officials in February. Following years of mismanagement that resulted in a federal lawsuit, the city agreed to allow the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to install a watchdog for NYCHA. The agreement with Schwartz's firm, Guidepost Solutions, was published on Tuesday in a public hearing notice by the city's Law Department as part of the city's contracting process. Under the terms, Schwartz himself will be paid $594 per hour, with his 2019 take-home pay capped at $350,000. The cost of later years is yet to be established. Working under Schwartz is a slew of executives, consultants, investigators, research analysts, field examiners and administrative staff, all of whom have hourly rates starting at $68 an hour.
Details about the contract come as NYCHA continues to struggle to provide basic services like heat and hot water for its 400,000 tenants and to complete a court-mandated lead paint inspection following a scandal that endangered thousands of children.
Gregory Russ, the recently appointed head of NYCHA, drew similar scrutiny in June for earning more than $400,000, making him the highest paid city official.
Asked about Schwartz's deal, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, told the New York Post, “That’s a huge salary and we need every dollar we can to go towards critical repairs of deteriorating housing stock."
Johnson added that while he thought the monitor's role is important, "the amount of money for the amount of time seems like way too much at this point.”
Reached by phone for comment, Schwartz referred Gothamist to his firm's spokesperson Montieth Illingworth.
Illingworth said that $12 million for the first year was "a very reasonable amount of money given the size and complexity of the problem" and that the firm had discounted their normal fee levels.
Schwartz and his team, he added, had visited more than 200 NYCHA developments to date.
City Hall also defended the contract. "While prior administrations turned their backs on residents, we rolled up our sleeves and made an historic investment to turn around NYCHA with our federal partners," mayoral spokesperson Olivia Lapeyrolerie said in a statement provided to Politico. "We are renovating thousands of apartments, installing new boilers and standing up NYCHA's first ever compliance department. NYCHA’s new leadership team will continue to work closely with the monitor to improve the lives of the 400,000 New Yorkers who call NYCHA home."
According to the official website for the NYCHA federal monitor, Schwartz has to date produced two quarterly reports and a $450 million action plan.