A new bill set to be introduced Thursday seeks to make the New York City Housing Authority more accountable to tenants concerns.
Proposed by the city’s public advocate, Jumaane Williams, the legislation calls for a task force that would specifically study and report on tenant concerns about building safety and quality of life as well as NYCHA’s track record in addressing such issues. The task force, which would be comprised of nine appointed members, would also make recommendations on how the agency can improve its engagement with tenants.
"NYCHA has completely abdicated its responsibility to its tenants,” said William Gerlich, a spokesman for Williams, in a statement on Thursday.
He added: “We've seen deplorable and dangerous conditions on the rise without a proper plan to fix it. We've seen NYCHA become a permanent fixture as a perennial political prop. But what we haven't seen is bringing tenant voices into the so-called ‘solutions’ that are implemented, which is exactly what this task force aims to do."
The plan comes at a critical time for the cash-strapped housing authority and its roughly 400,000 residents. The city and the agency has faced mounting opposition to its plan to partner with private developers to build new mixed-income buildings on NYCHA land. The most imminent project is at the Fulton Houses in Chelsea, an 11-building complex where the de Blasio administration has proposed demolishing two of the buildings and replace them with a mixed-income project. According to NYCHA, the money generated from the development could help finance $168 million in needed repairs at the Fulton Houses.
Some elected officials have sought to slow the process, but the deputy mayor of housing and economic development, Vicki Been, reportedly said she wants to issue a bid soliciting developers by the end of October.
“One thing that we can’t do is delay,” Been said at a Crain’s event Tuesday. “Every day of delay means that buildings get worse, that fixing them gets harder and more expensive and that New Yorkers living in [New York City Housing Authority] apartments suffer more.”
The authority has been struggling to complete a long backlog of mandated repairs. A recent report showed nearly 60,000 complaints about leaks and mold made between May 1st and July 31st have not been addressed.
Last week, NY1 reported on chronic elevator outages at public housing complexes.
The public advocate's office said that between March to early September, it received 379 complaints related to NYCHA, the most of any city agency. Of those, 115 were about rental assistance, while 101 involved repairs.