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UPDATE: NYCHA Dodges Federal Takeover, Will Get Independent Monitor Instead

HUD Secretary Ben Carson
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HUD Secretary Ben Carson Shutterstock

As the battle over a possible federal takeover of the New York City Housing Authority rages, and with a court-ordered deadline to come up with a plan set to expire later today, a federal housing official is teasing a "huge and historic" announcement for NYCHA residents. [UPDATES BELOW]

On Wednesday night, Lynne Patton, a longtime Trump family associate and wedding planner appointed last year as the regional administrator at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, took to Twitter to promote the "great news" expected from HUD Secretary Ben Carson on Thursday. "However, whether or not this announcement will be great news for [Mayor Bill de Blasio] remains to be seen," she added.

The tweet prompted fears from some local officials that NYCHA could soon find itself in federal receivership, and questions from others about why the Trump administration's housing agency was taking a reality TV-style approach to the ongoing problems at the nation's largest public housing authority.

"Playing coy about something that could impact [400,000 people—many living in horrific conditions—is disgusting," City Council Speaker Corey Johnson fired back at Patton.

Several officials chimed in to acknowledge the staggering backlog of repairs at NYCHA, and the fact that basic maintenance issues have reached a tipping point in recent years—in addition to the lead paint scandal, tens of thousands of residents have gone without heat this winter, including on Wednesday.

Still, some NYCHA tenants say that federal receivership would only exacerbate the many issues plaguing their homes; instead, they want more funding for much-needed repairs, and better communication from management.

On Thursday, Patton suggested that the new plan was "not necessarily a receivership. Administrative or otherwise." Instead, she called it independent oversight with "historic levels of authority." Patton suggested that at least part of HUD's demands were initially opposed by the Mayor's Office.

The New York Times, meanwhile, is now reporting that the federal government has reached a "tentative billion-dollar settlement" to appoint a powerful federal monitor over the agency, which would stop short of giving HUD full control over the public authority. As part of the deal, the city would agree to commit $1 billion to NYCHA over the next four years, and $200 million annually after that. The same commitment was made by the city in an earlier agreement, which was tossed out a federal judge. The report made no indication of a funding commitment from the federal government.

A spokesperson for the Mayor's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Carson's announcement is expected to take place at noon at the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building in lower Manhattan.

This is ongoing story and we'll update as more information becomes available.

UPDATE 2:00 p.m. Nearly two hours after the presser was supposed to begin, HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Mayor Bill de Blasio have announced that the day-to-day operations of NYCHA will remain under local control, but that a federal monitor will assume some oversight authority.

Under the new agreement, HUD will pick the monitor, and will sign off on any candidate for NYCHA chairperson or CEO. The monitor will submit quarterly reports to HUD and federal prosecutors, who have agreed to drop the initial complaint that kicked off the possibility of federal receivership. The agreement will thus not require approval from a federal judge, prosecutors said.

As part of the new plan, the city will provide at least $2.2 billion in funding over the next decade to address issues including lead-based paint, mold, heating issues, and vermin. HUD will continue providing an estimated $1.5 billion annually to the housing authority. While the funding commitments are unchanged from the agreement that a federal judge rejected last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio assured reporters on Thursday that this arrangement was "superior" because it was based on "a much clearer spirit of partnership." He also noted that it comes with more tangible goals and deadlines for remediating lead paint and making other repairs.

"We are not going to try to micromanage what is going on here in New York City," Carson added. "Part of the agreement provides the ability to look, to monitor, to intercede if necessary, but I have great faith in the process that's been set up here."

You can read the full agreement below:

UPDATE 4:30 p.m. Some local officials are less than thrilled about the terms of the new arrangement—specifically, the fact it does not include any additional funding from HUD.

"I wish I were more encouraged but the fact is, NYCHA residents need more funding from the federal government, and that’s not what I’m hearing in today’s announcement," City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in a statement on Thursday afternoon. "Certainly when it comes to NYCHA, there’s a lot of blame to go around, but we can’t minimize the toll years of federal disinvestment has had on our public housing stock. I hope today is at least the end of the contentious and at times insensitive back and forth we’ve seen throughout these negotiations."

Since 2001, the federal government has cut $3 billion in funding from NYCHA's capital and operating budgets.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also slammed the deal, saying that it "falls short because it failed to secure any new Federal funding stream to combat billions in unmet capital repair needs."

"An additional layer of government red tape would be troubling news for long-suffering public housing residents," Adams added. "However, if this results in a slashing of bureaucratic waste and a streamlined process for service delivery to tenants, then this may serve as the beginning of a much-needed turnaround. The ultimate arbiter of this agreement’s success will be the 400,000 rent-paying residents of NYCHA."

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