"The State has been working to identify solutions to help the New York City Housing Authority ("NYCHA") with its current crisis. The situation has reached a tipping point and today the Citywide Council of Presidents threatened legal action that would "hold up" the State's budget if it does not adequately address NYCHA's operating needs.
"As you know, the Governor has recently toured several NYCHA complexes and found the conditions "disgusting" and wholly unacceptable. The responsibility for these conditions lies with the Federal government, which is primarily responsible for funding the nation's public housing, and with NYCHA for chronic mismanagement. There is no doubt repairs need to be made. The Governor has shown his resolve in recently pledging an additional $250 million for NYCHA in this year's State budget. This commitment is on top of the State's unprecedented recent commitment of $300 million. The State has no legal role in funding or operating public housing authorities and while there are 150 public housing authorities in the state, we have never provided any significant funding to them, as it is a local and federal responsibility. However, NYCHA poses a unique safety risk given the health hazards known to be present, including the persistent lack of heat and hot water and exposure to harmful mold and toxic lead paint.
"If the chronic mismanagement at NYCHA is not adequately resolved, funding commitments are all but irrelevant. The City announced a $2 billion capital commitment to NYCHA over 13 years, but in the first four years, NYCHA was not even able to spend the money available; only spending an average of $78 million per year. At that rate of spending, it would take NYCHA 27 years to spend the City's allocation.
"The NYCHA tenants have recently organized and sued NYCHA and the City. The NYCHA tenants demand an independent contractor to do the work and a role in the selection and oversight of the contract. We stand with the NYCHA tenants. We do not need funding to sit on a shelf within the NYCHA bureaucracy while individuals, children and families suffer in apartments. Nor do we need more funding to be absorbed by the dysfunctional NYCHA bureaucracy. The State routinely turns to independent contractors and the use of the design/build process to handle major construction contracts. LaGuardia Airport, the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, and several train stations statewide are being constructed using independent contractors and the design/build process. There is no question that the same approach must be applied to NYCHA housing.
"The Federal government and the City administration should meet their financial obligation, and we must secure an independent contractor to do the work effectively and efficiently, with the tenants at the table. The tenants pay rent, but live in conditions that violate the standards of habitability. The Governor will not support State funding without adequate accountability in the construction process --- one that actually achieves results."