Mayor Bloomberg admits NYCHA could be doing a better job

08/08/2012
Tina Moore and Erin Durkin
NY Daily News

Mayor Bloomberg  acknowledged Wednesday that the New York City Housing Authority could be doing better for its residents — but continued to blame budget woes despite NYCHA’s nearly $1 billion in unspent federal funds.

“Could we do it better? Yeah, I’m sure we can always do it better,” Bloomberg said in response to a series of Daily News stories that exposed high-salaried NYCHA board members sitting on funds while public housing crumbles all over the city.

“It is a federally funded organization and the feds have been cutting us back both in capital funds and in operating funds. And there is no easy solutions,” Bloomberg said at an unrelated press conference. “The city does not have the money to put in.”

The mayor, who has defended NYCHA board members and their nearly $200,000 salaries, blamed delays spending the $1 billion on bureaucracy.

“Some of these things take forever,” he said. “There are all sorts of restrictions.”

That explanation rang hollow to tenants like Juan Pagan, 56, who said the leaks in his bedroom at Manhattan’s Jacob Riis Houses are so bad that he sleeps in the living room.

“For years, I’ve been complaining, and all they can say is, ‘You have to understand. We don’t have the funds,’” he said. “They’ve had money all these years. They were literally lying to me.”

He was one of dozens of tenants who protested at NYCHA’s Manhattan headquarters Wednesday.

Chanting “Move the money!” and “You got the one billion, we got the falling ceilings,” they marched to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s office to demand an investigation into the authority’s mismanagement.

NYCHA has had nearly half of the unspent dollars — $485 million — sitting around for at least two years. Some $233 million dates back to 2009.

“You have this money, and you get request after request, and nothing’s taken care of. They’re not doing their jobs. They’re saying, ‘I got my money, and I don’t care,’” Red Hook Houses resident Eric Valentin, 20, said of NYCHA’s well-paid board members. “They don’t live in public housing, so they don’t care.”

The advocates are pushing for more tenant reps on the NYCHA board, and an independent oversight panel to keep an eye on the authority.

Currently, there’s only one tenant rep on the board — who makes $250 a month compared to almost $200,000 a year for the other three board members.

“This is crazy that they have so much money, and what are they doing?” said Teresa Pedroza, 52, of the Jacob Riis Houses, who said her bathroom walls are crumbling from leaks. “I say sack them all and revamp the board.”

HUD spokesman Adam Glantz said that “by federal law, public housing authorities have two years to obligate 90% of capital funding and four years to expend 100 percent of capital funding. HUD has asked for additional information on NYCHA’s finances and is reviewing its capital fund usage for compliance.”

Campaigns: Public Housing