A WNYC segment with Mayor De Blasio brings up questions about "absolute horror story" conditions in NYCHA buildings

By Alanna Schubach  | May 16, 2017 - 8:59AM

Last week's "Ask the Mayor" segment of WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show highlighted an ongoing crisis in NYC housing: the conditions of the city's New York City Housing Authority-owned properties, which provide subsidized housing to low-income New Yorkers. 

A caller from Harlem named Christine phoned into the show to ask Mayor Bill De Blasio what the city plans to do to address problems in NYCHA buildings, saying that the properties have been seriously neglected and that the quality of life there is "an absolute horror story." 

The beleaguered city agency is, indeed, facing a major funding problem. Gothamist reports that NYCHA is operating at a $14 million deficit, while needed repairs to housing would cost as much as $17.1 billion; compounding that, the federal department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced that it intends to slash funding to NYCHA, which will add up to a loss of $27.7 million in operating funds, and $7.7 million in the administration of the Section 8 housing voucher program. 

De Blasio acknowledged this in his response, noting that the federal government has "walked away" from the program in terms of financial support, and threatens to endanger it even more under the Trump administration's new budget. 

The New York Daily News visited one NYCHA tenant, whose home made viscerally clear what it looks like when maintenance to subsidized housing is neglected. Troubles in his apartment include no heat in his bedroom nor lights in his bathroom; no working electrical outlets; a hole under his sink that allows vermin in; and extensive water damage. 

Elsewhere in NYC, PIX11 reported on several NYCHA-owned brownstones in which gas pipes were left exposed and windows were sealed with duct tape. And in the Queens Chronicle, Councilman Rory Lancman wrote that a NYCHA building in his district was riddled with mold. 

The mayor responded to the Harlem caller with reassurances that the city is making significant investments in repairing NYCHA buildings. He referred to a $1 billion program, announced in January, to replace leaky roofs—a major source of mold issues—at 700 properties. The city has also committed millions in recent years to restoring building facades, improving security and outdoor lighting, and installing broadband service throughout the NYCHA system. 

NYCHA is also partnering with developers through its NextGeneration Neighborhoods program to create mixed-income housing to help fund repairs to existing properties. DNAInfo reports that one such project is underway on the Lower East Side, with NYCHA seeking proposals from developers to build a new development that will help fund repairs at the LaGuardia Houses, which need $70 million in improvements. 

In an op-ed for the Gotham GazetteNYCHA board members applaud the agency for "their mission to change the way they do business," but presented a concern that may be even more pressing than decrepit housing stock. Of the federal government's proposed funding cuts to NYCHA, they write: "It is a horrific message to send to those who are the backbone of our society. In its simplest terms, these proposed cuts would lead to higher numbers of homelessness." 

Listen to the conversation about NYCHA, as well as commercial rent taxes and ferry service, below:


Alanna Schubach

Contributing writer

Contributing editor Alanna Schubach has over a decade of experience as a New York City-based freelance journalist.

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