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Letter to the Editor: NYCHA Problems are Long-Standing

Rev. Clinton Miller

The latest exposé of the NYCHA’s mismanagement of funds is starting to help members of the community connect the dots concerning unspent stimulus package funds. In 2010, residents and community leaders were notified that over 100 million dollars was to be spent on housing repairs, jobs and contracts for MWBE’s and upkeep of Walt Whitman and Raymond Ingersoll public housing in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Since 2008, the NYCHA has received 1.2 billion dollars to renovate public housing citywide.

In the midst of an economic recession, this stimulus was good news and gave families hope for better quality of housing and jobs. The repairs never happened, the jobs were never created and small businesses never received contracts. There are many ramifications and questions regarding integrity in government and New York City’s plan for public housing especially when neighborhoods are being artificially gentrified at an unbelievable rate. If the NYCHA has the money to make public housing a more viable place to live for its present residents and doesn’t spend the money to do so, what does it really want to do with public housing in New York City?

Ever since I was a teenager growing up in Brooklyn, there have been rumors of housing projects like Whitman, Ingresoll, Farragut, Gowanus, Lafayette Gardens and others being sold to private developers. Is NYCHA really beginning the process to sell the projects to private developers? If it’s not, then why not fix the apartment units and help decrease homelessness.

As a pastor of a local church, I have gone to the NYCHA office on many occasions to advocate for parishioners who have been on year, sometimes two-year-long waiting lists for public housing. Now that we know that the NYCHA has the money to make more units available, the frustration and anger of waiting families increases exponentially. The long waits are totally unnecessary.

So far, most of the criticism has been towards John Rhea, agency head of the NYCHA. However, as we look further, it’s becoming clearer that there is a pattern of higher politics that removes democracy out of local development and quality of life in New York City.  The NYCHA paid $10 million dollars to a Boston-based consultant group to do an efficiency report on the NYCHA.  Knowing what we know about contracts and the Bloomberg Administration, I think it’s fair to ask if there was a RFP process that this Boston consulting group had to undergo. Now that the consultant has completed the report, the mayor does not want to reveal the full report. I think this issue goes far beyond John Rhea. Because the NYCHA is accountable to the mayor, Michael Bloomberg should have the full report released and then should govern accordingly.

Governor Cuomo said that he was disturbed about recent newspaper articles calling the NYCHA to task. As former head of HUD during the Clinton Administration, he has probably seen local municipalities mismanage funds to their detriment. With that knowledge and experience, and since those stimulus funds were offered through the state of New York from the federal government, he should become more involved to ensure that the funds are appropriately spent on housing repairs, jobs and contracts for local small businesses. The NYCHA is sitting on close to 1 billion dollars in the middle of a recession. Isn’t that what the major banks are doing?

Rev. Clinton Miller
Brown Memorial Baptist Church
Brooklyn, NY

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