“NYCHA repairs at a boil thanks to political heat” By Editorials
“Hundreds of thousands of public housing residents who just endured a frigid winter of hell are ever-so-cautiously tiptoeing into a spring of hope — hope that reliable heat and hot water and better living conditions are at long last on their way.
Along with a too-long answer to the NYCHA version of an age-old joke: How many government officials does it take to replace a broken boiler? How about dozens of broken boilers and leaky roofs and countless moldy walls?
Start with Gov. Cuomo, who, bless him, insisted on adding $250 million for NYCHA fixes to the newly passed state budget along with fast-track design-build construction authority. He also signed an executive order Monday to get heating and other systems repaired via private construction management, with expedited contractors to be ready to roll in a mere three months.
More power to him, because under sluggish, bureaucracy-cowed Mayor de Blasio and NYCHA chairwoman Shola Olatoye, progress has been positively glacial.
In only a slight stretch, Cuomo is getting it done by declaring the Housing Authority’s conditions to be an imminent disaster on the order of a hurricane or terror attack. Close enough, given the risk to public health of fraudulent lead-paint inspections that left kids at risk of poisoning, mold that leaves asthmatics wheezing and cold that pierces residents young, old and frail.
Add to the lightbulb-repair brigade Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who with NYCHA tenant leaders suing for fixes will help decide on a construction manager for the new funds and $300 million previously budgeted by the state. Don’t forget Councilman Ritchie Torres, whose relentless interrogation of Olatoye exposed the vast extent of her failures on both heat and lead paint.
Enter Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, under heat from the state, rushed over a list of 14 NYCHA developments whose 63 boilers and associated heating systems will cost $247 million to fix.
And de Blasio, who’s technically in charge but doing far too little to act like it. Cuomo now invites Big Bill to join Johnson and the tenants to select a manager — unless they can’t agree, in which case City Controller Scott Stringer will step in.
But wait — here come the feds.
For nearly three years and three holders of the office, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney has been investigating false reporting by NYCHA to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on its handling of mold and lead paint. A report, and likely a monitor, are in the offing any day now.
And last month, HUD Secretary Ben Carson informed Olatoye that she would have to get Washington’s pre-approval on all expenditures of federal fix-it funds.
That’s a whole lot of hands who collectively, finally managed to elevate the NYCHA crisis to code red at a time when Olatoye and de Blasio dug in to deep and destructive denial. While, let’s face it, elevating their political profiles.
Enough jockeying for position by political pros. Now, let the plumbers and steamfitters and painters and engineers and the rest of the people whom the residents are counting on get to work.”
This coverage ran on page 8 of the New York Daily News.
This coverage ran on page 24 of today’s New York Daily News.