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NYCHA chair Shola Olatoye resigns amid scandals

The head of New York’s public housing authority will leave her post at the end of April

Joel Raskin

Shola Olatoye, the embattled head of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), announced today that she has resigned from her position, and will vacate her post at the end of April.

The announcement comes amid increased scrutiny of the agency due to its handling of several scandals—namely heat outages in many of NYCHA’s buildings this winter, and failure to comply with lead paint inspections—as well as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sudden interest in the beleaguered agency. Earlier this week, he declared a state of emergency at NYCHA in an effort to expedite repairs, and called for an independent monitor to oversee repairs.

Though the news of Olatoye’s resignation was made public last night, it was officially announced during an event at the Ocean Bay Apartments in Far Rockaway, which recently received major upgrades under the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. That initiative, championed by Olatoye, preserves public housing while allowing for private investment in things like infrastructure upgrades and renovations.

Olatoye was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014, and in an interview with Politico, she noted that she always intended to stay in her post for one term. “[I]t’s been an amazing, maddening, humbling fascinating assignment and I think I’ve done some really important work on behalf of the one in 14 New Yorkers that rely on us,” Olatoye told Politico.

But calls for Olatoye’s resignation have been growing since late last year, when her role in the agency’s lead paint scandal was made clear. As we previously reported, the city’s Department of Investigation discovered that Olatoye falsely certified that the authority was in compliance with lead paint inspection requirements. The DOI discovered that as far back as 2012, NYCHA had not been doing the required annual inspections of the thousands of apartments that may have lead contamination.

“I think the resignation of Shola was an inevitability rather than a choice,” City Council member Ritchie Torres told the New York Times.

De Blasio was quick to defend Olatoye’s tenure during today’s press conference, noting that she assumed leadership of NYCHA when it was on the brink of bankruptcy, and after years of federal and state disinvestment in the agency—which has led to many of the problems plaguing its buildings to this day. (A recent report found that it’s facing $25 billion in needed repairs.) “It was not an easy mission, and it was certainly a thankless mission,” he stated.

News of her resignation was applauded by Danny Barber, the chairman of NYCHA’s Citywide Council of Presidents, which represents tenants. “We hope that the new chair will be considerate and will listen to the life-or-death concerns of our community, working with us to resolve the humanitarian crisis that NYCHA has created,” he said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.

While the city searches for a permanent replacement, De Blasio named Stanley Brezenoff the interim NYCHA chair; he’s previously worked at the Port Authority and as the interim CEO of New York City Health + Hospitals.