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NYCHA, HUD reach tentative deal for more federal oversight

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A HUD-appointed federal monitor would oversee the embattled authority

The massive NYCHA Polo Grounds Houses complex in Harlem, Manhattan
Getty Images/Richard Levine

The embattled New York City Housing Authority is slated for stricter federal oversight and a leadership shakeup under a new deal aimed at fixing years of mismanagement that has lead to deplorable living conditions for the city’s tenants.

The tentative agreement—reached by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, NYCHA, and the U.S. attorney’s office—will replace NYCHA’s interim chairman and CEO Stanely Brezenoff with new leadership and bring in an independent monitor, whom HUD and federal prosecutors will select, to hold the housing authority to strict milestones.

“We see this as a partnership to get things done for the residents,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said shortly after signing the deal with HUD secretary Ben Carson Thursday. “It has created an atmosphere of partnership and a sense of shared destiny that will benefit the 400,000 people who live in public housing.”

As part of the deal, the city would agree to invest an additional $1 billion into the authority’s crumbling housing over the next four years and $200 million per year after that. The funds will go toward addressing systemic issues at the authority including its infamous lead paint scandal, failing heat systems, mold, and rodent infestations in its more than 175,000 apartments. Last year, NYCHA claimed the top spot on then-public advocate Letitia James’s “worst landlords” list, a first for the beleaguered authority.

Under the plan, federal prosecutors will move to dismiss a U.S. Attorney’s Office complaint filed against the agency within 14 days of the monitor’s appointment. The monitor, who Carson said will be appointed in the coming weeks, will not oversee day-to-day operations at NYCHA, but will have sweeping powers.

“We are not going to try to micromanage what is going on here in New York City,” Carson told reporters Thursday. “Part of the agreement provides the ability to look, to monitor, to intercede if necessary. But I have great faith in the process that’s been set up here and I believe it’s going to work just fine.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Ben Carson took questions after signing an agreement between HUD and NYCHA to correct mismanagement at the embattled agency.
Getty Images/Drew Angerer

Additionally, the city and the monitor will hire an outside consultant to take a close look at “NYCHA’s systems, policies, procedures, and management and personnel structures, and make recommendations to the city, NYCHA, and the monitor to improve the areas examined,” according to the agreement.

Afterward, NYCHA and the monitor are meant to craft a plan to overhaul the authority’s “management, organizational, and workforce structure (including work rules), and overarching policies.” But if NYCHA and the monitor can’t agree on a plan, HUD and the U.S. Attorney will decide how the agency should proceed, says the agreement.

The U.S. District Attorney’s office and NYCHA reached a settlement agreement last summer that would have imposed similar rules, including a federal monitor and dedicated funding for repairs. But the settlement was rejected by a judge in November, and since then, the idea of receivership—a full federal takeover of NYCHA—had been bandied about as a way to pull the struggling authority out of a hole.

The new agreement stops short of a full takeover, but the deal is a turning point for the mayor, who publicly opposed the receivership of the agency. On Thursday, de Blasio and Carson were friendly toward one another while touting the deal as a win for tenants.

“We were able to put aside any political differences and think about, what would provide the right kind of environment for the people here,” Carson said.

Elected officials across the city were quick to weigh in on the arrangement. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said the deal was “by no means a panacea, but it does represent progress” while Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams worried the new monitor could serve as “an additional layer of government red tape” that would slow meaningful change at NYCHA.

Comptroller Scott Stringer bashed the idea of a monitor and called for additional federal funds to support the crumbling housing authority.

“NYCHA already has monitors—its residents who have suffered from decades of disinvestment,” Stringer said in a statement. “The time for talk and political stunts is over. Cut the long overdue check from the federal government to fully fund the needed repairs, listen to the real NYCHA monitors, put a plan in place, and get to work.”