The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) received new leadership Thursday as Mayor Eric Adams appointed two government veterans with disaster response experience to the embattled agency’s highest positions.
Jamie Rubin, former head of the state Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, was tapped as NYCHA’s new chairperson, while Lisa Bova-Hiatt — who had been serving as interim NYCHA CEO — was established as permanent CEO of the agency.
Together, Rubin and Bova-Hiatt — also an alum of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery — are tasked with turning around the agency responsible for operating New York City’s aging public housing system, which has been beset with an array of infrastructure crises in recent years regarding everything from heating system breakdowns in the middle of winter, to lead paint coverups, to an arsenic contamination scare last summer.
The dual appointments were the culmination of a national search for new NYCHA leadership which Mayor Adams launched last year in conjunction with the federal government. The search came following the arsenic scare, which occurred at the Jacob Riis Houses in Manhattan.
Rubin replaces Greg Russ, who stepped down as CEO last September but remained on as NYCHA chair.
“We have been clear since day one that NYCHA residents deserve the same quality of life as every New Yorker, and this administration has embraced the responsibility and the opportunity to deliver that,” said Mayor Adams. “Lisa Bova-Hiatt has proven that she has what it takes to run this city-within-a-city, and Jamie Rubin brings the wide-ranging experience and critical skills to guide NYCHA’s rejuvenation.”
Rubin comes to NYCHA more than a decade after playing a major role in helping New York recover from the damage that Superstorm Sandy wrought in October 2012. He led President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Recovery and Rebuilding Task Force, working to coordinate billions of dollars in relief to help storm-damaged areas of the city and the northeast U.S. rebuild with greater resiliency.
“It’s an honor to serve as the chair of NYCHA’s board and to step into this role at such a pivotal time for the Authority,” said Rubin. “Mayor Adams has made it clear that he is committed to making public housing the centerpiece of his housing plans. Lisa Bova-Hiatt and her team have made tremendous progress already, and I am looking forward to working with her and the entire NYCHA community.”
Since taking over as interim CEO last year, Bova-Hiatt has overseen numerous projects to improve NYCHA’s infrastructure — including heating upgrades at more than a dozen complexes to restore gas service ahead of Thanksgiving, repairing elevators and expanding high-speed internet service. She has also signed off on a number of public-private initiatives to repair NYCHA dwellings and keep homes affordable under the PACT (Permanent Affordable Commitment Together) initiative with private developers.
NYCHA also signed off on, during Bova-Hiatt’s first year on the job, a resident-approved, $1.5 billion plan to completely rebuild the Elliot-Chelsea and Fulton Houses.
“Every day, I am honored to serve in this capacity and to have the opportunity to lead the Authority’s efforts to maintain and preserve public housing for the hundreds of thousands of residents living in NYCHA developments across the five boroughs,” said NYCHA CEO Bova-Hiatt. “As a lifelong New Yorker and a career public servant, I understand the importance of affordable housing in New York City — and I remain committed to maintaining the momentum of NYCHA’s continued transformation.”
In addition to the changing of the guard, Mayor Adams also announced two new appointments to the NYCHA board of directors: First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright and financial professional Greg Belinfanti. He also named Pamela Campbell to the Public Housing Preservation Trust, the state-created agency which aims to keep public housing affordable while also permitting bond-issuing to fund NYCHA improvements.
The appointments come ahead of the NYCHA board’s first meeting, which takes place on July 7.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a staunch NYCHA critic who has often referred to the agency as the city’s “worst landlord,” struck a cooperative tone Thursday in congratulating Rubin and Bova-Hiatt on their new roles.
“Nearly half a million New Yorkers have the city as their landlord, and as I have shown on each of my watchlists and in my 2022 report, their landlord is the worst in the city. Changing that reality will require major infusions of funding and major improvements in management, or the same patterns that have plagued NYCHA for decades will persist,” Williams said in his July 6 statement. “For the sake of New Yorkers in NYCHA complexes across the five boroughs, I wish the CEO and chair good luck in this new era, and hope to hear more about their specific priorities and areas of focus moving forward.”