Fed up by what he called the failures of NYCHA, Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved a plan Monday to overhaul the city public housing system with more money and new oversight.
In signing an executive order that would provide an additional $250 million for the public housing entity with an independent monitor overseeing the agency, the governor had harsh words for past NYCHA leadership and, by proxy, Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“Delivering money to NYCHA is like throwing it out the window,” Cuomo said to reporters, after addressing a group consisting of tenants and elected city officials at Johnson NYCHA Houses on Monday afternoon. De Blasio was not present.
NYCHA representatives deferred requests for comment to the mayor’s office, which said it already had a plan for the $250 million.
That funding, which is on top of an existing pool of $300 million, is for building repairs. The budget agreement also gives NYCHA the right to hire one firm to do both design and construction of projects, to help expedite repair work, and calls for the creation of an independent monitor who would oversee all construction projects.
The funding is contingent on approval of the monitor by the City Council, the mayor and NYCHA’s Citywide Council of Presidents, or CCOP.
“It is important that the money not be caught up in bureaucracy,” Cuomo said.
The governor’s executive order declared the public housing crisis an emergency, which opened up NYCHA to the added funding and the monitor.
The mayor, City Council and CCOP have 60 days to choose a monitor, who will answer to the City Comptroller Scott Stringer. Stringer and Council Speaker Corey Johnson both pledged their support for the new position.
“We believe the new monitor will ensure rules and regulations will be followed,” Stringer said.
Cuomo has toured several NYCHA buildings, including a March 22 visit to Forest Houses in the Bronx, and openly criticized NYCHA’s leadership, as well as de Blasio’s handling of the agency, in recent weeks. He continued that blunt assessment following the news conference, citing a slow track record on fixing heat issues and constant budget problems.
Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen sent a letter Monday to state budget director Robert Mujica outlining the specific projects at 63 NYCHA properties that needed the money the most. Glen also criticized the state for failing to deliver $200 million to NYCHA that was promised in the last fiscal budget.
“The clock on those repairs — $100 million for elevator replacement and $100 million to replace boilers at 10 developments — has not even begun. It is time for the state to fulfill its promises and deliver that funding,” Glen wrote.
Cuomo, however, said that funding has been delayed because the city was slow to give details on its projects and implement them in a timely manner.
For some, the additional $250 million is not nearly enough: Tenants and housing advocates on March 27 demanded at least $1 billion be earmarked in the state budget for NYCHA by delivering petitions to Cuomo’s midtown Manhattan office.