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Cuomo using public housing tenants as 'political football,' de Blasio says

De Blasio accused the governor of hurting residents by withholding $250 million in promised housing rehabilitation funding.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announces

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announces that roofs have been completely replaced at 65 New York City Housing Authority buildings during a rooftop press conference at the Queensbridge Houses in Queens, April 5, 2018. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Mayor Bill de Blasio accused Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Thursday of treating the 400,000 tenants of New York City’s public housing as a “political football” and swooping into the projects only to “suddenly act like the great white knight.”

Atop the Queensbridge projects in Long Island City — at a news conference nominally convened to announce 65 New York City Housing Authority roof replacements in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx — de Blasio devoted much of his 54- minute housing event to assailing Cuomo.

The mayor criticized the governor for repeatedly withholding about $250 million in promised funds for housing rehab; his “negative stereotyping of public housing, which I am personally sick of,” and his recent tours of developments beset by mold, lead paint, failing heat and more.

“Let’s just stop foolin’ around,” de Blasio said, adding of Cuomo: “He hadn’t been to a NYCHA development for five years previous to his recent tour. Let’s be real.”

Cuomo has visited the city projects at least four times in recent weeks to criticize de Blasio for his public housing stewardship. On Twitter later Thursday, Cuomo’s top aide Melissa DeRosa pointed to the governor’s 2016 trip to the Dyckman Houses in Washington Heights — an event, according to a news release at the time about the importance of breast cancer screenings.

De Blasio Thursday renewed criticism of Cuomo for not disbursing the $250 million, allocated in the 2015 and 2017 state budgets. The mayor said the lack of state funding has stymied needed improvements to long-dilapidated projects. Cuomo has countered that giving de Blasio’s housing projects money “is like throwing it out the window.”

The mayor’s team has failed to spend other money fast enough, Cuomo has said, and the city has made mistakes in requisitioning the funds. De Blasio has denied those claims.

NYCHA, long starved of resources at all levels of government, has had a particularly troubling past few months. Late last year the authority’s chairwoman was found to have falsely certified to the federal government that lead paint inspections had been completed. Another disclosure revealed that 80 percent of tenants lost heat or hot water this past heating season.

Cuomo, whose 2018 state budget devotes $250 million more for public housing repairs, cited NYCHA’s failings in signing an executive order mandating an outside monitor control spending. De Blasio Thursday called the order “convoluted.”

“Maybe there’s something in that that can help us,“ de Blasio said. “But maybe there’s something in that that’s going to slow things down because often time when you add another layer of bureaucracy, it just makes things worse.”

De Blasio said he’s done more for public housing than any mayor in recent memory, including $2.1 billion more in capital money, as well as $1.6 billion for expenses.

On the project roof Thursday, de Blasio was feted by tenant leader April Simpson, who recalled being 7 or 8 years old at Queensbridge decades ago and meeting another tall mayor — John V. Lindsay, 6-foot-4, who also had a toxic relationship with a governor, Nelson Rockefeller.

After Lindsay lifted the girl up, Simpson recalled, “I threw up on his shoes.”

Said Simpson Thursday, of the nearly 6-foot-6 de Blasio: “I don’t think this mayor’s going to pick me up — he’s picking me up in other ways — in the ways that he’s implementing positive changes”: new lights, wifi, roofs.


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