Senate O.K.’s NYCHA $$ plan

By Albert Amateau

The state Senate on Monday passed a bill introduced by state Senator Dan Squadron making the New York City Housing Authority eligible for millions of dollars in federal funds for certain public housing projects that had previously not been allowed to receive federal funding.

Among the 21 projects directly affected by the state legislation are the Chelsea Houses Addition, 430 W. 26th St.; the project at 344 E. 28th St. at First Ave. across from Bellevue Hospital; and the Rutgers Houses, between Rutgers and Pike Sts., on the Lower East Side.

However, the bill, made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (part of the federal stimulus package), will indirectly benefit all tenants in NYCHA developments.

“Every single NYCHA resident will benefit by filling the funding gap left by the state and city,” said Squadron. “It will help fix broken elevators, avoid heat outages and address the basic maintenance problems that that public housing tenants contend with every day.”

The bill, which passed the Assembly, only awaits Governor Paterson’s signature. It received the support of state Senator Tom Duane; Vito Lopez, the Assembly Housing Committee chairperson; Carl Kruger, the Senate Finance Committee chairperson; NYCHA Chairperson John Rhea; Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and others.

Mayor Bloomberg also hailed the legislation in his Sun., Feb. 28, radio address on affordable housing.

Squadron explained that the plan would help upgrade and maintain about 20,000 apartments in 21 projects that by law received no federal funding for the past 10 years because they were built with local money.

“As a result, NYCHA has been forced to use federal funding intended for other units to subsidize these developments, contributing to NYCHA’s annual operating deficit of more than $80 million,” Squadron said.

The new bill requires NYCHA to transfer those projects through sale or lease to two nonprofit entities, making them eligible for a one-time federal funding of about $400 million under the Recovery and Reinvestment Act and an annual $75 million in federal funds in perpetuity.

But the transfer would not privatize the projects, which would remain public housing with all tenants and developments retaining current public housing protections. Moreover, all regulations for federal public housing projects would continue to apply after the sale or lease of the projects.

Duane, a sponsor of the bill, said it was actually federalization of NYCHA’s state-and-city-owned projects.

“It is a dynamic and complex solution to a serious problem,” Duane said. “It will eliminate a large portion of NYCHA’s annual budget gap and enable the authority to preserve essential programs and services.”