A new chance for NYCHA residents to be heard — and heeded

Exposed and faulty wiring photographed at New York City Housing Authority's  Albany Houses in Crown Heights  on March 28.
Exposed and faulty wiring photographed at New York City Housing Authority’s Albany Houses in Crown Heights on March 28. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Mold. Lack of heat and hot water. Threat of lead poisoning.

These are just a few of the miseries New York City Housing Authority residents have endured for years. Those residents deserve help.

That’s the promise of an executive order signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday that declared a public housing “disaster” in NYC and established an independent emergency manager to make repairs and fix “nuisance” conditions.

The new manager is supposed to be chosen by Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and the president of the NYCHA Citywide Council of Presidents, a residents group. The manager would have wide authority to oversee repairs and utilize state and city funding, including $250 million in new state investment. Smartly, the manager is supposed to be empowered to cut through different kinds of red tape to speed the work.

It remains to be seen how de Blasio will share authority with the other stakeholders, or even whether this arrangement is entirely legal. State officials say there is precedent for this kind of move. (NYCHA receives most of its funding from the federal government.)

But one clear positive step is that the order gives NYCHA residents a more direct seat at the table. More than 320,000 residents lost heat or hot water this heating season. Residents endured a lead-paint scandal in which years of lead tests were improperly skipped. They are the ones affected; they should call more of the shots.

The Council of Presidents must follow through on that promise and elevate real concerns from more residents.

Still, there should be little disagreement on which projects the manager should tackle first: De Blasio’s administration has released a list, including a 54-year-old heating plant. That’s a good start, and now there must be follow-through. The residents might be uniquely suited to use their new authority to keep the manager’s and public’s attention focused on repairs. They’ve long tried to explain NYCHA’s problems.

They should be shunted aside no longer.