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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

Lynne Patton’s big NYCHA move

Trump housing appointee has yet to hold to promised public-housing sleepover

Trump housing appointee has yet to hold to

Trump housing appointee has yet to hold to promised public-housing sleepover Photo Credit: Getty Images / Alex Wong

The effect of the federal government’s shutdown has finally hit home in NYC. This week, Trump administration official Lynne Patton said she had to postpone her plan to move into a NYCHA apartment.

Patton is the New York and New Jersey regional administrator of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She previously worked for the Trump family and has loyally sparred with Omarosa Manigault Newman, no longer a friend of the fam. Patton’s new job includes oversight of the 400,000-plus residents who live in New York City’s public housing.

Conditions in those apartments are reminiscent of “the biblical plagues of Egypt,” to quote a federal judge (more on that later). So, to learn more about life in NYCHA, Patton vowed to walk a mile in residents’ lack of heat, so to speak.

Here’s how Patton described the plan to The Washington Post in November. The idea had been “conjured up . . . while sitting in her Trump Plaza apartment watching a movie (‘Crazy Rich Asians’) with her boyfriend and her Shih Tzu, Winston (after Winston Churchill.) A New York Post headline on the plight of public housing residents blared from her coffee table.”

Then: “‘It hit me like a ton of bricks that this is no longer okay,’ Patton said.” Maybe the exercise in extremes became apparent.

The NYCHA sleepover is not a new idea — see the five mayoral candidates who trooped into the Lincoln Houses in Manhattan in 2013 and trooped out shaking their heads and saying things like, “If this were a condo building just blocks away from here, it would have been fixed in days.” (That was Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has had well-documented failures with NYCHA while in office despite that enlightening evening six years ago.)

But there is a commendable captain-goes-down-with-ship mentality to the HUD administrator living in her buildings. And anything that brings attention to NYCHA’s plight seems worth trying.

So, since Patton’s announcement, city reporters have been eagerly on the lookout for an actual move-in truck.

We’re still waiting. Patton tweeted earlier this week that she couldn’t honor a January move-in date as planned due to DC’s dysfunction.

“The Anti-Deficiency Act (31 USC 1341) prohibits federal officials from performing certain duties. The move-in is considered acting in my official capacity,” she wrote.

An email to a HUD spokeswoman for more details elicited the usual shutdown out-of-office boilerplate, and an answering machine warned that “most HUD programs have been temporarily interrupted” and “most HUD employees cannot work.”

As the shutdown wore on, though, Patton was still tweeting — shooting out “daily illegal crime victim posts” and retweeting reliable conservative criticism of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from her personal account.

On her HUD account, she was buttering up expert NYCHA reporter Greg B. Smith who just moved from the Daily News to The City, a new journalism outfit.

Smith’s reporting on NYCHA was cited in Judge William H. Pauley’s landmark rejection of a consent decree for NYCHA last year. Pauley’s the judge who artfully and accurately noted that it’s getting biblical in public housing here.

That statement came after the federal government sued NYCHA in 2018 for horrid management and outright fraud that resulted in exposure to lead, mold, rats, freezing conditions, you name it, all in the middle of the financial capital of the world.

Pauley wanted a clearer path forward than the federal government and the city had agreed to, and so the powers that govern NYCHA are still trying to work out a compromise.

The negotiations are ongoing despite the shutdown, according to Patton’s Twitter, the best available source of information as offices are closed. Unlike Patton’s move-in, the negotiations are apparently an “excepted” activity and the search for a deal continues.

NYCHA residents are still waiting for that, too.

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