Lead paint. Leaky roofs. Broken elevators. Plenty of mold, not enough heat, and too many rats, mice and roaches. Hundreds of thousands of complaints. And then, a systematic effort to lie about it and cover it all up.
In 80 pages of horrifying detail, a federal complaint Monday demonstrated just how the New York City Housing Authority endangered its nearly 400,000 residents, providing housing that was not decent, safe or sanitary — the basic requirements outlined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
And, making matters so much worse, the complaint found that NYCHA managers and staff undertook shocking steps to prevent inspectors from discovering the horror. They shut off the water so no one would find leaks. They put tape on pipes so no one could detect holes. They built false walls to hide decrepit conditions.
This is how fellow New Yorkers have been living.
It’s worse than ever imagined and it must end.
The problems at NYCHA stem from decades of mismanagement and disinvestment, from a deep-seated toxic culture that emphasized passing inspection at all costs. Meanwhile, scores of elected officials looked the other way.
Mayor Bill de Blasio took a first step Monday by agreeing to a consent decree with the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. In doing so, NYCHA submits to a federal monitor and the city commits to provide NYCHA with $1 billion over four years, and $200 million a year after that.
But that’s a start. To rid NYCHA of the rot will require changes in staffing, union work rules, use of resources and handling of complaints. The state can help with design-build, which could allow improvements to be made more quickly, and by providing the funding it has promised.
NYC leaders must take responsibility for NYCHA’s disgraceful state. And de Blasio, who was public advocate for four years and is on his second term as mayor, can’t blame others. He must take the lead to turn things around.
Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are depending on him to stop talking about inequality and to do more.