New monitor is NYCHA’s best hope

The New York City Housing Authority's (NYCHA) Bernard Baruch Houses in Manhattan's Lower East Side on Dec. 14, 2018.
The New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Bernard Baruch Houses in Manhattan’s Lower East Side on Dec. 14, 2018. Photo Credit: SOMOS Community Care

What will it take to make the New York City Housing Authority livable again?

On Friday, residents learned the identity of the federal monitor slated to be chosen because of NYCHA’s lead, mold, mismanagement and other woes. Bart Schwartz, head of a security and investigations firm and a former top prosecutor in the office of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, has the chance to play a key part in NYCHA’s road to redemption.

The monitor will have power to shake up the authority’s management and workforce structures through a top-to-bottom review laid out in the agreement.

It’s clear that NYCHA needs a wise and skeptical eye to squeeze out the incompetence, inefficiency and possibly even fraud that helped allow a once-premier experiment in affordable housing to fall into such decay.

The other part of what NYCHA needs is more funding from the federal government. For decades, Washington has reduced funding to NYCHA, showing a profound and dangerous lack of interest in public housing agencies around the country. NYCHA faces capital needs of tens of billions of dollars.

The January agreement creating a monitor mandated goals and requirements for NYCHA and sent a bill for more than $2 billion to the city. Yet the federal government, with a much bigger purse, didn’t open the strings.

More efficient operations at NYCHA are essential, but without significant new revenues, the monitor and NYCHA will still play patchwork catch-up with crumbling old buildings.

Sen. Chuck Schumer called on Sunday for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to add $1.2 billion in funding for large public housing authorities. Will President Donald Trump actually cough up? In total, NYCHA needs to find a way to raise much more than that.

The time for real investment and careful oversight is now. That’s because Trump’s preliminary budget is expected within weeks, and also because NYCHA’s need is so great.

Residents are waiting.