EDITORIAL – NYCHA’s backtracking

We are disappointed in the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). What began as a twice monthly pow-wow with tenants has been cut to once a month. For so many years, tenants at the Red Hook Houses have been underserved by their landlord. Hurricane Sandy revealed to the world NYCHA’s shortcomings. Sandy brought together a group of tenants who went to NYCHA headquarters demanding accountability. NYCHA’s initial response was hopeful. They responded to a set of questions put to them, and instituted these meetings at the Miccio Center.

We believed that as bad as the hurricane was, institutional change would become a positive legacy. We now fear that NYCHA’s dedication to “a new era” – Brian Honan’s words –  of landlord tenant relations might be only window dressing. Cutting the meetings is a show of bad faith.

NYCHA is acting as if all the problems at the Houses are fixed by an announcement of an accelerated repair schedule. Fixed by a vague and shifting timeline of boiler replacements. Fixed because of an erroneous perception of diminishing turnouts at their meetings.

According to a recent NYCHA press release, there is a backlog of 420,000 outstanding work orders. Red Hook Houses alone has a backlog of 20,000. Yet at the last meeting, Honan said that this problem would be fixed by the end of the year. This was largely based on the fact that they have lately been starting to catch up a bit.

Holding regularly scheduled meetings to address tenant problems is a first step at showing respect to the housing population. It provides a forum for both sides to get to know each other, even if nothing concrete happens at first. It is the beginning of a process to restore NYCHA’s credibility with its tenants. This loss dates back long before Sandy. NYCHA admits that it has taken up to two years to repair apartments. At times repairs don’t get made at all.

Imagine living in an apartment with water leaking from the bathroom ceiling. A superintendent in a private building would make sure it was fixed immediately. Public housing tenants have been forced to live with leaky bathrooms for years.

Accountability is what has always been needed. NYCHA’s accountability. These meetings are a good start. They need to be holding more of them, not less.

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