Can New York City Save Its Public Housing?

With New York City’s public housing chairwoman, Shola Olatoye, on her way out the door after months of criticism, controversy and recrimination, the focus should return to the 400,000 people who call public housing home.

This winter, more than 323,000 of them went without heat or hot water, often for days at a time, when the housing authority’s ancient boilers failed. Thousands more residents are living amid broken elevators and mold. All of them are New Yorkers, and they deserve better.

Ms. Olatoye’s departure may be satisfying to some. She had faced calls to resign since late last year, when the city’s Department of Investigation revealed that she had formally certified to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that the authority had conducted lead paint inspections, when it hadn’t done so for four years. Worse, Ms. Olatoye, along with Mayor Bill de Blasio and other senior city officials, failed for months to notify residents about the lapse in inspections. This makes Ms. Olatoye’s claim that she had informally told HUD officials of the lapse in inspections rather pointless. A lawyer for one child, Kyan Dickerson, says Kyan was exposed to lead paint for nearly a year and a half after city officials knew of the increased risk.

But the departure of Ms. Olatoye will do nothing to address the deeper, more existential problems facing the troubled agency, the bitter fruit of decades of neglect by Washington and City Hall. The housing authority needs some $25 billion for infrastructure repairs. The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan is also investigating health and safety issues at the agency. Under a settlement that is said to be imminent, according to a person familiar with the matter, the authority could agree to make upward of $1 billion in repairs. That money is likely to come from city taxpayers.

Speak Your Mind