NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Shola Olatoye, the embattled head of the New York City Housing Authority, will be leaving the post at the end of April, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.
De Blasio and Olatoye made the official announcement Tuesday at the Ocean Bay Apartments in Far Rockaway, Queens.
“This is certainly a bittersweet moment,” Olatoye said. “I have taken such pride in serving the one in 14 New Yorkers that we house at NYCHA and I will depart this roll very proud of the team that I have assembled and the steps that we have taken to support our residents.”
“I want to say ‘thank you’ to Shola because it was not an easy mission and it certainly was a thankless mission,” the mayor said Tuesday. “But it was a crucial mission and 400,000 people benefitted because of the work you did.”
In a statement, de Blasio said under Olatoye’s leadership, NYCHA was “pulled back from the brink of bankruptcy” and said crime in public housing was down seven percent in 2017 and the average wait times for repairs has gone from 13 to 4.3 days.
Tenant leaders who live in dilapidated conditions across the city say the mayor is in denial.
“What they need to do is to come and see how the real people are living,” Douglas Houses President Carmen Quinones said. “We have busted pipes every day.”
Olatoye has served as the chair of NYCHA for the last four years. The mayor said Stan Brezenoff, a veteran city official who has previously led the city’s pubic housing system and board of correction, will serve as interim chair.
De Blasio and Olatoye began the morning by touring the housing project, which last year received more than half a billion dollars in federal, state, city and private funding.
A private company, Wavecrest Management, has helped oversee the renovations, which NYCHA leaders count among other accomplishments.
Resident Asia Smith took CBS2 into her apartment.
“News floors, cabinets, new stove, refrigerator,” she said. “This building, of course, has been remodeled but my first who live in Harlem, it’s really disgusting.”
Smith is among many tenants ready for change. There have been months of complaints from tenants, public shaming and CBS2’s own exclusive whistleblower investigation uncovering what some of NYCA’s own employees described as mismanagement in handling repairs.
CBS2 reported this past January, NYCHA finished the month with more than 150,000 open work orders for issues reported by tenants.
“Infestations, repairs not being done,” said NYCHA resident Jamie McGhaney. “It’s a good time so someone else can step in who has the experience to get NYCHA back on track.”
“No heat, no hot water,” said NYCHA resident Kobe Bilbo.
“Babies living in mold, roach infested apartments, rats and mice apartments and it’s not being fixed,” said Smith. “It’s something really wrong with that.”
De Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have been publicly battling over leadership of the agency.
“It is the incompetence of NYCHA and until you fix that, you accomplish nothing,” Cuomo said in March.
“I know the interest in NYCHA is a few months old, but the problem goes back decades,” the mayor said.
State officials are planning to have an external monitor put in place and federal officials are considering the same. Meanwhile, de Blasio says he will conduct a nationwide search for a new NYCHA chair, even though he says there is a thoroughly bitter environment surrounding the state of public housing in the city.