NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The NYCHA shakeup is going full steam ahead.
New York City’s sanitation commissioner is taking on a major new role.
Kathryn Garcia will work with the federal government to overhaul the city’s public housing system.
It’s a face that’s familiar to many NYCHA residents, but Garcia’s new appointment as interim NYCHA chair isn’t exactly reassuring to some people who know New York City’s public housing system well.
“After the last experience with the storm that came through, they weren’t prepared. I don’t know how good she’ll be,” said former NYCHA tenant Mario Silva.
Other NYCHA tenants say they have their doubts because of subpar living conditions, including garbage pileups at some NYCHA complexes, and say sanitation is to blame.
“If she can’t do that, I’m not sure what else she’ll be able to do,” said NYCHA tenant Ashley Vargas.
According to her bio, Garcia has only limited experience with public housing. A few months ago, de Blasio tapped her to be the city’s lead czar, leading the effort to curb childhood lead exposure. This was in addition to her role with sanitation, where she has been commissioner since 2014. Before that, she was chief operating officer at the New York City Department of Envirenmental Protection.
Garcia is expected to stay in the NYCHA role for about two months, until a permanent replacement is named. She’s taking a leave of absence from sanitation.
First Deputy Sanitation Commissioner Steven Costas will serve as acting commissioner.
Garcia takes over for Stanley Brezenoff, who had been serving as interim chair. She’ll work closely with NYCHA’s general manager, Vito Mustaciuolo.
The agency has long been criticized for mismanagement and dangerous living conditions in some of its nearly 180,000 apartments that house more than 400,000 people.
As part of the deal with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city will invest $2.5 billion in NYCHA over the next 10 years.
In a statement, Garcia said in part, “There’s been real progress – now it’s time to go farther and faster. We have a plan to renovate tens of thousands of apartments and an agreement with the federal government to improve all of our key services to residents. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and put these plans into action.”
So how do New Yorkers feel about the change in the middle of the winter season, after the November storm debacle?
“Everyone deserves a chance,” one man told Burrell.
“I don’t know if I have confidence,” said Cynthia Deleon.
NYCHA Tenant Association President Aixa Torres says Garcia’s new role could be good for the agency, as they look to start a new chapter.
“I’m will to work with her,” Torres said. “The problems that NYCHA is facing have been here for the last 20 years.”
As part of the new partnership between NYCHA and federal officials to overhaul the housing system, the city has agreed to chip in $2.2 billion to NYCHA over the next several years.
The city has two months to choose a permanent NYCHA chair.