NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The new chair of the city’s troubled public housing system, Gregory Russ, admits he’s praying for a few miracles.
He says fixing the lead, mold, decay and many other problems is “doable,” even if it will take some time, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Wednesday.
It says a lot about Russ, the $402,000 man hired by Mayor Bill de Blasio to save NYCHA, that in his Minneapolis office he gets inspiration from Spider-Man and the Beatles, the song “Hey Jude,” which in an exclusive interview he said is about survival.
When asked if that means he’s going to take this as inspiration for surviving in New York City, Russ said, “Yes, ma’am. They give me a good energy and that helps me with the job.”
Russ is going need all the help and inspiration he can get as he tackles what to many are insurmountable problems — a lead paint crisis, rats, boilers that quit on a regular basis and on and on and on.
Not to mention the sheer size — he’s moving from running Minneapolis public housing, consisting of 6,259 units, to New York City with its more than 175,000 units.
“I’m aware of the task and its degree. I don’t want to give people the impression I’m not. I understand the size, but I’m excited because I believe its doable,” Russ said.
In addition to fixing things, Russ will have to find the money to do it. Some say it will require more than $30 billion.
“Maybe there’s a miracle in our future and someone’s going to put a lot of money into public housing and we’d love it,” Russ said.
Russ is also entering a heated political environment, where many are upset by the fact that he intends to go back to Minneapolis on weekends to spend time with his family.
“Reducing the chairmanship of NYCHA to a part-time gig trivializes the seriousness of the humanitarian crisis in public housing,” City Councilman Ritchie Torres said.
“If he’s working in New York City and he’s getting paid, why won’t he stay in New York City,” tenant Francisco Pena said.
“He needs to be here, constantly, coming to the apartments. No part time. Full time,” another tenant said.
Kramer asked Russ about his planned weekend jaunts back home, saying a lot of problems in NYCHA buildings happen on weekends.
“There’s a whole set of operational folks, with the general manager, who are there to respond to those kind of emergencies and it’s not inconceivable, depending on what’s going on, that I would come back,” Russ said.
Mayor de Blasio had no public schedule Wednesday. He is expected to have a public event Thursday and take questions about his decision to hire a weekday warrior to head NYCHA.