NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A federal monitor issued a damning report on the state of New York City’s public housing system.
The report says the city has not kept promises to fix a vast array of problems, from getting rid of rats and mold to lead paint abatement.
It’s so bleak, it’s hard to say what’s most upsetting – the broken promises, broken equipment, or just plain management stupidity, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reports.
Video showing a large pipe cascading putrid liquid onto the floor of a Harlem housing project laundry room tells you everything you need to know about the sorry state of affairs at the New York City Housing Authority. A lone worker with a mop cleaned up the vile mess every day for two months because, according to the report by NYCHA federal monitor Bart Schwartz, a superintendent said it was “necessary to build scaffolding to fix the leak,” and he was “awaiting an order of lumber.”
After the monitor stepped in, “all it took was a ladder,” and the leak was “fixed in three hours.”
Nickson Torres, a resident of the Washington houses, told CBS2 about a rat infestation that, according to the federal monitor, has some tenants afraid to leave home at night.
“It could be scary sometimes. Sometimes, there’s like, four, five, six of them. You’re jumping, you know, from one foot to the other foot,” Torres said.
According to a letter signed by 400 tenants, the rats climb the garbage in the compactors to reach the upper floors.
“At night when I come out … there’s a hundred of them chasing each other right here,” resident Kenneth Penn said.
He keeps a cat to eat the rats, but he also has another problem the city hasn’t dealt with — layers of peeling paint that could contain lead.
Penn says he’s been asking to have it fixed for about seven or eight years.
“I can’t bring my grandchildren over here … because of things like this,” he said.
Web Extra: Urban Affairs Expert Mark Peters Discusses NYCHA Report —
“There’s no excuse for this, especially when we know that the fix is actually pretty simple,” said CBS2’s Urban Affairs Analyst Mark Peters.
Peters knows only too well the litany of problems at NYCHA. When he was the commissioner of the city’s Department of Investigation, he discovered that NYCHA officials routinely lied about lead paint inspections, leaving vulnerable young children exposed to a toxic health hazard.
He thought things would get better. They haven’t. City Hall’s response was not what you’d expect, Kramer reports.
“There was a sense of why are we once again being confronted by problems that now we’re going to have to think about fixing,” he said.
The report says the city blew the deadline to clear the lead from some 3,000 apartments with children, and it’s likely to break a promises to get rats and other pests cleaned up by Aug. 1, as well.
NYCHA’s 108 exterminators face a backlog of 71,000 requests to exterminate a variety of vermin.
“This is a story of broken promises, this is a story of bureaucratic inertia and, ultimately, this is a story of a lack of urgency from the very top,” said Peters. “If you’re not meeting deadlines at the first quarterly report, what are things going to look like a year from now?”
Some think Mayor Bill de Blasio is too focused on his presidential campaign to fix their problems.
“He hasn’t done a thing, no. No, he hasn’t taken responsibility,” Torres said.
“The message to the mayor is this can’t be about image, this can’t be about coming up with excuses, this has to be about massive urgency to fix a dangerous problem right now,” Peters said.
Both NYCHA and the mayor declined requests for interviews. The mayor is in Washington for another campaign trip, but his press secretary told CBS2 he’s made fixing NYCHA an all-hands-on-deck priority.
You could look at this report as a “welcome to New York” for Gregory Russ, the new $400,000 man who takes over the troubled agency next month. After reading it, he’ll have to decide which nightmare problem to tackle first.