After City Council member Rosie Mendez spent Tuesday afternoon defending the New York City Housing Authority from recent negative press, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez is calling for the release of a report that could bring more critical scrutiny to the authority.
In a letter she sent to NYCHA Chairman John Rhea this morning and then circulated to press, Velazquez requested that a report by the Boston Consulting Group on NYCHA operations be made public. The authority commissioned the report at a cost of $10 million, with the stated intention of using the findings to make better use of its limited funding. Velazquez, who represents much of the Lower East Side and Chinatown, asserted that the report could help inform city and even national housing policy, but is being withheld from public view because of embarrassing information it contains about NYCHA’s financial mismanagement.
As usual, funding and its use are at the heart of the controversy that has recently dogged NYCHA. A string of reports in the Daily News have faulted the authority for failing to spend more than $1 billion in federal funding for building repairs and delaying the installation of security cameras in NYCHA facilities, a $42 million dollar project. Mendez, who represents sections of the neighborhood above East Houston Street and chairs the City Council Public Housing Committee, called a press conference Tuesday. She praised the progress made under Rhea’s leadership. While problems persist, she maintained, “one-sided” news coverage could jeopardize NYCHA’s public funding, which already falls well short of the authority’s operating budget.
But in her letter, Velazquez took the opposite tact, claiming that more transparency was needed. By refusing to release the Boston Consulting Group report, she charged, NYCHA is actually jeopardizing federal dollars. “Such obstructionism will only lead to further Congressional scrutiny of public housing expenditures and ultimately reduced federal support,” she wrote. She added that taxpayers deserve to know about NYCHA’s handling of their money.
The authority has thus far refused to release the report, citing a confidentiality agreement in its contract with BCG. On Monday, however, Mayor Bloomberg said he would release the report in light of recent criticism about public housing, but only when it was ready. Velazquez, however, said the report was completed in April, according to the terms of BCG’s contract.
Velazquez extolled the report’s potential value to the public. “There is no doubt this costly, yet thorough, report contains recommendations that cast NYCHA in a negative light,” she stated. “However, embarrassment and potential criticism are not valid reasons for keeping the findings secret.” She claimed the report could even serve to establish a national model for public housing. NYCHA has said that the report could produce strategic changes worth as much as $50 million in savings.
“In reviewing the operations of the nation’s largest housing authority, the BCG report has the potential to not only help NYCHA become more efficient, but also assist smaller housing authorities,” Velazquez wrote.