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Velazquez Urges Mayor to Pressure Republican Friends on NYCHA Funding

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Michael Bloomberg stops to talk with rep. Nydia Velazquez, City Council member Margaret Chin Friday.
Michael Bloomberg stops to talk with rep. Nydia Velazquez, City Council member Margaret Chin Friday.

Last Friday, local elected officials held a news conference outside City Hall, calling on the New York City Housing Authority to take “tenant input” more seriously as it rushes forward with a plan to build market-rate apartments on public housing property.  These types of events aren’t normally very newsworthy, but this one turned out to be pretty interesting.

Before the speeches even began, Mayor Bloomberg exchanged words with two local lawmakers, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and City Council member Margaret Chin. The mayor, who just happened to be arriving at his office as the officials were gathering, walked over to offer his own opinion about the NYCHA property plan.

According to Chin and Velazquez, he said the money-raising scheme is unavoidable since the federal and state governments have drastically  cut funding for public housing.  As Bloomberg continued walking, Chin said, she asked whether he could help influence members of Congress to increase funding.  There was no response.  Once the news conference began, Velazquez went a step further, suggesting that the mayor should stop donating to the campaigns of Republican lawmakers who have repeatedly blocked President Obama’s budget priorities, including more generous NYCHA subsidies.  In the last election cycle, Bloomberg’s “super-PAC” contributed nearly $10 million to candidates across the political spectrum.

The city, state and federal office-holders, who stood alongside tenant leaders Friday,  said they understood NYCHA’s need to raise money for repairs and other capital improvements.  But they accused the housing agency of simply going through the motions to meet federal requirements mandating community engagement.  “So far it has not been a meaningful process, ” Chin said. “I don’t want to just be a name you cross off on your checklist.”   Velazquez agreed, adding that she believes NYCHA is “undervaluing its property.”  She called on the authority to undergo an independent audit to determine how much NYCHA’s development sites are really worth.  Housing officials have estimated the leasing plan would generate around $50 million per year.

city council nycha newser 3
Leila Santiago, in the green sweater, standing next to Council member Chin.

But as lawmakers delivered their remarks, an invited guest,  Leila Santiago of the Meltzer senior housing building on East 1st Street, interupted, saying “we disagree… we don’t want the plan and I’m the tenant!”  For the next several minutes, Council member Rosie Mendez, Velazquez and Chin all tried to speak with her individually.   Santiago told us she’s had two hip operations and fears losing a seating area that NYCHA plans to eliminate as part of the development proposal at Meltzer Towers.  Before the news conference wrapped up, she got her chance at the podium, and did not miss an opportunity to point a finger at Mayor Bloomberg, who she claimed is the “real instigator” of the NYCHA plan.

Later, the Council members convened an oversight hearing of the housing committee, grilling NYCHA Chairman John Rhea about many of their concerns.  During the questioning, Housing Committee Chair Mendez asked the housing authority to commit to a full land use process, including a formal environmental review, before developers are selected at each NYCHA site.  Rhea rejected the idea, saying “the city’s own rules don’t require it.”  Council member Chin argued that the agency has an obligation to undergo a rigorous public process because the properties are “publicly owned.”  Rhea also rejected this assertion, saying NYCHA land is actually held by a “public benefit corporation.”

The housing authority plans to release a request for proposals laste this month.


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  1. Bloomberg is such an unbelievable elitist! He cares nothing about NYCHA tenants. He is simply unable to relate to other peoples’ concerns. Remember how brutally cold and unfeeling he was to the many suffering New Yorkers during and after Hurricane Sandy. And now, he surely has sold out the countless thousands of NYCHA tenants to the greedy desires of developers. First, they’ll build their luxury housing in the open spaces; then they’ll push the politicians to close down the housing projects, period! Outrageous! May the protests continue!!

  2. Ms.Santiago is absolutely right, bloomberg is the main instigator, Rhea is his henchmen sent to do his dirty work and hopefully parlay that into a lucrative position in real estate after this pit stop as a civil servant, Rhea’s responses are disgusting he could care less about what will happen to people as long as he seals the deal

  3. What hell is a public benefit corporation?! Can I buy shares and vote on the board? What a load of crap!!

  4. Welcome to the world public school parents have been living in these past 12 long years!

    Brought to you through the autocratic governance structure of Mayoral control of our schools, this is what the privatization of public goods, services and spaces looks like:

    manufactured crisis, solution can only be provided by privatizing, which enriches the privatizers and removes resources from our neediest citizens.

    The public, including those directly affected by the forgone conclusions, are “informed” or ” allowed to give input” in the most cursory fashion such that there is no listening or information or input of any kind.
    We are all just names on a list and boxes to be checked off as the steamroller of neo-liberal “progress” flattens every public aspect of our lives!

    Bloomberg and his cronies have had 12 years of practice, via school closings and “co locations,” privatizing education through charter schools ( publicly funded but privately managed w/ little regulation and less oversight) and other corporate interests.

    If education is the model, then scandal, corruption, the rich get richer, leaving less for those with the least, is the way this story is likely to end!

  5. It IS interesting that Philadelphia’s schools were privatized with the help of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). BCG was the same company that was paid 10 million by NYCHA to do a “study” of NYCHA. NYCHA withheld the plan until media pressure forced it to be released (though nothing in the released plan pointed to this scheme). and.. Rhea used to work for BCG. If nothing else, there is an appearance of a hidden agenda and cronyism which should make everyone uneasy.

    These issues need to be openly addressed (possibly officially investigated) to remove public doubts before anything moves forward. I’ve asked HUD experts look at the website – they all agree it says virtual nothing.

    If NYCHA struggles so with management why would they be any better at running this enormous complex project? Would any funds generated be enough to solve the crisis? Is the asking price for this leased land enough? What happens after 99 years? What is the cost in real terms of added infrastructure costs to the city required to build these things?

    And last, if you put someone in role of management of public facilities who gives the appearance of incompetence, are you “building a case” for privatization? So many questions…so little actual transparency.

  6. Margret chin the sellout is the one approving all this, she has the power to not sign. But again she chooses money over people any day!

  7. Council members have no authority on this. NY State Public
    Benefit Corporations and Authorities (PA) operate like quasi-private
    corporations. NYCHA has a Board essentially controlled by the Mayor.
    The use of PA’s here was pioneered by Robert Moses and allowed him to get around legal restrictions required of state agencies. It helped him expedite development -but also gave him room to hide “project financing, contracting and operational information from public scrutiny” thus opening the door to wasteful spending, patronage, and ignoring public opposition to his projects.

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