November 11, 2013
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – A powerful alliance of labor leaders and congressional representatives is spearheading a new effort to shake-up the vital, but problem-plague New York City Housing Authority [NYCHA] this week – and those leading the campaign say that employees working inside the system’s 334 developments are key to turning things around. Watch Video
“Working men and women on the front line see what is going wrong,” NYS AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said following a joint meeting held at Teamsters Local 237 headquarters between organized labor and members of New York’s Congressional Delegation on Friday. “The labor movement in this city and this state wants to be a part of the solution. If we want to consider ourselves a progressive, enlightened society, we must measure ourselves by those who have the least.”
In addition to calling for a moratorium on the sale of public lands surrounding NYCHA developments, the alliance is calling on the NYC Comptroller’s Office to conduct a forensic audit of the entire NYCHA system – in part to figure out what happened to a reported $1 billion in unused federal funding.
“We want to know why it’s been reported that $1 billion is not being spent,” Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said. “How can you be calling for privatization, contracting out, firing people, if you have $1 billion that’s not being spent?
Despite its problems, members of labor and congressional alliance maintain that New York’s public housing system – which is home to some 400,000 people and has a waiting list of 167,000 more – is a success, and should be preserved and improved.
NYCHA says that it is on track to eliminate its massive backlog of open work orders by year’s end, but critics maintain that the ill-advised move to a centralized system caused the backlog in the first place – and now needs to be reversed.
Congresswoman Grace Meng represents residents living in three NYCHA housing complexes in Queens who, over the last four years have endured ‘third world” conditions, including lack of hot water and non-functional elevators.
“There is no reason why these residents should be forced to live under these conditions where there are reports of $1 billion in federal money just sitting there,” Congresswoman Meng said.
The sequester is only making matters worse for NYCHA residents by threatening to gut $205 million from the system.
“We’re under no illusion the housing authority doesn’t need more money,” Congressman Jerrold Nadler said.
While combatting the sequester cuts, members of New York’s Congressional Delegation say that NYCHA can save money through better management practices and filling some 15,000 vacancies.
“We know that smarter decisions can be made,” Congresswoman Yvette Clarke said.
According to Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd, about a third of the union’s membership actually lives in NYCHA developments. Local 237 has already issued its own action plan designed to fix what’s wrong with NYCHA.
“How long do you go down the wrong road before you come back,” Floyd said.
A spokesperson for NYCHA called the criticism unfounded and said the agency has undergone several audits, and stands by its financial management.
A noon rally calling for an end to NYCHA outsourcing and alleged mismanagement is scheduled for November 14, at 250 Broadway.