September 16, 2013
By Neal Tepel
New York, NY – While recent news reports have brought attention to thousands of needed repairs gone unaddressed in New York City's public Housing Authority (NYCHA), the other story is the poorly managed NYCHA Capital Projects. At each of the 14 companies which have been "pre-qualified" to do major physical upgrade work for NYCHA, employees earn as much or more than workers employed by the City of New York who do the same jobs.
An audit by the City Comptroller released just last year found that the bulk of these projects are inadequately supervised, allowing consultants with an incentive to hike their salaries, go over budget, and gain even more profits at the expense of taxpayers. Millions of dollars are poorly spent on consultants and the outsourcing of various administrative functions.
The mismanagement of funds within NYCHA’s Capital Projects Division takes millions away from addressing much needed repairs. NYCHA staffing has been cut by more than 25% over the last ten years. At the same time, cuts in federal funding by HUD have been going on for 30 years. Sequestration has also had a further devastating effect on building maintenance. It's more important than ever that funds be managed properly.
"Local 375 played a major role in bringing the excessive overbilling at CityTime to light," said President Claude Fort of Local 375. "Now we are doing the same with The NYCHA consultants." Claude pointed to a recent audit by City Comptroller John Liu released in March of last year. Liu said that NYCHA's internal software system, "Primavera" "did not provide accurate and complete information," and that the minutes of meetings with consultants were routinely missing. The report conclusions were ignored by the Bloomberg Administration and NYCHA Management.
A letter sent in March of this year by House Rep. Tom Coburn to Cabinet Secretary of HUD Shaun Donovan (who used to be a top housing official in New York City) pointed to a recent expose in the Daily News of years going by without needed repairs having been made in thousands of cases. Coburn slammed NYCHA for mismanagement, including the well-popularized case of $42 million for security cameras going unspent. Yet Coburn overlooked the greatest problem at NYCHA — the collaboration and collusion between NYCHA officials and consultant firms to pocket exorbitant profits.
Local 375 Secretary-Treasurer Mitch Feder, a NYCHA employee said that "NYCHA's over ten-year experiment with Construction Management (CM) firms has shown they produce no savings over doing the work in-house — on the contrary, the CM's cost much more."