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$2B Housing Settlement Reached with NYCHA

Monday, June 18, 2018

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The New York City Housing Authority settled with federal prosecutors last week after a civil complaint was filed arguing that the agency exposed its residents to lead-poisoning risks and lied for years about conducting proper testing.

The Settlement

In the settlement, NYCHA admitted to the accusations and agreed to increased federal oversight. City officials also agreed to provide $1 billion in capital funding over the next four years and an additional $200 million each year following until a judge clears the city of its commitment to the settlement.

"The problems at NYCHA reflect management dysfunction and organizational failure, including a culture where spin is often rewarded and accountability often does not exist," federal prosecutors said in the complaint.

The monitor will be chosen by the federal government and approved in court. In addition to overseeing the agency, New York City Patch reports that the monitor is also to convene a Community Advisory Committee at least twice per year. That committee will be made up of NYCHA residents, employees and stakeholders.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that in addition to the agreement, the city plans to investigate the allegations further and that any employee found to have acted inappropriately will face “severe consequences.”

He also said that the agreement is a step to fixing the public-housing system in the city.

"By further acknowledging and providing solutions to a decades-old pattern of mismanagement, divestment and neglect, I am confident this settlement will be a turning point for our public-housing system," de Blasio said in a statement.

"By enshrining in City government my administration's absolute commitment to never turning a blind eye to those in need, this agreement takes a dramatic step to fulfilling our obligation to more than 400,000 New Yorkers who call NYCHA home."

Lead Cases

The documents detail cases of 19 children who contracted lead poisoning after being exposed to lead paint in NYCHA apartments between 2010 and 2016, and come after a Department of Investigation report last year that showed NYCHA officials neglecting lead testing for more than four years and lying to the federal government.

That report (stemming from an investigation that began in 2016) claimed that then-Chairwoman Shola Olatoye knew that agency inspectors were not performing required checks for lead paint and signed off on paperwork that said those checks were completed.

The eight-page report said that the city stopped conducting annual inspections of apartments for general conditions in 2012, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development relaxed those mandates. However, it was in the course of those checks that the authority had looked for lead paint, and the federal government did not end its requirement for annual inspection of apartments where lead paint was possible.

Where the city failed, then, was in instituting a new plan for inspecting for lead apart from the general inspections that were no longer required.

According to The New York Times, about 55,000 apartments fall under possibility for lead and the mandate for annual inspections—within those apartments are roughly 4,200 children under the age of 6, who are the most vulnerable to lead poisoning.

Even though the city had not met the yearly lead inspection requirements each year after 2012, it had filed paperwork saying it had.

It was these findings that were turned over to federal prosecutors, leading to the civil suit last week and subsequent settlement. Olatoye has since resigned as Chairwoman, and the government’s pick for monitor has yet to be announced.

“NYCHA’s failure to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing is simply unacceptable, and illegal,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.

“Children must be protected from toxic lead paint, apartments must be free of mold and pest infestations, and developments must provide adequate heat in winter and elevator service. NYCHA has put its residents at risk. Today’s unprecedented settlement will improve life for the 400,000 residents who call NYCHA home, while ensuring accountability, reform, and oversight at this troubled institution.The City’s commitment of resources to NYCHA is extraordinary and promises real relief for NYCHA residents.”

   

Tagged categories: Housing; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; Lead

Comment from Monica Chauviere, (6/18/2018, 11:06 AM)

So sad that the "fine" being levied is actually hurting the people that all this was supposed to protect. The individuals who perpetrated this scheme are not being held accountable and the citizens are the ones holding the empty money bag.


Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (6/21/2018, 10:11 AM)

Monica - the "fine" is the City being forced to put more money from their general funds into the housing authority for capital improvements (presumably renovations and new apartments) - it's not being paid to the Feds. The article could be clearer about this.


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