NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It appears the New York City Housing Authority has a road map to a better future.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson reached an agreement with Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday that will address the longstanding issues at the housing authority's 334 developments throughout the five boroughs.
"The families who have endured unimaginably poor housing conditions deserve better from their housing authority," Secretary Carson said. "Today we are presenting NYCHA residents with bold new solutions for decades-old problems."
The agreement, made under the authority of Secretary Carson and not subject to court approval, establishes specific requirements and milestones to address the serious health and safety hazards at NYCHA properties, including lead-based paint, mold, heat, vermin, among others. It will undoubtedly come as welcome news to the 400,000 residents of the 179,000 NYCHA apartments who have been demanding for years to live clean, safe and comfortable lives in public housing.
"What we have done here today creates a strong path forward, a tangible path forward," de Blasio said. "It will change and improve the lives of public housing residents. We wanted to make sure there would be results."
As part of the agreement, New York City will commit at least $2.2 billion in funding over the next 10 years to address the housing authority issues. HUD will continue to provide funding to NYCHA, estimated to be $1.5 billion this year.
"The agreement goes beyond the prior proposed consent decree by providing strict, enforceable standards that NYCHA must meet by particular deadlines for the five critical living conditions, including requiring both the immediate remediation of lead paint in apartments with children under 6 years old and, over time, 100 percent abatement of all lead paint in all NYCHA developments, as well as a change in NYCHA leadership," said Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The agreement also establishes a federal monitor selected by HUD and the SDNY with input from City Hall. The monitor will submit quarterly reports to all the agencies involved. New York City will pay for the cost of the monitor in addition to its other financial commitments. The parties expect to announce the monitor in the near future.
"The search will begin immediately," de Blasio said.
The news of there being a being a federal monitor as part of the deal did not sit well with New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
"Now they want a monitor? NYCHA already has monitors -- its residents who have suffered from decades of disinvestment. They're the parents who sought help when their child got lead poisoning. The grandmother who has to huddle near a stove when it's colder inside her apartment than outside. And the family dealing with health issues because of rampant mold in their home," Stringer said in a statement. "The time for talk and political stunts is over. Cut the long overdue check from the federal government to fully fund the needed repairs, listen to the real NYCHA monitors, put a plan in place, and get to work."
Officials said the plan meets the following key principles as required by HUD in December 2018 when Carson agreed to work with the mayor to reach an agreement to avoid receivership:
- A sustainable commitment to decent, safe and sanitary affordable housing using all tools available
- Setting specific performance targets for lead, mold, elevator, heat and vermin issues
- Robust oversight to assure remediation objectives are met
- Milestones for measuring meaningful progress toward remediation goals and other institutional improvements at NYCHA
- Reduction of unwarranted costs and elimination of bureaucratic impediments to efficient operations
- Management of the highest quality and commitment
- Local control of day-to-day operations by NYCHA and New York City
- Strong remedies that are immediately available to address any future failure to perform, whether in the case of individuals or organizational structures
- Commitment of all relevant emergency powers available to NYCHA by New York City and New York State
- Commitment of additional financial resources from New York City and New York State for remediation and future sustainability
"This is a very positive outcome, one that I believe can bring meaningful change to living conditions of the many thousands of families who depend upon NYCHA for their housing," Carson said. "But there is still a lot of work to be carried out. We look forward to continuing what has been a productive working relationship with the mayor and his team. HUD will continue to advocate for the hundreds of thousands of children, women and men in New York City whose lives and livelihoods depend on having safe, fair and affordable housing. They deserve nothing less."
While the city and NYCHA General Manager Vito Mustaciulo have made some recent improvements, as the mayor pointed out repeatedly during Thursday's press conference, federal officials have said it's not enough.
"For the record, [Mayor Bill de Blasio] knows I truly appreciate the progress both he and Vito have made with respect to NYCHA. But we ALL agree there remains much work to be done. No one gets awards on my watch for turning heat and hot water back on. Today is all about the RESIDENTS," HUD Regional Director Lynne Patton tweeted.
Prior to reaching the agreement with Carson, De Blasio had this to say about negotiations with the feds: "We remain adamant about the point that we have to make sure we can protect the 400,000 people who live in public housing and that we can ensure that there's accountability and local control of the situation so we can solve their problems."
It's estimated that it will take an eye-popping $32 billion and five years to make all the repairs necessary to fix all the buildings NYCHA oversees, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.
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