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To the Editor: Irene Baldwin misspoke about the city’s commitment to neighborhood preservation in an item about the Mayor’s Executive Budget and Fiscal Year 2003 contingency cuts [“In Case Plan ‘A’ Fails,” Weekly #327, April 22].

The City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) currently employs 308 field inspectors, apprentices, and supervisors. This is the highest number of Housing Maintenance Code inspectors and supervisors since the state eliminated funding for inspectors in 1991.

Overall condition of the city’s housing stock is the best that its been since the U.S. Bureau of the Census began measuring it in 1965.

A little over 60 percent of our housing stock was built before 1947. The preservation of that aging stock must be our housing policy’s first priority. We simply cannot afford to lose housing because of disinvestment and abandonment. It is important to remember the devastating impacts of the last wave of housing abandonment–nearly 800,000 people were displaced as a result of the loss of over 350,000 housing units in the 1970s and early 1980s at a replacement cost of over $20 billion–and we are still paying that bill–and entire communities were nearly lost forever.

We must focus our efforts on keeping owners and tenants in place. This means assisting owners with information, access to capital, and enforcing housing standards when owners do not comply, and it means encouraging entrepreneurs with ties to the communities to purchase, own and manage rental housing.

HPD’s staff deployment reflects this emphasis on housing preservation: 92 in Anti-Abandonment; 628 in Enforcement Services; 73 in Property Services; and 81 in Housing Litigation. The majority are internal transfers who moved from property management to housing preservation.

The city’s future requires a responsible fiscal plan, and all agencies must achieve cost savings and revenue enhancement in light of the city’s budget gap. Mayor Bloomberg acknowledges that the contingency cuts–in effect if the city does not receive assistance from labor, Albany and Washington–would require abrupt cuts in city services. No one is happy about them, and it is fair to write about potential service cuts. What’s not fair is to disseminate inaccurate information along with them.

–Jerilyn Perine
Commissioner, NYC Department of
Housing Preservation and Development

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