Let’s hope housing agency boss Richard Roberts got a Franklin planner for Christmas. From hot-appetizer lectures to deliveries of cold cash, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development is seriously behind schedule.
Last week, Roberts was supposed to host a soiree to introduce a newly restructured HPD. But he called off the speech at the last minute–just as he did for the original date in December. Now it looks like it might never happen. “If he is going to give the talk, it hasn’t yet been replanned,” his office explained.
But it’s not just the commish’s lecture schedule running late at HPD. The agency’s Neighborhood Preservation Consultant money has been stuck in limbo since last July, when 30 groups were chosen for the latest round of contracts. The program pays nonprofits to act as go-betweens for tenants and landlords, and keep an eye out for problem buildings. Although the program rankles some housing organizations, since it requires them to help landlords as well as tenants, it has been the Giuliani administration’s chief anti-abandonment strategy.
Like Roberts’ unveiling, the new $80,000 contracts have suffered serial delays, and the new money has yet to appear. “Our contract should have been up on July 3—instead, I got a call saying our contract has been extended to September,” said Judy Orlando, executive director of the Astella Development Corporation, a Coney Island-based CDC. “Then they called up and said it was extended to December, then at a meeting they said it was extended until February.”
It’s a mixed blessing for some of the groups who didn’t get their contracts renewed: They keep getting installments, but they have no way to plan for the future. “It’s put my organization in a precarious position,” said Yves Vilus of the Erasmus Neighborhood Federation, who was told last summer that his group didn’t make the cut, but has yet to receive an official letter.
Nonprofits theorize that the problem stems from the new contracting process. “In the past, programmatic work was less tied to specific dollars. Now, each service has a dollar amount,” explained one housing group director, who asked not to be named. “You organize a building, you get, say, $235.18. You counsel an individual, you get $18.91.” Groups waiting for the checks hoped that the new contracts would be available March 1, when the last round of extensions is due to expire.