One of the hard-won tenant concessions in last year's public housing reform act was a guarantee that tenants get an official policy-making role through elected Resident Advisory Boards. But as the New York City Housing Authority begins to enforce that law, residents are charging that the new RABs are simply the same old thing under a fancier name.
Under the old system, tenant presidents from each of the city's nine public housing districts elect representatives to sit on the Interim Council of Presidents. But ICOP never lived up to expectations that it would be a forceful voice for tenant concerns. “The Housing Authority has not historically seen ICOP as a policy-making body,” said Ron Ward, former ICOP chair for the Brooklyn East district. Ward pointed out that NYCHA did not permit formal ICOP meetings from 1996 to 1998, a period when major reforms put the future of public housing in doubt.
Tenant leaders are now trying to push NYCHA to reform the election process. “Because the new law gives housing authorities unprecedented authority around who gets into housing and what rents are, we need a body of residents that has a broader perspective than just nine people,” said Dushaw Hockett, chair of the city's Public Housing Resident Alliance. Hockett said the alliance would like to see the RAB structured to maximize tenant participation through small, frequent community meetings.
NYCHA spokesman Harold Marder said that new elections will be held whenever the current ICOP chairs' respective terms are up.