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According to what Commissioner Richard Roberts told the City Council last week, things aren't quite as bad as they used to be with the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development.

At a thinly attended hearing on agency performance, Housing and Buildings Committee chair Archie Spigner's first question was: Where's my new project? And that was also his toughest question. Spigner, jovial and expansive, spent much of the rest of the hearing lobbing softball questions at Roberts (sample: “When do you think you'll be able to pull back on your housing initiatives?”). The commissioner reported modest increases in everything from housing code inspectors (a total of 265 by years' end), housing lawyers (eight more, bringing the total up to 33), and verifications that serious building problems have been fixed (about 85 percent of all violations are now reinspected, said Roberts).

It was left to Manhattan councilmember Stanley Michels to break the sweethearts' spell, demanding to know why money pledged under the new lead law to build safe houses for poisoned kids hasn't yet appeared. Roberts' response: “We don't know.”

Questions that the Council posed in their review of the Mayor's Management Report–like how many buildings are going into a court-appointed receivership program, how much more money the city is spending on code enforcement, and how many buildings have been upgraded from “distressed” status–were left unanswered.

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