Now that RICHARD ROBERTS has announced that he will be moving on to greener pastures at Goldman Sachs, housing nabobs are busy speculating about who will take the commissioner’s job at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development…

One possibility: 36-year-old RUSSELL HARDING, head of the city’s semi-autonomous Housing Development Corporation, college dropout, younger brother to Giuliani budget director ROBERT HARDING and son of wily Liberal Party chair RAY HARDING.

Probably the most plausible candidate is current first deputy commissioner JERILYN PERINE, who is close to the job already–starting today, she will be filling in as acting commissioner. Also on the gossip list is perennial hopeful ANTONIO PAGAN, current head of the Department of Employment and long-time lower East Side tenant foe. (Pagan has made a play for the job before, to the dismay of housing advocates). Another name making the rounds is KAREN WALKER-BRYCE, HPD’s current assistant commissioner for anti-abandonment.

The most unusual suspect: JAKE MENGES, the Giuliani henchman who became infamous by threatening City Councilman LLOYD HENRY after the Council tormented newly appointed city welfare chief JASON TURNER in 1998. “You can forget your fucking Beacon school,” Menges raged at Henry–and then denied it, even though he was caught on videotape.

In other news…ANNETTE BARBACCIA, director of the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Coordination and some-time foe of city environmental justice activists, has left for New Jersey to direct the state’s Pinelands Commission….

EVA HANHARDT recently started at the Municipal Art Society as Director of the Planning Center, which focuses on community-based planning. She was formerly director of the Environment Economic Development Assistance Unit at the city’s environmental department, which helped businesses comply with regulations….

And MAJORA CARTER, a community activist with The Point Community Development Corporation in the South Bronx, is forming an exploratory committee for a 2001 City Council run.