CityViews: ‘NYCHA Chair Olatoye Should Absolutely Not Resign’

Print More

Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Olatoye with the mayor at a 2016 town hall.

If you want to understand the real crisis facing New York City Public Housing, just ask a resident. Most New Yorkers don’t realize that one in fourteen New Yorkers live in public housing. We are the cops, teachers and nurses who make this City run. After years of public housing receiving no attention or money, from all levels of government, we have a Mayor who is investing in NYCHA and a real leader serving as Chair and CEO. Public housing conditions are finally improving and I have hope for the future.

Unfortunately, our progress is now threatened. Not by the manufactured hysteria about lead paint (all health experts can tell you there is no lead poisoning crisis at NYCHA), but by political ambition. The misguided outrage and concern threatens to create a real panic among residents, further stigmatizes residents who live in public housing and takes attention away from the real crisis facing NYCHA: the lack of funding and enormous infrastructure needs.

As the resident association leader for the largest public housing development in not just New York City, but all of North America, I understand intimately the challenges facing NYCHA. My job is to support the 6,629 residents who live at Queensbridge Houses. It’s not just a number to me though, those are hardworking families, veterans, seniors and kids. They are the lifeblood of New York City.

I remember the first time I met Chair Shola Olatoye at Queensbridge. Walking together around the development, she immediately started identifying problems, but she didn’t shy away from the problems, she also found solutions.

This week, the Department of Investigations released a report about lead based paint at NYCHA. I was surprised when it became a hot topic in the news given that NYCHA already disclosed this information publicly last summer. However, seizing a political opportunity – even at the expense of public housing residents – elected officials are taking this report out context and making ugly and inaccurate insinuations to score easy political points. They are conveniently leaving out critical health information that shows there is no lead poisoning crisis at NYCHA.

It is disturbing that anyone would take advantage of a complicated situation and risk creating panic among residents – my neighbors, my friends, my family. Well, I won’t have it. I not only like Chair Olatoye, but I respect her. She has the best interests for our community in her heart. As the leader of NYCHA, she has already done a tremendous amount of good.

NYCHA Chair Olatoye should absolutely not resign. Anyone who understands public housing in New York City can tell you that calling for the Chair’s resignation would solve nothing and would almost definitely make the problems we face worse. What we know is that Senior NYCHA officials withheld information from the Chair, when she learned of new problems she informed HUD and began working on a solution. I know the Chair and she will continue to follow up and find out what happened, who failed and she will rectify the problem. Anyone calling for her resignation is trying to find a scape goat.

Taking cheap political shots at the expense of public housing residents is bad enough in a normal political landscape, but with a President who hates public housing, it is shameful that New York City elected officials would risk our futures – the futures our children – just for a headline and a tweet.

Under Chair Olatoye, the Housing Authority is implementing a real plan to fix things, NextGen NYCHA, and it’s working. The Chair is working closely with resident leaders, engaging the community, rolling out new technology and making it easier to live at NYCHA; we can now do our income recertifications and pay rent online; staff is better trained and equipped to take care of residents; our developments are safer with high tech doors, new lighting and an improved culture. NextGen NYCHA takes into account a critical fact – each development has its own needs.

Life is better because of NextGen NYCHA and Chair Olatoye. NYCHA isn’t perfect, but as my mother used to say, there’s always room for improvement. Keep working.

To anyone who is piling on for media attention I have a simple message: If you can’t help the situation, stay out. Ask yourself, what am I doing for the NYCHA community? Real leaders will emerge shortly as we work together to find out what happened and how do we move forward.

This is our home. Me and my kids aren’t here to be used as a political prop. Come back to us when you have a real solution.

April Simpson is the Tenant Association president of Queensbridge Houses

10 thoughts on “CityViews: ‘NYCHA Chair Olatoye Should Absolutely Not Resign’

  1. No she should not. Those HUD lead base paint forms are done annual. In order for any Public Housing Authority (PHA) to receive funding those forms have to be completed, signed and return to HUD in order for the PHA’s to recieve funding for the year. If the form is incomplete in regards to missing information or the form show lead is currently in the development or apartment the PHA will not recieve the funding. Gov. Cuomo was the Secretary of HUD under the Clinton administration he is aware of this process. How many of these forms under his watch were falsified?

  2. How much more clear that the tenant associations of nycha are nothing more than shills for the Democratic party machine? How could anyone in their right mind support the crooked de blasio adminstration, after all he has done to privatize NYCHA to the benefit of his developer buddies? The crisis at nycha cannot be laid solely on his administration, no doubt. But his administration is just as responsible for not just continuing, but accelerating, the legacy of neglect and destruction of this vital program.

    Shame on city limits for publishing this piece. It’s clear you guys are also nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Democratic machine as well.

    • We open our CityViews columns to people with a range of opinions, Don. It’s called a civil exchange of ideas. I’m sorry if that’s threatening to you.

  3. These two guys went to trial for falsifying asbestos reports. Why should Shola Olatoye be treated any differently?

    http://www.silive.com/eastshore/index.ssf/2017/11/inspector_senteced_for_falsify.html

    The NYCHA is a drain on NYC taxpayers. Most tenants get free electricity, I get a bill every month from Con Edison. You may be right about 7.14% of the city’s population living in the projects. But I doubt many cops live in those developments. Cops tend to buy homes in quiet outer-borough neighborhoods or in the suburbs.

  4. I disagree with this article. I asked her staff and her directly to her face how NYCHA tracks empty units and repairs. She gave me a canned answer and refused to say how they track empty units that need repairs. On another note, she should be fired when you ask her how L&M Development got the contract to take over buildings, again no answer. Let’s really look into Ron Moelis and L&M Development and their horrible track record where they continue to get city contracts.

    • That’s a basic operational question. If she couldn’t give you a clear answer that means she has no idea how the properties under her own jurisdiction are tracked. In private industry a property manager like her would be fired for giving such an answer. But I’m not surprised. Look who she works for.

  5. Very good response April. I am very proud of the stance you are taking in support of public housing in NYC and in Queensbridge in particular. I remember you as bright strong willed little girl who has grown into a remarkable woman who is concerned about her family, her community and her city.
    Your support for the chair speaks volumes.
    My law school classmate and former chairman of the NYCHA Ruben Franco was also made a scapegoat over a scandal involving paint and fires some years back. He was very concerned about the plight of public housing and the people living in public having been raised in public housing himself.
    The chair in this instance was to trusting of people who are responsible to her. I am sure she had learned from this error in judgment. Someone as committed as she is must be allowed to continue with her endeavors to attempt to bring about positive initiatives in attempt to raise the quality of life for the residents of the NYCHA.
    Again, I am proud to say, I am PROUD OF YOU.
    Stay strong in the struggle in fight for the the rights of the least of thee.

  6. I have always admired her. However, if it is true that she signed the report, then I really feel that she should resign. She can’t deflect this incident as she is at the helm and she is simply failing in her leadership. As a person who grew in public housing in the 70’s when it was pretty well managed for far less money, I am appalled at NYCHA’s ongoing lack of fiduciary responsibility to the people of the City of New York and to the people who reside in public housing. It’s never NYCHA’s fault that projects they oversee are never completed on time, on budget, or satisfactorily. It’s always the CM’s fault or the contractor. Did she straight up lie? If so, she needs to go- https://nypost.com/2017/11/14/nycha-lied-about-doing-lead-paint-inspections-shocking-report-claims/

  7. AS A BROOKLYN LEADER I KNOW PLENTY OF RA LEADERS WHO SELL OUR FAMILIES OUT TO POLITICAL PARTIES. EVERY TOP LEVEL EXECUTIVE SHOULD BE FIRED FROM PERIOD. EVERY RA LEADER THATS BEEN MIS REPRESENTING RESIDENTS FOR DECADES NEED TO BE REPLACED. EVERYONE WHO CLAIMS TO HAVE OUR BEST INTEREST ARE THE ONE WHO ARE FAKES AND PRETENDERS. I USE TO LIVE IN NYCHA I KNOW THE STRUGGLE..NO YOU DON’T IF YOU ARE NOT CURRENTLY LIVING IN THESE AREA. SO STOP WANTING TO BE THE SHINNY PENNY. THE ALL ARE SO SELF SERVING MAKES MY STOMACH HURT. KARMA IS A BITCH AND ALL WHO ALLOW OTHERS TO SUFFER FOR PERSONAL GAIN SHALL THEY DAY TO PAY COME SOON. I WORK HARD FOR MY NEIGHBORHOOD AND BEYOND WITHOUT LOOKING FOR A PAT ON THE BACK OR CAMERAS FOR THE PHOTO OP…AS LONG AS I SEE RESULTS OOH WE WINNING. AS FAR AS ALL YOU FAKES AND PHONEYS YOUR DAY GROWS NEAR. TO GOD BE THE GLORY

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *