In making the case that NYCHA’s management is incompetent and ought to be replaced by a private company to oversee repairs of the country’s largest public-housing stock, the Cuomo administration has pointed to what it says is the authority’s sluggish rate of spending the capital money it has.
Arguing that without better management at NYCHA, new state “funding commitments are all but irrelevant,” counsel-to-the-governor Alphonso David on Monday claimed: “The city announced a $2 billion capital commitment to NYCHA over 13 years, but in the first four years, NYCHA was not even able to spend the money available; only spending an average of $78 million per year. At that rate of spending, it would take NYCHA 27 years to spend the city’s allocation.”
Reiterating the governor’s demand that “we must secure an independent contractor to do the work effectively and efficiently, with the tenants at the table,” David added: “The governor will not support state funding without adequate accountability in the construction process—one that actually achieves results.” David’s statement suggested that the $250 million the governor has newly pledged to NYCHA would not be forthcoming until the authority’s leadership stepped aside.
On Thursday, Cuomo doubled down on this demand, saying, “[T]his hand will not sign the state budget unless there is a real remedy that is going to make the repairs at NYCHA and make them in real time.”
“It doesn’t matter how much money you pour into NYCHA, when NYCHA is incompetent to literally spend the money,” the governor said during an appearance at Forest Houses in the Bronx.
But in a letter to the governor sent Thursday, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen disputed the notion that NYCHA was sitting on a stack of money. While the authority had indeed only spent the $78 million per year of the city money that David referenced, it had also undertaken another $450 million or more in federally funded capital work in each of those years. (See a chart below)
“NYCHA’s spending on capital projects has averaged approximately $580 million annually over the past four years,” Glen wrote. “All told, we have put more than $2.3 billion in capital to work for our residents under this administration. That represents a massive capital pipeline—and one that is capable of growing with further state support.”
To be sure, Cuomo didn’t invent the criticism of NYCHA’s capital management out of thin air. Even before the outrage over lead-inspection certifications last year and heat and hot-water issues this winter, there were years of complaints about the speed and quality of very simple repairs at NYCHA buildings.
And the governor isn’t the only slamming NYCHA now: The Citywide Council of Presidents, a group representing elected tenant leaders from across the sprawling NYCHA system, has also been fiercely critical of the authority.
But as City Limits has reported, the governor’s office has in recent weeks inflated the magnitude of its generosity toward NYCHA in recent years and put forward a specious argument about the lack of state aid to other housing authorities in New York State.
NYCHA Capital Spending
|Fiscal Year||HUD money||FEMA money||City money||Total|
Note that the HUD and FEMA money is reported in calendar years and the city money in fiscal years