City Limits received Merit Awards in two categories, investigative and environmental journalism, for reporting that revealed substandard conditions and other problems in the city’s supportive housing network, and another story that mapped neighborhoods with the most persistent heat and hot water complaints among tenants.

Marjorie Martay

Former City Limits reporters Liz Donovan and David Brand, whose stories earned Silurian Merit Awards this year.

City Limits’ received two honors last week from the Silurians Press Club, a nearly century-old organization that represents New York journalists, which recognized our reporting at its 78th Annual Excellence in Journalism Awards.

City Limits received Merit Awards—the equivalent of a runners-up—in both the investigative and environmental reporting categories.

The Merit-winning investigative series exposed problems in New York’s million-dollar supportive housing industry, where nonprofit providers are contracted by the city and state to provide affordable homes to some of the most vulnerable tenants, including people with mental illness, adults with HIV, young adults who have aged out of foster care and formerly homeless New Yorkers with special needs.

In “Dilapidated Apartments, Lousy Landlords Plague NYC’s Sprawling ‘Scattered-Site’ Supportive Housing Network,” reporter David Brand examined conditions within “scattered-site” supportive housing, which includes some 16,000 units across the city, rented and overseen by nonprofits to provide services to tenants. His reporting found that outdated contracts that trail actual market rents mean the organizations—and the state and city agencies that fund them—are propping up some of the city’s worst housing.

In another piece, Brand zeroed in on one particular supportive housing provider, Postgraduate Center for Mental Health, an organization that said it’s forced to rent substandard units for its supportive housing clients because state contracts are too low to cover better options—though the nonprofit’s CEO earned more than $913,000 a year. Nearly half of the 32 buildings where the organization rented apartments for supportive housing tenants were owned by people who have appeared on the public advocate’s annual Worst Landlords List, Brand’s reporting found.

A third story in the submission by editor Jeanmarie Evelly looked at overall access to city’s supportive housing, which remains out of reach for a majority of applicants—just 16 percent of New Yorkers approved by the city for supportive units were actually placed in an apartment in the most recent fiscal year—with the odds especially steep for the most vulnerable tenants.

In the environmental reporting category, reporter Liz Donovan won the Merit Award for a 2022 story in which she examined 311 data related to heat and hot water complaints over the past three “heat seasons”—when owners of residential buildings have to maintain certain indoor temperatures—and found the highest number were in areas populated by communities of color and lower-income individuals. Her reporting also examined the process for holding landlords accountable for withholding heat, which advocates say can be onerous, as it can be difficult to prove when a property owner is failing to maintain the temperatures required by law.

This is the fifth time City Limits has been recognized by the Silurians, having received awards previously for reporting on the disproportionate health issues faced by homeless New Yorkers, on disparate death rates across New York City neighborhoods, and for investigations into the state’s Green Jobs program and the payday loans industry.