This summer, Interim Chair and CEO Stanley Brezenoff met with property managers representing every borough, including NGO and mixed-finance properties, to discuss some of the Authority’s challenges and how they can be overcome. Here is a condensed version of his remarks:
I wanted to talk with you about the consent decree with the federal government, which reflects what has been a tumultuous period at NYCHA.
I grew up in a country that was deeply committed to public housing as a concept, a policy, and a living, breathing program. New York City is deeply committed to public housing. But we live in a time where the rest of the country is not so strong in its commitment, reflected by reduced resources and subsidies that have contributed to the state of affairs at NYCHA.
We suffer from a lack of resources to do our jobs. We’re a mission-driven organization. We work here because we care about that mission. And it probably hurts you in your hearts and minds as much as it does me not to have the resources to do your job. The recent criticism of NYCHA is connected to this lack of resources. NYCHA needed investment over the years, but that has not been the case – we’ve seen reduced funding instead.
The most important mantra for us is to not accept the proposition that we are powerless, that we cannot solve problems, that we cannot use the resources we do have to best advantage. We must be strong as we possibly can in the belief that we can make a difference and do things better. We can do that. We must do that.
There are issues that we can focus on and improve. How do we do that? There’s no button to push or magic wand to wave. It will take a continuous effort on all of our parts and commitment to the fact that we can make a difference and are doing great things every day. We must be absolutely committed to service and integrity. If we do that in a collective way, we have enormous power to do great things. We must also combat the perception of NYCHA.
We can be confident that this winter will be better than last winter, which was largely a symptom of a lack of resources. We’re making progress on roofs, which contributes to the mold issue. We committed to inspecting every apartment for lead, which will be underway.
At the end of the day, I believe we can make inroads in terms of NYCHA’s performance and perception. And that will be important in the fight for more resources – we must show progress and results.
We’re fortunate to have a mayor who is very supportive of public housing and has committed more resources than any other mayor.
Nobody admires more than I do the extraordinary work that goes on at NYCHA every day. But part of my job is to push to achieve more. And we can do that. We can turn this around if we work at it collectively.