NYCHA's failure begins at the top
Nov 21, 2017 | 6178 views | 0 0 comments | 310 310 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It's not good when the person elected to serve as the city's top watchdog is calling for you to step down.

But that's exactly what Public Advocate Letitia James did last week in a statement released to the press after meeting with New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) chair Shola Olatoye. James said she has no confidence that Olatoye can continue to lead the agency.

“It has become clear to me that it is time for sweeping operational changes, independent monitoring, and transparency at the city's Housing Authority,” James said in a statement. “Most importantly, it's time for new leadership and a fresh start at NYCHA.”

The trouble started last week when it was revealed that NYCHA failed to conduct federally mandated lead-paint inspections in thousands of public housing apartments throughout the city.

To make matters worse, Olatoye signed off on false certifications that were sent to the Department of Housing and Urban Development stating that the inspections did occur.

As a result, two children in over 4,000 apartments where the inspections lapsed were found to have elevated lead levels, although they are not expected to suffer from any longterm health effects.

The some 400,000 people who live in the city's public housing projects – and the 200,000 more who live in apartments overseen by NYCHA - include some of the most vulnerable citizens of New York City, many having an issue just eking out a living.

That includes access to quality health care for the one in 14 New Yorkers who call NYCHA apartments home. To think that NYCHA was possibly exacerbating health issues, especially with regard to young children, who are most vulnerable to lead exposure, is unacceptable.

On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the creation of an Executive Compliance Department within NYCHA and the appointment of an acting chief compliance officer. The federal government may also be stepping in and appointing a monitor to oversee NYCHA, which serves a population larger than that of the City of Atlanta.

It should have never reached this point. De Blasio is standing behind Olatoye, for now. But his administration needs to take a hard look at whether she is the right person for the job moving forward.

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