Senate Passes New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Reform Legislation Sponsored By Senator Perkins
On Thursday, June 19th the Senate passed S.1550-B, legislation sponsored by Senator Perkins to ensure absolute responsibility at NYCHA, by making them subject to the oversight of the Authorities Budget Office (ABO) including standards with respect to--operating transparency, financial accountability, board governance best practices, State Comptroller approval of contracts, whistleblower protections, MWBE participation and land dispoition oversight.
The full remarks of the Senator follow:
"Public Housing in New York City is the last true bastion of permanent affordability across the five Boroughs. I have 22 developments in my Senate District alone. The New York City Housing Authority provides homes and a sense of community for over 600,000 New Yorkers—for working families, for seniors, for those who came here to start a better life, for vulnerable populations and for those who want to grow into the middle class—these hard-working folks pay upwards of 1/3 of their income towards rent and have been enriching our City for decades.
NYCHA is an invaluable resource that we need to protect. President George W. Bush and his ideological successors in the Tea Party Congress have been on a crusade to defund and end public housing as we know it. New York City has refused to heed this self-destructive call and instead has worked to preserve public housing as a bulwark against the unyielding forces of gentrification, displacement, Mitchell-Lama privatization and market-rate rents gone wild.
The legislation at hand seeks to strengthen and enhance the operation of NYCHA by ensuring they are subject to oversight by the Authorities Budget Office (ABO). Presently, housing authorities are exempt from essential ABO provisions which means they do not have to open their books, nor submit financial statements to the Comptroller, or comply with other important regulations concerning land use disposition, MWBE participation, board governance best practices, whistleblower protections and operating transparency.
Absent these protections—we have seen that NYCHA—under then-Mayor Bloomberg and Mayor Giuliani before him—preferred to operate in absolutely secrecy, keeping residents, auditors, oversight agencies and policymakers in the dark. Just last year, NYCHA proposed an INFILL program which would have destroyed community centers, parks, open spaces, baseball fields and other cardinal resources—simply to erect market rate towers on public land. The Authority attempted to fast track this proposal until residents, advocates and whole communities became fundamentally involved. NYCHA says they have learned their lesson. This legislation ensures that they will never forget it.
An open, accountable and transparent NYCHA will enhance their standing not only with our residents—who have a passion for and knowledge of our communities that is unparalleled—but will signal to the City Council, and the State and Federal Government that NYCHA is an institution worthy of substantial investment in—for generations of New Yorkers to come.
Again, I thank Assemblymember Jim Brennan for carrying this legislation in the Assembly and I appreciate the support received from Chair Ranzenhofer and members of the Corporations Committee as well.
I enthusiastically vote AYE.”