Senator Serrano Takes NYCHA To Task For "hoarding Empty Units While Thousands Need Housing"

José M. Serrano

June 07, 2008

        Cites Daily News' report indicating one-fifth of East Harlem development remains empty
New York, NY - State Senator José M. Serrano (D-Manhattan-Bronx) today criticized the City of New York and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) for "fully and completely casting the agency's mission to the wind by hoarding empty units while thousands need housing all across this City."
As reported in Friday's New York Daily News, an estimated one-fifth - or 265 of 1,299 units - at East Harlem's James Weldon Johnson Homes sit vacant. Senator Serrano represents East Harlem and the South Bronx, areas with some of the highest concentration of public housing in the city.
"There has never been a time in the City of New York when affordable housing was more essential," Senator Serrano said. "More than 100,000 families are waiting in desperation on NYCHA's wait-list. It is unconscionable that we leave people, many of whom are children and seniors, without a decent and safe roof over their heads, while the dust settles in NYCHA's empty apartments."
In July of 2006, the City Comptroller's office reported that NYCHA was "warehousing vacant apartments" for an average of 40 months before making necessary renovations and allowing a new families to move in, thereby placing the unit back on rent rolls.
Facilities are underutilized across the City, with 6,500 units off the rent rolls. In some instances, entire floors of NYCHA buildings have been closed to tenants and have fallen into disrepair. The extent of that disrepair, including potential water damage and infestation, places entire buildings at risk.

"Should the City continue to neglect NYCHA properties, this once historic investment in public housing will be lost at a time when we can least afford it."

The Senator, who has emerged as one of Albany's most vocal advocates on behalf of public housing residents, has committed himself to strong and steady engagement with tenant associations across the district. His efforts have focused on everything from the state budget to on-the-ground customer service.

Earlier this year, the Senator sent a letter to NYCHA Chairman Tino Hernandez lamenting the poor treatment of residents, and a lack of bilingual management staff in areas with a high percentage of Spanish-speaking residents.

In that letter, he stated "that a deficit of money need not translate into a deficit of customer service, care and decorum. Residents of public housing deserve to be treated with the respect and consideration that is due all people in New York City, regardless of their economic status."