Testimony By State Senator José M. Serrano Submitted To The New York City Housing Authority Public Hearing On Fy 2009 Annual Plan

José M. Serrano

August 13, 2008

I would like to thank the New York City Housing Authority for the opportunity to submit testimony on the FY 2009 Annual Plan. The 28th Senate District, which I represent, has one of the greatest concentrations of public housing in the entire state.
Please know that I strongly oppose any new rent increases. While I appreciate the budget deficit currently faced by the Housing Authority, I do not believe such a deficit should fall on the backs of this city's low-income residents.
Specifically, I do not believe in rental increases at a time when buildings have fallen into disrepair, when customer service and respect afforded to residents are noticeably lacking, and when the unique linguistic needs of each community are not being addressed in a timely and efficient manner.
The cost of living in our city has spiraled out of control, especially in areas like food. Residents who live at or below the poverty line are being hit hard in so many different ways. It is the responsibility of NYCHA to ensure these residents continue to move up the socio-economic ladder, or at least maintain hold of it … rather than fall off.
The issue of deteriorating maintenance is of great concern, as I hear about these problems first-hand from constituents. Buildings are in disrepair, and requests for service are left unfilled for months on end. The elevator issue is consistently brought to my attention. Residents, particularly seniors and those with health problems and special needs, are left stranded on their floors or in the lobbies waiting for non-functional elevators.
Meanwhile, senior and community centers are being threatened with closure, and police presence and security camera installation remain inadequate. Despite continued requests from my office, there is a glaring lack of Spanish-speaking staff at facilities with a high demographic of Spanish-speaking residents in areas of East Harlem and The Bronx. The alternative, a centralized phone bank, has proven insufficient and, I believe, not cost-effective.
In closing, I believe that continued rent increases are not the answer to NYCHA's budget deficit. Not only will they fail to close the budget hole, but such measures are contrary to the mission and spirit of the Housing Authority. As my colleagues and I in Albany work to reaffirm the State's commitment to public housing – and press the City and Federal government to do the same – I ask that you do all that you can to protect NYCHA residents.