Housing Crisis Pt. I: Is the NYCHA rebuilding or crumbling?

Posted at 10:52 PM, Feb 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-23 10:43:26-05

The Baruch Houses in lower Manhattan are comprised of 17-buildings, this is the largest public housing development in Manhattan.

Generally speaking, for the more than five thousand people who call this community home life is hard.

Most tenants – including Mary Arroyo – live below the poverty line.

Her kitchen is missing its cabinet – and a proper sink.

So when mold began to grow in her kitchen – she did not have the luxury of calling a friendly 24-hour doorman or handyman, like so many other of her more affluent uptown neighbors.

“The water was leaking from up here from the staircase, and it caused mold and mildew, and cockroaches,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo – who suffered an allergic reaction to the mold – was told to fill out a form and get in line – along with tens of thousands other public housing tenants who have open repair requests.

That line lasted three years – Arroyo is still waiting for the solution.


Arroyo has holes in the walls, and no cabinets here.  Her pots, pans, and plates are scattered throughout the apartment. She now has mice running through her apartment – and Arroyo says she has indeed complained to the agency about all of it.

She says she’s not supremely confident in the Housing Authority’s pledge -recently announced by Mayor Bloomberg – to completely erase its staggering backlog of open repair requests — not just here, but city wide — and on a deadline.

The agency says it’s going to do a better job, because it’s going to have better communication with contractors. The Housing Authority also pledges to get those contractors out to apartments faster. To accomplish all of this, the agency has hired 500-new employees – and promises to complete 420,000 open repair orders by the end of this year.

If clearing such a massive repair backlog sounds like a tall order, well – that’s because it is. From this day forward, the New York City Housing Authority will need to successfully perform 1,000 repairs every single day, through the end of this year.

Mary doesn’t buy it.

New York City Housing Authority Chairman John Rhea says after years of subjecting its 600-plus thousand tenants to endless bureaucracy and red tape…his agency is ready to deliver, and Rhea’s holding himself accountable.

He tells Pix11 he “owns the plan.”

The plan includes 40-million dollars in new funding, and 500 new employees.

Actually, re-hired employees.

Rhea – who has no prior public housing experience, and hails from Wall Street, not Main Street says today there are approximately 3,000 fewer workers at the Housing Authority than there were in 2005.

PIX11 asked Rhea if there is any correlation between those lost employees and this backlog.

Rhea says “There is a direct correlation. Almost every single one of those three thousand employees came out of our front line operations that actually serve residents where they live.”

Rhea says pretty much all of that money goes toward restocking NYCHA’s workforce.

But is it enough?

After all, Mary Arroyo still has no cold water in her kitchen, and has been waiting for cabinets for five months…and was recently told she’ll have to wait another three for new ones to be installed.

Arroyo says, “She shouldn’t have to live like this.”

What does Housing Authority Chairman have to say about all of this?

Chairman Rhea revealed to Dow, “we’re underfunded to the tune of – at the operating level, annually, by about 200 to 300 million dollars.”

You’ll be surprised to hear his disturbingly blunt explanation in part two of our story, Friday night, on the Pix11 News at 10.