On Tuesday, July 11, 2023, the Federal Monitor, Bart M. Schwartz, and the Monitoring Team held an in-person meeting with Queens residents at the Queensbridge Community Center (Jacob A. Riis Settlement House) in Long Island City, New York. The meeting welcomed all NYCHA residents to attend and was also livestreamed and recorded on the NYCHA Monitor YouTube channel.
Monitoring Team member, Floretta Hudson, opened the meeting with an overview of the agenda, as well as the procedures to sign up for the question-and-answer session to be held later in the meeting. She then introduced Mr. Schwartz.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Schwartz expressed his enthusiasm to be able to hold these meetings again in-person. He stated that talking to the residents is the foundation of the Monitor’s work and while it was helpful to have remote meetings to stay in touch, he emphasized the importance of having face-to-face meetings. Mr. Schwartz also thanked everyone for attending and for making the venue available to hold the meeting.
Resident Association President, Queensbridge Houses, Corrine Woods-Haynes, welcomed everyone for attending and provided an overview on upcoming initiatives for the development. This included preparing the development for summer with power washing playgrounds, outdoor fixtures and benches and ensuring the sprinklers are working. She noted that she is working with NYCHA on removing e-bikes and e-scooters and on the influx of rodents.
City Council Member, District 26, Councilmember, Julie Won, highlighted the issues at the housing developments in her district including the three-year-old, dangerous sink hole at Queensbridge Houses; the pest infestation; the public safety problems as a result of door and intercom hardware no longer available; and broken elevators. She also reminded residents that her office is available to help with the recertification process and advocate for lower rent.
Regional Administrator, Region II, U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Alicka Ampry-Samuel, reiterated her support, as well as the support from HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge for housing residents.
Mr. Schwartz continued the meeting with highlights of successful initiatives since the inception of the Federal Monitor:
- Mold complaints are down approximately 50% on account of the Monitor’s insistence for NYCHA to develop a plan and deadline to fix the ventilation fans.
- Pursuant to the HUD Agreement, NYCHA established an Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S), Quality Assurance and Compliance Departments within 45 days of the monitorship.
- Working in conjunction with the Monitor’s Team, NYCHA was able to analyze data from the MAXIMO database to help find solutions to reduce the number of and duration of elevator outages. The data results helped the NYCHA Elevator Team change their approach for managing elevator issues. The number and length of outages has decreased and there are more workers available to focus on preventive maintenance.
- The summer maintenance programs to perform preventative maintenance on boilers during the warmer months has helped lower outages during the heating season. IS THIS ACCURATE?
- At the Monitor’s urging, NYCHA developed a program to find apartments where there is known or presumed lead-based paint and where children under the age of six live or visit more than 10 hours a week. NYCHA also developed the TEMPO program as part of the Initial Lead Action Plan, approved by the Federal Monitor. The program expedites lead abatement and enhances lead safety protocols during repair work. The program now serves as a model for other housing authorities.
- NYCHA has separated the CEO and Chairman roles to allow the CEO to focus on NYCHA’s day-to-day operations while the Chairman can focus on NYCHA’s future and vision.
- Earlier this year, NYCHA agreed to revamp their organizational plan to better address inefficiencies and productivity.
Deputy Monitor, Daniel Brownell, reiterated the success of the summer maintenance program for boilers and anticipates that a root cause analysis will be conducted soon to focus on why individual units are not receiving heat.
Mr. Brownell also provided an update on the elevator replacement program with Queensbridge receiving 50 replacement elevators over the next two years. He mentioned the success of the pilot program at Mott Haven Houses and Patterson Houses to improve maintenance resulting in a dramatic decrease in outages.
Monitor Team Lead, Mold & Lead, Dennis Walsh, commended NYCHA’s Dan Green and his team for increasing their lead abatement numbers which are averaging 450/month and echoed Mr. Schwartz’s comments on the success of the TEMPO program.
Mr. Walsh also provided statistics on the progress of the ventilation program, noting that 6,200 fans have been installed to draw the moist air out of apartments, and that more than 73,000 vents have been cleaned since the Mold Action Plan was approved in the beginning of 2020. New mold cases have dropped by 50% since October 2021. He mentioned that the Monitor Team has developed a good working relationship with the Baez plaintiffs and court-appointed experts (the independent mold analyst and independent data analyst). The Monitor Team and the Baez court-appointed experts provided a long list of recommendations to NYCHA on how they can improve their performance even more in this area and Mr. Walsh is expecting responses in the next couple of weeks.
Monitor Team Member, Pest & Waste, Tamika Williams-Moore, presented a trend report of the four pest types and tips to help control pest issues. She also gave an overview of each borough’s WAMMA waste rating, Waste Management Measurement Application, a rating system put in place by the Monitor for measuring a development’s internal and external cleanliness.
Monitor Team, Community Advisory Committee (CAC) Lead, Asha Muldro and Monitor Team, Community & Resident Engagement (CRE) Lead, Edna Wells Handy, talked about the objectives of the CRE Team and the implementation of the CAC, an interagency collaboration to find solutions to systemic issues. Ms. Muldro further discussed the successful initiatives that rose from CAC meetings including:
- The issuance of new key fobs for all surrounding FDNY stations to avoid door damage during emergencies because they did not have the proper key fobs.
- The formation of a safety sub-committee to discuss safety and security issues and brainstorm solutions.
- The initiation of the NYCHA Capital Tracker to provide better transparency about the projects within the developments.
- The revamping of the recertification process using a new and more accessible portal.
Ms. Muldro encouraged residents to stay in touch with the CRE team.
NYCHA Housing Administrator for Queensbridge, Carol Reed, discussed the progress of the elevator modernization program which includes replacing seven elevators at a time and conducting test runs. NYCHA anticipates the program for Queensbridge to be complete in two years. NYCHA is working with residents to update phone numbers for their intercom system and is also in the process of replacing and repairing broken doors.
South Jamaica Resident Association President and CAC Member, Manny Martinez, addressed the audience about the progress of the Monitorship but still believes there is a lot more work to be done.
Ms. Hudson opened the meeting for attendees to ask questions and make suggestions. Residents discussed a range of items including:
- Suggestion for longtime residents in good standing to have the opportunity to receive vacated apartments that have been refurbished.
- Concerns about the length of time it takes to replace the elevators.
- Plumbing issues in above units affecting other units and NYCHA instructing residents to track down the problem unit.
- Residents learning from NYCHA workers that management has the workers performing patchwork and not complete repairs.
- Concerns about privatization.
- Questions about rat poisoning and how often NYCHA is treating the pest population in a development, as well as concerns about cats and squirrels eating the bait and dying.
- Recommendation to better coordinate repairs, maintenance, and major projects (e.g., painting stairwells and hallways while replacing elevators in the same building).
- Concerns about the high crime in developments.
- Residents dealing with situations from Superstorm Sandy, such as infrastructure issues, and developers and contractors tapping into a development’s resources.
- Suggestion to investigate the root cause of heat outages such as proper insulation.
- Problems with a backlog of cabinet replacements (months-years), which is causing pest issues.
- Recommendation to residents to vacate units during repairs for safety and health concerns.
- Problems with the paint used to paint units since it tends to peel quickly.
- A continuous harassment issue in which a resident is not receiving help from NYCHA or the police.
At the close of the question-and-answer session, Ms. Hudson reminded residents about upcoming community meetings:
- September 12, 2023, Bronx
- November 14, 2023, Staten Island
Ms. Hudson also advised residents not to wait until these meetings to contact the Monitor if they are experiencing issues. She thanked the Executive Director of Queensbridge Community Center, Robert Madison, for the use of the space to hold this meeting, as well as all the local vendors for providing catering, chairs, and the sound system.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Schwartz talked about how helpful these meetings are to the Monitoring Team since the team has access to NYCHA leadership. He is also optimistic that progress will continue.