Gov. Andrew Cuomo is on the verge of releasing $450 million in state funds for New York City Housing Authority boiler and elevator repairs — money promised for as long as two years but delayed due to his concerns about authority mismanagement, NYCHA’s federal monitor said.
Bart Schwartz told a Manhattan Community Board 3 meeting Monday that Cuomo told him he would soon release the funds, with the agreement that the monitor would track their spending, according to Aixa Torres, tenant president of Smith Houses, a participant at the meeting.
“Release the damn money!” an exasperated Torres told THE CITY. “It’s horrible. At the end of the day, who’s paying the price? The residents. We told them what we need, not what they think we need. It’s gotta stop.”
Tenants in many of these developments were told long ago the money was coming. The Smith Houses in Lower Manhattan, for instance, were allotted $12.6 million for six new boilers – back in April 2017.
The state helped subsidize NYCHA for years but stopped in the 1990s during the administration of Republican Gov. George Pataki. Cuomo first steered funding to the authority in 2016, allotting $100 million to Assembly members to distribute for smaller-scale projects. To date, about $80 million has been spent.
In 2017, Cuomo stepped up his game, putting $200 million for NYCHA repairs into the state budget. He added another $250 million the following year.
In both years, NYCHA provided the state with a list of upgrades it sought across its aging portfolio of 175,000 apartments, targeting 112 boilers at 25 developments and 163 elevators at 11 developments. Most of these boilers have been deemed to be in such poor condition they can’t be repaired and must be replaced.
Money in Limbo
As the months passed, Cuomo held on to all of the funding, stating that he wouldn’t release it while NYCHA was under investigation by federal authorities. In June, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney filed a complaint detailing years of lies and cover-ups about decrepit conditions and announced an agreement with Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYCHA to bring in a federal monitor.
That agreement was amended on Jan. 30. Days later, Cuomo declared that as soon as the monitor was formally appointed, the state “would provide that funding on an as-needed basis to that monitor.”
That was back on Feb. 4.
The monitor, Schwartz, began work March 1, but the state money has remained in limbo.
Cuomo “promised” to release the $450 million as part of a deal on the $175.5 billion state budget, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told THE CITY Tuesday. But the agreement to release the NYCHA funding did not include a date by which the funds would be released, Heastie said.
On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Schwartz referred THE CITY to the governor’s office. Cuomo spokesperson Tyrone Stevens declined to discuss the governor’s conversations with Schwartz.
Language in the state budget requires that the NYCHA money can only be distributed once adequate oversight is in place.
With the state money delayed, de Blasio moved to supply city funds for upgrades at two of the East Harlem developments on the original list – the Lincoln Houses and a building at 335 E. 111th Street. On Monday, City Hall forwarded the final updated list of planned projects to the state.
Cuomo spokesman Stevens said on Tuesday that the state “received the requested NYCHA projects from the city at the end of the day yesterday. We are reviewing their proposal and are in active and productive conversations with the city and NYCHA to ensure that the state’s resources are effectively utilized.”
Jasmine Blake, a spokeswoman for NYCHA, said, “We have had many productive conversations with the state, and will continue to work closely with them to ensure these critical funds are delivered to residents as soon as possible.”
Cuomo and Schwartz have had a relationship stemming back to 2016. Schwartz was hired by the Cuomo administration that spring to conduct an internal investigation after Cuomo’s office was subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District over upstate development projects.
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