public housing

Scott Stringer Vows to Examine NYCHA Monitor’s $20m Budget Bid

Comptroller Scott Stringer speaks at his office in February, 2019.
Comptroller Scott Stringer speaks at his office in February, 2019. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

The city’s fiscal watchdog promised Friday to closely examine the Housing Authority federal monitor’s contract after THE CITY revealed his initial funding request hit nearly $20 million.

“That’s a lot of money,” said Comptroller Scott Stringer, who must sign off on the monitor’s contract because the city, not NYCHA, will be footing the bill.

The comptroller’s comments came as he released yet another scathing audit documenting the Housing Authority’s abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Stringer’s auditors found NYCHA made millions in repairs to roofs still under warranties that could have absorbed most, if not all, of the cost. At Staten Island’s South Beach development, for instance, NYCHA performed $4 million in upgrades on roofs with a decade of coverage left.

On Friday, THE CITY reported that NYCHA’s new federal monitor, Bart Schwartz, sought an annual budget of almost $20 million for his team, according to sources familiar with the ongoing budget talks.

The explanation for how Schwartz intended to spend the money was lacking in specifics so the federal stakeholders — the U.S. Housing & Urban Development Department (HUD) and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman — asked for more details, the sources said.

‘Wow, That’s a Gutcheck’

Schwartz’s final budget has yet to be revealed, and none of his estimates have been shared with City Hall. Once it’s submitted, Stringer will review and ultimately register the monitor’s contract.

Bart Schwartz
Bart Schwartz Photo: Business Wire

“We’re certainly going to ask a lot of questions based on what we’re hearing,” Stringer said during a news conference in front of the Ingersoll Houses in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. “I do think the work of the monitor can be groundbreaking if the approach is serious. But I don’t know what the cost is going to be since I haven’t seen it.”

Stringer demurred on how he felt about the monitor’s initial request. But, he added, “Look, $20 million to me seems to me like, wow, that’s a gutcheck. That’s a lot of money.

“But again, they’re building an office, they’re building a staff so I’m going to wait to see the contract. If I think it’s too high, believe me I will have no problem sending that contract back after doing my due diligence.”

Latest Audit Finds Warranty Chaos

For years, Stringer has criticized NYCHA management in a series of audits that found a long list of problems — from failing to repair dangerous playgrounds to losing track of millions of dollars worth of cleaning supplies and equipment.

In the report released Friday, Stringer’s auditors discovered NYCHA routinely hired roof contractors whose work included 20-year warranties — then lost track of what was covered.

He charged the authority wound up spending millions of taxpayer dollars on repairs that should have been picked up under warranties.

Auditors spot-checked 709 repair work orders NYCHA fielded between 2009 and 2017 on roofs covered by warranty — and found the agency used warranty coverage only nine times.

“It’s a management issue, not a money issue,” Stringer said.

While the audit targeted roof repairs, Stringer’s team discovered NYCHA has no cohesive system for tracking any of its warranties across more than 300 complexes housing 400,000 New Yorkers.

“When we dig a little deeper,” Stringer noted, “I suspect the warranty issue is going to be even more pervasive than what we found.”

In a written response to the audit, NYCHA agreed with 24 of Stringer’s recommendations for reform. “The comptroller’s audit and recommendations are consistent with what the Authority has been aware of and addressing through new systems we are already implementing,” said NYCHA General Manager Vito Mustaciuolo.

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