public housing

NYCHA Monitor’s $12 Million Budget Includes His $600-an-Hour Pay

NYCHA Federal Monitor Bart Schwartz speaks at a community advisory meeting on Oct. 7, 2019.
NYCHA Federal Monitor Bart Schwartz speaks at a community advisory meeting on Oct. 7, 2019. Photo: Screenshot from NYCHA Monitor/YouTube

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The cost of reform is steep: NYCHA’s new federal monitor has inked a deal that will cost city taxpayers at least $60 million over the next five years — including nearly $600 an hour budgeted for the monitor himself.

Bart Schwartz, a former federal prosecutor appointed by federal housing officials and Mayor Bill  de Blasio, will make $594 an hour — a discount from his usual $750 rate, according to an agreement with the city Law Department released Tuesday.

Under the agreement, Schwartz’ salary is capped at $350,000 for the 10 months he’ll be on the job this year. At that rate, his annual pay would reach $420,000 — more than de Blasio ($258,750), Gov. Andrew Cuomo ($250,000) and even surpassing the $402,000 paid to new NYCHA Chairman Gregory Russ.

The city — not NYCHA, which receives extensive federal funding — is footing the bill.

Montieth Illingworth, a spokesperson for Schwartz, said that because of the cap and “given the significant amount of time he has already devoted to the monitorship, and will continue to,” Schwartz expects the “effective rate” he charges likely will be far less than $594 per hour.

It’s unclear how many hours Schwartz is putting in trying to help turn around the nation’s largest public housing system, landlord to some 400,000 New Yorkers. Someone working 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year at that pay scale would pull in more than $1.1 million annually.

A Five-Year Contract

The monitor is the most important aspect of a landmark Jan. 31 agreement struck by de Blasio, NYCHA and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Benjamin Carson.

The deal settled civil charges brought by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office charging the authority deliberately hid the unsafe and unhealthy conditions of its 174,000 apartments from the feds and the public.

De Blasio has approved up to $12 million for the first year and committed to a five-year contract, with the tab expected to rise over time. The agreement specifies the annual allotment “shall be increased if a larger budget is approved” by HUD, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney, NYCHA and administration.

Housing Secretary Ben Carson announces a deal with Mayor Bill de Blasio to have a federal monitor watch NYCHA, on Jan. 31, 2019.
Housing Secretary Ben Carson announces a deal with Mayor Bill de Blasio to have a federal monitor watch NYCHA, on Jan. 31, 2019. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Sources familiar with the months-long negotiations over the agreement told THE CITY the monitor initially submitted a request for an annual budget that was nearly $20 million. HUD and City Hall got the number down to $12 million for the first year, and any disputes going forward would ultimately be decided by the HUD secretary.

Two weeks ago, Schwartz told host Errol Louis on NY1 that the city has not yet paid his firm, Guidepost Solutions, anything for this work.

The agreement made public Tuesday does not spell out the specific number of Guidepost Solutions employees who will be working on NYCHA oversight. However, a City Hall source said the monitor now has 60 staffers on the job, and has informed NYCHA he intends to bring in more employees.

Illingworth did not respond to questions from THE CITY about the number of staff working for Schwartz on the NYCHA job.

Fixes Behind Schedule

Schwartz started his job Feb. 28 and has so far held several public meetings with tenants and public officials. He’s visited dozens of the authority’s 320 developments, and has issued two reports critical of NYCHA’s ongoing failures to live up to the vows made in the January agreement.

Under that pact, NYCHA promised to hit specific deadlines for performing adequate inspections for lead paint in tens of thousands of apartments where young children live and eradicate rodent infestations from specific developments. NYCHA is already behind schedule on both.

Schwartz has appointed separate teams to address each of these problems, along with faulty elevators and the ongoing presence of toxic mold. The teams have already uncovered serious issues with NYCHA staff and management — including, as THE CITY reported this month, a pattern of awarding no-bid contracts to vendors whose work is second rate.

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