public housing

City Hall Ignores Comptroller’s Rejection of NYCHA Monitor Bill

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer at a Bronx news conference in 2014.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer at a Bronx news conference in 2014. Photo: Rob Bennett/Mayoral Photography Office

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The mayor’s office on Thursday refused to turn over invoices from the Housing Authority’s new monitor to the city’s top fiscal watchdog after he raised questions about millions of taxpayers dollars spent so far.

Last week, city Comptroller Scott Stringer declined to register City Hall’s contract with monitor Bart Schwartz and his firm, Guidepost Solutions — charging the $12 million contract wasn’t backed up by adequate specifics on how the money would be spent.

City Hall officials responded by rejecting Stringer’s authority to examine the bills — which have hit more than $7.5 million so far.

Tyrone Stevens, a spokesperson for Stringer, said NYCHA’s 400,000 tenants “deserve so much better” than the de Blasio administration’s decision to avoid scrutiny of the invoices.

“The city’s lack of transparency, accountability and sound fiscal management once again violates the public trust,” he added.

NYCHA’s $600-an-Hour Man

Schwartz was hired by the city Law Department to oversee reforms at the Housing Authority under an agreement inked a year ago Friday by Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYCHA and U.S. Dept. of  Housing and Urban Development Secretary Benjamin Carson.

City Hall officials entered into a contract with Schwartz Feb. 28 — then submitted a budget for Stringer to register in August in which they estimated a first-year cost of $12 million.

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

THE CITY reported in July that Schwartz had asked for nearly $20 million. On Thursday, City Hall put the amount initially requested at $17 million, and said it was “negotiated down” by $5 million.

By the beginning of November, Schwartz had submitted $7.5 million in bills, and Stringer demanded that the Law Department turn them over so his auditors could determine whether the spending was reasonable.

Schwartz is billing at nearly $600 an hour, while his top leadership team commands $366 to $480 per hour, records show.

Double Rejection

Richard Friedman, chief contracting officer for the Law Department, nixed Stringer’s request on Thursday, stating the comptroller had no authority to look at the submitted bills as part of his office’s duties to register contracts.

City Hall essentially ignored Stringer’s rejection of the deal, informing him that they’d simply deemed the contract registered because they believed he had not made a legitimate objection.

Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a de Blasio spokesperson, said City Hall — along with HUD and Manhattan federal prosecutors — would oversee the monitor’s spending.

“To ensure no disruption to this critical work, we are moving forward with the monitor’s contract and will continue to review every single invoice to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely in service of residents,” she added.

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