NYC's Public Advocate on Bad Landlords, ACS and Budget Priorities

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio talked about the joint report his office and the Administration for Children's Services prepared following the death of Marchella Pierce.

Marchella Pierce and an investigation shows that ACS needs help.

On September 2, 2010, a sick and severely malnourished 4-year-old, Marchella Pierce, was found dead in her home. The Administration for Children's Services (ACS) came under fire for neglecting the case and a few weeks after the body was found, caseworkers were suspended for allegedly mishandling it.

After publishing an independent report on the state of the ACS last week, de Blasio said it's not just a case of few bad apples. There are structural problems that need to be fixed within the organization. 19 percent of all closed cases looked at in the season should not have been closed because the families still needed help.The report calls for more oversight and supervision and an investment of $14 million in preventative services.

This agency [ACS] was really, really cut back severely in recent years. Over the course of a decade well over 1,000 staffers were lost. The preventative services that we know work were cut back to the point that families could not get them when they needed them. And there were a number of transitions happening...that I think created a real inefficiency and miscommunication in the agency.

I do believe we can't keep cutting back the personnel at Children's Services and I do believe we can't keep cutting back child care. I literally think ACS both protects kids and gives them the foundation to succeed in school and it's one of the most fundamental things we do.

De Blasio said that Children's Services needs to be a budget priority.

Craigs List helps NYC monitor bad landlords.

 Craigs List is helping the city keep track of bad landlords with health and safety violations and then links them to organizing.

It's so important that consumers now are going to know, meaning tenants now are going to know if they're walking into a building with a huge number of housing violations and a bad landlord.  And Craigs List...is creating a link right up front to our worst landlords watch list and I think it's going to empower perspective tenants but it's also going to be another incentive for these landlords to get their act together because it's going to have real market ramifications for them.

What I'm trying to do is to stop the city from inadvertently rewarding some of these landlords for example by leasing some of their buildings or providing subsidies to some of their tenants that wind up in the landlords pocket. The fact that we can really focus on the repeat offenders in a very public manner, it allows us to organize but it also allows government to actually focus its enforcement actions much more efficiently.

For law abiding landlords who are having a cash flow issue, de Blasio said the city is also wants to be able to help them be streamlining their loan programs and Section 8 housing applications. 

As for slumlords in NYC? We've got them.

It's less than I expected but where it exists, the sheer extent is breathtaking. We were up in a building in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx earlier, and there are some...repairs not done consistently, literally since 1986 in that building, so you're talking about such consistency of these repairs not happening and there being no legal or economic consequences that a quarter century has gone by and the landlords think it's part of doing business.

Speaking of the budget.

Every New York mayor has a tension with Albany, sad Bill de Blasio, and Mayor Bloomberg is no exception, but his timing on a few things was a little off. 

I agree with him that we should have gotten more from Albany budgetarily. Where I think he's wildly off base is in trying to force into the budget equation issues that didn't belong like LIFO [Last In First Out]. They did not belong in the three months of crucial delicate period when Andrew Cuomo was trying to fundamentally change the culture of Albany and balance the budget...And I think bluntly, had Albany not succeeded in creating some stability again in the government process, nothing could have been worse for New York City in the future. So I don't understand why the Mayor wasn't more supportive of the governor.

As for LIFO, de Blasio agrees with parts of the proposal, though not with the Mayor's timing, but he thinks there has to be a careful strategy for this kind of reform.

It's going to be tough budget times for years to come, if you set up the wrong equation it becomes a shooting gallery where it's easy for principals to get rid of any veteran if it costs more. Look, my two kids are in public school and part of my objection here also is that there are good and bad teachers that are newcomers and there are good and bad teachers that are veterans...it's a mixed bag.  Those who don't teach well over a period of time need to leave.

The Mayor has been pushing for teacher lay-offs, but de Blasio said there's other places to look for savings.

My argument would be that, you know in a $22 billion education budget there's room to cut other things before you cut classroom teachers.