Streams

Fiscal and Repair Challenges Await New NYCHA Head

Friday, July 11, 2014

Shola Olatoye meets and greets seniors at Wagner Houses, a development with a high crime problem. (Cindy Rodriguez/WNYC)

The New York City Housing Authority is a behemoth of an organization — 11,000 employees work for NYCHA and half a million people live in its 334 developments scattered city wide.

For years, NYCHA has struggled with huge deficits, dilapidated properties and spikes in crime. The last chairman was a former Wall Street investment banker, John Rhea. During his tenure he attempted to raise revenue by leasing NYCHA land to private developers for market rate housing. It was a controversial proposal and he was heavily criticized for ignoring the concerns of tenants. He also came under fire for the authority's failure to make timely repairs. Rhea resigned after serving a turbulent four years.

The de Blasio Administration has chosen a former affordable housing executive to replace him.

Shola Olatoye, 39, is now running the largest public housing authority in the country. She is facing many of the same problems —  a lack of revenue and crumbling buildings in need of repair. Leasing land is still on the table, but this time it would be to developers who build affordable housing. She also wants the city to foot more of the bill for public housing and recently the de Blasio administration put $210 million into fighting crime at developments. 

WNYC reporter Cindy Rodriguez spoke to Olatoye about the future of NYCHA.

Editors:

David L. Lewis

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Comments [3]

Tuck Milligan from Manhatan

I welcome the Mayor's choice to Head NYCHA and to upgrade the Housing Authority in general. It is long over due. And we are lucky that the Mayor sees this as a priority. We are not so lucky the he has yet to speak out about another housing agency, Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Vicki Been, the Mayor's new choice to head that agency has continued to follow the unjust and possibly unlawful policies of "downsizing" many of the most vulnerable in our city. She, and obviously the Mayor, accept the policy of moving a single parent and child into a one bedroom apartment where one of the two must sleep in the the living room. Where is the dignity in the this? Why can't we preserve the affordable housing stock we already have before we make vast plans to max out new developments in over to have 20% available for affordable housing? Where do we do with those who need a bedroom of their own?

Jul. 11 2014 04:48 PM
LES guy from New York

As I grow older (will celebrate 30 years in NYC in next month) I guess I have come to wonder what purpose exactly the NYC public housing serves. I have come to see them, in least in lower Manhattan where I live, both on LES and East Village and west Chelsea as something like Indian reservations (sorry I know this might sound harsh or offensive): the white Europeans (global elite, rich kids just out of Yale or Dartmouth, investment bankers, more recently Silicon Alley hipsters) arrived and no one knew quite what to do with the natives who were here when the place was largely uninhabitable (that is, up until the late 1980s or so). So we spend billions of dollars to warehouse them in less than spirit affirming living conditions (except that they all seem to have automobiles and parking!).

No idea what the solution is, but I'm not at all convinced that "fixing" public housing is the appropriate goal—at least not until affordable housing for the creative class who, arguably, made this city what it is today, is adequately addressed.

Yes, I know about 80-20 buildings, but I know few people who would want to live in those soulless skyscrapers. Even if they did, the lotteries and multi-year waiting lists make it an unlikely solution. Please let me know if I am mistaken.

Jul. 11 2014 04:48 PM
sclark from nj

Ms. Olatoye sounds extremely competent and engaged.
Why should her mode of dress be an object of comment, "she's dressed to the nines"?
Would you make a statement like that for John Rhea, the outgoing Chairman?

Jul. 11 2014 07:47 AM

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