Stringer: NYC Housing Authority missed out on $700 million

December 17, 2014 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
At a press conference at the Farragut Houses in Downtown Brooklyn, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer said an audit showed the NYC Housing Authority missed almost $700 million worth of funding and savings. Photo used with permission of the photographer

City-owned housing projects are crumbling, yet the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) missed out on almost $700 million in revenue and cost savings opportunities, according to an audit carried out by city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Funds available to NYCHA for lighting, boilers and hot water heaters “never saw the light of day,” Stringer said. On Wednesday, he held a press conference at the ten-building Farragut Housing Projects in Downtown Brooklyn, adjacent to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The Farragut Houses were the scene of a tragic shooting in August, and are on the short list to have security cameras installed by the city.

Poor building maintenance is rife at city housing projects. A pitch-black stairwell in the Pink Houses in East New York allegedly contributed to a fatal shot fired by a rookie cop in November, killing resident Akai Gurley as he stepped into the stairwell.

“This audit reveals unconscionable mismanagement and neglect by NYCHA,” Stringer said in a release. “The nearly $700 million that was left on the table could and should have been used to maintain, repair and rebuild New York’s deteriorating public housing stock. The culture of incompetence at NYCHA is an insult to residents and all New Yorkers at a time when the Authority needs all the funds it can get to help fill its crippling funding gaps.”

Stringer says that NYCHA failed to capture $353 million worth of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) incentives, which would have funded energy efficient upgrades to lighting for stairwells, hallways and apartments, boilers and hot water heaters.

Other funds left on the table included $263 million in federal funds lost when NYCHA failed to convert 8,400 units of public housing to Section 8, and $76 million in HUD management improvement incentives.

Stringer’s audit also criticizes NYCHA for failing to follow up on a consultant’s money-saving recommendations.

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Stringer made a number of recommendations to NYCHA, but says the agency either rejected them or maintained it already carried out the processes recommended.

For its part, NYCHA said in a response to the Comptroller that the audit report was “seriously flawed.”  

Much of the audit report concerned activities that took place prior to the audit scope period, NYCHA said. The agency also said that the audit exaggerated or mischaracterized revenue and cost savings opportunities.

NYCHA also maintains that the Comptroller did not acknowledge substantial revenue opportunities that NYCHA did take advantage of, including $900 million in connection with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, $732 million in bond proceeds and $304 million in transition funding.

According to the audit, NYCHA has unmet capital needs of more than $6 billion, and needs $18 billion “to bring all of its developments into good repair.” More than 400,000 New York City residents live in housing projects.

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