Brooklyn Councilmember Cornegy steps into NYCHA fray
Projects' heat and hot water problems tangled up in politics
Councilmember Robert Cornegy on Wednesday requested that Gov. Andrew Cuomo declare a state of emergency so that urgently needed repairs to heat and hot water can be rushed at New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings.
By doing so, Cornegy (D- Bedford Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights) stepped into the middle of yet another political tug of war between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the governor, while igniting a split between his City Council colleagues.
In his reply to Cornegy’s request, Alphonso David, counsel to the governor, said the state “does have the power to declare an emergency.” A Declaration of Emergency can take various forms, from expediting contracting mechanisms to intervening with actual task completion, David said, adding, “That is the discussion we must now have.”
Cornegy, who heads the Council’s Housing Committee, was backed by Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca (D-Red Hook), Mark Gjonaj (the Bronx) and Bill Perkins (Harlem).
“Just this weekend, my office contacted NYCHA to resolve several complaints from residents who didn’t have hot water in their buildings. This is unacceptable. It is clear that NYCHA is in crisis and in need of a complete overhaul,” Menchaca said in a statement. He added, “I am proud to join my colleagues at the NYC Council in asking Gov. Cuomo to declare a state of emergency on NYCHA facilities.”
Councilmember Ritchie Torres (D-the Bronx), however, threw shade at Cornegy, saying councilmembers were already in talks with Cuomo. According to the New York Post, Torres, Councilmember Alicka Ampry Samuel (D-Bed-Stuy, Flatbush, Crown Heights) and Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D- Manhattan) spoke to Cuomo about expediting boiler installations and that Cornegy “played only an ancillary role.”
“This attempt to pre-empt the speaker and his colleagues who have done real work on NYCHA is a cheap PR stunt,” Torres said, according to the Post.
In a statement, Cornegy said, “I look forward to working closely with the Governor and his team, and my colleagues in the Council.”
Mayor’s Budget Includes $200 Million
On Jan. 31, de Blasio announced a $200 million investment to replace boilers and upgrade heating systems at 20 NYCHA developments experiencing chronic outages. Renovations will be finished by 2022.
In de Blasio’s State of the State message, delivered on Wednesday in Brooklyn, the mayor said his administration has invested an unprecedented $2.1 billion in capital dollars and $1.6 billion in expense dollars in NYCHA during his time in office.
As the mayor spoke, dozens of members of the low-income advocacy group Community Voices Heard (CVH) protested outside of Kings Theatre, saying that residents could not endure another harsh winter. CVH is demanding the creation of a resident-led oversight committee and a $2 billion investment from the city this year to be used for heating system repairs in every building that needs it.
“Three years, ten months and fifteen days is too long to stand idly by while the state of NYCHA continued to deteriorate. With their track record of serious missteps and flouting of the health and safety of residents, we cannot trust that NYCHA can fix this problem on their own,” the group said.
The Marcy Houses complex, located within 36th Council District which Cornegy represents, has significant heating, hot water and lead problems.
NYCHA’s problems could be exacerbated if President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts comes to pass. The budget could mean a reduction of as much as $466 million from NYCHA’s operating budget. It would also eliminate the Public Housing Capital Fund entirely, removing $364 million from NYCHA’s budget for repairs and eliminate nearly 15,000 section 8 vouchers.
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