New York City

Presidential candidates must commit to public housing, says congressmember

October 2, 2019 Kelly Mena
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A federal lawmaker wants to hear promises from the presidential candidates to make a significant investment in public housing like NYCHA, which in New York City houses more than 400,000 people. 

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, is now looking to the field of 20 presidential hopefuls — 18 Democrats and two Republicans — to commit to funding public housing. 

The congressmember, whose district wraps around Brooklyn from Bushwick to Sunset Park, announced her “Public Housing Emergency Response Act,” a measure that proposes pumping $70 billion into public housing nationally, with nearly half — $32 billion — going to the city’s embattled public housing authority, as first reported by the New York Daily News

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“I ask that Donald Trump or whoever will be in the White House in 2020 that they must make a commitment to pass this type of investment,” Velázquez said at a press conference Wednesday morning. 

At the Democratic primary debates thus far, the candidates — of which, for a few months, Mayor Bill de Blasio was one — have debated health care, gun control, criminal justice reforms and the climate crisis. But they haven’t specifically tackled the housing issue at an official debate — though many do have a housing platform

“Others, who are today in the campaign trail, need to know and to listen to our constituents that they need to start debating and making a commitment to invest in public housing,” Velazquez told the Brooklyn Eagle after this morning’s press conference. 

NYCHA is the nation’s largest public housing agency, with 400,000 residents spread across 326 developments. In Brooklyn alone, there are 87 developments, from DUMBO to Fort Greene to Coney Island. The borough’s largest public housing complex is the Red Hook Housesa sprawling 32-building complex with 1,411 total units. 

Over the last 30 years, NYCHA has struggled with heat and hot water outages, lead paint and mold issues and mismanagement at the executive level, leading to the appointment of a federal monitor in June 2018

Velázquez acknowledged the monitor, but made sure to note that a lack of investment in NYCHA has been the main factor in crippling the authority and not solely a lack of leadership. 

“I don’t care how many federal monitors the Trump administration is going to put for the situation here in New York — there cannot be the type of modernization that needs to happen in public housing developments throughout New York City if we do not allocate the money,” she said at the press conference.

When pushed for where the specific funding would come from, Velázquez said she “doesn’t know,” but hinted that it could come from rolling back tax cuts that have allowed affluent Americans big breaks. Velázquez also noted that it could be folded into the infrastructure bill — which would fund crumbling bridges and roads among other public works projects — that Congress and Trump are currently attempting to pass

“If there is an opportunity for us to pass an infrastructure bill, we want this legislation to be included as part of that. We’re asking, I believe, for one trillion dollars for infrastructure. I want 70 billion dollars out of that trillion for public housing,” Velázquez said. “But we need to start somewhere. We need to take a first step.” 


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