FEDS’ NYCHA ‘BILL’
U.S. attorney, HUD put pressure on mayor to pay up for fixes
FEDERAL PROSECUTORS are requiring Mayor de Blasio to make a major commitment of city funds to NYCHA to resolve a two-year probe of the authority’s failures, the Daily News has learned.
NYCHA is not a city agency, but the mayor appoints its board and chairperson — and has been aware for more than two years of NYCHA’s longtime noncompliance with required lead paint inspections.
The civil division of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman’s office has been investigating whether NYCHA management has lied to the feds about the poor conditions of its 172,000 aging apartments, including its failure to eradicate lead paint and mold infestations.
NYCHA’s top lawyer admitted this week the authority has agreed with the feds to settle the investigation by submitting to expanded judicial oversight under what’s known as a consent decree.
But a final deal has been held up by the city’s resistance to a demand by the federal prosecutors and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that the city commit to a dramatic increase in its funding of the authority, four sources familiar with ongoing talks have told The News.
Two of the sources say de Blasio has been personally involved in the negotiations.
NYCHA, the city’s biggest landlord with 600,000 tenants, is struggling to keep up with deteriorating buildings that have left residents living in squalid conditions.
Last month, Gov. Cuomo signed an executive order creating an emergency manager to oversee state- and city-funded NYCHA projects going forward.
The mayor, the City Council and a tenant leaders’ group have until June 2 to pick this manager.
It’s not clear what role the feds will allege City Hall played in the authority’s failures.
Two sources said the demanded payment is not a penalty, but an estimate of what needs to be spent to fix things.
The mayor and his top deputies were aware of NYCHA’s noncompliance in performance of required lead paint inspections for more than a year before disclosing it to tenants and the public.
And they knew of the noncompliance in October 2016 when then-NYCHA Chairwoman Shola Olatoye falsely certified that the authority was performing all its required lead paint checks.
None of the sources would disclose the amount that’s being discussed, except to emphasize that it’s substantial.
On Thursday, de Blasio press secretary Eric Phillips declined to answer questions about the talks with the feds.
“This process has been surrounded by a great deal of rumor, speculation and untruth,” he wrote in an email to the News. “We’re focused on the discussions and we will be happy to talk about the actual facts when the process is complete.”
A spokesman for Berman declined to comment.
Jillian Jorgensen Mayor de Blasio (back row, second from left) helps rename a Brooklyn community center for murder victim Prince Joshua Avitto (right) on Thursday. The boy’s mom, Aricka McClinton (far left and above), cut the ribbon.