U.S. at­tor­ney, HUD put pres­sure on mayor to pay up for fixes

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY GREG B. SMITH

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.

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