New York City Council
Committee on Public Housing and the Subcommittee on Capital Budget
Oversight: NYCHA’s 2017 Physical Needs Assessment
November 15, 2018
LiveOn NY would like to first and foremost thank Chairs Ampry-Samuel and Gibson for holding today’s hearing on NYCHA’s 2017 Physical Needs Assessment.
In New York City, NYCHA and the HUD Section 202 program represent two of the greatest suppliers of affordable housing for low-income seniors. Currently, 38% of NYCHA households are headed by an individual age 62 and over, and an estimated 7,700 units are designated specifically for older adults. Like the rest of the city’s affordable housing options, public housing has seemingly endless demand to fill, with over 200,000 families on waiting lists for a NYCHA apartment. This incredible need for housing, juxtaposed to dwindling supply of available land and a glaring lack of federal resources makes NYCHA one of New York City’s most precious of resources. Unfortunately, however, the current state of NYCHA’s housing is widely known to be dilapidated, unsafe, and lacking the dignity that should be afforded to any New Yorker. Through the physical needs assessment these conditions have been enumerated by the finding of an astounding $32-billion-dollar capital backlog.
Much emphasis has been accurately placed on the need to improve the living conditions in units within NYCHA developments, an emphasis that LiveOn NY wholly supports. In addition to this, it is important to note that the community facilities located within NYCHA have not been immune to the incredible capital backlog that exists. A recent Wall Street Journal article shed light to the fact that an estimated $500 million in capital funding is needed for these community spaces, which include Senior Centers, child care centers, and other critical programs that support the wellbeing of NYCHAs residents and its surrounding community members.
These programs are on the front lines of supporting tenants and should be seen as a resource in relaying critical information around NYCHA repairs, as well as updates related to NYCHA NextGen to communities. Clear and consistent communication from NYCHA to providers is critical to enabling nonprofits to best fulfill this role.
LiveOn NY is here today with our colleagues from the Day Care Council of New York (DCCNY) and United Neighborhood Houses (UNH) to recommend reforms—including re-directing fines, improved inter-agency cooperation and a streamlined process for repair approval— that would provide relief to the community-based organizations operating these centers without adding stress to NYCHA’s financial situation.
Collectively, LiveOn NY, UNH, and DCCNY represent a majority of the nonprofit human service providers operating the NYCHA community spaces requiring vital repairs. LiveOn NY specifically represents more than 90 senior service organizations, many of which run the almost 100 senior centers operating in a NYCHA facility. While located in NYCHA, these programs contract with the City’s human service agencies, including the Department for the Aging (DFTA), the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), Department of Education (DOE), and Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD). Unfortunately, given the capital backlog, many of these spaces have fallen into disrepair, forcing providers to spend exorbitant energy on finding ways to remain open and safe despite the walls quite literally crumbling around them – this is energy that could otherwise be spent providing life-sustaining services to the community. Adding salt to the wound, the providers are often subject to an onslaught of fines and violations from the City’s well-intentioned regulatory agencies, including the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY).
Given the funding constraints faced by non-profit service providers and their leasing agent, NYCHA, providers are put in an incredibly difficult position as a result of these fines. Beyond these funding concerns, NYCHA’s approval processes leaves providers waiting weeks, months or even years before being able to move forward with critical repairs for which capital funds have been made available – whether through City Council or other sources.
Acknowledging the difficult financial position of NYCHA, we at respectfully submit the following process-oriented recommendations, each having the potential to improve the day-to-day business and viability of providers operating within NYCHA – without adding additional stress to NYCHA’s current financial situation:
Re-direct Fines – Nonprofit human service providers, who lack site control and rely on NYCHA to make repairs, should not be subject to citations and fines from DOHMH or FDNY due to NYCHA’s failure to make those repairs. When violations are found during inspections, and if these violations have already been reported to NYCHA by the provider, the provider should not be penalized;
Mandate Inter-Agency Cooperation – NYCHA and the agencies that leverage their space, including ACS, DFTA, DYCD, and DOE, need a clear division of responsibilities for the maintenance and upkeep of NYCHA sites. In order to provide stability to providers, this division of responsibility, once established and agreed upon, should be standardized as appropriate across all agencies that fund providers operating out of NYCHA properties; and
Design an Approval Process for Repairs – NYCHA must work internally and with providers to accelerate approval for repairs and renovations and must expedite processes with the residential repair division when floods, leaks, or other issues originate in apartments and require a two-pronged repair to fully address.
We appreciate your consideration of the above recommendations.
Finally, LiveOn NY seeks to remain a resource to the city as it works through how best to house, serve, and support its older NYCHA tenants. To this aim, we look forward to continuing to work with City Council and the administration to make New York, and NYCHA, a better place to age.