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Housing Authority Chairman Opens Up On His Agency's Failings After Sandy

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TWC News: Housing Authority Chairman Opens Up On His Agency's Failings After Sandy
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The head of the city's housing authority admitted at a Tuesday discussion that his agency was unprepared for Hurricane Sandy, and the chairman is dealing with the hot seat and how to get his cash-strapped authority back on its feet. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

Wally Bazemore, a longtime resident of Red Hook Houses, explains that large generators keep his development running, and not John Rhea, the chairman of the New York City Housing Authority.

"He's a Harvard banker. What does he know about public housing?" Bazemore said.

Just hours earlier, the NYCHA chairman and Bazemore shared a stage, discussing the agency's response to Hurricane Sandy.

"The actual surge of the water made us realize how vulnerable our buildings really are," Rhea said.

Sandy came at a pivotal time for Rhea, who was already under fire for so-called mismanagement.

Post-Sandy, some candidates for mayor have all been critical of Rhea's tenure. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Public Advocate Bill Thompson both said they would get rid of him entirely.

"There are eight million people in New York. Everyone has an opinion and they are entitled to that opinion," the chairman said.

Rhea said he is dealing with a cash-strapped agency abandoned by the federal government.

"There are very few streams that we can rely upon from the federal government or otherwise to actually reinvest in public housing," said Rhea.

Now, the chairman is pushing forward a plan to develop market-rate housing on under-utilized space in public housing developments.

"We are ground-leasing land to developers, that would be the plan. It would be a combination of market-rate housing and affordable housing. We have to balance that," Rhea said.

It's another potential storm for this agency.

"You see there was a lot of disconnect. I can't always blame the chairman, because he don't know," said Bazemore. "He has to depend on information from his underlings. They don't know because they weren't out here."

Much of the calm has been restored at Red Hook Houses, but one may not be able to say the same thing for the chairman of the housing authority. Rhea will be on the hot seat on Wednesday, testifying on his agency's response to Hurricane Sandy.

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