After insisting for months that the embattled head of the city’s Housing Authority wasn’t going anywhere, Mayor de Blasio’s team announced last night that Shola Olatoye is leaving her job at the end of the month.
While Olatoye will forever be remembered for a lead paint coverup at NYCHA and serious problems in keeping the buildings warm during the winter, it’s also worth noting that being landlord for 400,000 city residents is often a thankless job. And it doesn’t help matters that the federal government has largely pulled out the rug from NYCHA by broadly cutting aid to public housing over the last 20 years.
While there are long wait lists for repairs at many NYCHA developments, there are also long wait lists for people who want to move into them. That’s partially because the city is facing a massive housing crisis so people would rather live in an apartment with peeling paint and a leaky ceiling than live in no apartment at all. But there are also NYCHA success stories to be told – with some developments doing noticeably better than the others.
City Hall and Olatoye needed to do a better job at success stories in some developments; there’s more than a little bit of irony on the day where Olatoye is announcing her farewell that she and de Blasio are appearing at one development in the Rockaways where things are getting better.
With Governor Cuomo breathing down his neck and the federal government threatening to create a NYCHA overseer, the mayor has a short timeline to create a turnaround. After stubbornly resisting calls for change for months, the mayor is smart to bring in a new general to oversee what's been a losing battle in improving public housing.