A day after federal prosecutors, the city, and the federal government signed a settlement agreement to change the way the city's public housing authority operates, some were already on the defensive.
"I thought it was very good to have — and it's public information now — a clear work plan that said, 'How are we going to address these real health and safety issues, over what timeframe, and put everyone on the hook for them?'" Mayor Bill de Blasio said on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show on Friday.
During his weekly radio appearance, the mayor was explaining why he thought a federal monitor for public housing would make the city more accountable.
At the same time, the local director for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) took to Twitter and slammed the mayor and other elected officials, dismissing the idea that politics were at play. She claimed the monitor had the power to remove New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) leadership and enforce real change.
"I believe if the federal government really wants to help NYCHA, they should stop the gamesmanship and actually give us the money that's going to go a long way to fixing the boilers, making the necessary capital improvements, getting rid of the lead, getting rid of the rats," City Comptroller Scott Stringer said.
Examining the fine print of the deal, it's clear the federal government will not have the power to unilaterally remove NYCHA's CEO. The city would have to agree to any dismissal.
It's also unclear how much power the monitor will really have to enforce this. Corey Stern, who is leading a class action lawsuit against NYCHA, said it has no teeth.
"There is really no way to enforce it," the attorney said. "It will likely end before all of the parts of it that need to be accomplished are actually accomplished, and there is nobody watching other than a monitor that is chosen by HUD to determine if things are being complied with. And in the event they are not, all that monitor can do is tell people they really need to."
According to the agreement, if NYCHA doesn't comply, the monitor is supposed to go back to HUD to get a directive. That's supposed to be enough to get NYCHA to act.
Of course, HUD still reserves the right to put the NYCHA into a receivership, which is basically a federal takeover. For now, it seems highly unlikely the federal government would take that action.
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