"No one should have to live with mold like what NYCHA maintenance workers recorded in this apartment," wrote Federal prosecutors in a Court filing in Manhattan. U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York/Public Domain

Federal Judge Pauley will decide whether pennies on the dollar repair fund will be approved for NYCHA

Prosecutors, NYCHA, and the City of New York have filed briefs, arguing that the Court should approve the $4 billion repair fund. Progress New York argued in a letter that the repair fund is inadequate and should be rejected.

By Progress New York Staff

A hearing will be held on Sept. 26 that will allegedly bring about an end to the poor physical condition standards at public housing developments owned by the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA. The outcome of the hearing will be decided by U.S. District Court Judge William H. Pauley III, who must approve or reject a proposed settlement in a Court case that will create a $4 billion repair fund for NYCHA, even though NYCHA’s true need for its capital improvement budget is estimated at over $31 billion.

U.S. District Court Judge Pauley III has had experience with NYCHA’s inability to comply with a prior settlement agreement approved by the Court that set deadlines by which NYCHA had to remediate toxic mold and make other capital repairs, such as fixing its plumbing and exteriors, which have been the source of water leaks that have been blamed to be the cause of the spread of toxic mold. NYCHA was never able to comply with the mold abatement settlement, because it never had the money to pay for repairs.

The size of the repair fund will determine if Judge Pauley and U.S. Attorney Berman will save public housing in New York City — or will hasten its collapse.

Because of the size of shortfall in NYCHA’s capital improvement budget, NYCHA was never realistically in a position to make widespread repairs or upgrades to its public housing developments, leading to the appointment of a special master in 2015, by U.S. District Court Judge Pauley III, to oversee NYCHA’s compliance with its then, new mold abatement settlement.

In the physical condition standards case now pending before the same judge, the U.S. District Court will now have to decide whether it will approve the repair fund, which has been described to be woefully inadequate, thereby increasing the likelihood that more litigation will be filed over the inhabitability of NYCHA’s public housing developments. If new litigation is commenced, that case will almost certainly again come before U.S. District Court Judge Pauley III. Advocates for saving and expanding public housing are concerned that the Court does not appreciate the role that public housing plays in society, or the sentiments and public opinion that informed the creation of public housing.

NYCHA was created in 1934, after the onset of the Great Depression, decades after extreme market failure in New York City prevented the creation of safe and affordable housing for individuals and families making low incomes. When NYCHA was created, housing was going to be treated like a social good, much like public education and public transportation, according to a 1934 report published by the New York Times. As argued by Progress New York in a letter sent to U.S. District Court Judge Pauley III, New York City is again experiencing extreme market failure that prevents the creation of safe and affordable housing for individuals and families making low incomes. As a result, saving public housing is of compelling national interest, making it necessary for the Court to demand a settlement to the physical conditions standards litigation that provides for a full funding of NYCHA’s entire capital improvement budget deficit.

The litigation over NYCHA’s poor physical conditions standards was filed by U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman after former U.S Attorney Preet Bharara and Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim commenced and carried-out a years-long investigation into the lead poisioning crisis at public housing developments owned by NYCHA. Real estate interests and neoliberal Democratic Party politicians are using the size of NYCHA’s shortfall in its capital improvement budget as an excuse to privatise public housing, which, if allowed to happen, would represent a violation of the spirit and intent of the laws that created public housing in the first place.