Bill de Blasio continues with RAD/PACT conversion of NYCHA public housing.
The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio (WFP-New York City) has announced plans to convert more than 9,500 public housing residents under the controversial RAD/PACT scheme. NYC Mayor's Office (YouTube/Fair Use)

de Blasio continuing with RAD/PACT conversion of NYCHA public housing, despite Schumer, Velázquez effort to fully-fund public housing

Mayor Bill de Blasio is determined to hand over public housing to private sector landlords, despite a concerted effort by Sen. Charles Schumer and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez to fully-fund capital repairs in the entire Nation’s public housing stock.

By Progress New York Staff

The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio (WFP-New York City) confirmed on Wednesday their intention to convert 4,400 apartments across 17 public housing sites under the controversial schemes of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development that would permit private sector landlords to take control of strategic public assets. The schemes, known as Rental Assistance Demonstration, or RAD, and Permanent Affordability Commitment Together, or PACT, have been denounced by some public housing leaders and have been reported to lead to possible civil rights abuses and increased rates of evictions.

The conversion of 4,400 public housing apartments is expected to fund an estimated $693 million in capital repairs, according to the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA. The value of those repairs correspond with the five-year needs assessment calculated in 2017, according to NYCHA. At that time then, the de Blasio administration estimated that the NYCHA-wide five-year needs assessment totaled $30 billion. This year, NYCHA CEO Greg Russ said that NYCHA needed $40 billion, according to a report broadcast by WNBC-Channel 4 news. It’s not known why the de Blasio administration is capping RAD/PACT repairs at 2017 physical needs assessment values when CEO Russ has increased the alleged capital need at NYCHA by 33 per cent. since 2017. For this report, the press office supporting Mayor de Blasio refused to answer a media inquiry.

The latest announcement shows the first deviation from a spreadsheet of information obtained and published online by Progress New York of public housing developments identified by the de Blasio administration in 2019 for RAD/PACT conversion. For example, eight of the 17 public housing development complexes facing conversion were not identified as being targets of “PACT” conversion as of 2019. It’s been widely reported that the Coronavirus pandemic disrupted the real estate industry in New York City.

The conversion announcement follows a similar announcement made weeks ago that four separate public housing complexes, Fulton Houses, Chelsea Houses, Chelsea Annex, and Elliott Houses, faced similar conversion.

According to a partial dataset published online by NYCHA, 9,517 public housing apartments have converted under RAD/PACT.

During the de Blasio administration, certain participants in the real estate development industry have benefitted from approvals of Government permits or changes in land use policies by the Government. Before the Coronavirus pandemic, the Government acts resulted in gentrification that critics said led to escalations in market-rate rents and reports of secondary displacement of people of colour and people earning low incomes. Many of the real estate developers, who have profited from these Government acts, have reportedly been donors to Mayor de Blasio’s various campaign finance committees. The developers involved in the privatisation of NYCHA have also included some of the mayor’s political donors, like Maddd Equities, which purchased the unused air rights over Ingersol Houses in Brooklyn for $25 million, according to a report published by the New York Daily News. Despite reports of conflicts of interest and possible corruption, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the prosecutors primarily responsible for investigating systemic corruption, have silently countenanced the de Blasio administration’s acts.

Congressional Democrats have yet to specifically call on Mayor de Blasio to suspend his RAD/PACT conversions of NYCHA public housing.

In 2020, members of the public housing advocacy group, Fight For NYCHA, protested against U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss over her alleged abandonment of public housing tenants. Progress New York provides material support to Fight For NYCHA. Source : Fight For NYCHA/Fair Use

Despite an announced plan by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) to push for funding to finally end the decades of divestment of public housing, Mayor de Blasio continues with his scheme to convert up to 62,000 public housing apartments into the RAD/PACT programme whereby private landlords profit from operating public housing under the Section 8 rental assistance voucher scheme. Despite the known dangers caused by RAD/PACT conversion and resident opposition, none of the Democrats from the New York City Congressional delegation have stood up to Mayor de Blasio over his nonstop efforts to privatise public housing. The closest exception are remarks made by U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY 07) in response to a question asked by journalist Michael McCabe — about whether the infrastructure bill funding could stop further RAD/PACT conversions at NYCHA. “Well, the reason NYCHA has come up with RAD is because of the lack of resources and investment from the Federal Government. If we get this money, there’s no reason for RAD,” U.S. Rep. Velázquez said, adding that, “NYCHA or any Agency or City Government should not be in the business of selling public assets.” For this report, an official with Sen. Schumer’s office did not immediately answer a media request.

For her part, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY 14) refused to use a 2019 town hall up in the Bronx to denounce RAD/PACT conversions, according to a social media post by a New York Times reporter. In 2021, U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez admitted that trade unions helped her author her “green” New Deal for public housing scheme. As reported by Progress New York, anytime large real estate development projects are proposed by the powerful real estate industry that are simultaneously opposed by community residents, the support of trades unions is relied upon by Elected Officials as political cover to override the will of community residents.

In 2019, then NYCHA Interim CEO Kathryn Garcia briefed officials with the New York City Congressional delegation about “tenant protection vouchers” as part of NYCHA’s rescue plan. U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley III has ruled that NYCHA can legally weaken tenants’ rights under the so-called tenant protection vouchers, thereby guaranteeing no protections for holders of tenant protection vouchers. Notwithstanding, U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has supported the use of the discredited tenant protection vouchers in her controversial “green” New Deal for public housing plan.

One year after the City of New York, NYCHA, and HUD settled an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s southern district over NYCHA’s physical condition standards, NYCHA breached the Settlement Agreement, according to a report published by POLITICO. In the time since, U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, whose office oversaw the investigation and the subsequent settlement, has countenanced reports and complaints of ongoing and continuing civil rights violations by NYCHA, particularly with respect to RAD/PACT conversions. The press office supporting outgoing U.S. Attorney Strauss declined to answer advance questions submitted for this report.