WE ACT for Environmental Justice and Members of WE ACT’s NYCHA Healthy Homes Working Group Respond to the New York City Council’s Oversight Hearing on RAD/PACT, the Trust, & the Future of the New York City Housing Authority

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 15, 2023
Contact: Chris Dobens, chris@weact.org, 718-679-8542

 

NEW YORK – On October 24, 2023, the New York City Council held an oversight hearing on RAD/PACT, the Trust, and the Future of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). WE ACT for Environmental Justice (WE ACY), which attended the event along with members of its NYCHA Healthy Homes Working Group, issued the following statement:

“WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and low income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. Aligned with this goal, WE ACT’s NYCHA Healthy Homes Working Group was established in 2020 to build community power and educate members around NYCHA issues by discussing key topics, having conversations with informed speakers, advocating for solutions to better NYCHA communities, and pushing for the meaningful involvement of NYCHA residents in decisions that shape their environment and health.

“Like all New Yorkers, NYCHA residents deserve to live in dignified housing that is safe, healthy, comfortable, and affordable. Unfortunately, historic disinvestment from Section 9 public housing at the federal, state, and city levels have left NYCHA’s aging building stock in disrepair and the goal of healthy homes for all increasingly difficult to achieve. The most recent Physical Needs Assessment found nearly $80 billion in accumulated capital investment needs across NYCHA’s portfolio, of which $42 billion require immediate replacement within the next year to avoid the exacerbation of already hazardous living conditions. WE ACT working group members are well aware of the investments needed in their homes. These cost estimates are far beyond what NYCHA can expect to receive from traditional funding sources.

“WE ACT’s NYCHA Healthy Homes Working Group believes that an equitable future for NYCHA will be led by the residents. However, to date, NYCHA has not been clear in how they will attain meaningful involvement from and engagement with residents surrounding potential conversions of developments to the Permanent Affordability Commitment Together (PACT) program and the New York City Public Housing Preservation Trust (Trust).

“At the hearing, we learned about an ongoing NYCHA engagement effort at Nostrand Houses ahead of the upcoming vote to decide whether the development will convert to the Trust, PACT, or remain Section 9 starting on November 8th. This effort included NYCHA administrators and tenant leaders making phone calls, and going door-to-door informing residents about their three voting options as well as partnering with a local high school to hang flyers. They also opened an on-site office where residents can go with lingering questions about the Trust. Thus far, this effort resulted in individual conversations with 67 percent of Nostrand Houses residents who are eligible to vote.

“We are glad to see NYCHA recognize the importance of engaging with residents and are hopeful to see such an effort being put toward ensuring all residents are informed about these decisions. The described effort significantly improves upon the inadequate engagement and voting processes that happened just a few months ago, where there was language inaccessibility and reports of non-English speaking residents not comprehending what they were voting for; reports of certain developments being arbitrarily grouped together to vote on the proposed demolition and rebuild of the Chelsea-Elliot and Fulton Houses; and unclear communication surrounding votes being referred to as “surveys”; and low turnout for combined information sessions and voting.

“Despite the outreach efforts at Nostrand Houses and improved voting engagement processes, there is still a large subset of residents who have yet to be included in the Nostrand Houses conversation, and NYCHA has been unclear about the scalability, sustainability, and replicability of this engagement process as they roll-out voting to developments beyond Nostrand Houses. NYCHA’s voting rules still only require 20-percent participation for a vote to be considered valid. That means large-scale changes can happen in a development with little resident input, and leaves room for uneven engagement processes across NYCHA before votes occur.

“WE ACT’s NYCHA Healthy Homes Working Group urges the City Council to push for ways to increase transparency and help repair the relationship between NYCHA and the residents it serves, no matter if a development converts to PACT, the Trust, or remains Section 9. This should include:

  • codifying input and feedback processes municipal and state law before any reforms can take place;
  • ensuring that NYCHA community centers serve resident needs by supporting and increasing community-based programs; and
  • empowering residents to govern operations in their living environments by supporting building management and maintenance programs, as well as training for individuals interested in leading through the resident council.

“WE ACT is also pleased to see the introduction of Intro 0646-2023, which could increase oversight and transparency of buildings converted to the PACT program. In an upcoming report on NYCHA’s service interruption database, WE ACT’s NYCHA Healthy Homes Working Group discusses the longstanding lack of data transparency from NYCHA and describes the importance of data accessibility for residents, advocates, and policymakers to be able to summarize NYCHA data on environmental health issues over time.

“In addition to sharing data on service interruptions, we call for NYCHA to publish key data necessary to understand environmental and community characteristics, including reports on pest infestations, mold, lead, dust, and their respective response times, community space usage characteristics, and demographic data. This data must be publicly available across all development types (PACT, the Trust, and Section 9).”

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WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in New York and Washington, D.C. Visit us at weact.org and follow us on FacebookTwitter/X, and Instagram.

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