To: The Honorable Ben Carson, MD, Secretary designate,
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Dear Dr. Carson:
We are writing to you as residents of the New York City Housing Authority, the largest public housing development in the country. Upon learning that shortly after your confirmation as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development you will go on a “listening tour” to see what housing for the poor in the United States is all about, we respectfully suggest you come to New York and meet with us – several of the tenants of NYCHA.
If you do, you will see just a few of the 2,700 buildings in all five boroughs of New York City that house 500,000 of us. We know you will see the deplorable conditions in which we live and will want to do something about it.
You will see with your own eyes the crumbling rooftops which permit water to run down into the buildings forming disease-carrying black mold. You will see broken walls and windows, non-working water pipes and broken sinks and toilets, hallways pitch black day and night because of broken lightbulbs. You will learn that one in every four crimes in NYC is committed in NYCHA buildings and yet security systems and safety lights have never been installed or break and remain broken.
You will meet a wonderful group of women – single-Mothers, more than half of the residents – who have learned to cork windows, plaster, repair and paint walls, fix and reframe broken front doors, do for themselves what NYCHA staff members refuse to do.
You will learn that at one point several years ago, NYCHA had over 400,000 unanswered calls for repair and that while they report cutting that down by half, their approach to repair is to make one call and if unanswered, mark the repair as complete.
You will learn that while our buildings are in some of the nicest neighborhoods in NYC and often seem clean and quiet, they are a disaster inside and that NYCHA seems determined to force us to live in slum and crime-ridden conditions while they entertain the possibility of selling the buildings to private developers.
We know that the US Attorney for this area, Preet Bharara has been studying the lead-caused poisoning of our children and older residents. He has yet to file a report of his findings and recommendations. Perhaps you can find a few moments to talk to him about this matter.
We hope you learn that last year New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had promised $100 million to fix the roofs on some of the NYCHA buildings but was told by his State Comptroller that they cannot follow the money to see if it is being properly used. The funds never came.
We know from news media and listening to you during the Republican Presidential debates that you believe poor people must learn to pull themselves out of poverty and stop depending upon society to help them. If you can find a few moments to listen to some of us, you will see that we are trying to do just that. But we can only do so much and we appeal to you for help.
Thanking you for your every consideration, we are
The Residents of NYCHA
Who Is Ben Carson?
Weeks before accepting his nomination as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development(HUD) Ben Carson, former Republican Presidential hopeful, said that he could never consider a position in Donald Trump’s administration. He said the President-elect pledged to bring the best people to Washington and Carson said he did not have the necessary government and bureaucratic experience to do the best job.
And then he took it. A neurosurgeon running the department of housing and urban development.
We do not know what his motivation is. He is a man who turns his experiences into bestselling books. Housing – affordable, public – is a major problem all across America especially in big cities and the more affluent suburbs that surround them. Perhaps he sees this experience as another opportunity for a best-seller.
The Secretary of HUD should not be, but too often is, a plum political appointment. When Mario Cuomo, Governor of New York was jockeying for position with Bill Clinton, Governor of Arkansas for who might be the Democratic Presidential nominee, Mr. Cuomo backed away as he had done previously but not before getting a promise from Mr. Clinton that he would find a Federal position for son Andrew. Clinton did. Secretary of HUD.
When the Texan Castro brothers were making a splash in Washington and Texas, a political decision was made to take advantage of this strong Latino connection and so they gave Julian Castro, a major Federal position… Secretary of HUD.
Because of the massive bureaucracy that is HUD, it is often difficult to trace the effect one person can have on that department. We cannot genuinely do so in Mr. Cuomo’s case, though we are certain he can.
But we can say this about Julian Castro: When the Liberal Party sent him a registered letter pleading with him to help make the 2,500 buildings of New York City’s Housing Authority livable and safe – especially after a NYC policeman shot a young black man in the pitch black stairway of a NYCHA building – Castro seemed to take action.
Some several months after the letter – never formally acknowledged –crusading US Attorney Preet Bharara opened a major investigation into lead poisoning in NYCHA buildings. They acquired 400 million documents from NYCHA. Nothing more has been said about it.
And NYCHA buildings continue to crumble. While the NYC crime rate has gone down we are told, the crime rate in NYCHA buildings increases…they already are responsible for 25% of all the crime in NYC.
So then what can be expected of Dr. Carson? What does he expect of himself?
“A unique sort of sadness stirs within me when I watch Carson…He is, in many ways, the best of us. Yet in the end, he’s just a tool for someone else. I recognize myself in him. My scholastic, athletic and professional careers have always taken me through white dominated spaces in which I’m often alone and often the first. I’ve been called a token more times that I can count; more times that I cared to.
“A token is always chosen, and there is a steady, throbbing angst that comes with being chosen over and over again, always knowing that, on some level my abilities may have been ancillary to my appearance. How do you know when you are being used as an excuse?”
Greg Howard, New York Times Magazine, January 15,2017
Michael Eric Dyson is a writer, sociologist and an ordained Baptists minister whose new book “Tears We Cannot Stop, A Sermon to White America” is ‘ plea, a sermon, a cry from the heart’ which seeks to bring a white America to finally understand what it truly means to be born black in this country.
“Beloved, your white innocence is a burden to our progress…It is time to let it go, to let it die in the place of the black bodies it wills into nothing.”
The book is described as a lament, originating from the grieving heart of black America, aimed directly at white readers who are often too frightened, or indifferent, or ashamed to look a man like Rev. Dyson in the eyes and seeing the meaning of his words, change.
But what if that man is Ben Carson? With what eyes does he look at Rev. Dyson? Will he champion him or deny him?