It goes on and on… The disgraceful living conditions of a big-city slum completely ignored by those who can help. Doesn’t anyone really care? Or is the corruption so deep that no one can or wants to touch it?

The overt mismanagement and neglect seem both inhuman and unbelievable. The seeming disregard of city officials for the well-being of the 500,000 people who live in NYCHA housing projects throughout the five boroughs of New York has been going on for years. And it hasn’t stopped.

During the Bloomberg Administration we learned that NYCHA had a backlog of more than 400,000 requests for repairs. That information was so stunning that it made the news. 400,000 repairs unattended? It didn’t seem possible. The bad news about NYCHA has been coming ever since.

Will Bredderman of the Observer and Greg B. Smith of the N.Y. Daily News, perhaps sensing that this goes so deep into the political system that a Pulitzer Prize awaits, deserve our appreciation for reporting a constant stream of information about the failures at NYCHA…failures which seem more extreme as time goes by with no change- but lots of words – from the current administration. The reports are bad. No one seems to be listening.

Two Comptrollers – Scott Stringer, of New York City and Thomas DiNapoli, of New York State have conducted audits which reveal “…outright lying, weakness and a lack of detail”.

When NYCHA reported that they had reduced those 400,000 repairs to 130,000, Comptroller Stringer said they were lying. His audit showed that repairs were never done; that if no one was home, NYCHA said the work had been undertaken and completed. An outright lie, said Stringer.

And then silence. No word from any NYC official…certainly none from NYCHA.

Photo of Tom Dinapoli
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli
DiNapoli audited the work of the NY State Division of Housing and Renewal. That agency was charged with overseeing the use of $100 million that Gov. Andrew Cuomo allotted to fix roofs that were in desperate disrepair. DiNapoli found that the agency didn’t seem to know where the money went or even whether any work was started – much less completed. It wasn’t the first time that this agency couldn’t follow the money given to NYCHA to make repairs. It won’t be the last.

There is no question that the work of the NYCHA bureaucracy is about covering up inadequacy and failures just as the work of its Chairwoman, Shola Olatoye,is that of a salesperson: keep talking about the future and make no reference to what is not happening now.

The Liberal Party has been recounting NYCHA’s “crimes against its residents” in other reports on this website and on its Facebook page. This is just the latest. It won’t be the last.

Reading the public response to those reports on Facebook is an experience. If you think residents don’t care about how they are treated, or that they believe the lies and excuses they receive from the NYCHA bureaucracy, visit the pages and see the truth.

But here’s the real mystery: the failure of any city, State or Federal official to do something about this miscarriage of humanity…this civil wrong.

And so we look at the possibilities of corruption and wonder whether things are not so mysterious after all… because if it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck…then …

Corruption takes place in a number of ways.

Photo of Thorstein Veblen
American economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen
We often talk about institutional corruption and quote philosopher Thorstein Veblen that when programs are old enough, big enough and rich enough to become institutions, the people working in them care more about their own concerns and needs than they do about the people they are supposed to be serving.

That is as apparent in NYCHA as it is in the Veteran’s Administration where 330,000 employees cannot provide adequate medical care for our returning veterans shattered by the Mid-East wars. One Congressman said a lot of people should be fired. They haven’t been.

There are only 13,000 people who work for NYCHA. On the record it seems that few care about the people they are supposed to be serving….the people who live in that housing.

NYCHA is 80 years old…most buildings were built more than 50 years ago. Hundreds of millions of dollars pass through NYCHA every year…and until this year the city took a huge chunk of it for the general fund. Residents and their complaints be damned. All the trappings of institutional corruption exist.

And then there is the more outright corruption.

It is the NYCHA bureaucracy which recommends which construction companies should receive multimillion dollar contracts to repair and preserve the 2,500 buildings around the city. Those recommendations go to the Federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Authority in Washington. HUD writes the contracts with those construction firms and sends the money.

No one can secure a list of the construction companies favored with multi-million dollar contracts over the years…the corporations which win the contracts, take the money and then don’t do the job.

Could it be that these corporations are somehow ‘thanking’ their friends at NYCHA for the recommendations which make those contracts possible? How would they do that? Think about it. Use the ‘if it quacks like a duck theory” … It all seems such a possibility.

And then we come to the third form of corruption…the one that most surely exist if the other two do.

Is it corrupt for a politician to take a corporate and/or personal gift for a campaign – and then ignore what that corporation and its bosses are doing or not doing in the workplace?

We ask the question because no one in a position of power and influence in NYC or New York State wants to deal with the NYCHA situation.

The Liberal Party has contacted HUD asking for an investigation and received no answer.

The Liberal Party has contacted one of the most respected of our Congressional delegation – with NYCHA housing throughout her district in Manhattan and Brooklyn – and received no answer.

The Liberal Party has contacted Governor Andrew Cuomo who has completely involved himself in NYC government – from funds for pre-K to suggestions about bare-breasted ladies in Times Square. But for NYCHA he feels that it’s NYC’s problem – not a State problem – even as he reads the negative audit of his watchdog group indicating severe problems with the expenditure of millions of State dollars. He thinks the Liberal Party can find answers better than he can.

No sense asking the Mayor. Not this Mayor.

Photo of Ritchie Torres
NYC Council Member, Ritchie Torres
Not a single member of the City Council has spoken out on the issue even though one – Ritchie Torres – who is especially involved – has asked serious questions. He receives no answers and seems to be satisfied asking the questions.

The Manhattan Borough President seems content to call meetings – public forums. Nothing much happens but that seems to be OK with her.

The city’s Public Advocate – whose very job is about an issue as severe as this – remains totally silent. Mark Green would have been all over this.

The State Attorney general’s office seems disinterested …but maybe Eric Schneiderman will reconsider.

That leaves the United States Attorney for the district – Preet Bharara..the man who brought down the leaders of the New York State Assembly and Senate.

And there is more than can be done…we will let you know.

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