Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces New Agreement For Fundamental Reform At NYCHA
Administrative Agreement Requires NYCHA to Remedy Living Conditions under Supervision of a Federal Monitor and Obligates New York City to Provide $1.2 Billion in New Capital Funding over the Next Five Years as Well as Other Monies
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”), Ben Carson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”), and Andrew Wheeler, Acting Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), announced today the signing of an administrative agreement (“Agreement”) with the NEW YORK CITY HOUSING AUTHORITY (“NYCHA”) and the CITY OF NEW YORK (the “City”) requiring NYCHA, under the supervision of a federal monitor, to fundamentally reform its operations and remedy living conditions for its residents, including lead paint hazards, mold growth, pest infestations, lack of heat, and inadequate elevator service. The Agreement, which went into effect immediately and does not require court approval, resolves the United States’ claims against NYCHA detailed in the Complaint filed in United States District Court on June 11, 2018 (the “Complaint”), which will be dismissed without prejudice. The Complaint alleged that for years NYCHA had violated and was continuing to violate basic federal health and safety regulations, including regulations requiring NYCHA to protect children from lead paint and otherwise provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing. The Complaint further alleged that NYCHA repeatedly made false statements to HUD and the public regarding its lead paint compliance, and intentionally deceived HUD inspectors.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman stated: “NYCHA’s failure to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing is simply unacceptable, and illegal. Children must be protected from toxic lead paint, apartments must be free of mold and pest infestations, and developments must provide adequate heat in winter and elevator service. This Office has not wavered from its commitment to better living conditions for NYCHA residents. Today’s Agreement will improve the lives of the more than 400,000 New Yorkers who call NYCHA home. The Agreement goes beyond the prior proposed Consent Decree by providing strict, enforceable standards that NYCHA must meet by particular deadlines for the five critical living conditions, including requiring both the immediate remediation of lead paint in apartments with children under 6 years old and, over time, 100 percent abatement of all lead paint in all NYCHA developments, as well as a change in NYCHA leadership.”
HUD Secretary Ben Carson said: “This is a very positive outcome, one that I believe can bring meaningful change to living conditions of the many thousands of families who depend upon NYCHA for their housing. But there is still a lot of work to be carried out. We look forward to continuing what has been a productive working relationship with the Mayor and his team. HUD will continue to advocate for the hundreds of thousands of children, women, and men in New York City whose lives and livelihoods depend on having safe, fair, and affordable housing. They deserve nothing less.”
Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said: “Under today’s agreement, New York City commits to provide the resources and institutional reforms needed to end NYCHA’s pattern and practice of endangering the health of children living in New York’s public housing. EPA will be vigilant and is prepared to reinstate our litigation should they fail to meet those commitments and continue to harm children by violating lead paint safety regulations.”
Based on NYCHA’s misconduct as detailed in the Complaint, the Secretary of HUD declared today that NYCHA is in substantial default of its covenant to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing. The purpose of the Agreement is to remedy the deficient physical conditions in NYCHA properties, ensure that NYCHA complies with its obligations under federal law, reform the management structure of NYCHA, and facilitate cooperation and coordination between HUD, NYCHA, and the City.
Specifically, the Agreement requires NYCHA to remediate living conditions at NYCHA properties by specific deadlines and meet strict, objective compliance standards regarding lead paint hazards, mold growth, pest infestations, and inadequate heating and elevator service. With respect to lead paint hazards, for example, the Agreement requires NYCHA to take action within 30 days to visually inspect all non-exempt units built before 1978 where NYCHA believes a child under 6 resides or routinely visits and remediate any deteriorated lead-based paint in the apartment, and, over time, to abate all lead paint in all NYCHA developments. The Agreement further obligates NYCHA to establish three new critical functions: a Compliance Department, an Environmental Health and Safety Department, and a Quality Assurance Unit. In addition, the Agreement requires the City to select a new chief executive officer for NYCHA from a list of qualified professionals jointly compiled by HUD, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the City.
The Agreement also renews the City’s commitment, reflected in the June 2018 proposed Consent Decree, to provide an additional $1 billion in capital funds to NYCHA over the next four years and an additional $200 million in capital funds each subsequent year for the duration of the Agreement. Also, the agreement locks in an additional $4 billion in City funds budgeted through 2027.
Pursuant to the Agreement, a federal monitor, selected by HUD and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in consultation with NYCHA and the City, will oversee NYCHA’s reform efforts. Beyond the specifically enumerated remedial actions required under the Agreement, NYCHA will develop action plans, subject to the monitor’s approval, to remediate living conditions at NYCHA and meet the compliance standards set forth in the Agreement. The monitor and NYCHA also will collaboratively develop a plan to overhaul NYCHA’s organizational, management, and workforce structure, informed by a new comprehensive study from an independent third-party consultant. Throughout the term of the Agreement, the monitor is required to engage with the community, including NYCHA residents, resident groups, and stakeholders, regarding matters covered by the Agreement, and provide public reports detailing NYCHA’s progress. The cost of the monitor shall be paid by the City.
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Mr. Berman thanked HUD, HUD Office of Inspector General, and EPA for their invaluable assistance in this matter.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Environmental Protection Unit in the Civil Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Robert William Yalen, Mónica P. Folch, Jacob Lillywhite, Talia Kraemer, and Sharanya Mohan are in charge of the case.