The audit reveals four major funding opportunities that NYCHA failed to take advantage of over the past few years, leading to $692 million in squandered funding.
NYCHA’s failure to meet Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines meant a loss of $353 million in Energy Performance Contracting incentives, which would supply energy efficient upgrades to lighting in stairwells, hallways, apartments and boilers and hot water heaters.
The agency failed to meet its commitment to convert 8,400 units into Section 8 public housing, which would have earned $263.1 million in federal support. It also did not meet HUD’s specifications to improve property management, which left an offered $75.9 million in operating subsidy funds on the table.
Finally, NYCHA paid a Boston consulting group $10 million to look into its finances. The group found that $106 million in savings and revenue could be attained by 2014, but NYCHA has no records or follow-up to show whether or not the report’s recommendations were implemented or if the savings ever accrued.
Stringer shunned the agency for its poor money management, calling his audit the “line in the sand.”
“NYCHA has an obligation to maintain and improve housing for 630,000 New Yorkers,” Stringer said outside of NYCHA’s Farragut Houses in Brooklyn. “Far too many residents live in crumbling, poorly maintained units. Darkened hallways that haven’t been properly lit in years, broken windows — the funds that NYCHA has squandered could have been used to address these problems.”
The agency responded by discounting much of the audit, saying it was “seriously flawed” and took into account decisions that took place prior to the audit scope period.
Stringer provided the agency with twelve recommendations, most of which the agency said they already practiced or dismissed as irrelevant.
The comptroller pointed out the large discrepancies between funding that NYCHA receives and other cities across the country. He said that Chicago applied for and received $3,500 per unit for the federal agency incentive, while NYCHA got $101 per unit.
Meanwhile, the agency has reported that it has immediate unmet capital needs of more than $6 billion and would need $18 billion to bring its housing stock to a state of good repair.
Stringer was joined at the press conference by NYCHA tenants and tenant association leaders, who were both angered to hear about the huge amounts of funds left on the table and relieved that someone was finally recognizing their plight.
“We’ve been saying for years that dollars were being mismanaged,” said Charlene Nimmons, president of the Tenants Association at Wyckoff Gardens. “Now we’re saying, 'NYCHA get it together. NYCHA, listen to your resident leaders.' Listen to your residents. We know exactly what’s needed.”
Some questioned whether or not the lighting upgrades that were not taken advantage of could have helped stop the killiung of Akai Gurley, who was shot by a police officer in a darkened stairwell in NYCHA housing last month.
Others mentioned that the funding could provide for desperately needed cameras and security measures at NYCHA housing, which could help prevent violent acts like the stabbing of two small children that happened at NYCHA housing in East New York this past summer.
“Perhaps some of this money could have been used to save a dear life,” said Assemblywoman-elect Latrice Walker, who grew up in NYCHA housing herself.
“It’s insulting to me to understand that all of these hundreds of millions of dollars have been left on the table, when people like my mother, who was a senior, would have to walk from the ground floor to the 18th floor in her NYCHA development,” she added.