Fight For NYCHA file an objection with HUD over the RAD/PACT conversion of Williamsburg Houses

The New York City Dept. of Housing and Preservation Development submitted NEPA Categorical Exclusion documents for NYCHA that glossed over environmental issues at Williamsburg Houses, including the possible destruction of Native American burial grounds.

A member of the group, Fight For NYCHA, filed on Thursday an objection with the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD“), arguing five (5) alternative reasons why the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA“) Categorical Exclusion documents submitted by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (“HPD“) as applicant on behalf of the New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA“) should be rejected.

Under HUD regulations, an applicant can, on behalf of a public housing authority, claim an exception to the requirement that an Environmental Impact Statement or an Environmental Assessment be submitted for public housing developments undergoing changes due to the Rental Assistance Demonstration (“RAD“) scheme. Under RAD, the management of public housing developments can be transferred to private sector landlords, who would collect the rents and HUD subsidies. From those monies, the private sector landlords would pay for at least some of the backlog of capital repairs that accrued due to decades of racist divestment of public housing. RAD has been marketed to unsuspecting NYCHA residents as a panacea. Promises have been made for superficial repairs, like new kitchen cabinets. Public housing residents have been promised that their tenants’ rights would not change. However, that’s not turned out to be true.

NYCHA has a pattern or practise of violating environmental laws or regulations, and the Objection filed with HUD alleged that NYCHA was also violating laws regulating the return of Native American tribal cultural items.

The Objection filed by the group, Fight For NYCHA, alleged that NYCHA had violated the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (“NAGPRA“), which requires Government Agencies receiving Federal funding to return to descendants of, or Native American tribes, items discovered of their cultural heritage, including human remains.

The NEPA Categorical Exclusion documents reveal the possibility that Native American burial grounds may be found at Williamsburg Houses. NYCHA was accused of treating the preservation and treatment of Native American cultural artifacts as possible exigencies instead of an obligation to comply with the law before any of the environmentally-disruptive activities contemplated for Williamsburg Houses were set to begin. A related complaint has been filed with the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Dept. of the Interior.

Some of NYCHA’s deliberate acts at violating environmental laws or regulations is a shock to the conscience.

NYCHA has completely ignored revelations that “29 spills and 8 historical cleaners within 1/8 mile ; 45 underground storage tank sites, 8 dry cleaners and 36 aboveground storage tank sites within 1/4 mile ; 44 leaking storage tank sites within 1/2 mile ; and 3 manufactured gas plant sites within 1 mile of the subject property” may have affected the site. Because NYCHA has a long history of violating its own promises of, much less laws regulating, environmental protections, it should come to no surprise that NYCHA engaged in obfuscation in the NEPA Categorical Exclusion documents by limiting the depth of groundwater soil borings to 45 feet bgs. NYCHA acted disingenuously and, therefore, unlawfully, when it failed to conduct adequate environmental studies of groundwater under Williamsburg Houses. After a random check of the elevation of Williamsburg Houses using a Web application, it was revealed that the elevation of the grounds of Williamsburg Houses ranges from 43 feet to 52 feet. When NYCHA conducted inadequate environmental studies of the groundwater specifically designed to fail to encounter groundwater, it was as if NYCHA conducted no groundwater studies at all.

Hazardous waste, chemicals, poisons, or toxins were detected in the soils of Williamsburg Houses, including three pesticides (4,4′-DDD, 4,4′- DDE, and 4,4′-DDT) and several metals (arsenic, copper, lead, mercury, and zinc), which were detected at levels above their respective NYSDEC Unrestricted and/or Restricted Resident Use Soil Cleanup Objectives.

Judge Pauley ruled that NYCHA can exclude RAD/PACT residents from protections offered by the Revised Consent Decree in the Baez class action mold case

SDNY Judge William Pauley III ruled that the de Blasio administration can deny Baez case mold “protections” to NYCHA RAD PACT public housing residents receiving Section 8 Tenant Protection Vouchers

In a long, overdue ruling, U.S. District Court Jude William Pauley III issued an opinion, claiming that the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio (WFP-New York City) could exclude residents of New York City Housing Authority from receiving the benefits of the Revised Consent Decree in the Baez class action mold abatement case. The decree would have conferred benefits to mold abatement, like the removal of excess moisture, plumbing repairs, and roof fan replacements. As a consequence of the Court’s opinion, those benefits would be denied to public housing residents transferred to the private sector under the mayor’s privatisation schemes. The ruling represented an immediate win for Mayor de Blasio, who has long sought to end the New Deal promise of public housing by privatising City real property and by abandoning all obligations to public housing residents. Judge Pauley’s ruling provided that, should the parties fail to propose a new Consent Decree, they should be prepared to litigate the issue in Court.

The privatisation schemes, known as Rental Assistance Demonstration, or RAD, and Permanent Affordability Commitment Together, or PACT, transfer strategic public assets to private sector landlords, who siphon off rent monies formerly kept in the public sector of the U.S. economy that then get treated as profits kept by the private sector.

Former NYCHA Interim CEO and current 2021 Democratic Party mayoral primary candidate Kathryn Garcia described RAD/PACT to the New York City Congressional delegation in 2019 as offering public housing residents with “tenant protection vouchers,” according to a social media post of that time then. However, Judge Pauley’s ruling essentially admitted that residents of RAD/PACT-converted public housing developments will receive no protections under the Revised Consent Decree in the Baez class action mold abatement case. Members of Fight For NYCHA have accused former NYCHA Interim CEO Garcia, Mayor de Blasio, and current NYCHA CEO Greg Russ, and their enablers, such as Lucy Newman of the Legal Aid Society, of lying to residents when they claimed that residents’ rights would be “protected” under RAD/PACT.

Public housing residents face gross injustices as a consequence of RAD/PACT conversions. A core member of Fight For NYCHA published an editorial in the New York Daily News just last week, revealing many problems with Mayor de Blasio’s implementation of RAD/PACT. In motion practise, NYCHA admitted that they planned to end all obligations to public housing residents under their privatisation schemes. Next up would include residents of Fulton Houses and Elliott-Chelsea Houses, who surrendered to RAD/PACT conversion after resident leaders there splintered off from Fight For NYCHA and were recruited by unscrupulous political groups loyal to Mayor de Blasio.

In response to the onslaught of privatisation facing public housing in New York City, many politicians have continued to “green-wash” the dangers facing NYCHA public housing residents. Rather than focus on the economic and eviction risks from RAD/PACT conversions, politicians and their supporters, such as 2021 Democratic Party mayoral primary candidate Andrew Yang, have focused on making public housing apartment buildings more energy efficient or expanding composting facilities. This refocusing has deliberately obfuscated how Mayor de Blasio’s use of RAD/PACT put public housing residents in jeopardy of losing their housing. A significant number o the first residents to face RAD/PACT conversion at Ocean Bay Apartments in Far Rockaway, Queens, faced eviction.

The “green-washing” of NYCHA arguably began with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (WFP-NY 14), who blamed global warming on NYCHA public housing residents, even though for decades they have not received adequate heat or hot water during winter months and suffer from routine electrical brown-outs and suspended elevator service.

On the same day as Judge Pauley revealed that NYCHA’s Tenant Protection Vouchers offer no tenant protections, the NYPD deployed a robot dog to a public housing development converted under RAD/PACT.

Even as Judge Pauley admitted in his latest ruling in the Baez class action mold case, that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s promise of providing “Tenant Protection Vouchers” offered RAD/PACT residents no actual protections, the NYPD responded to 344 East 28th Street, a public housing apartment building that was part of the 2020 RAD/PACT Manhattan Bundle, with military grade equipment, including its controversial dystopian “robot dog.”

Robot Dog NYC NYCHA 2021 Black Mirror Becoming Reality

The NYPD’s response to a reported domestic disturbance included the use of military grade equipment. Under the politics of neoliberalism in control of the Government, there’s money to militarise the police, but no money to fully-fund NYCHA.

Days after the president of the resident association at 344 East 28th Street published a daring editorial, denouncing Mayor de Blasio’s RAD/PACT privatisation scheme for NYCHA public housing, the NYPD deployed a controversial $75,000 robotic dog in response to a reported domestic disturbance. The NYPD response included the assembly of  officers from its Technical Assistance Response Unit, or TARU, which reportedly command drones and robotic equipment.

The politicians running the Government have rejected the “Defund the Police” social movement and have requested to boost U.S. military spending, but they have merely offered pennies on the dollar for the backlog of repairs crippling the Nation’s public housing stock.

After two years of activism, Fight For NYCHA have continued to pressure for full-funding of the estimated $32 billion in backlog capital repairs for NYCHA public housing, which would render any further RAD/PACT conversions as unnecessary. The value of the backlog of repairs facing NYCHA have never been the subject of a Federal audit by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY 07) has offered legislation that would provide $70 billion to pay for backlog capital repairs to public housing nation-wide, yet President Joseph Biden (D) has only reportedly promised to include $40 billion in his infrastructure bill. Some politicians are now making public demands that the infrastructure bill must raise its public housing allocation to the amount of U.S. Rep. Velázquez’s bill.

Source Document

NYCHA Tenants, Activists Held A Press Conference, Protesting the Lack of Democracy of, and the Exclusion of Many from, de Blasio’s NYCHA Working Group

In what could be a first in New York City, NYCHA tenants and activists heckled Greg Russ, the public housing authority chair.

NYCHA tenants and activists heckled Greg Russ, the new chair of the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA. The confrontation took place outside of PS 33 in Cheslea on Tuesday night after NYCHA tenants and activists from Fight For NYCHA, Holmes-Isaacs Coälition, and Justice For All Coälition had concluded their press conference, denouncing the Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s NYCHA Working Group.

NYCHA tenants, activists heckle Greg Russ as he tries to sneak into the rigged #WorkingGroup.

Activists confront U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler’s corrupt aide, Robert Atterbury, and call for a primary against Assemblymember Dick Gottfried.

NYCHA tenants also renewed calls for Robert Atterbury to be fired by U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY 10). Activists allege that Atterbury violated New York State’s open meetings’ law when he told a Fight For NYCHA member to leave the first meeting of Mayor de Blasio’s undemocratic NYCHA Working Group.

Tenants and activists also jeered Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (D-New York City), when he tried to sneak into the second meeting of Mayor de Blasio’s NYCHA Working Group.

Fight For NYCHA calls on Jerry Nadler to fire Robert Atterbury for violating democracy, transparency.

NYCHA tenants and activists were denied entry to the secret, closed-door second meeting of the Mayor’s NYCHA Working Group.

NYCHA tenants and activists were denied entry to a public building (PS 33 in Cheslea), and, thus, they were not permitted to attend the proceedings of the second meeting of Mayor de Blasio’s rigged and stacked NYCHA Working Group.

NYCHA tenants, activists bum rush de Blasio’s corrupt NYCHA Working Group at PS33, get locked out.

Complete Facebook Live video

The media and public statements made by NYCHA tenants and activists were broadcast on a Facebook Live stream. Some of the speakers included La Keesha Taylor and Saundrea Coleman from the Holmes-Isaacs Coälition ; Stanely Morse from the Justice For All Coälition ; and Lindsey Boylan, a 2020 Democratic Party primary candidate, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Nadler.