In the post-World War II era, Progressive social engineers led by the “master builder,” Robert Moses, used the power of eminent domain to bulldoze single-family row houses and neighborhood storefronts to build huge multi-family housing projects in New York City.
Reacting to these so-called urban renewal plans in the 1960s, Jane Jacobs a community leader and the author of the classic work, “Death and Life of Great American Cities,” said this about the threat to her neighborhood: “People who get marked with the planners’ hex signs are pushed about, expropriated, and uprooted much as if they were the subjects of a conquering power.”
A decade later when a housing project was to be built in the Italian working-class neighborhood of Corona, Queens, angry residents rallied against it.
The thought that 69 one-family homes would be condemned for no other reason than to satisfy the ideological agenda of remote, arrogant bureaucrats was beyond the pale for a young lawyer named Mario Cuomo, who took on City Hall on behalf of the homeowners.
The audacious Cuomo worked out a compromise with Mayor John Lindsay whereby only four homes were to be relocated.
But the Cuomo victory was an isolated case. Moses and his cohorts built scores of multi-family housing projects managed by the New York City Housing Authority, which which today are examples of urban blight.
Many housing projects became havens for criminals, drug pushers and addicts. To address the growing crime the city created the Housing Authority Police Department in 1952 to patrol the depressing complexes. (The 2,000-patrol force was merged into the NYPD in 1995.)
After years of incompetent management, The New York Times reported in June 2018 that “the federal government delivered a withering rebuke of NYCHA, accusing officials of systemic misconduct, indifference and outright lies in the management of the nation’s oldest and biggest stock of public housing.”
The complaint accused the authority of cover-ups and “training its staff on how to mislead federal inspectors and to present false reports to the government and to the public about its compliance with lead paint regulations.”
Although the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development appointed a federal watchdog in 2019, little progress has been made to improve the lives of people living in 150,000 apartments.
That failure is the focus of a study released last month by the Citizens Budget Commission.
The CBC report is scathing. It reveals that “decades of deferred maintenance, insufficient capital, and inadequate management has allowed NYCHA’s buildings to deteriorate, diminishing the quality of life for its more than 400,000 residents.”
With a $2.9 billion operating budget in 2022, NYCHA’s revenue deficit was a staggering $789 billion.
To balance its operating budget, NYCHA ran down its reserves, expended various one-shot revenues, and grabbed $248 million of federal subsidies earmarked for capital improvements.
Here are some other depressing NYCHA facts found in the CBC report:
- Operating revenues have stagnated as the rent collection plummeted from roughly 90% pre-pandemic to 63% now, costing NYCHA $350 million to $400 million annually compared to pre-pandemic norm;
- NYCHA’s already high per unit operating cost is now $1,481, double the average rent stabilized unit cost;
- Over the past four years, NYCHA’s total public housing expenditures increased 19% despite an 8% decline in its units under management.
“Rising costs, flagging rents,” the report concludes puts “NYCHA on [an] unsustainable path.”
To reverse the decline, the CBC estimates at least $40 billion would have to be spent on capital improvements.
And if you think the federal, state and city governments are going to pony up that money—there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you.
The one sound recommendation the CBC makes: Convert the apartment buildings to private management.
Monthly per unit operating costs converted to private management are 45% cheaper. But that potential solution may be too little too late to salvage the public housing mess.
Let’s face it, New York City’s urban renewal schemes have failed.
The Progressive’s public housing dream is an unending nightmare for struggling working-class tenants forced to live in uninhabitable apartments.
Will New York leftists learn from this ideological-driven disaster? No. In denial they are pushing for even more government-run housing.