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The city’s fiscal watchdog is bringing the spending habits of the nation’s biggest housing authority into the sunlight.
Comptroller Scott Stringer announced Tuesday that detailed information about the billions of dollars of taxpayer money NYCHA spends hiring contractors to do everything from installing boilers to fixing roofs will now be displayed on his Checkbook NYC website for all to see.
Unlike regular city agencies, NYCHA — an independent authority that’s run by mayoral appointees and is now overseen by a federal monitor — has never been subject to such transparency.
The authority’s spending on contracts has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months.
In October, THE CITY found that NYCHA has spent millions of dollars on no-bid contracts to perform repairs on its aging housing stock of 174,000 apartments. The federal monitor appointed to oversee NYCHA’s management is now examining the use of no-bid hires.
‘New Level’ of Trust
“More transparency and disclosure will help build a new level of public trust, and NYCHA residents deserve nothing less,” Stringer said in announcing NYCHA’s addition to Checkbook.
The road to this point was long and meandering. Stringer and then NYCHA Chairperson Shola Olatoye initially signed an agreement to make this happen in 2016, but the city’s Checkbook system proved incompatible with NYCHA’s technology. They’ve since figured out a fix.
Under an agreement reached recently with current NYCHA Chairperson Gregory Russ, Stringer’s Checkbook now contains information on all vendors hired by the authority — including original contract amounts and any cost overruns. Stringer’s also posting NYCHA’s payroll.
Retroactive to 2010, that includes $19.8 billion in contracts and $7.8 billion in payroll. The information will be updated daily.
The database does not include contractors doing work on developments placed into the partially privatized Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program.
NYCHA has begun turning over operation of what will eventually be about one-third of its housing stock — 62,000 apartments — to private developers. The developers, not NYCHA, hire vendors to do work at these developments.
A $40 Billion-Plus Bill
As THE CITY has reported, developments placed in RAD are no longer subject to oversight by the federal monitor or a federal judge overseeing a settlement aimed at cleaning up toxic mold from apartments.
The move to Checkbook NYC comes just over 13 months after the city and HUD struck an unprecedented agreement to put the housing system under the control of a federal monitor.
The deal followed years of mismanagement of the homes to some 400,000 New Yorkers — many of whom live in apartments plagued by lead, mold, vermin and other woes.
NYCHA official estimate it will cost more than $40 billion to repair NYCHA housing, which includes complexes that date as far back as the 1930s.
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