2012-08-24 / Columnists

East End Matters...

They Said What?!
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

Sometimes people say things that are just unbelievable. We all do it. We open our mouths before thinking about what is coming out.

When a politician makes a statement, you hope they have given some thought to what is going to be said.

That did not appear to be the case recently at a rally in Rockaway attended by State Senator Shirley Huntley.

The rally, earlier this week, was to oppose a transient hotel set to be built on Beach 44 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

Residents have many reasons to be concerned. Unfortunately, Huntley didn’t seem to do her homework. She did not talk about quality of life, safety, or what could be a downturn in an urban renewal area.

The following is what she said after telling residents of her support for them.

“I am wondering with a hotel and a train, I don’t know how anyone’s going to sleep at night, first of all. Because when you look up at the el it’s amazing. So, we know what this is, it’s a [transient] hotel.” Although ‘transient’ was not the word she used. She used the word ‘transit.’

Does this not sound like an insult to the people who live in the area? I had someone else listen to the recording and she came to the same conclusion. There are many people who choose to live in that area. They paid good money for their homes and they willingly live near the subway. Yet, the closeness of the subway and its noise is her rationale for assuming the hotel will be a transient hotel.

Huntley’s district was recently redrawn and next month she will be in a primary with Councilman James Sanders Jr. and former 101 Precinct Community Council president Gian Jones for her seat.

Until now the closest to Rockaway for Huntley has been representing Broad Channel. She also represents several other areas in Queens. But she has no experience in Rockaway. Sanders and Jones do.

Pledging to help a community in their time of trouble is her job, but insulting that same community doesn’t bode well at election time.

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The problems at the New York City Housing Authority have been well documented in a series of articles resulting from an investigation by the Daily News.

The investigation found that NYCHA was sitting on almost $42 million allocated to it over the last eight years by City Council members for the installation of security cameras.

The money was frozen so that NYCHA Chairman John Rhea could develop an upgraded security system.

The Daily News also discovered that the agency had been holding nearly $1 billion in Federal funds meant for repairs of things such as mold in apartments, leaky roofs, broken elevators and other problems at NYCHA developments.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office also released its own report on the problems of NYCHA.

So what did Mayor Bloomberg have to say about this boondoggle of an agency – he called the people telling their stories liars, without using that exact word. On August 9, just a few weeks after the articles started to run he said, “It’s a federal government obligation and the fact that we’re trying to manage that with diminished funds is a very difficult thing and there’s no great solution.” He then went on to say, “maybe we should also get a little tired of a handful of groups that want to take over things feeding made-up stories to the press and the press goes with them. That doesn’t just make a lot of sense.”

What?! Did he just say that tenants from NYCHA housing developments, who told their stories to the Daily News about mold that had not been removed for years, and broken doors and other long awaited repairs that have not been taken care of for who knows how long, were liars? Sure sounds like it to me. In the same breath he said about Rhea, “We have somebody that really is phenomenally good, hard working running that agency.”

Now comes the release of a taxpayerpaid $10 million report that NYCHA wanted to keep in house.

Boston Consulting Group, according to the Daily News, labeled NYCHA “inefficient, mismanaged and slow moving.”

The report says that the agency has poor property management practices that have led to a backlog of almost 330,000 repairs, poor procurement practices in buying supplies and materials that lead to paying different prices for the same item, and rigid and bureaucratic practices and called for decentralized operations.

This led Rhea to announce the revamping of the NYCHA board from paid members to unpaid replacements. One person will remain – Rhea. Apparently Bloomberg still has confidence in him.

In the same News 4 New York article that reported the reforms, Bloomberg again defended NYCHA blaming the problems, again, on budget cuts and saying emergency repairs were done in “record time.” “We’re working to make our public housing better and bigger, and we’re having to do it when everybody’s cutting back funding,” said Bloomberg.

NYCHA now says that 85 developments will receive cameras by the end of 2013. We will see. In the meantime, Mr. Mayor and Mr. Rhea, what about that nearly $1 billion in unused funds meant for repairs that have been sitting for the last few years?

It’s time for NYCHA to crack open the piggy bank and start making their tenants’ quality of life better.

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