In 1981, as I began my police career I had plenty of opportunity to patrol NYC housing developments. Housing developments were then known as “the projects”. The term “project” is now considered a negative term so we call them housing “developments”. Housing “development” is an oxymoron, a contradiction of terms. Housing hell is more like it or the last stand!. For nearly forty years that I can recall NYCHA has been on a downward spiral and its residents left holding nothing but a lot of talk and some newspaper headlines.
Not all NYCHA facilities were a living hell with garbage on its grounds, urine stench in the elevators and stairways, gangs blocking your entrance and worse. But it most definitely applies to those NYCHA facilities in low income poverty zones throughout the city. The shootings, stabbings, under age drinking, drug use, prostitution, gangs and drug distribution, gambling and fugitives wanted on warrants all seem very common place.
The “projects” had it all. A place a rookie cop could really learn about the mean streets of NY. The residents were captive and could do little to insulate themselves.
This past week Square Deal Committee called upon the media to meet us in Queens for a press conference at the foot of 40-25 College Point Blvd., “The James A. Bland” NYCHA facility. We were calling attention to the Mayor of NY whom during his first run for mayor of NYC talked of a tale of two cities. Most New Yorkers assuming then candidate DeBlasio had an intense interest in advocating for the families in NYCHA facilities and others who were “stuck” in public housing in one NYC’s poverty stricken zones. But no, the DeBlasio administration was caught in a cauldron of issues some just irresponsible and others criminal and the city’s poorest were last in line once again. Square Deal Committee believes every New Yorker deserves a square deal, to be treated fairly.
It wasn’t too long ago that NYCHA made the headlines again with another tragedy. This time it was a young rookie cop sent out to patrol the “PinkHouses” in Brooklyn. When Peter Liang put on his uniform for maybe the fifth or sixth time as a newly appointed NYPD cop he had no idea what was about to hit him. NYCHA failed to maintain the lighting in this “development,” specifically the common stairwells. This neglect set off a series of events in which police officer Liang (totally unware) shot and killed someone two floors below him. The officer was charged, indicted and convicted of the murder of a gang banger hanging out in the stairway below. Liang was eventually sentenced by the court and fired by NYPD. This was another tragedy that could have been averted and gave NYCHA another notch in their collective belts for reform. But no, the failures, the fraud and fiascos continued and no one learned from their mistakes. Let’s move onto 2018.
Peter Liang’s case makes the point about NYCHA and it still applies today. The public housing facilities were not and are not being properly maintained. So woeful is the care to public housing that employees of the agency along with management falsified records submitted to the federal government. New York City employees so emboldened they outright lied about lead paint surveys and inspection results. We call this systemic corruption because not only did line employees not come forth with the truth, but management personnel continued the fraud. This is just inexcusable and the entire system within NYCHA (public corruption) has been compromised. The tale of two cities continues and those least able to defend themselves are left suffering at the hands of a questionable government employees.
When assessors look at NYCHA are they looking at the billions that no doubt will be paid out in legal fee’s and lawsuits? Maybe they will look at the hundreds of thousands of dollars in necessary repairs. But when the bean counters are done how will they measure the value of the lives of those stricken with lead paint poison, contaminated water and endless lack of heat during the height of the winter months during 2018? When will New York City begin to heal the divide between the have’s and have not’s, the residents of NYC public housing? When will these failures, frauds and the ongoing 40 year fiasco come to an end?
DeBlasio, big on campaign rhetoric and light on substance when it really counts and for those who really need it.
Joseph R. Concannon
#PinkHouses #Bland #NYCHA #NOHEAT #LeadPoison #WaterContamination