Saturday, August 3, 2013

NYCHA Hires Back Margarita Lopez, Keeps John Rhea. No Changes in Sight

Former $187,000-a-year NYCHA board member gets new job in same agency

Margarita Lopez was one of two full-time New York City Housing Authority board members whose jobs were eliminated last month. Lopez now has a new gig at NYCHA, but bureaucrats are mum on her new salary.

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Margarita Lopez, who lost her $187,000-a-year job at NYCHA last month when the state cut back on unnecessary expenses, has a new gig at the same agency.

That was quick.
Less than a month after Margarita Lopez lost her $187,000-a-year job on the city Housing Authority’s board, she was appointed to a new position inside the embattled agency.
Lopez was one of two full-time New York City Housing Authority board members whose jobs were eliminated July 3 by virtue of a law signed by Gov. Cuomo that restructured the board to avoid unnecessary expense.
Lopez begins her new job, effective Aug. 15, as NYCHA’s executive vice president for community programs and development, city officials said. Bureaucrats were mum Friday about Lopez’s new salary.
The law signed by Cuomo followed a long-running Daily News investigative series about gross mismanagement at NYCHA, including its staggering number of outstanding repair orders and inability to spend a significant sum of government money allotted for improvements to buildings.
The News also documented the waste inherent in the old structure of NYCHA’s board: It featured two full-time board members — one of whom was Lopez — who also had full-time drivers.
The new board structure still includes a full-time chairman — the agency’s head, John Rhea — but the six other members are unpaid volunteers.

Dumping do-nothing board members gives NYCHA chance to turn the corner

Terribly managed housing authority need new leaders and new direction

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UPDATED: SUNDAY, JULY 7, 2013, 4:05 AM

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NYCHA's John Rhea

The housecleaning has begun at the troubled New York City Housing Authority, with two of three wretched board members getting bounced, thanks to a brand-new state law. Good riddance. They did far too little good work for the far too much public money they were paid.

That leaves only Chairman John Rhea, who must also go, the sooner the better. If Mayor Bloomberg won’t toss him, the next mayor must immediately. Fortunately, every major mayoral candidate has already pledged to do exactly that.

Over the last two years, this newspaper has uncovered massive, chronic failures that continue to make life miserable for far too many of NYCHA’s 400,000 residents — failures for which the authority’s leaders have unacceptably dodged responsibility.

Among the disasters: sitting on nearly $1 billion in federal capital funds for maintenance and renovations; failing to install closed-circuit security cameras despite being specifically allocated millions for that by the City Council; allowing a backlog of 420,000 repair jobs to mount, including mold in apartment walls and broken elevators; exhibiting gross incompetence during superstorm Sandy, and employing an unacceptable level of secrecy for a government agency not handling sensitive intelligence.

Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo signed into law reform legislation that gives NYCHA a fair chance at a fresh start by overhauling the board. So, bye-bye to Margarita Lopez and Emily Youssouf: no more $187,000 salaries, no more taxpayer-provided car and driver.

By statute, the new board will have a full-time, paid chairperson and six unpaid members, whose stipends are capped at $1,500 a month.

Three of the members will have to be residents — far superior to the old board model, with a single tenant who didn’t even get a vote.

Hopefully, the new blood (less Rhea) will bring about a new day.

Enterprising, engaged NYCHA residents: This is your chance to make public housing better for all. Applications are available on and at property management offices, borough management offices or NYCHA community or senior centers.

Move quickly. The completed applications must be submitted by old-fashioned U.S. mail and postmarked by July 19.

New members are to be appointed next month by Bloomberg. Their work is cut out for them.

It's show-and-tell time for NYCHA

Mayor Bloomberg says he'll release scathing report when it's ready -- well, it's ready now

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Mayor Bloomberg and NYCHA Chairman John Rhea must let the public see what consultants wrote about the agency in a $10 million report prepared at taxpayer expense
On Monday, Mayor Bloomberg agreed to release a $10 million taxpayer-funded report evaluating the New York City Housing Authority, “as soon as it’s available.”

We welcome Hizzoner to the side of sunshine. But he seems not to understand that “as soon as it’s available” means right now.

As detailed in reporting by the Daily News, NYCHA Chairman John Rhea and the rest of the agency’s feckless board have left thousands of families living in abysmal conditions and failed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid, much of it earmarked for repairs and upgrades.

The management report, conducted by the Boston Consulting Group at the authority’s behest, may hold some answers as to why.

New Yorkers deserve to see what they paid for.

Yet for months, NYCHA has covered up the document. Only trickles have come out — including a “draft” excerpt that is as damning as The News’ findings would have predicted.

Now, Bloomberg is apparently waking up to the indefensibility of holding the report back — even as he slammed this newspaper’s “morbid curiosity” on Monday for, God forbid, urging the turnaround of a wreck of an agency.

There’s just one thing, Mr. Mayor.

Rhea, whom you say you have so much confidence in, told The News on May 18 that the report was finished. The contract to complete it ended in April.

So, where is it?

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