FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 10, 2018
NYCHA CHAIR AND CEO SHOLA OLATOYE REMARKS ON STEPPING DOWN FROM HER ROLE
Thank you, gracias el jefe. Good morning.
I’m so pleased so many people are interested in RAD, so I’m thrilled to have you all here. I want to thank, there are so many people to thank, and I certainly want to thank my boss. But I especially want to thank Iris and Ms. Lolita and all of the resident leaders here at Ocean Bay, and across the city who have welcomed me into their homes, who have been fierce advocates for themselves and their neighbors, who have not pulled any punches, but also come in partnership. So, thank you to each of you and to all of the residents across the city.
Hopefully, you all got to see some of the amazing work that is happening here at Ocean Bay Bayside and the team that we have assembled – Susan, Mike, Catholic Charities are some of the best at what they do, and it is with that type of partnership that we hope to make this a reality for more and more residents in the New York City Housing Authority, so thank you to all of you.
A few words on what is happening here at RAD – this project is already bringing comfort and security to the nearly 4,000 residents who live here and this is something that we believe, that we know, all residents deserve of the New York City Housing Authority – this is just the first of many NYCHA developments that will be renovated and rehabbed under RAD. As we continue the work today, let’s talk about what this program includes. It allows NYCHA to retain 50 percent of its ownership. We are protecting residents’ tenancy rights and keeping their apartments permanently affordable. RAD allows us to leverage private investment to ensure that these apartments and others are available to this generation and the next.
I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for his commitment and openness to this idea, but really his support in making this a reality and all of the partners that have made today’s project, as well as the others in the pipeline, occur.
This is certainly a bittersweet moment. I have taken such pride in serving the 1 in 14 New Yorkers that we house at NYCHA. And I will depart this role very proud of the team that I have assembled and the steps that we have taken to support our residents. Public housing is vital, but the original model is one that doesn’t work anymore and NextGeneration NYCHA has always been about improving that model and making hard decisions to ensure that a uniquely New York version of public housing is here for the future.
When I came to office, when I came to this position, NYCHA was in financial dire straits. You heard the Mayor, there was a $75 million deficit. We had three weeks of cash on hand, without, I wasn’t even in place, but you and your administration made the commitment to forgive the police payments, to forgive the payment in lieu of taxes. That was an immediate $100 million shot to our bottom line and allowed us to pay our bills and keep services ongoing. We set out on a road to improve the financial standing and in the last four years we’ve had to make some hard decisions. We’ve cut back on central office staff, we’ve had to redirect resources to the front line to improve and support our operations. These actions have allowed us to balance our budget for three years in a row and counting – this hasn’t happened since the late 1990s.
Operations remains an area, for sure, where there is so much work to do. Repair times are down by nine days in three years under NextGen. We have introduced new technologies for residents and staff to drive accountability and increase transparency. Yes, we have identified some unacceptable shortcomings in our operations. For residents to be uncertain about possible lead paint hazards in their homes or unable to stay warm on the coldest days of winter. It unnerves me that we have failed here.
It is a sign, though, of the real struggles that NYCHA faces. In the four years I am proud to say though, that these real issues are just part of the story. It doesn’t make them acceptable, but it is a testament to the dedicated men and women who work at the New York City Housing Authority and continue to drive their efforts to change how things are happening.
To own mistakes, to change long standing policies, and face our challenges head on have been the hallmarks of my leadership at the Authority. One of the first challenges we identified is the inability for our residents’ needs to be met in an 8 to 4 setting when we know property management – I see Susan’s head shaking in the back – is a 24-hour business. We don’t have the team or the resources for that and I immediately focused on how we could expand those services, working with our labor partners to update agreements and actually meet this demand.
We are not there yet, but we did launch FlexOps, which is a shining moment in the past four years. FlexOps is a breakthrough pilot that allowed us to deploy modified shift schedules to provide the services that our residents deserve. This is how we will truly start to see the changes that residents have been demanding. In the last four years our capital division has streamlined the program. We revised outdated practices, introduced technology, and as we saw last week, repairs are on an aggressive timeline. These types of repairs mean getting in front of mold, keeping our buildings secure.
These investments in our buildings are long overdue and this Mayor recognized the need for a strong and continuous infusion of funds in repairs, but also in practical investments like peoples’ safety. In 2014, as the Mayor said you might recall 25 percent of the city’s shootings were happening in just 15 of our developments. The Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety has in real terms meant life and death – life changes for our residents. With a $140 million in safety investments – new doors, cameras, and lights, residents don’t have to live with the constant fear of crime. We have a long way to go, but with the leadership of my colleagues, our colleagues at NYPD, crime is down seven percent and continuing to drop throughout the Authority. This is what change looks like, this is part of what we have been able to achieve in the last four years.
Our Sustainability Agenda will have one of the largest impacts on the Mayor’s goal to cut – his challenge to the city – to cut the city’s carbon footprint. We have already achieved $167 million in Energy Performance Contracts in only three short years. We have identified new ways to improve efficiencies at our buildings and support healthier lives for our residents, something that I know Councilman Donovan Richards have been a huge supporter of and I want to thank him for that.
This has been part of the forward-thinking approach that we brought on board as part of NextGen. You can see this most clearly represented in our Sandy program right here at Ocean Bay. Recovery is one step, but the real heart of this is about resiliency, it’s evidenced in the aggressive investments here, the largest FEMA grant ever, to ensure that residents are protected. The destruction of Sandy, as you heard from Ms. Iris is still very fresh and raw for many, and we are committed to not letting that have the same impact if another storm like that were to visit this region.
In addition to helping the Mayor achieve his sustainability goals, we have been committed to the affordable housing agenda under the leadership of Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen. A truly ambitious goal, but under NextGen we outlined a plan to create 10,000 new units of affordable housing. In three years, we have 4,300 new units under construction and we’ve preserved approximately 3,900 of existing public housing, including those here at Ocean Bay.
I knew when taking this position that creative approaches to affordable housing could be married with successful non-traditional streams of revenue. The RAD transaction includes over $500 million of public and private investment for the apartments here. We have an additional $62 million en route to the Authority coming for repairs due to our NextGeneration NYCHA Neighborhoods program.
There is so much that happens at NYCHA that many people don’t know. Yes, there are 400,000 residents in public housing, but we also administer the country’s largest Section 8 programs, serving some 200,000 New Yorkers. In the past two years we have received the highest recognition from HUD, a high performer. This is the first time since the early 2000s that we received such a recognition.
Beyond housing though, one of the roles I have wanted us to recommit ourselves to is the services that all residents should have access to. We’ve had to change the model, and update it and bring it into the 21st century, but we are not only a landlord, but we are communities. Our Resident Economic Empowerment & Sustainability programs have helped more than 8,300 residents get jobs since the launch of NextGen. We created the Fund for Public Housing, which is our social innovation hub that is investing in people, place, and work. This is changing resident lives in ways beyond housing and I’m so proud to have facilitated such opportunities.
We have a lot challenges at NYCHA. We have not accomplished everything I would have hoped for. And, we have fallen short in some areas that are frustrating for me, for our residents, and for our city as a whole. But it has been the greatest honor of my life to serve the 1 in 14 New Yorkers who call NYCHA home. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity. I have given my heart to this agency, I have made tough decisions. But I leave this agency knowing that it is better than when I found it. And, as we work to tackle the next set of challenges, I look forward to supporting Stan and Vito and the rest of the amazing team that remained to support the goals of Next Generation NYCHA. You have to bear with me I’ve got to thank some people, okay.
I want to thank my fellow colleagues in government, Alicia, Maria, Marisa, Eric, Polly, and Greg and many others. I have, as evidenced here today, but if you walked on any New York City street and run into a NYCHA worker, I have some of the best, one of the most diverse teams in this city. Vito, David, Edna, Karina, Bomee, Kilsys, Yvette, Jackie, Deborah, Cathy, Kerri, Bob, Kelly, Erenisse, Lakesha, Leroy, Jasmine, Brian, and Rasmia are just some of the names of the people who have held me up over the course of these last four years. To my amazing family and friends and sorors who have held me up, my priest, Father Matt, who is here have taken care of my children, I thank you. And, last but not least, because he has so much patience, my husband Matthew, I thank you, I love you, and pa’lante, thank you so much.
About the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)
NYCHA’s mission is to increase opportunities for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers by providing safe, affordable housing and facilitating access to social and community services. Almost 400,000 New Yorkers reside in NYCHA’s 325 public housing developments around the five boroughs, and another 235,000 receive subsidized rental assistance in private homes through the NYCHA-administered Section 8 Leased Housing Program. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/nycha, and for regular updates on NYCHA news and services, connect with us via www.facebook.com/NYCHA and www.twitter.com/NYCHA.