NYCHA’s Olatoye on Challenges

Shola Olatoye (Photo by Bill Moore via Amsterdam News)

Shola Olatoye, chair of the New York City Housing Authority, has come under fire in recent months for problems with heating and lead paint in some public housing buildings, but she has retained the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio. In an interview with Nayaba Arinde of the Amsterdam News, Olatoye stressed that she was sympathetic to complaints and concerns, and is dedicated to addressing the issues and looking for solutions.

“I completely understand the feelings of dismay and disappointment that residents have as it relates to maybe their own conditions in public housing. My grandmother lived in public housing 30-plus years ago. I very much remember taking the elevators in Albany houses in Brooklyn in the 1980s, and being afraid of you know what you shouldn’t be afraid. The challenges that face the New York City Public Housing Authority haven’t happened in the last four years—this has been a 40-year long national story of the federal government stepping back, cutting its investment in public housing. The public housing program basically stopped in 1978, and has been in a steady decline since.”

She noted that President Trump released a budget three weeks ago that “essentially zeroed out the public housing program. So, while Congress passed a budget for a year and a half, we have 176,000 units. If we were a city we’d be bigger than Miami.”

Olatoye said that about one-third of NYCHA’s staff live in NYCHA buildings, and so she has a good sense of what’s going on and what’s needed. But she stressed that the problems have developed over many years, and are “deep and structural.” Go to Amsterdam News for a fuller account of the interview, and to find out what Olatoye says is “intellectually dishonest” about some of the discussions about NYCHA.

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