--NYCHA submitted documents to federal government falsely certifying compliance--
Mark G. Peters, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation (“DOI”), announced today the results of an investigation into mandated inspections for potential hazardous leadbased paint conditions at New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”) apartments. DOI’s investigation determined that NYCHA failed to conduct mandatory safety inspections for lead paint over a four-year period beginning in 2013, but submitted false documentation to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) stating that the Authority was in compliance with federal laws that require these inspections to be performed. In its Report, DOI shows that despite its senior staff being made aware that NYCHA was out of compliance with City lead laws in 2015, and its Chair, Shola Olatoye, being told in 2016 of non-compliance with both City and Federal rules, certifications were still submitted to the federal government. As a result of this investigation, and three additional DOI investigations that revealed other serious safety hazards and breakdowns over the past two years, DOI is recommending that a monitor, reporting to DOI, be appointed to ensure future compliance with inspections in areas including lead paint, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. A copy of DOI’s Report can be found at the following link: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/doi/newsroom/public-reports.page
Commissioner Mark G. Peters said, “DOI’s investigation found that NYCHA failed to do critical lead safety inspections and then falsely certified that they were meeting these legal requirements. This is the fourth time in two years that DOI has found NYCHA to be careless when it comes to tenant safety. NYCHA has an obligation both to protect tenants and to be honest with the public. Today's report should be an important step in ensuring that NYCHA meets these obligations. ”
According to DOI’s investigation, NYCHA fell out of compliance with City Local Law 1 of 2004 and Federal Lead Safe Housing Rule 24 C.F.R. 35 in 2013. These laws require public housing authorities, like NYCHA, to conduct annual visual assessments of apartments that meet certain criteria and where the possibility of lead-based paint has not been ruled out. NYCHA has approximately 55,000 apartments that must be visually assessed each year to satisfy the federal rule. NYCHA is required to file with HUD, certifying that it has complied with “all applicable Federal statutory and regulatory requirements,” related to lead-based paint. DOI’s investigation revealed that in 2013, after HUD relaxed its rules on apartment inspections, NYCHA ceased conducting annual apartment inspections and did not create a separate protocol, resulting in NYCHA failing to perform annual visual assessments for potential lead-paint hazards as legally required.
DOI’s investigation showed that in 2013, 2014 and 2015, NYCHA submitted documentation to HUD certifying that it was in compliance with lead-based paint regulations, despite not having conducted the required visual assessments.
DOI was also told by NYCHA that in September 2016, NYCHA reportedly self-disclosed its noncompliance privately to certain HUD officials during a routine quarterly oversight meeting in Washington, D.C. DOI has been working to corroborate this disclosure. The following month, according to the investigation, NYCHA submitted another certification. It wasn’t until July 2017, when NYCHA submitted an amended 2017 plan to HUD, that it also submitted a new form qualifying its certification stating, “NYCHA has not complied with certain requirements related to lead-based paint but is working to ensure full compliance.”
This investigation revealed that although senior executives, including the Chair, were aware that in 2016 NYCHA was out of compliance with federal regulations, NYCHA nonetheless submitted a certification stating otherwise. DOI has previously issued three other reports focused on additional safety failures at NYCHA, specifically a failure to properly inspect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and a failure to comply with building codes regarding elevator safety. DOI also issued a Report and follow-up investigation on NYCHA’s failure to enforce its Permanent Exclusion policies for serious criminal offenders.
As a result of these multiple failures, DOI has issued a series of recommendations related to lead and to the need to hire a monitor that reports to DOI to ensure NYCHA’s compliance with safety laws:
NYCHA must ensure that it is fully compliant with City and federal lead-based paint laws, including by conducting annual visual assessments for lead-based paint hazards in certain apartments as required by law, and by performing biannual quality assurance reevaluations every two years.
NYCHA should evaluate the feasibility of systematically abating the remaining public housing apartments that are known or presumed to contain lead-based paint, beginning with apartments known to house a child under six.
NYCHA, for all future filings and certifications, must implement a system to collect written sign off of the accuracy of all statements.
NYCHA should hire a third-party monitor to ensure compliance with safety laws and rules by performing the following services: a) concerning lead-based paint inspections, the independent integrity monitor should conduct field spot-checks to ensure that annual apartment inspections are done, needed abatement is completed, and quality assurance re-inspections are duly performed in accordance with Local Law 1 of 2004 and 24 C.F.R. 35; b) conduct field visits to ensure that critical apartment safety checks of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and window guards, are duly performed in accordance with NYCHA policy; and c) potentially ensuring full compliance with elevator safety measures put in place by NYCHA following DOI’s March 2016 report about a fatal elevator accident.
DOI Commissioner Peters thanked NYCHA for its cooperation in this investigation
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