Secretary Benjamin Carson, Department of Housing and Urban Development: We’re delighted to be here in this frozen tundra on this day because we have warm news, and that is that NYCHA, and the City of New York, and HUD, along with SDNY have reached an agreement. Now, interestingly enough, the whole concept of public housing largely got started right here in New York many decades ago. And, you know, the idea was to be able to provide safe, and clean, and nurturing environments to give people an opportunity to move up the ladder.
Over the course of the years, some things have happened that have been unfortunate and have resulted in environments that sometimes are not completely safe, with lead, and mold, and vermin, elevators that don’t work properly, and heating issues that put people’s lives in jeopardy. And we all recognize that this is a problem, and, you know, we have a couple of options, some of which are not particularly pleasant, but one of the best options, which is extremely pleasant, is when you have people who are willing to put the people first and then needs of the people first – and that’s what I found with the Mayor. We were able to put aside any political differences and think about, what would provide the right kind of environment for the people here? What had been the things that precluded that in the past? What kinds of things can we do now that are controlled at a local level and empowered by all of the various components to make sure that the people’s needs are taken care of?
And I’m very excited about what we have agreed to here, because I think it sets a great precedent for what can be done in other places around the country. You know, public housing, assisted housing, these are things that we need to be concerned about – affordable housing especially we need to be concerned about because the cost of rents are going up about 20 percent faster than the cost for inflation and other things. And obviously, we’re going to have to get to the root causes of these things and fix them, because having a safe and nurturing environment is key to the human development. And our most important resource are our people, and if we want our people to be developed appropriately, we need to provide those basic resources to get them there, to show them there, because when they are developed it makes our country much stronger.
So, it’s been – I have to tell you, it’s been a pleasure, actually, working with the Mayor, with SDNY. You know, this has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans – it has everything to do with the people.
And with that, I’ll turn it over to the Mayor.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. I want to affirm the statement you just made. You know, at the beginning of this process, I’m sure that there are many who would have predicted that Secretary Carson and I would not have been able to work together well and communicate and find common ground. But I want to thank Secretary Carson for his tremendous commitment to getting to an agreement. We put a lot of time in and I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary. I also want to thank your staff here and in Washington. I want to thank as well U.S. Attorney Berman and his team.
This has been going on for many weeks and it’s taken a lot of work, a lot of focus. The Secretary and I have met in person several times here and in Washington. We’ve spoken constantly on the phone. And I actually used to work at HUD – I know something about HUD. I want to say, this Secretary has shown me a level of focus and concern that I deeply appreciate. And most importantly, the 400,000 New Yorkers who live in public housing I know will appreciate because we were able to get to a cooperative and constructive outcome.
400,000 people who are the backbone of this city – I want to remind people, sometimes in the public discourse folks who live in public housing are stereotyped, and, I think, often stereotyped negatively and unfairly. They are the backbone of this city. They are every-day people who get up and work hard, many of them two jobs or more to keep this city running, and we owe it to them to provide them decent housing.
Secretary Carson and I inherited a situation that was many decades in the making, and I wish we didn’t. I wish that over those decades there had been consistent focus and support for public housing at all levels of government, but there was not. We inherited a very troubled situation. But we resolved from the beginning to do something different and to find a way to cooperate in the interest of the people. What we have done here today I think creates a strong path forward and a very tangible path forward. As we met, we were both committed to very specific goals that would change and improve the lives of public housing residents. There was equal commitment, it was not something that one side wanted and the other one didn’t. We both wanted tangible and specific goals and timelines. We wanted to make sure there would be results. And I want to thank the Secretary also because I know he believes in something I believe in, which is local control – the power and the accountability that comes with local decision-making.
I mentioned to the Secretary that just this week I was a town hall meeting in the Bronx, and NYCHA residents came up to me to talk about their concerns and issues, and that’s the way it should be, that they are demanding of their local leaders’ accountability and results. This agreement continues that and strengthens that.
The agreement was made possible also by tremendous hard work not only by members of the City Hall team, but also the Office of Management and Budget, Operations – a number of City agencies participated – but most especially, everyone at NYCHA. And I want to thank Stan Brezenoff, Vito Mustaciuolo, and their entire teams who worked tirelessly over many, many weeks to put together this agreement. But I especially want to thank them for the progress that has been made, and is real and tangible – the NYCHA 2.0 plan, the progress we’ve made in reducing heating outages and speeding along repairs and recovery from any outage. Real changes are happening at NYCHA and this plan will help them to happen faster.
Just a few quick points – we are 100 percent committed to providing the resources that we originally committed to back last summer. In over a 10-year timeframe, that is $2.2 billion in City money, and that is money that will be well spent on behalf of the people who live in NYCHA. This is on top of $4 billion in previous commitments we made that had nothing to do with the proceedings we’re addressing here, but were all about the commitment this City government feels to those residents.
We are going to continue with our new 2.0 plan, it is going to allow us to fully renovate 175,000 apartments. We need HUD’s cooperation through the RAD program. We know that we have to in each case win approval development by development, but we also know that the Secretary and his team are committed to the principles of the RAD program, and they’ve been very receptive to working with us.
And we see this as a partnership now. And I want to end on this note, we see this as a partnership to get things done for the residents. As we all talked – and I want to certainly include our colleagues at the U.S. Attorney’s Office when I say this – we kept talking about the goals we had to reach and how we could all help each other to get there, and this plan allows us to do it. It has created an atmosphere of partnership and a sense of shared destiny that will bent the 400,000 people who live in public housing.