from Editorials in The New York Daily News

August 3, 2013

The mayor should have read the letter. The mayor should have taken the contents seriously. The mayor should have responded appropriately and aggressively for the betterment of New York.

The subject was the New York City Housing Authority, whose failures of leadership and execution have been front and center in the Daily News.

Dated Sept. 26, 2011, the letter presented Mayor Bloomberg with a detailed bill of particulars against NYCHA that is identical to the Daily News' accounts of an agency riddled by incompetence and sloth.

Bloomberg has dismissed this newspaper's reporting as cause for remedial action, even describing NYCHA Chairman John Rhea's performance as "spectacular." Yet the letter documents that the administration, if not the mayor, had full warning that the agency had run off the rails to the detriment of thousands of low-income New Yorkers.

The mayor's obstinate stance brings to mind the truth that there are none so blind as those who will not see.

Four leaders of major community organizations, part of the South Bronx Churches and Manhattan Together, signed the letter to the mayor:

They are the Rev. Getulio Cruz, pastor of Monte Sion Christian Church on the lower East Side; the Rev. Frank Skelly, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in the South Bronx; Ray Lopez, of Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Services, and Marielys Divanne, chief organizer for South Bronx Churches and Manhattan Together.

These are not lightweights. The groups they lead represent 52 congregations, schools and social service providers. All have had extensive, first-hand experience with NYCHA because thousands of their members live in public housing.

Politely, they told Bloomberg that tenants wait years for "basic repairs to conditions that threaten their health and safety;" that NYCHA "has not made use of at least $600 million of available revenue that could be used to address many of the most dangerous conditions that we have described," and that "NYCHA seems to lack the capacity to put credible applications together for these desperately needed funds."

All true. All precisely consistent with The News' findings. All ignored.

The mayor did not respond personally. The letter was bounced from City Hall to NYCHA and then bounced down even further to the agency's lowly Bronx borough office, which replied with boilerplate promises of better repair services.

How that happened, and whether Bloomberg saw the letter, is unclear. Still, the brushoff encapsulates his determined insistence to treat NYCHA as an orphaned stepchild while holding Rhea out as the second coming of Robert Moses.

The dismissiveness is all the more galling because the mayor and his aides were well acquainted with these particular community organizations, as well as with a parent operation, called Metro IAF, that unites them with similar groups in Brooklyn and Queens.

Worse, top Metro IAF leader Michael Gecan had earlier met with then-Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, spelled out NYCHA's ineptitude and urged the creation of a special construction agency to be led by a top-flight professional.

Gecan got nowhere, and NYCHA went on under Rhea as an agency that could not get its act together to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid targeted for repairs and renovations.

And that failed to spend $42 million earmarked for installation of security cameras for as long as eight years.

And that is limping along with top positions long unfilled, as Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer revealed in a spot-on report.

And that has proven incapable — even now, under close scrutiny — of keeping commitments.

Case in point, and one that Bloomberg should note as, willfully blind, he stands by Rhea:

On the day The News revealed the camera boondoggle, Rhea unveiled a plan to get them running in 80 projects. The agency website states: "Approximately 85 developments will receive security camera installations by the end of 2013."

But on Wednesday, Rhea said he had promised only "security enhancements," not cameras, and could not say how many developments would, in fact, get electronic surveillance.

Spectacular? No. Intolerable? Yes. Open your eyes, mayor.

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