The public advocate’s office has created a new rite of winter in its publication of the “Worst Landlords List,” an annual rundown of property owners across the city who are notorious for neglecting their buildings and tenants.
These landlords demand prompt payment of monthly rent from their residents while subjecting them to terrible conditions — from rodent infestation, to mold, to broken infrastructure, and more. Even with the incursion of violations from city agencies, as the Worst Landlords List outlines, many of those property owners continue to ignore them.
But there is one entity which Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said on Monday tops every other bad landlord in the city — the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).
For years now, NYCHA has been vilified for failing to adequately address the myriad problems on its properties: boiler breakdowns in the dead of winter, broken elevators, plumbing problems, mold growth, just to name a few.
The de Blasio Administration has taken plenty of heat for the situation, which wound up in federal court. A federal monitor was appointed to make sure that NYCHA cleaned up its act. The leadership at NYCHA was also shaken up to ensure a new, more positive direction.
And yet, as Williams noted Monday, there are still some 350,000 outstanding NYCHA work orders for improvements — which is actually up from 2018.
With the neglect and disrepair so extensive, one could argue that it was only natural to expect things at NYCHA to get worse before they could get better. But its track record of failure, and years of ignorance from City Hall, does not leave much room for enthusiasm.
Although Williams identified NYCHA as the city’s “worst landlord,” the title ought to instead go to City Hall and the Mayor’s office. The buck stops with the people at the top, the legislators and the city’s chief executive, both of whom are responsible for NYCHA’s stewardship.
The neglect goes back several administrations, however, so we’re not going to scapegoat specific lawmakers who presently or previously occupy city government.
But it would be absolutely refreshing if the de Blasio administration, and whoever succeeds it, would fully reform and repair NYCHA with the same vigor and commitment as they’ve instituted other recent, important public policy changes.
The residents of NYCHA deserve a caring landlord, and a livable home. Our city is obligated to provide them both.