Mayor Adams promised Friday that the city’s long-embattled public housing system won’t be in a “broken” state after his first four years in office, setting a high bar for himself on an issue that he has been accused of not focusing enough on.
Adams made the significant pledge while at an event in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with local elected officials and residents to mark the completion of a $434 million renovation project of nine New York City Housing Authority complexes in the borough.
The restoration initiative was completed using the RAD/PACT formula, a private-public partnership that has long been criticized by progressive Democrats who say it’s a giveaway to real estate developers.
But Adams argued at Friday’s press conference that the Williamsburg project proved RAD/PACT can be successful and said he envisions using it to fix other developments across NYCHA’s “broken system.”
“Four years later, I’m not going to be the mayor of this city with NYCHA still in the condition that’s in. It can’t happen. It can’t happen. It’s time to get it done. That’s what this moment is about,” the mayor said. “So the bus shouldn’t be the anti-RAD. The bus should be bringing people here and say, ‘See the possibility.’”
Adams’ bus reference was directed at State Sen. Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn), who was among a group of left-leaning lawmakers who spoke before the mayor at the event.
In her remarks, Salazar said a local housing advocate had recently mentioned being on “the no-RAD bus.”
“Generally speaking, to be honest, I’m still on that bus,” Salazar said. “However, it speaks volumes for that reason that I can be here with all of you today and say confidently that these repairs and improvements that have been done to these developments, to thousands of units, are beautiful.”
Pamela Cowherd, a resident of Independence Towers I, one of the refurbished Williamsburg developments, said she has over her 20 years in the building had to deal with frequent gas outages and various other problems.
She said the city did a “fantastic job” fixing up her building and voiced optimism about Adams’ pledge to overhaul NYCHA on a systemwide basis over the next four years.
“We’re going to try to hold him to it,” Cowherd, 57, said. “I’m going to pray and hope that everything goes well.”
NYCHA has an enormous $40 billion backlog of outstanding repairs at its various projects across the city, and several of Adams’ predecessors have struggled to improve conditions in the public housing system.
Against that backdrop, Adams pledged on the campaign trail last year to spend at least $4 billion on affordable and public housing in the city annually.
But in his executive budget proposal unveiled last month, Adams only set aside about $2.5 billion in affordable and public housing spending for the next fiscal year.
Activists and local Democratic politicians have called out Adams for falling short of his campaign promise, and the housing component of the budget has as a result become a major sticking point in negotiations between the Council and the mayor’s team.
In a sign that his housing budget could increase, Adams said, “Yes, I am,” when asked at Friday’s event if he is open to revisiting the $4 billion pledge.
“We’re going to continue to analyze and manage this budget that we have. We understand how difficult the budget cycle that we’re in, and we’re going to continue to invest in NYCHA continuously,” he said.