Mayor Bill de Blasio met Tuesday with President Donald Trump’s housing secretary, Ben Carson, in an attempt to avert a threatened federal takeover of New York City’s crumbling public housing system.
The meeting came the day Carson toured, unannounced, the Queensbridge Houses, just north of the Queensboro Bridge. Carson’s agency has said that federal receivership was a possibility for the New York City Housing Authority, which, with 400,000 residents in more than 300 developments, is the nation’s biggest.
After the meeting, de Blasio said there was “broad agreement” that it was best to avert receivership. He said of Carson: “He has gone out of his way to say local control is the best option.”
In an email, Carson spokesman Raffi Williams said the meeting was "productive," but added: "NYCHA and New York City have until January 31, 2019, to produce a bold plan of action acceptable to Federal officials that remediates NYCHA’s long-standing issues with management, including lead, mold, heat, elevators, and vermin."
Several members of the City Council have chafed at the possibility of putting the Trump administration directly in charge of the city’s public housing system.
Pressed about what had changed as a result of the meeting, which was convened at the Javits Federal Building in Manhattan, de Blasio did not offer any specifics. “The key decision-makers are talking face-to-face about how to solve the problem. That’s pretty damned important,” he said.
The housing authority under de Blasio has received intense criticism from tenants’ groups, members of the City Council and a federal judge over unaddressed failures, some of which predate his mayoralty: untested lead paint, false testimony and most apartments losing heat in last winter’s cold.
The federal judge, William Pauley, last month rejected a settlement to appoint a monitor to help fix the housing authority and devote at least $1.2 billion to repairs. The city and Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has oversight of the city’s public housing system, have until Jan. 31, the deadline set by Carson, to make a deal.
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-Brooklyn), who attended the Carson-de Blasio meeting with two other members of Congress, called for an overhaul of the housing authority.
“There must be top-to-bottom reforms that need to take place,” Velázquez said, “transparency and accountability."