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Through Our Partnership With C-COP We Will Continue Our Work To Improve Conditions And Safety For Residents In And Around NYCHA

As we continue to partner with Community Groups that are working to make NYC a safer and better place to live the Hip-Hop Summit Youth Council would like to congratulate Danny Barber-Walker for his election victory to Chair the City-Wide Council of Presidents (C-COP).  This powerful and influential group represents over 400,000 residents in 326 developments.  In all the years we have known about C-COP we have yet to see the group operate at its full potential.  Is Danny Barber-Walker the Chairman that’s finally going to shake things up and find justice for the residents?  The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the largest Public Housing Development in the nation and has great potential to be a model for the country, but the right leadership from NYCHA and C-COP working together is needed.  It is our hope that with Danny at the helm we can finally get to the bottom of the problem.

For years NYCHA has been neglected by a host of government agencies and it seems that no matter who is Mayor the problem is passed from one administration to the next.  Is this a federal government problem?  What role does the state and city play?  When you have an agency that has been underfunded and mismanaged for decades you can’t expect the problems to be solved over night.  More important, in order for real change to occur, the residents have to also step up to the plate and play a bigger role to protect their interest, just like students are doing around the country to address gun law reform.

Over the last 9 years the Hip-Hop Summit Youth Council has worked with several NYCHA management teams and tenant Groups on a host of initiatives to improve public safety and empower students, youth and young adults with the resources to succeed.  For several years we have worked directly with Tenant Presidents and C-COP to promote “Family Day” with support from our partners at Power 105.1 and “The Shark” Daymond John.  For NYCHA to succeed there is nothing more important than building Family Values and Community Unity.  At our meeting with Danny last year we discussed the issues outlined in the C-COP Lawsuit against NYCHA.  At that time it was just talk, but now C-COP has officially put those words into action.  It appears the group is going real hard to protect the rights of the residents, as well as save Public Housing.

C-COP has an enormous amount of power and with Danny at the helm we are confident you will see a lot of changes at NYCHA.  We are committed, along with our partners, to do whatever we can to help C-COP do the job the residents voted them in to do.  This is not going to be an easy task, but we also know just how persistent Danny can be when it comes to fixing the problems that continue to stagnate the growth and development of NYCHA.

HHSYC with Danny Barber-Walker, kids and Power 105 Staff at the 2016 Family Day at Jackson Houses

HHSYC with Danny Barber-Walker, kids and Power 105 Staff at the 2017 Family Day at Jackson Houses in the Bronx

For this to happen C-COP will need the support of residents, students, parents, community leaders, clergy, local businesses, celebrities, elected officials and corporations.  You can be sure that the Hip-Hop Summit Youth Council will be there to lend a helping hand by addressing issues such as: Gun & Gang Violence, Sexual Abuse Against Women, the Heroin & Opioid crisis, Employment and Academic Failure.  If we all work as a team, we can come up with some real solutions to fix the problems, and stop playing the “Blame Game” that is partially responsible for the ongoing problems that continue to hold NYCHA back from being a great development for all tenants once again.

Written by Charles Fisher, edited by Randy Fisher.  For further info hit us up at: RandyKFisher@gmail.com or @HHSYC.


Tenants Sue New York City Housing Authority: ‘We Have Let Other People Speak for Us for Too Long’


Danny Barber-Walker, 48, is president of the Citywide Council of Presidents and a lifelong resident of the Andrew Jackson Houses in the Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx. Credit Kholood Eid for The New York Times

Danny Barber-Walker, 48, is president of the Citywide Council of Presidents and a lifelong resident of the Andrew Jackson Houses in the Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx. Credit Kholood Eid for The New York Times

In a lawsuit, tenant leaders representing the 400,000 people living in public housing have asked a judge to appoint an independent monitor to oversee the New York City Housing Authority because it has failed to provide heat and hot water, keep residents safe from lead, involve tenants in policymaking and hire residents, as required by federal regulations.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan by the Citywide Council of Presidents, a group of tenant leaders chosen by residents.

The housing authority, known as Nycha, has come under increased scrutiny for filing false reports claiming lead inspections had been done and for leaving tens of thousands of residents without heat and hot water during a record cold spell.

“When we reach out to Nycha to complain about our issues we get shut down,” said Daniel Barber-Walker, 48, president of the Citywide Council of Presidents and a lifelong resident of the Andrew Jackson Houses in the Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx. “We have let other people speak for us for too long. The fight has to come from the residents of public housing.”

Jasmine Blake, a spokeswoman for Nycha, said she took issue with claims in the lawsuit. She said the authority had briefed the Citywide Council of Presidents several times about lead, heat and mold issues. And, Ms. Blake said, 8,200 Nycha residents have been placed in full- and part-time jobs through agency training programs since May 2015.

“While we work closely with C.C.O.P., we refuse to limit resident engagement to one group because all tenants deserve to have input,” Ms. Blake said in a statement.

The lawsuit is the latest blow to the authority, which is already under pressure to improve living conditions for its residents even as the federal government cuts funding.

The United States attorney’s office is examining safety issues, including elevated lead levels in tenants; the public advocate, Letitia James, announced an investigation into the lead paint problems in November; and a special master is overseeing the authority’s handling of mold.

Three authority officials, including the general manager, Michael P. Kelly, have resigned, and one was demoted. There are persistent calls for the authority chairwoman, Shola Olatoye, to resign or be removed, though Mayor Bill de Blasio has remained supportive of her.

“Lots of different of organizations have sued Nycha, but this is a first,” Nicholas Dagen Bloom, an associate professor of social science at New York Institute of Technology and the author of “Public Housing That Worked: New York in the 20th Century,” said about the lawsuit. “It does show a mounting, spreading activist spirit. Generally speaking, that council was a rubber stamp and it has been widely criticized for decades, though not always fairly.”

Jim Walden, a lawyer for the Citywide Council of Presidents, called the lawsuit a “watershed moment” created by a group of tenants who felt it was the only way the residents’ concerns would be addressed.

“We have a mayor that ran on the tale of two cities and he’s forgotten the largest community in New York City, which also happens to be the neediest,” Mr. Walden said. “If Nycha does not clean up its act and comply with the law, then there’s the possibility that executives from Nycha will be held in contempt of court.”

Residents of the authority’s 326 developments have a right to organize tenant associations. Each association is in one of nine districts. The leaders of the associations vote on a president from each district to represent them on the citywide council, which then chooses its own president.

Some chipped paint in Mr. Barber-Walker’s 15th-floor apartment. The New York City Housing Authority is under fire for falsely reporting that lead paint inspections had been completed. Credit Kholood Eid for The New York Times

Some chipped paint in Mr. Barber-Walker’s 15th-floor apartment. The New York City Housing Authority is under fire for falsely reporting that lead paint inspections had been completed. Credit Kholood Eid for The New York Times

Mr. Barber-Walker became president of the council in January. Standing inside his 15th-floor apartment, he recited from memory the federal housing codes and city rules and regulations that he believes the authority has violated in his own four-bedroom railroad apartment — including the need for a paint job in his kitchen and the mold that used to line his bathroom wall and ceiling.

“If this was any other section of the city, residents wouldn’t be treated this way,” he said. “Nycha residents just want to be treated like any other resident.”

The lawsuit charges that the authority failed to comply with federal and state law by not conducting timely lead paint inspections, even failing to notify residents when the potentially hazardous paint was found in their apartments. The authority has also failed to provide its tenants with heat and hot water. Between Oct. 1, 2017, and Jan. 22, 143,000 apartments were without heat and hot water for an average of 48 hours, authority officials said.

Federal regulations require the authority and its contractors to hire Nycha residents, low-income people or individuals receiving housing assistance. The law also applies to businesses owned by people from those groups or who hire people from those groups.

In 2016, the authority was supposed to award 10 percent of the $150 million in capital fund construction contracts to businesses who hired people who lived in Nycha buildings, were low-income or received housing assistance. Only 0.4 percent, or $60,857, of contracts awarded fit that specification. Three percent of $66 million in nonconstruction contracts was supposed to be awarded to people and businesses in those categories, a total of $1.98 million, but less than 1 percent, $634,670, was awarded, according to authority records.

The suit also says that the authority “makes unilateral decisions on virtually every important policy matter,” and does not consult tenant leaders or residents. Federal regulations require that “residents shall be involved and participate in the overall policy development and direction of Public Housing operations.” Authority meetings with its tenants are usually held to announce policy decisions, according to the lawsuit.

If the city followed the rules and fixed the problems, the authority “could be a model of how to treat people equally and fairly,” Mr. Walden said.

An independent monitor is not necessarily the solution to the authority’s problems, Mr. Bloom said. The authority needs a significant financial investment, he added.

 “I don’t think anyone will remember pre-K or any of the progressive stuff de Blasio did if he allows Nycha to continue its decline,” Mr. Bloom said.

An appearance by Mr. Barber-Walker in the lobby of his building means handshakes, hugs and kisses from residents he has helped. Almost everyone who passes calls out “Danny” before stopping to talk about one thing or another.

“For me to sit here and keep hearing the complaints from the mothers and the grandmothers and not do anything, I am just as guilty as Nycha,” Mr. Barber-Walker said.

But after spending 18 years on public housing tenant organizations, this suit is also personal. He said the recently removed mold in his bathroom exacerbated his mother’s breathing problems. And now that she is gone, Mr. Barber-Walker is the guardian of his brother, Kenneth Massey, 29, who has seizures, cerebral palsy, scoliosis, arthritis and is blind and partially deaf.

Mr. Massey is in near constant pain and the cold adds to his discomfort, Mr. Barber-Walker said. During the recent cold snap, Mr. Massey had no heat in his room for eight days, his brother said.

“When you get tired of something, enough is enough,” Mr. Barber-Walker said. “We are here to tell everyone today that enough is enough and we are not taking it any longer.”

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