The Fix Is Out

Public Housing Crumbles on republicans’ Watch

McCall's report comes as NYCHA itself is undergoing profound transformation. In January, chair Ruben Franco resigned after three firefighters were killed battling a blaze in a NYCHA building where the sprinklers were turned off; both Franco and Mayor Rudy Giuliani deny the resignation was linked to the deaths. And the authority faces a huge challenge this fall when a controversial federal law will give working people preference in getting placement in public housing.

McCall's most recent report mimics his February study of NYCHA's federally funded buildings. McCall found two-thirds of the 104 projects surveyed had at least one major problem. But unlike city- and state-backed developments, federally built developments had improved in some areas.

"What you start to see here is clear," says Jones. "There are some in the city and state administration who have been seeking the privatization of public housing, and one way to accelerate that is to let the buildings go to rack and ruin until they're too deterioriated to fix. It's pretty Machiavellian, I must admit, but we're not talking about a huge amount of money to fix this, and this is a time of real surplus. We're not talking about expanding public housing, just keeping it up to code. You just start to wonder why they won't do it."

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