NYC Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito Announces New Resources and New Decision-Making Power for NYC Housing Authority Residents

El Barrio, NY - At her first State of the City Address at Johnson Houses in East Harlem, NYC Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito put her long-standing commitment to public housing into motion. Not only was it significant that this was the first time a Speaker has given such an address in public housing, but Speaker Mark-Viverito also demonstrated her commitment to the preservation and improvement of the critical public housing stock in NYC.

With many past-year Council accomplishments and future commitments to be excited about, Community Voices Heard was particularly excited about the commitments regarding public housing that directly speak to campaign elements we have been advancing for years...more resources for capital repairs in NYCHA and more decison-making power for NYCHA residents.

CVH's Public Housing Committee has consistently been calling for a base-lined commitment of funds from the City and State for public housing, to fill the gap created by federal disinvestment, and has been campaigning to get Participatory Budgetinginto public housing so that residents can directly decide how public monies are spent.

We can now look forward to joining the Speaker in the planning process for this new pilot, drawing on our experience at helping to kick-start the City Council participatory budgeting process which is now in place in 24 council districts and will determine how up to $30 million is spent through a public vote in mid-April. [For information about how to get involved in the City process and vote in April, take a look at the council website. Voting locations and times should be up soon!]

"Since Community Voices Heard released our Democracy (In)Action report back in 2010, we have been calling on NYCHA to establish a participatory budgeting process. Allowing public housing residents to have collective decision-making power over resources for their communities will increase engagement and foster community-building. We're thrilled that Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is now ready to focus some of the Council's energy on making PB in NYCHA a reality. Public housing residents will finally have their say! We look forward to partnering on this exciting pilot and to expanding it over time in terms of both resources allocated and the number of developments engaged."

-- Gloria Wilson, Community Voices Heard Board Member, Public Housing Resident

We applaud the Speaker for her bold vision for NYCHA and beyond and look forward to working with her to make this vision of a better and more just New York a reality.

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Excerpts from the pertinent parts of Council's press release can be found below:

Increase Resources for Capital Improvements at NYCHA and Empowering Tenants:

Mark-Viverito: “Within this complex, we are here to present our vision for the City. But we are also here to let NYCHA residents know that we hear you – los escuchamos.

We will not abandon you- and we are going to lift up your voices - so that others can hear them too.”

NYCHA’s aging housing stock requires far more capital investment than has been available from Federal, State, and City subsidies. From 2001 to 2013, federal funding for NYCHA declined 36 percent, and State funding has virtually halted. The result is a capital budget gap that exceeds $18 billion, severely limiting the agency’s ability to make necessary repairs and upgrades. Without resources, NYCHA cannot maintain housing stock in a state of good repair, or improve service levels and residents’ quality of life.

New York City plans to commit approximately $225 million in capital funding in FY 2015 to improve conditions at NYCHA. Today, Speaker Mark-Viverito, whose district has the most public housing anywhere in the City, announced that she and Council Members with public housing in their districts, will send a letter to Governor and legislative leaders in Albany, calling on the State to match this commitment with some of the over $5 billion it received from the recent bank settlements.

In order to address critical system improvements, the Council will also allocate $25 million in new capital funding in the FY 2016 budget targeted at the NYCHA development in each borough with the most open work orders. These funds will be spent on improvements like brickwork, roofing, elevator replacements, heating and plumbing upgrades, and kitchen and bathroom renovations. By targeting funding to buildings with the most open work orders, the Council can tackle the underlying conditions that cause the problems – like leaks or mold – in the first place.

Participatory Budgeting Expanding to NYCHA:

Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a democratic process where community residents directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. New York City’s PB process is the largest in the nation.

Working with NYCHA and local tenant leaders, Speaker Mark-Viverito, who was one of the first members to take part in participatory budgeting, announced that the Council will appropriate new funding in the FY 2016 budget to expand the PB process to public housing.While other jurisdictions have various mechanisms for input into their public housing budget, this would be the first PB process in the U.S. that allows any resident of an affected public housing development to vote directly on how to appropriate public money in their developments.