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Question Authority Episode 6: The Interview

An NBC 4 podcast on the fight to make NYCHA better. Click the boxes below to navigate between episodes.

Question Authority is a 6-part podcast about New York's public housing crisis. In Episode 6, we delve into the history of NYCHA and find out why all the authority’s housing stock seems to be crumbling at the same time. New NYCHA chair Gregory Russ answers the hard questions and gives his vision for the future. Listen on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher or listen below.

NYCHA MAY HAVE come to be known as a failing agency in 2019, but it wasn’t always like this.

Nicholas Bloom, a housing historian who co-curated an exhibit about NYCHA at The Skyscraper Museum said NYCHA buildings were once a desirable and highly-regarded development to live in. “They were considered one of the better managed authorities in the nation,” Bloom said.

However, a new age brought change. Since 2001, $3 billion in federal funding to the agency has been cut. And at the same time, 20- to 30- year-old buildings are deteriorating.

Buildings in Red Hook West Houses.
Photo credit: Liam McBain

For the final episode of the Question Authority podcast, we sat down with NYCHA incoming chair Gregory Russ.

“I took the job because we can fix this. I now there’s a history here – I’m not unmindful of that. One of the things that’s hard to get in NYCHA is line of sight,” Russ said.

On the show, Russ talks about the agency’s past, present and his plan for the future. “I see myself as an administrator. Our job is to present ideas that are workable. NYCHA has to reorganize to be better service providers, have a customer service mindset, and get the work done while we plan to get the stabilization funds we need to invest back into the property – they have to happen together,” Russ explained.

New NYCHA Head Discusses How To Fix Agency ProblemsNew NYCHA Head Discusses How To Fix Agency Problems

Facing multiple massive challenges — including $32 billion in unfunded repairs, a tough federal monitor and a lead scandal plaguing the authority — the new head of NYCHA Gregory Russ sat down with the I-Team's Chris Glorioso to discuss how they will close the funding gap, including partial privatization of some buildings.

(Published Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019)

According to Russ, the agency must look at themselves internally, stating the reasons behind the disconnection between tenants and NYCHA is due to the agency’s lack of customer service and administrative practices.

To him, a way to solve this issue is RAD, also known as Rental Assistance Demonstration, already seen in the New York City converion Ocean Bay.

“It will require some combination of resources including public and private… We’re going to have to propose some things that haven’t been tried in the public housing program before,” Russ said.

A sign hung at Ocean Bay.
Photo credit: Liam McBain

How will success of management be determined?

“The monitor and housing authority agree we are establishing baselines to measure our success. And your point about the management – that’s an opportunity to improve and make sure we don’t repeat those mistakes,” Russ said.

Question Authority was researched, written, produced, and edited by Liam McBain. The executive producer is Jessy Edwards, with additional help from Ben Berkowitz and John Cuthbert.