Whether you like Housing and Urban Development Regional Administrator (HUD) Lynn Patton, whether you don’t approve of her, or you probably don’t know who she is, you have to give her credit for telling the truth that practically no one wants to deal with.
“Why we can’t take care of our citizens…I don’t know.” — Lynne Patton/HUD Regional Administrator
Patton broke down in near tears with her voice trembling as she said that, standing in the Bathroom of a tenant at the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, N.Y. The ceiling of the bathroom looked like it could collapse on all of us at any minute. The make-shift repairs done by the senior citizen tenant, had lost out to mother nature, and the tremendous water damage. For those of you, not familiar with New York City, Long Island City, is not Long Island, but just minutes from Manhattan, actually in Queens. Long Island City is where the site of Amazon was supposed to be located….until that deal feel apart.
As Patton sobbed, she then said:
“None of us watching would tolerate this for a day, yet alone a year…this woman has been here for 19 years.” — Lynne Patton/HUD Regional Administrator
This was sad. Really sad. I have been a journalist in NYC for 30 years, and how did all of this fall through the cracks. Patton was at the Queensbridge Houses, as part of her tour of staying overnight in public housing to highlight the problems for the new Federal Monitor of NY Public Housing. Queensbridge is the country’s largest housing project.
As the day progressed, the situation on the tour went from bad to worse. In the first apartment, a water damaged bathroom ceiling that has not been repaired for years.
In NYC Public Housing tenants have to file a “ticket” for repairs to be done…but the horrendous problem is “repair tickets” can go unanswered for years. Or the work can be partially done, with the NYCHA worker never coming back. The situation is so outrageous in New York, that the mere mention of NYCHA has a very bad connotation to it for New York residents. (New York City Housing Authority) So bad that a Federal Judge has demanded NYCHA appoint a federal monitor as it relates to it’s public housing.
Regional Administrator Patton told me something that blew my mind. Something that is CRIMINAL, and folks should go to jail.
“Between 2014 and 2016 the New York City Housing Authority spent approx 341 million dollars on OVERTIME ALONE!!! That’s **NOT** SALARIES, THAT’S OVERTIME THAT COMES OUT OF THE OPERATING FUNDS.” — Lynne Patton/HUD Regional Administrator
Patton says she would rather spend the money, that 341 million on the people of public housing. I agree. A long-time friend of mine, and fellow journalist Sheila Stainback had this to say, and it’s pretty accurate.
Let's do some serious evaluation of what’s been going on. The Federal government has disinvested in public housing since 2001. You can’t fix buildings — roofs, bricks and boilers without money — about $32 billion. NYC alone remains the one big city to maintain its public housing stock so Congress has not been inclined to give all it needs for this housing while other cities have cut their commitment. These big cities moved residents out, tore down their structures and handed people Section 8 vouchers to find their own housing. And built a few new affordable housing structures. There’s no political will to do that here — mainly because NYCHA represents the single largest group of affordable housing in NYC.
The other apartment we visited on the tour, the same type of problem for a 48 year resident of public housing, a woman by the name of Jannett Taylor. Except this time on the ceiling, you could notice grey electrical wiring so close to the water damage that could be deadly. She was trying to stop the water from coming down, but the electrical socket was right there, directly under the water damage. Jannett Taylor told me:
“Water has come through so much until now it’s hanging, and they haven’t come back to put it up. Do you feel unsafe? I do. I feel like there can be a fire anytime.” -48 year NYCHA Resident Jannett Taylor
I then said to Jannett Taylor:
“So you get the run-around?” “I get the run around,” she replied.
Another Queensbridge apartment we went to made me want to cry. The woman talking in a very soft tone, did not speak English, only Spanish. She pays her rent every month, but has been forced to use her living room as a makeshift bedroom for over a year…and even the living room has dangerous peeling paint.
Then we came inside her bedroom where the situation was even worse. There was more peeling paint, than actual paint on the wall.
That’s when April Simmons the President of the Queensbridge Houses Tenant Association started crying and said:
“How could you live like this. How could you live like this. And you still gotta pay your rent, and you know be compliant. NYCHA wants their money on the 1st of the month or the 5 of the month, but when are you going to come and repair people’s apartment.” -April Simmons/President of Queensbridge Tenant Association.
This is the audio opening statement that Patton made, with the Tenant Association President, April Simmons.
Even if you don’t know who HUD Regional Administrator Lynne Patton is, you probably know her face. Patton has been in the national news headlines a lot lately. When President Trump’s former fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress…Republican Congressman Mark Meadows from North Carolina put Patton…an African American trump administration official… on display to show President Trump is not a racist. Meadows had Patton stand right behind him. When Patton was asked about this at Queensbridge, she gave off a sarcastic laugh.
“I gave MSNBC its greatest rating ever.” She said.
I then followed up:
“So you weren’t a prop?” (Journalist Dominic Carter)
“No sir, the only prop in that room was Michael Cohen.” — Lynne Patton/HUD Regional Administrator
Let’s cast aside all the Washington Political Drama. Americans need help….and Americans need it now. People that live in Public Housing are entitled to the same dignity as everyone else. This coming from a journalist that lived for years in NYC public Housing for years before becoming the first one in my family to attend college. The Patterson Houses in the Bronx, and also the Throggs Neck Houses. No one should have to live like what we witnessed on this tour. I’m an optimist by nature. Hopefully help is on the way with this Federal Monitor.
The issue of Housing
Just days after this tour, a bad situation hit a dear friend.
Helping those that Help All of Us
If there ever was a person worthy of our help at a time of need, it is the family of John Williams. In the photo above, you see John, giving back to the community, by volunteering as a Basketball Coach to help teenagers. His entire house was destroyed in a fire in the suburbs of Atlanta just a week ago. There is a gofundme page to help this family of 8 at a devastating time.
For Coach Williams, It doesn’t matter the kids race. White, African American, Latino, whatever. If a young person needs guidance, John is there. Period. No questions asked. Just 7 months ago in Atlanta, I WAS SO PROUD AS I GOT TO ATTEND ONE OF THE GAMES THAT JOHN COACHED. “Ref time out, time out” with his right hand crossing over his left. John ever proud of his NY, Bronx background, was wearing his blue NY Yankees cap, and is a Giants football fan. I watched with razor-focus as John’s players ran up to him during the time out. John didn’t scold them for what they were doing wrong on the basketball court, instead, aware of the role he plays as a ROLE MODEL, and often FATHER-FIGURE to many on the team, he guided the teenagers, (not yelling as coaches often do) and they listened.
Just a week ago no one could have predicted the devastating news to come. I was contacted in the early morning hours by our good long time friend Randy Codrington, to tell me John’s house had been ruined in a fire,
I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, but sometimes they do!
It’s not easy working your job full-time, overnight shift as John does…but here is my point. …..HE STILL FINDS TIME TO HELP YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY. If there ever was a person that is worthy of our help at a time of need, it is Mr. Williams. Thank You Coach Williams for caring. This is the GoFundMe page to help his family.