NEW YORK — The head of the New York City Housing Authority, a woman who's faced increased criticism in recent months over conditions in NYCHA homes, is stepping down.
Chairwoman Shola Olatoye has faced intense scrutiny in recent months following news her agency failed to inspect for lead in paint at thousands of apartments. Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in the city's housing authority on April 2, citing the lead issue, mold and other environmental and safety hazards.
“While the challenges facing public housing are significant – I’m incredibly proud of the leadership team we’ve assembled and the strides we’ve made over the last four years to speed up repair times, reduce crime, launch a major development program and bring NYCHA into the 21st century,” Olatoye said. “It’s been an honor to serve the 1 in 14 New Yorkers who call public housing home. I leave this role secure in the knowledge that we created a path for a stronger and safer NYCHA in the years ahead as the de Blasio Administration moves forward with NextGen.”
Former New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation President Stan Brezenoff will work as interim chair while the city searches for a new agency head, according to the mayor's office.
Olatoye told Politico, who first reported the story, she never intended to stay for a second term.
“When I was appointed by the mayor four years ago, my intention was to stay for the first term," she said. "It’s been an amazing, maddening, humbling fascinating assignment and I think I’ve done some really important work on behalf of the one in 14 New Yorkers that rely on us."
Olatoye has faced calls to step down in recent months, but Mayor Bill de Blasio had defended her, crediting her with "turning NYCHA around."
“She didn’t create the agency’s shortcomings — she’s the one I trust to fix them,” he previously said. “It’s a cheap stunt to call for her to step down, one that puts political ambition ahead of the urgent needs of NYCHA’s residents.”
Mayor de Blasio and Olatoye are scheduled to tour Ocean Bay Bayside Apartments together Tuesday morning. Brezenoff will be with them.
“The Housing Authority that the Chair inherited four years ago faced bankruptcy, an inability to make basic repairs and an alarming surge in violence. She was a change agent from Day One,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. "Crime is down. Repairs are faster. Finances are stabilized. And NYCHA is putting record investment from the City to work making life better for the 400,000 New Yorkers that call NYCHA home. We’re grateful for her service."
PIX11 has reached out to NYCHA for comment.