Governor tours public housing as he mulls emergency NYCHA declaration

NEW YORK — Conditions at the New York City Housing Authority are so bad, it warrants an emergency declaration, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said after touring one of more than 2,400 NYCHA buildings in the city Monday.

The governor sharply criticized NYCHA's management and the "maze of bureaucracy" for the dire conditions at the largest public housing authority in North America, housing about 400,000 people, and called on the City Council to make specific requests regarding how to quickly fix the situation.

“I have no problem declaring this an emergency, because it is a health and safety emergency. The question then becomes what specific action do we take,” Cuomo said.

Roaches, vermin, and paint and plaster coming off the walls were among the health-safety issues Cuomo said he witnessed at the Bronx's Jackson houses on Monday — not to mention the lack of heat that has left thousands of residents in the cold this winter.

"The residents' rights  have been abused, period," Cuomo said. “This situation is really intolerable. …. It has nothing to do with how the family is taking care of the unit. The unit is crumbling around them, and it is disgusting, it's uninhabitable and it is just shocking."

NYCHA is among some 150 housing authorities in the state run by local municipalities. While the state does not fund these developments, Cuomo said NYCHA's conditions were so bad it warrants state funding and intervention.

"The only housing authority in the state that we have actually given money to is NYCHA. NYCHA hasn’t even been able to tell us how they would spend the money. That's the point. There’s no point in giving an agency money that’s going to take three years to spend the money," Cuomo said.

The governor called on the City Council to make specific requests within two weeks regarding how to fix the issue, or said he would make a decision himself by the time the budget is done April 1.

"What do they want the state to do specifically? What kind of emergency declaration? How do they see us getting improvements done quickly?" Cuomo asked.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has defended the city's work to invest in public housing and said last week that the state has done "next to nothing" to help.

“Speaker Heastie and the State Assembly have the backs of NYCHA tenants," he said. "Today, they passed a bill giving NYCHA full design-build authority that will speed up critical repairs by more than a year. The rest of Albany needs to follow the Assembly’s lead: stop playing games and promoting gimmicks. Deliver the key investments and reforms NYCHA tenants are waiting for.”

PIX11 News’ has been following the cases of residents living in difficult conditions in one of the coldest winters New York has experienced, including a 14-day stretch when the temperature didn’t rise above freezing. Click here for coverage.

Watch: Gov. Andrew Cuomo on declaring an emergency at NYCHA

The Associated Press contributed to this report.