Judge rejects city’s $2.2 billion deal with feds over NYCHA repairs

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MANHATTAN — A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a $2.2 billion payment the nation's largest public housing agency was set to make to settle claims that it used dirty tricks like building fake walls to hide problems from inspectors and lied about lead paint conditions to mask risks to low-income residents and their children.

Senior U.S. District Judge William Pauley III said the following in his issued opinion:

"Because the record reveals a substantial basis to conclude that this proposed decree is not fair, reasonable, or consistent with the public interest, the Government’s motion to approve the consent decree is denied."

Monica Morales breaks the news:

Accusations against the New York City Housing Authority stemmed from an investigation that found widespread mismanagement at NYCHA, which has received thousands of complaints each year about broken elevators, insufficient heat, mold and infestations of rats and cockroaches.

The agency "engaged in a culture of false statements and concealment" when filing reports required to secure federal housing subsidies, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said when the deal was announced in June. "The culture of NYCHA is to blame. The management of NYCHA is to blame."

The city had agreed in a consent decree in Manhattan federal court in June to pay $1 billion over four years and an additional $200 million annually for the following six years. The deal also called for the appointment of a monitor to oversee the housing authority during the 10-year span of the agreement.

The settlement came in response to a civil complaint that zeroed in on what it portrayed as the agency's indifference to the risk of lead paint poisoning children, saying, it "knows that there is lead paint within apartment units in roughly thirty percent of its developments, but has failed — and continues to fail — to protect its residents from that paint when it peels and crumbles."

Between 2010 and 2016, there were 19 confirmed cases of lead poisoning of children exposed to paint in public housing apartments, with hundreds more testing above safe levels for lead, it said.

It is not yet clear what the next step in the case will be.

PIX11 has reached out to the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio for a statement:

“This decision will not affect the record investment Mayor de Blasio has dedicated to reversing decades of divestment and mismanagement of public housing. For the sake of NYCHA’s residents, this Mayor’s reforms – including those outlined in the consent decree – will not stop and will not slow down. We will, at the same time, be responsive to the Court, and we look forward to continuing to partner with the United States Attorney to improve conditions in public housing.”

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