NEW YORK (PIX11) — The federal monitor in charge of overseeing NYCHA has serious concerns that a half-billion-dollar deficit in rent caused by the pandemic could have serious consequences for repairs and the quality of life of more than 600,000 residents.

NYCHA’s federal monitor, Bart Schwartz, told PIX11 News that New York City public housing is at a crossroads right now. If NYCHA doesn’t receive the necessary funding to continue its work, the effects will be felt by the people who live in NYCHA, according to Schwartz.

Schwartz said the lack of funding will directly impact repairs, mold cleanup, lead abatement and even garbage collection. “It will be dramatic,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz was appointed to oversee the troubled agency as the federal monitor four years ago. He said NYCHA has done some things well, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

“There’s been enormous advances in the operation of elevators. They did an excellent job on lead issues for children under 6 … Mold complaints have dropped by almost 50%,” said Schwartz. “NYCHA should be doing better on its heat. We set a program for them two years ago to do maintenance work. They did not follow the program.”

Schwartz said he’s concerned conditions will get worse due to a lack of funding. PIX11 News first reported on the thousands of applications from NYCHA tenants to the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program that are still pending. NYCHA confirmed to PIX11 News last month that tenant rent arrears are totaling a whopping $454 million across 73,028 households. 

Schwartz said NYCHA is now planning to “pause” 70 of its capital projects. NYCHA’s interim CEO said in a preliminary budget hearing on March 13 that the paused projects would be “mainly related to community center and playground renovations and grounds improvements.” Some NYCHA residents say that’s unacceptable and heartbreaking.  

A NYCHA spokesperson told PIX11 News, “Following decades of disinvestment in public housing and in the face of a tremendously difficult financial outlook— we continue to do everything in our power to prioritize the important work of our pillar areas and maintain services at the development-level for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who call NYCHA home.  In recent years, and particularly over the last several months, we have consistently sounded the alarm about our budgetary shortfalls, including the drastic reduction in revenue from rent — and we are now beginning to see the impacts of these gaps come to fruition. We are grateful to the federal monitor for his support and advocacy related to this matter.” 

A spokesperson for Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office told PIX11 News, “Governor Hochul remains committed to ensuring that all NYCHA residents have access to safe, stable housing. The Governor worked with the legislature to secure $350 million in NYCHA funding as part of last year’s Enacted Budget, announced a $300 million funding agreement to upgrade elevators at 20 NYCHA facilities, and signed legislation to create the New York City Public Housing Preservation Trust to repair and modernize NYCHA apartments. The Governor will continue to work with local, state, and federal leaders to ensure that New York’s public housing meets the needs of its residents.”

The federal monitor’s full statement can be read here.