Orwellian Bureaucracy at New York City Housing Authority

Orwellian Bureaucracy at New York City Housing Authority

Author’s note: I wrote and mailed this letter in January via regular mail (NYC Housing central office does not give out its fax numbers). I am still awaiting response.

January 6, 2011

John Rhea, Chairman
New York City Housing Authority
250 Broadway
New York, NY 10007

Dear Mr. Rhea:

I am writing because I have to keep on top of public housing information for the benefit of people who come to me for social services. Part of my job is to help parents of asthmatic kids reduce asthma triggers in the home environment, which many times can be done by moving into newer buildings that are by definition freer of dust, mold, leaks and other asthma triggers. On November 15, 2010, I sent an email at the website asking how applicants are considered for newer developments, if there is a system of priorities assigned for these placements in new housing stock, and which of the newer developments are taking new tenants. I sent the inquiry by email at the suggestion of an operator at NYCHA, after I had asked several NYCHA employees in the Manhattan Management office and several operators at the central office who did not know the answer.

Since I have not gotten a reply and over six weeks have passed, I called NYCHA today. An operator (Ms. Moore) told me that there is “no way to call” the correspondence unit to see when they are going to answer my email. I questioned how they can not have a phone number and she assured me that they don’t. She suggested that I “send an email” to ask about my email. I asked what I should do if they don’t answer that email either, and she said “you just have to wait.” This hardly seemed very productive.

I called back and asked to talk to someone who knows about the newer constructions and to what degree people with medical issues can get consideration for becoming tenants of these. The same operator said that no one has that information and that there was no one to transfer me to. So then I asked to be connected to the Chairman’s office, and she refused to connect me, saying that I have to call the general number back. I called it back so far three times, and each time no one would connect me to your office, they just insist that I let them answer the questions, but then when I ask they have no answers.

The last call I made, when I explained that I needed to follow up on my November email inquiry via the website, an operator (#9) offered to connect me with someone in the “correspondence unit.” You will note that the previous operator (Ms. Moore) insisted that the correspondence office could only be contacted by email, which clearly has turned out not to be the case.  I left a message at the voice mail #9 connected me to.

If a person who is an advocate for others cannot get clear and timely answers about public housing when she contacts NYCHA, it troubles me to think how my clients are faring when they call.

I would greatly appreciate it therefore if a person with a body of knowledge regarding NYCHA housing stock and assignment of tenants, schedules for placement, etc. would contact me and clarify so that I can educate my clients on the process. I have dozens of clients who are awaiting transfers or who have gotten transfers within NYCHA. None to date has been shown apartments in the newer developments. It would be useful to the public and to social service workers to know how access to the newer housing stock is organized, so that everyone has a fair shot at becoming a tenant in one of these buildings.


Diane R. Pagen, LMSW
Social Worker

By |2016-10-23T02:33:07+00:00February 2nd, 2011|Uncategorized|2 Comments


  1. Anonymous February 6, 2011 at 11:16 PM - Reply

    Why not contact the Asthma Center (or Asthma clinic) at Harlem Hospital, ask to speak to a social worker. This is one of a a few Asthma Centers in the nation.

    Applicants for public housing at NYCHA are processed via computer and assigned equally and without preference to housing units as they become available but there are provisions, I am told, for priority cases that bypass computer.

    You can attend a NYCHA board meeting held once or twice per month. To speak at a board meeting you must register beforehand.

    If you contact the Tenants Association of any developoment you will likely find people who know the ropes and can give you info you need to proceed.

  2. Diane Pagen February 6, 2011 at 11:29 PM - Reply

    Thanks for your comment. I can tell you that while I am aware that there is a "system" for transfers and applications, and also a "priority system" for placements for those families with even more need than most, these systems are merely a sham when the average wait for an apartment through NYCHA is ten-twelve years (their own estimate not mine). One further sees the sham when one notes that there are about 250,000 New Yorkers living doubled up because they cannot afford a market rate rent. NYCHA can say it has a system, but when we know that it can barely accommodate the need for housing, it can't really be considered to be legitimate.

    The federal government and the states are engaged in a policy of full scale social abandonment, which includes abandonment of ensuring that enough safe and healthy housing is built, be it publicly or privately, to house people of all incomes. Lack of sufficient housing guarantees that the locality will have increased medical costs (such as for treating asthmatic kids whose apartments make them sick); increased in mental health care costs (overcrowding and homelessness are depressing); and worsened educational outcomes for our kids (some of my families have no place for a dining room table to do their homework on). Fixing housing policy so that all have someplace decent to live would save us incalculable amounts and result in happier (more productive) citizens.

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