The Justice Department has recently made the largest number of arrests for bribery and extortion in New York City’s public housing sector.
The New York Times reports that 70 current and former employees of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) have been charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for accepting cash bribes from contractors.
These contractors sought to secure contracts for approximately 100 buildings under the Housing Authority across all five boroughs.
Prosecutors claim that the suspects received over $2 million in bribes, with the contracts totaling more than $13 million in work.
The suspects allegedly received kickbacks ranging from 10% to 20%, or even higher, according to the Times.
“This culture of corruption at NYCHA ends today,” Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said during a press conference Tuesday morning, calling it a “classic pay to play” scheme.
According to the report, a notable amount of corruption in the Housing Authority involved smaller contracts for tasks like window or plumbing repairs.
These contracts, which were valued at less than $10,000, were initially overlooked. The report highlighted that local development managers have the authority to award such contracts without public bidding, creating an opportunity for exploitation.
Lisa Bova-Hiatt, NYCHA’s chief executive, said the suspects “put their greed first and violated the trust of our residents, their fellow NYCHA colleagues, and all New Yorkers.”
“We will not allow bad actors to disrupt or undermine our achievements,” she added.
The city’s Housing Authority, responsible for providing housing to over half a million New Yorkers across 2,400 buildings, is facing numerous challenges.
Critics have criticized the agency for its management of aging buildings that suffer from issues like rodent infestations, leaky pipes, and malfunctioning elevators.
Additionally, there is a significant backlog of hundreds of thousands of people on the housing waiting list, and the properties require an estimated $78 billion in repairs.
Meanwhile, the agency is collecting less rent than ever before. In 2022, they received just 65% of the rent they charged—a record low.
Despite these financial difficulties, the Housing Authority receives over $1.5 billion in federal funding as the largest housing authority in the country.
Mayor Eric Adams has emphasized the importance of affordable housing and set a goal to construct 100,000 new homes to address the city’s severe housing shortage.
In recent news, felony charges filed by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg against two individuals who purchased fake COVID-19 vaccination cards were dismissed by a New York Supreme Court justice.
The defendants were accused of obtaining these counterfeit cards from a stripper named Jasmine Clifford in an alleged effort to bypass New York City’s vaccine mandate.
The Manhattan DA had chosen 16 individuals out of around 100 believed to have obtained fake vaccine cards from this same source and charged them all with felony criminal possession of forged instruments.
Initially, 16 individuals were charged, but only 14 of them opted to plead guilty to reduced charges. However, J.O. and R.V. made the decision to pursue the dismissal of their cases instead.
Bragg opposed their efforts, resulting in the case being transferred to Lantry’s jurisdiction.
But Supreme Court Justice Brandon T. Lantry pushed back, noting that the Manhattan DA’s office under Bragg’s leadership has “routinely — nearly daily — move[s] to dismiss significantly more serious counts or entire indictments.”
“These motions submitted [by Bragg and his prosecutors] are made months or even years after the 45-day period has expired to dismiss … sexual assaults, drug sales, robbery, burglary, and other violent and non-violent serious felony offenses,” Lantry wrote.