Federal prosecutors in Manhattan unsealed bribery and extortion charges on Tuesday against 70 current and former employees of the New York City Housing Authority, a sweeping indictment of a troubled organization.
Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said it was the largest number of federal bribery charges the Department of Justice had ever handed out in a single day.
In describing the scheme, Mr. Williams said dozens of employees, including superintendents and assistant superintendents, had taken more than $2 million in bribes from contractors seeking to do work at apartment buildings throughout the city’s five boroughs.
All told, nearly 100 buildings — about one-third of the authority’s properties — were touched by the scheme, Mr. Williams said at a news conference, calling it “classic pay to play.”
“This culture of corruption at NYCHA ends today,” he said.
As the nation’s largest public housing authority, NYCHA receives more than $1 billion in federal funding.
Lisa Bova-Hiatt, NYCHA’s chief executive, said in a statement that the employees had “put their greed first and violated the trust of our residents, their fellow NYCHA colleagues and all New Yorkers.”
She said the agency was working hard to improve conditions in public housing.
“We will not allow bad actors to disrupt or undermine our achievements,” she said.
Last year, officials at the agency estimated that it would need some $78 billion over the next two decades to renovate the aging system, which is home to more than 300,000 New Yorkers in an expensive city starved for affordable apartments.
Complaints about crumbling buildings, rodents, leaky pipes and broken elevators have dogged NYCHA, which operates more than 270 developments. Still, demand remains high, with hundreds of thousands of people crowding waiting lists.
In 2022, NYCHA collected just 65 percent of the rent it charged, the lowest percentage in its nearly 100-year history.
Prosecutors said that the scheme revealed Tuesday involved small-dollar repairs — under $10,000 — on things like windows and plumbing, deals that do not go through competitive bidding.
In his news conference, Mr. Williams said that the practice of shaking down contractors had become “business as usual” at many NYCHA buildings, and asked that contractors who had been extorted come forward. He also said that the work of rooting out corruption would continue.
“NYCHA residents deserve better,” Mr. Williams said, adding, “We are not done.”
Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, has made increasing affordable housing a central goal of his administration, unveiling a plan last year to create as many as 100,000 additional homes by allowing low-slung apartment buildings to sprout from the tops of some single-story buildings outside Manhattan.
At the same time, Gov. Kathy Hochul, another Democrat, has also sought — unsuccessfully thus far — to address the problem, seeking to build hundreds of thousands of homes in the city and statewide, though opposition from suburban lawmakers has been fierce.
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