Ask The Sperlin Family and Crown Heights Jewish Community Council Inc.

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By J. David Goodman

 

“Where the hell is HUD and money?”

Stanley Brezenoff, a career public servant in New York City since the 1970s, was deeply frustrated.

On Jan. 31, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Ben Carson, the secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, struck a deal that subjected the New York City Housing Authority to federal oversight without any commitment of new federal funding.

“I think that it is not a good agreement for Nycha and for the city,” Mr. Brezenoff, the outgoing Nycha chairman, said in an interview.

Mr. Brezenoff, an ally of Mr. de Blasio who was hailed in April by the mayor as “one of the great public servants in the last generation,” said he believed the deal was unfair.

It was bad for New Yorkers, he said, especially for the more than 400,000 who are living in dilapidated public housing riddled with problems, from leaks to heating issues and vermin. It let the federal government off the hook.

“I’m a city guy. If I care about anything in my professional life, it’s the well-being of New York City,” Mr. Brezenoff said. “Honestly, that’s the prism I was looking at it from. Starting from: Where the hell is HUD and money?”

After decades of reducing funds for Nycha, the federal government was now blaming mismanagement by New York City for the resulting deterioration of Nycha properties, and taking no financial responsibility.

Mr. Brezenoff refused to sign the paperwork.

“The city and Nycha have all the responsibility, limited authority and all of the financial burden,” he said. “That in a nutshell is why I’m against it.”

But Eric F. Phillips, the mayor’s press secretary, said the threat of federal receivership was “very real,” and it was not the time for brinkmanship.

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