Council Hearing on Bill de Blasio Affordable Housing Plan Abruptly Canceled

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito with Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. (Photo: NYC Council/William Alatriste)

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito with Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. (Photo: NYC Council/William Alatriste) William Alatriste/City Council

A City Council hearing on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s far-reaching affordable housing plan has been abruptly canceled, a councilman confirmed to the Observer this week.

Councilman Jumaane Williams, the chair of the council’s housing and buildings committee, said the June 12 oversight hearing was called off because the de Blasio administration wasn’t ready yet to answer all of the council’s questions.

“We’re trying to make sure we give enough time for the administration to be able answer all our questions,” Mr. Williams told the Observer yesterday.

“I think we asked some preliminary questions during the budget hearing and we got back some information but we want to make sure we get back all of it. I don’t know that they have all of the answers that we want and I feel like in a few months they will and I don’t feel if they say, they don’t have the answers now, I’m not sure I can hold them to task because the plan just came out,” he said.

A new hearing–it was to be titled “‘Housing New York’: A First Look at the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Plan”–has not been scheduled but will likely not be held for several months, according to council sources. Mr. de Blasio’s office played a role in the hearing cancellation, council sources say, asking for the date to be moved. Mr. de Blasio’s office did not immediately explain their rationale.

The hearing would have given an opportunity to the council to grill the de Blasio administration about details of their plan, which aims to build 200,000 units of affordable housing. It also would have shed light on the particulars of the plan, which has not been completely fleshed out since Mr. de Blasio first unveiled it in May.

Questions have been continually raised about Mr. de Blasio–a fellow Democrat working with an overwhelmingly left-leaning Democratic council–and how much of a counterweight the council can be to the new mayor. Mr. de Blasio even helped elect Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, an unprecedented move for a mayor in recent history.

“This drastically changes the rules of engagement,” a council source said, referring to the hearing cancellation. “[This action] will bring severe reality for many members as to who they are dealing with and how they are being dealt with.”

A spokesman for Ms. Mark-Viverito, however, pushed back on that characterization.

“It’s not uncommon or unusual for meetings to be postponed,” Eric Koch, a spokesman for Ms. Mark-Viverito, said.

Paula Duran contributed reporting.