Stringer Audit Revealing Rampant Waste Spurs Reforms at NYCHA

Comptroller Scott Stringer with NYCHA tenants. (Photo: Will Bredderman/New York Observer)

Comptroller Scott Stringer with NYCHA tenants. (Photo: Will Bredderman/New York Observer)

City Comptroller Scott Stringer and New York City Housing Authority Chairwoman Shola Olatoye announced today that an audit of the financially strapped public housing landlord found it had mismanaged and misplaced hundreds of thousands of dollars in building materials and supplies, and that NYCHA had agreed to overhaul the administration of its warehouses as a result of the study—a shakeup the Observer first reported last month.

At the press event at his headquarters in the Manhattan Municipal Building, Mr. Stringer revealed how his team checked a cross-section of the electronic records at the authority’s warehouses and storerooms against the actual supplies on the floor. In just the relatively small sample the auditors reviewed, they found almost $170,000 worth of tools, sinks, air conditioners, bathroom medicine cabinets and eyewash stations were simply missing.

The comptroller’s office also found that NYCHA had sold thousands of dollars worth of overstocked or unusable materials for as little as 10 percent as the authority had paid.

“Should New Yorkers have a sense of outrage? Of course. This has been going on for many, many years, perhaps decades,” Mr. Stringer said, even as he applauded Ms. Olatoye for swiftly implementing changes to her authority’s structure. “We’re all committed now and drawn the line and said ‘enough is enough.’ We’re going to account for every piece of equipment, is going to be warehoused properly.”

The audit also uncovered that NYCHA had just two staffers overseeing inventory at its 344 developments—eight of which have parking garages converted into satellite storerooms—and at its central warehouse in Queens.

Ms. Olatoye described how she had already frozen the liquidation sales of NYCHA supplies, fired or demoted several senior administrators with handling inventory and introduced new security measures at the eight on-site storerooms. Additionally, the chairwoman—an appointee of Mayor Bill de Blasio—said she had already named a new interim director of Supply Management and Procurement, who an internal email the Observer obtained indicated is the authority’s former general counsel Josephine Russo.

“We have to bring meaningful changes to the way NYCHA does business if we want to sustain the future of public housing and become the type of landlord our residents deserve,” said Ms. Olatoye, thanking Mr. Stringer for his audit. “These deficiencies are simply unacceptable. We are working in partnership with the Comptroller to overhaul our supply and inventory practices to become a more effective and efficient landlord.”

The review is the latest in an ongoing series of “top-to-bottom” audits Mr. Stringer has conducted on NYCHA since entering office last year, but the first that has prompted Ms. Olatoye to agree to immediate changes.

Mr. Stringer complained in an interview with the Observer last month that “NYCHA never acknowledges any of our audits” and called the authority “an embarrassment to government.”