Sunday, March 27, 2016

Manhattan Feds In Midst Of Sweeping Probe Into Environmental Health & Safety Conditions In Apartments Run By NYC's Biggest Landlord, & Possible False Claims It Filed w/ HUD Related To Those Conditions

In New York City, The New York Times reports:
  • Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are conducting a sweeping investigation of environmental health and safety conditions, including cases of elevated blood lead levels, in public housing and homeless shelters and the possibility that the New York City housing and homeless agencies filed false claims to federal housing officials for payment related to the conditions.

    The investigation was disclosed [] in a letter from the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, and in a judge’s subsequent order, which were both filed in federal court.

    The order, from Judge Deborah A. Batts, compels the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to produce information about the cases of elevated blood lead levels among residents and complaints of “unsafe, unsanitary or unhealthful conditions” in public housing and homeless shelters.
    The Housing Authority, known as Nycha, has been struggling with deteriorating conditions in its aging complexes and is already under the supervision of a court-appointed special master to address issues of mold among the 178,000 apartments it manages.

    The agency has blamed a lack of money to address maintenance needs and major capital projects because of deep cuts in federal funding over more than a decade.

    But the court documents noted that Nycha is required to comply with federal requirements regarding lead-based paint and to maintain public housing “so that it is decent, safe, sanitary and in good repair.” The investigative demand said the investigation “concerns possible false claimssubmitted by the city to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is a major source of funds for the Housing Authority.
    The public housing stock of red brick towers dates as far back as the 1930s and 1940s — with many still likely to contain lead paint — and the agency has struggled to keep up with a backlog of work orders, including for lead paint removal.

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