I have to give credit to my old newspaper The New York Daily News for focusing its attention and resources on the city’s public housing authority, otherwise known universally in government circles as NYCHA (as in ‘gotcha’). This bureaucracy operates the city’s housing projects, one of which — the Monroe Houses in the Bronx — was my home for 16 years.
In article after article after editorial, The News — chiefly through the reporting of Greg B. Smith — has blistered NYCHA and its chairman John Rhea for failing to spend in the neighborhood of $1 billion earmarked for badly-needed repairs for its suffering tenants. In classic tabloid “let’s have some fun with this guy” fashion, the newspaper never fails to mention that Rhea is Harvard-educated which, you know, is a sin to the common man. What’s more lovable than a Harvard guy who appears to be a bumbling fool? Ask the Marx brothers for the answer to that one.
The News is not letting up and each day’s story is more scandalous. There is the housing project that was emptied of tenants so it could be completely renovated 14 years ago!! As you may have guessed, nothing is happening there to this day, except for security guards making sure no one walks off with the bricks. The $325,000 spent on what amounts to a ‘pep talk.’ And on it goes, sprinkled every other day with stories of real tenants who are really suffering. This is the stuff of tabloid dreams which is not to say it’s unimportant.
It is important and The News deserves all the credit in the world for turning its attention away from the starlets who are cheating on their hunky boyfriends to something that matters to a hundreds of thousands of people living in dire conditions in New York. Bravo Daily News!
Having lived through the good and bad times of public housing, I can tell you there’s nothing as disheartening as staring at an elevator that’s broken for weeks or months. It’s not even the elevator that’s galling — it’s the idea that no one cares. Finally someone is paying attention.