President Barack Obama just took office this week – but several members of Brooklyn’s delegation in Congress are already angling for a slice of his stimulus pie.
According to an internal letter obtained by this newspaper, Reps. Edolphus Towns, Anthony Weiner and Nydia Velazquez are lobbying the House leadership for at least $5 billion for the Public Housing Capital fund.
“This funding will not only revitalize our nation’s public housing stock, but will also improve the quality of life of public housing residents and stimulate our economy by creating jobs,” the letter stated.
The letter goes on to state that over the last seven years, the Public Housing Capital Fund program has been slashed by 19 percent from $3 billion in FY2001 to $2.44 billion in FY2008.
The letter also points to a study showing that for every $1 spent on public housing capital and maintenance projects, $2.12 in economic activity is generated in the surrounding community.
Additionally, the letter notes that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the nation’s largest federally subsidized housing authority, and once broken down, the proposed funding would provide a much needed infusion of about $650 million.
“More importantly, the New York Building & Construction Trades Council estimates that just $500 million in new public housing capital spending would lead to 3,500 new jobs. The significance of NYCHA to New Yorkers cannot be overstated. NYCHA is home to about 5% of the City’s population and represents very often the only real affordable housing alternative to our working families,” the letter states.
The letter, which the three lawmakers have already signed, is currently being circulated around the House for more signatures before being submitted to House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, majority leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, and Rep. Barney Frank, chair of the House Committee on Financial Services.
Towns said the letter comes after receiving several complaints about living conditions from constituents in NYCHA complexes including the Bayview Houses, 9820 Seaview Avenue, the Breukelen Houses, 650 East 108th Street and the Glenwood Houses, 5913 Glenwood Road.
The complaints include problems with heat and hot water, lack of security, elevators not working and lack of property maintenance.
“Families have to grapple with these difficult economic times and add to that the stress of their housing situations,” said Towns. “With the state of public housing in Brooklyn, I am hopeful that we can receive this funding to address the important and necessary repairs. Families deserve better, and I will continue to fight until they receive better.”
Charlene Nimmons, president of the Wyckoff Gardens Residents Association, 185 Nevins Street, in Boerum Hill, noted that staff members in NYCHA community centers around the borough have just recently been sent pink slips.
“We would love to see a stimulus package for public housing. We too are suffering from the lack of funds being made available. We’ve (public housing) been cut for the last six years or more. This (community center layoffs) is the second round of layoffs we’ve had in the last year,” she said.
Other NYCHA housing developments in Brooklyn that could get an infusion of the stimulus money includes Atlantic Terminal, Farragut, Ingersoll and Whitman in the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill area, and the Williamsburg development in Williamsburg.