March 6, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez
Lynne Patton, who was appointed a regional administrator at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by President Trump in 2017, has moved into the Queensbridge Houses as part of an ongoing stay in NYCHA complexes around the boroughs, in a visit she said will also touch on the failed Amazon deal.
Patton moved into the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in the states, on March 4, and plans to stay there for one week. Her temporary stay at the houses follows week-long stays in NYCHA housing in Manhattan and the Bronx, part of scheduled visits to four public housing properties that began last month.
The HUD official said her goal in her temporary stays within the troubled complexes is to help speed needed repairs to the thousands of apartments in the system, and relay failures to a federal monitor now in place after an “agreement for fundamental reform” was reached between the city and the federal government in January.
The agreement resolved the litany of claims the government lodged against NYCHA last year, alleging that the agency had for years violated, and continues to violate, basic federal health and safety regulations for its residents. It also claimed that NYCHA repeatedly made false statements to HUD and the public regarding its lead paint compliance.
Patton said her visit to the Queensbridge Houses will also be a chance to “give the residents a national voice on what most of then deem to be a stolen opportunity with Amazon.”
Her statement comes after several NYCHA tenant leaders, including April Simpson, president of the tenant association for the Queensbridge Houses, released a scathing letter in the wake of Amazon’s canceled plans that accused “grandstanding politicians” of costing New York “25,000 good-paying jobs.”
Amazon’s planned corporate offices were set to be only blocks from the houses, in a deal that also saw some workforce provisions for residents at the complex.
“The city and state will now lose tens of billions of dollars in revenue that would have been invested in NYCHA, and the tenants we fight for every day,” the NYCHA leaders wrote on Feb. 14. “And New York has now missed a generational opportunity to cement its place as the tech hub of the future.”
The letter singled out State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, two central and vocal opponents of the project.
“They never asked what we, the people of NYCHA, actually wanted,” the leaders said about the Queens politicians. “They put their own political interests above their constituents and did not meet wit us or even listen to us. The grandstanding politicians will try and blame Amazon and anyone but themselves for this disaster. Nobody should believe them—they let us down.”
The four NYCHA tenant leaders represented the Ravenswood, Queensbridge, Astoria and Woodside Houses, and were also part of a 45-member community advisory committee set up for the project.
The group, along with several area leaders who vouched for the Amazon project, held a rally days before the company announced that it would pull out of its plans, where they looked to “set the record straight” on attitudes toward the project.
“We’re there now trying to shape what the benefit would look like for the community as a result of Amazon coming,” said Bishop Mitchell Taylor, co-founder of Urban Upbound, at the Feb. 11 rally. “I am very concerned that we get the best benefit we can possibly get.”
Taylor and other local leaders at the rally also denounced what they saw as steadfast, “blind” opposition to the project, and criticized outreach efforts by grassroots groups at the Queensbridge Houses days before, even accusing them of spreading misinformation on the project.
While the project has been off the table for weeks, Governor Andrew Cuomo has steadily been working to make the company reconsider and come back to New York as part of growing efforts to lure the company back.
But these efforts to reignite the plan have, too, been met with resistance from those that fought against the campus plans first announced in November.