NYCHA’s Outgoing Watchdog, Bart Schwartz, on the Difficult Work Ahead

When the federal government chose Bart M. Schwartz to watch over New York City’s troubled public housing system, home to more than 360,000 residents, he knew the job would be difficult. The agency, after all, had been caught lying about lead inspections, faced several other scandals, and was routinely criticized for mismanagement.

Since he started in 2019, he has dealt with leaking sewage raining down from a ceiling and hundreds of meetings with frustrated tenants. He helped uncover a sprawling bribery and corruption scheme that broke a record for the Justice Department.

And yet, he remains optimistic that change is possible for the New York City Housing Authority. On Wednesday, Mr. Schwartz, 77, released his final report on NYCHA’s progress toward meeting the terms of a federal settlement, in which the agency agreed to improve its handling of persistent problems residents face.

Some successes from the past five years include a 40 percent drop in complaints about heat, a 50 percent drop in mold cases and a rapid uptick in lead abatement, which occurred at 700 apartments in all of 2019 and takes place at an average of 400 per month now.

In an interview, Mr. Schwartz talked about some of the highs and lows of his term, and said there was more work to do. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Say all the problems were solved in NYCHA buildings. Why would that be beneficial to the city?

The people who live there deserve to live in a safe, clean environment. Especially, you know, in the richest country, the richest city. We should be able to do better.

Related Articles

Back to top button