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Add BP-appointed volunteers to NYCHA board: Diaz Jr.

Bronx Times
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With a shakeup at the city Housing Authority looming, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. wants a voice for the city’s five borough presidents at its decision-making table.

Diaz sidestepped embattled NYCHA chairman John Rhea, specifically asking Mayor Bloomberg to allow borough presidents to appoint at least one unpaid member to NYCHA’s board.

As part of a major overhaul to deal with scores of problem-plagued housing projects, Rhea has already agreed to allow volunteers on a reorganized board. But Diaz wants that power to be placed on borough presidents.

“We’re the ones investing in NYCHA with our capital dollars,” Diaz wrote in a letter to Bloomberg.

Diaz would have his volunteer member serve as a liaison between the NYCHA board and his NYCHA Task Force, which deals with the borough’s 11 public housing complexes.

Rhea has said he plans to eliminate the board’s highly paid members and bring in unsalaried replacements.

That as a long-awaited consultant’s report released in August blasted NYCHA for inefficiency, mismanagements and long delays with upkeep and repairs.

Published reports show the agency sitting on $1 billion in government funding meant for repairs, while tenants have waited in vain.

As Rhea works to fix his board, the borough president wants to see a backlog of fixes made at the Bronx’s

NYCHA complexes, which account for 25% of the borough’s crime.

Several high-profile shootings happened at local projects over the summer, including the killing of 4-year-old Lloyd Morgan of Morrisania’s Forest Houses. He was killed in the crossfire of two rivals during an evening basketball tournament in July. The complex has no security cameras.

Residents at Forest Houses must also deal with a laundry list of filthy hallways, musty smells, flickering lights and graffiti tags.

On Saturday, September 22, Diaz held his annual “Peace in the Streets” initiative at Forest Houses, personally asking tenants to report any illegal guns.

He said the initiative allowed him to keep his ear to the ground over a “myriad” of problems at the complex.

Over the last several months, two murders rocked Pelham Parkway Houses, once “the jewel of NYCHA” where part of the complex is now dubbed “Siberia” for its high crime rate.

During the overnight hours of August 26, a 25-year-old was shot dead and another seriously wounded after arguing with several people.

Tenants were shocked in June by the gruesome murder of Evelyn Shapiro, an 88-year-old grandmother bludgeoned to death inside her apartment.

The murder drove Councilman Jimmy Vacca to set aside $4.6 million for security cameras and a “layered-access” system at Pelham Houses. Installation is set for next year.

Vacca agreed with Diaz’s idea, saying “Having those voices on the NYCHA board to share those insights could be valuable to NYCHA.”

The letter comes as Diaz Jr. weighs a run for Public Advocate, though he told the Bronx Times his letter was not politically motivated.

“Whether I’m the public advocate or not,” he said, “I will always advocate for the people.”

NYCHA did not respond to requests for comment. The mayor’s office has not responded to Diaz Jr.’s idea.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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