This article was originally published on Apr 8 at 5:47pm EDT by THE CITY
It was supposed to be just another routine weekly video conference for city Housing Authority bureaucrats to update managers on how things were going in public housing developments across the five boroughs.
And then it went off the rails.
One of the participants, a Bronx neighborhood administrator named Alex Tolozano, appeared in his Microsoft Teams window — naked and next to a woman.
Another NYCHA employee on the call began videotaping the meeting.
The video, obtained by THE CITY, reveals a blurry image of Tolozano with the woman and captures discussion among other NYCHA staff trying to figure out what was going on.
“So, he’s laying in the bed,” one participant said.
When the face of a woman appears in frame, another participant shouts, “Oh my God!”
Seconds later Tolozano appears in frame — also apparently nude. A chorus of “Oh my God! No!” and screaming ensues.
All of this lasted about two minutes on the internal NYCHA call that took place shortly after noon on Wednesday — in the middle of the work day.
Tolozano is responsible for overseeing management of several NYCHA developments in the Bronx. He was supposed to be participating in this regularly scheduled call as part of his work responsibilities as a city employee. Last year, he made $129,000, city records show.
Some 50 NYCHA employees, including upper level managers and superintendents of developments across the city, were listed as invitees on the video conference, sources familiar with the matter told THE CITY.
THE CITY attempted to contact Tolozano early Friday but no one answered a number listed under his name and by late Friday that number had been disconnected.
On Friday, in response to THE CITY’s inquiry, NYCHA officials described the incident like this: “During the meeting participants observed Alex Tolozano’s phone camera was on the screen for at least two minutes revealing that he was potentially engaged in inappropriate activity with another individual.”
In response to THE CITY’s questions about the virtual meeting, Barbara Brancaccio, NYCHA’s chief communications officer, confirmed in an email that the top levels of the housing authority learned of the incident soon after it happened.
By the end of Wednesday, NYCHA had suspended Tolozano without pay for 30 days while it looks into firing him.
“NYCHA took swift disciplinary action following this incident by immediately suspending the employee, initiating an investigation and beginning the administrative process for dismissal,” Brancaccio stated.
“Inappropriate activity, absconding from work, and time abuse are not tolerated at NYCHA and will be met with suitable consequences,” Brancaccio said. “Most importantly, NYCHA is working tirelessly to root out bad actors and create a culture of compliance, service, professionalism and respect, and we will not allow this unacceptable behavior to deter us from our mission or discourage or demoralize our extraordinary workforce.”
The Teams incident is just the latest black eye for the troubled agency.
The authority is the city’s biggest landlord, with 400,000 tenants in 175,000 apartments across the five boroughs. After years of press reports about mismanagement and squalid living conditions endured by public housing tenants, federal prosecutors launched an investigation that found agency managers had routinely lied about performing required lead paint inspections and covered up mold infestations, rat invasions and pervasive elevator breakdowns.
In January 2019, NYCHA and then Mayor Bill de Blasio entered into an agreement with federal prosecutors and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) that included the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee promised reforms. The monitorship is ongoing.
In January, NYCHA officials revealed to THE CITY that they had fired 18 lower-level trades staff after uncovering evidence that they’d been regularly putting in for overtime for hours they weren’t actually working. That investigation is ongoing and has broadened to include supervisors.
“NYCHA is undertaking an investigation that will culminate in a request for a General Trial,” Brancaccio stated. “During a General Trial NYCHA will present the evidence and could lead to further suspension or separation from service.”
Tolozaono, 53, joined the authority in 1988 and rose through the ranks. In 2016 he was a residential building superintendent making $84,000. After his promotion to administrative housing superintendent, he enjoyed several significant raises.
Over the course of his NYCHA career, Tolozano has been brought up on disciplinary proceedings over work performance issues three times prior to the explicit video conference, NYCHA officials said. Twice — in 1995 and in 2015 — he was temporarily suspended. After a 2014 hearing he was reprimanded.
The officials were unable to provide details of the prior issues that led to the sanctions.
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