“City pays millions for migrants, but does not help us”

New York will pay hundreds of millions to migrants who have come to the city since crossing the US-Mexico border – and Daniel Barber, for example, is disgusted.

Barber, 53, who represents the New York City Housing Authority’s 339,000 tenants, said, “The city is going to spend a lot of money on these people who aren’t even citizens, but they’ve forgotten about the people who live in public housing here.”

Last week, the Independent Budget Office predicted the city will spend at least $596 million a year to provide housing, education, health care and legal assistance to more than 17,000 asylum seekers after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott started this summer to provide them to enter from Texas.

In fiscal 2021, NYCHA spent $773,700 to “support various tenant initiatives,” according to the city. NYCHA is the largest public housing agency in North America with spending of $4.2 billion this year, according to the City Council Treasury Department report.

Barber said he resents the city helping asylum seekers find jobs and enroll them in education when thousands of young people in NYCHA need better access to jobs and after-school programs to keep them off the gangs and the streets.

As Chair of NYCHA's Council of Presidents, Barber represents 339,000 housemates.
As Chair of NYCHA’s Council of Presidents, Barber represents 339,000 housemates.
Stephen Giovannini

“You’re going to train a bunch of people who are coming into the country, but those who are already here and applying for admission can’t get in,” said Barber, who represents all of the people who live in the 335 housing developments in the five boroughs considered their elected President.

He added that the recent increase in violence among young people “is due to the fact that there are no community programs for them” once they leave school.

For example, to get a job in construction, applicants must have completed at least 40 hours of H&S management training. But Barber said he’s pushed for access to this and other types of training, to no avail.

In October, the city built a tent city for 500 migrants on Randall's Island, but it has already been closed.
In October, the city built a tent city for 500 migrants on Randall’s Island, but it has already closed.
Matthew McDermott
While the migrant center had facilities like washing machines and dryers, Barber said of the NYCHA shelters, “I've seen better conditions in slums in developing countries."
While the migrant center had facilities like washing machines and dryers, Barber said of NYCHA’s shelters, “I’ve seen better conditions in slums in developing countries.”
Polaris

Barber, who has served on the Citywide Council of Presidents for 20 years, said he regularly emails NYCHA executives, including current interim CEO Lisa Bova-Hiatt, asking for help.

“I’m speaking to the managing director, the CEO and all higher-ups to make them aware of the situation,” he said.

In October, the city built a special tent settlement for 500 migrants on Randall’s Island, but the controversial facility, which cost $16 million, was closed this month. Many of the migrants who are now arriving have been taken to a range of shelters and hotels where they are being helped with schooling and vocational training.

Migrants in New York
Barber said he resents the city helping asylum seekers find jobs and signing them up for education when thousands of young people in NYCHA need better access to jobs and after-school programs.
Matthew McDermott

While the city has been quick to help these newcomers, NYCHA residents are suffering long delays in making improvements — including repairs to their homes, Barber said.

“I’ve seen better conditions in shantytowns in developing countries,” he said. “We have scaffolds that have been there for 15 to 20 years and nothing is being done. We’ve got water seeping into people’s homes, we’ve boarded up windows that never get fixed. We need help.”

The now-closed tent pavilion for migrants cost $16 million.
The now-closed tent pavilion for migrants cost $16 million.
Matthew McDermott
“NYCHA is behind on order windows because they are only allowed to do business with one procurement company.
While migrants were greeted with a popcorn machine, Barber said that “NYCHA is behind on ordering windows because they are only allowed to do business with one sourcing company.”
Matthew McDermott

He said local politicians are only concerned when they run for elections.

“Everyone ran their political campaigns against public housing and everyone explained how public housing is falling to pieces, but after the election we’re just a thought, especially now with all the asylum seekers coming in,” said Barber, a lifelong resident of the Andrew Jackson Houses in the South Bronx.

A spokeswoman for NYCHA said NYCHA needs tens of billions from city, state and federal governments to help its tenants and improve its facilities.

A spokeswoman for NYCHA said the group needs tens of billions from city, state and federal governments to help renters and improve facilities.  Barber blames the bureaucracy.
A spokeswoman for NYCHA said the group needs tens of billions from city, state and federal governments to help renters and improve facilities. Barber blames the bureaucracy.
Stephen Giovannini

“Since 2019, NYCHA has fundamentally changed its business model, compliance, operations and administrative infrastructure,” the spokeswoman said on Tuesday. “However, the agency’s decaying buildings are the direct result of decades of investment at all levels of government, and they require $40 billion in capital investment to effectively repair them.”

But Barber blames the bureaucracy. He said NYCHA’s project labor contracts, commissioned by New York State, with more than 30 unions resulted in high labor costs and long delays in repairs.

“NYCHA is behind on orders for windows because they’re only allowed to do business with one procurement company, and those are the worst,” he said. “Some people have been waiting the entire pandemic for kitchen cabinets that they still haven’t received.”

Mayor Eric Adams and other Democrats are responsible for not fulfilling their promises to help impoverished New Yorkers, Barber said.
Mayor Eric Adams and other Democrats are responsible for not fulfilling their promises to help impoverished New Yorkers, Barber said.
Matthew McDermott

Barber said he recently helped a family in the South Bronx living without a heater since NYCHA repairmen damaged their radiator. When the heating came on last month, hot water spurted out of the radiator and the family of two adults and four children are now sleeping on mattresses in the living room, he said.

Earlier this year, he helped local residents fight back against polluted water. And in 2018, he was part of a group that sued the city after the housing authority approved inspections of 55,000 units containing dangerous levels of lead paint.

Barber has been helping NYCHA residents deal with heat shortages, dirty water and arranging lead paint inspections.
Barber has been helping NYCHA residents deal with heat shortages, dirty water and arranging lead paint inspections.
Stephen Giovannini

Barber, who works as a volunteer and makes a living off his disability payments, said he spends most of his day helping other NYCHA residents and the rest of the time looking after his disabled brother, who lives with him and provides special care needed.

He said NYCHA’s strong past services have helped him on his journey as a lawyer. From the age of six he was enrolled in a Salvation Army after-school program through NYCHA.

But in 1993, under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, NYCHA cut back many of its youth welfare services, he said. “NYCHA had one of the best welfare departments in town, but everything was downsized.”

He said he supports businessman Ray McGuire for mayor in the Democratic primary but is generally frustrated that Democrats have not lived up to their promises to help impoverished New Yorkers.

“I’ve yelled and yelled in the Bronx that we can’t vote Democrats all the time just because we’ve done it in the past. We can no longer give away our votes so easily. It’s like giving up our livelihood. Our ancestors fought hard for us to have the right to vote. Let’s not waste it.”

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