The Rojas campaign demands the immediate removal of Greg Russ, the Chair of NYCHA, who is known by housing activists all over the country as the Czar of Privatization. Cathy Rojas, the candidate for mayor with the Party for Socialism and Liberation says, “Russ is pushing forward privatization proposals that would put hundreds of thousands of primarily Black and brown working class New Yorkers, the most essential as well as the most vulnerable people within our city, at risk of displacement in the middle of a public health crisis.”
Russ’ privatization schemes include:
- RAD/PACT (conversion to Section 8 with private management companies)
- Infill (building private luxury towers on public housing grounds, on top of playgrounds and open spaces)
- Sale of Air Rights
- Blueprint for Change / “Trust”
Under the Blueprint for Change, 110,000 public housing apartments would be transferred into a Public Housing Preservation Trust, which would give NYCHA greater flexibility to seek private financing for those units..
All of these privatization proposals result in the loss of important protections for NYCHA residents. For example, Ocean’s Bay in Queens was the first NYCHA development to convert to RAD, and it now has the highest rate of evictions of any NYCHA development in NYC—more than twice as high as the second-highest development. Meanwhile, the promised improvements to NYCHA residents’ quality of life–touted as a justification for the RAD and other measures–aren’t happening. An investigation by The City found that, “private contractors and building managers have botched renovations, clogged hallways with debris and left upgrades half-finished for weeks or more,” alongside evidence of failures to adequately abate lead paint and toxic mold. Collectively, not only do all of these privatization plans jeopardize residents’ wellbeing and the future of NYCHA, but they also barely make a dent in NYCHA’s budget shortfall—proving that privatization is more about serving the interests of the real estate lobby than the best interests of NYCHA residents.
Prior to becoming the director of NYCHA, Russ has a track record of destroying public housing across the country. He reduced public housing stock and displaced tens of thousands people in Detroit (1995) and Chicago (1997). In Cambridge (2004), he privatized all of the existing public housing stock through RAD, and in Minneapolis (2016) he pushed to do the same. We cannot let him do the same in New York City, which has the largest public housing authority in the country and the only one that hasn’t demolished a significant amount of its public housing.. To top it off, Russ is paid $402,000 a year–twice as much as previous NYCHA directors–making him the city’s highest earning official. It is clear that his interests do not align with those of working class New Yorkers living in NYCHA buildings whose living conditions he is responsible for.
Under HUD’s Section 964, housing authorities are required to ensure resident participation in housing authority decision-making processes. In reality, this has often taken the form of a superficial-level of participation, a bare minimum rubber stamping. But what would real resident participation look like for NYCHA? The Rojas campaign says we need to fire Greg Russ and take compliance with the 964 regs to another level: real resident participation means putting the residents in charge of NYCHA. Our campaign is founded on the principle that the workers can and should run New York City. Workers should be the ones running this city, and NYCHA residents should run NYCHA. Residents are the ones who know best what needs to change and who are the most invested in making a better future for NYCHA.
We need city leaders who will put the people of New York before profits, and Cathy Rojas, a born and raised New Yorker and public school teacher, has done so all her life. Through our platform, we are committed to keeping public housing public – and this means not selling air rights, saying no to infills, and especially not attaching NYCHA funding to any privatization efforts like RAD or Russ’ Blueprint for Change. Housing is a human right, and we need full public funding for public housing.