COMPLETE VIDEO: 181st CityLaw Breakfast with Greg Russ, NYCHA Chair and CEO – 7/14 9 AM

NYCHA Chair and CEO Greg Russ speaks at the 181st CityLaw Breakfast. Image Credit: CityLand.

Today, July 14, 2022, Greg Russ, the Chair and CEO of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), spoke at the 181st CityLaw Breakfast. Professor Ross Sandler, Director of the Center for New York City Law provided opening remarks. Dean and President of New York Law School Anthony W. Crowell  had a closing discussion with Chair Russ. This Breakfast was sponsored by ConEdison, Greenberg Traurig, and Verizon. This was the fifteenth virtual CityLaw Breakfast as in-person events are not feasible at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Russ began his talk with a discussion about the history of public housing. In the later years of the Great Depression, the Housing Act of 1937 set up the foundation for the creation of public housing across the United States. While the original ideas included a United States Housing Authority, constitutional issues only allowed for federal funding and support but required the management and administration to occur at the local level. 

NYCHA’s issues stemmed from the creation of a strong portfolio but the failure to properly re-invest in them over several decades. There was no mechanism in the program to recapitalize buildings, so by the 1980s there was not enough funding to invest back in the proper maintenance of the portfolio as a whole. Programs in the 1990s could help address issues at individual campuses, but could not fix the entire portfolio. 

The lack of investment and financial struggles eventually resulted in the appointment of a NYCHA monitor from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 2019. In the agreement with HUD, NYCHA was required to create a transformation plan as an organization, for all buildings and units, including overall changes to staffing, how work orders are issued, business practices and other systems. To properly see this transformation plan through and enable the renovations and repairs, NYCHA needed a way to tap in to further funding as rents, subsidies and federal funding was not providing enough capital.

According to Russ, the Public Housing Preservation Trust, recently passed in Albany, enables NYCHA to create a sister agency which allows them to tap into additional revenue streams like Section 8 while maintaining NYCHA ownership of its portfolio and preserving tenants’ rights. For more information about the trust, click here

When asked about whether NYCHA would be better off replacing buildings over renovations, Russ responded that NYCHA buildings have good bones overall, but internal systems like plumbing and heating need to be replaced, fixed, or improved. Safety issues like mold, lead and asbestos also need to be addressed, but the preservation approach makes the most sense for NYCHA. Replacing buildings would also require working with tenants who may be apprehensive or afraid to give up their current units to allow NYCHA to completely rebuild a building.

Overall, Chair Russ emphasized the importance of both investing in NYCHA financially and proving that the agency can be trusted to manage the nation’s largest public housing authority – a trust that can lead to even more investments and growth for NYCHA in the future.

To watch the breakfast, click here or watch below:




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