Governor Kathy Hochul: Yes, indeed, my friends. How are you? Welcome, welcome. Lots of excitement in this room. We’re here for one reason. NYCHA residents and families matter. That’s why we’re here. Stand up and give yourselves a round applause. We’re here because you matter. Thank you. NYCHA families.
I love you guys. All right. Let’s talk a little bit on history here, right? Three and a half years after the pandemic, most of New York has bounced back, right? Most of New York’s doing pretty good. The MTA is setting ridership records. People are taking the subway. We hit one billion riders. That’s great. Businesses are doing well. Restaurants, Broadway museums, music venues are all packed.
But you know what? For countless New Yorkers who live in public housing, they still live in uncertainty and the instability caused by the pandemic because it’s never really gone away. They’re working so hard to make ends meet. A lot of people lost their jobs. People in healthcare and other jobs, they just lost them. And what’s the worst of all? The rent payments started piling up and piling up and piling up, creating enormous stress on people and living conditions didn’t get better. They got worse.
And that’s why we’re here today. We’re going to give you rental assistance to the New Yorkers who need it the most. And we’re going to continue our commitment to improving and reforming our public housing system so every person gets the dignity they deserve. That’s not abstract, that’s the reality. And as governor, for just two years, we’ve already committed over $1 billion, $1 billion to NYCHA.
And I want to thank all the individuals who are here, who are so committed to this. My partner, Eric Adams, who’s worked hard to make sure that NYCHA residents get what they deserve. Nydia Velázquez, a champion of funding from Washington, Nydia Velázquez.
Brian Kavanagh, the senator who’s the chair of the housing committee. Thank you, Brian. Linda Rosenthal, also the chair of the Assembly Housing Committee. Grace Lee, we’re in your district. Thank you for all you do, another great champion. Eddie Gibbs, assemblymember, one of the sponsors of this. Thank you, Eddie Gibbs. Let’s give him a round of applause.
And all our elected officials here today that were recognized earlier, I want to thank all them. Because they believe in you. They think you deserve better and so do I. And I want to thank the CEO of NYCHA, Lisa Bova-Hiatt. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Barbara Guinn, our acting commissioner of OTDA. And, of course, the one and only, our friend Danny Barber, one of the greatest champions, Danny, Citywide Council of Presidents.
Now, this place where we are today has been here for 130 years. It was host to a lot of firsts. One of the first playgrounds ever in New York City was right here. This place was the home to the very first public school nurse in New York City, a lot of national historic buildings. This settlement is an important part of New York’s history.
But today we talk about how that history continues with real optimism and hope for a better future for hundreds of thousands of our public housing residents. And today we’re making clear two commitments.
First, we’re going to support the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are hard hit by the pandemic and never got the support they needed. We need you to have meaningful rental assistance to help with your back rent, assist with utility bills, utility bills keep going up and up and you need help. And most importantly, to help people stay in their homes.
And secondly, and secondly, we’re going to continue making sweeping far reach and investments overall into our public housing system because for so long people have said, no, it doesn’t matter. Their voices don’t matter. They’re almost unseen, right?
I feel like people aren’t paying attention and there’s a legacy of disinvestment that we’re going to start changing. Let’s start with rental assistance.
Now, I say, why does this matter so much? You’ve got enough stress in life, right? The bills pile up, and this is usually one of the bigger ones. And I said, we need to help you with that right Now, whether you’re a single mom who lost your job or family, you might’ve had to bury someone during covid and wiped out all your savings, dip into savings to cover all kinds of things.
These are not just numbers on a spreadsheet. These are real lives. And you get up in the morning and just wonder, how am I going to get through the day? We’re here to help you because you shouldn’t have to struggle like that because you matter just like everybody else. It doesn’t matter where you live because you matter.
Let’s let you start fresh. Start fresh today. Don’t have to worry about this. We set aside $400 million to help with emergency rental assistance for you.
And already… Now, we’ve been given this out for the last six months already today. I’m here to announce, $95 million in payments have already gone out to residents benefiting over 15,000 households. That’s what I call a good start.
And going… $35 million going directly. We’re going to keep it coming. We’re going to keep it coming. And it wasn’t a given because you originally left out of that program.
Remember? You’re like, what about us? What about us? And you were written out of the program, and you would not have received any of these funds.
But we worked together. You’re legislators, you’re representative, said, no, that’s not okay. They didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t bring on the pandemic. They didn’t try to get behind in the rent for God’s sakes. Give them a break.
So, we’re going to start giving you that break, and now you can have a little more peace of mind, not to have such worry, but the systemic disenfranchisement, which means you’re left out of the process, is nothing new.
Leaders have just gotten used decades past. It’s all right. Don’t worry. They don’t have a big political voice, except you do. Except you do. And the people in this room, listen, why are public spaces left dirty? And sometimes you can’t even turn the damn shower on in the morning. It’s cold water. It’s cold water. No one should live in such appalling conditions in the greatest city on earth.
Absolutely not. You should not live like that. So, now we are asserting that we’re taking charge here. We’re bringing money to the table with Washington, the city and the state working on your behalf.
And I won’t walk away until every single one of you has a home that you’re proud of where everything works. And I’m going to continue thanking you for all your advocacy.
You get up to Albany, you’re traveling around, you’re fighting and fighting and fighting. You got your own lives to leave, right? But you care enough not just about yourselves, about your neighbors too and your community.
And I want you to know your voices have broken through. We heard you. We’re going to continue to hear you. And this is a new beginning. And I thank all of you for being champions for the people. And I’ll be there right alongside every single one.
Congratulations, everybody. It’s a great day. Thank you. And with that, let me bring up Mayor Adams, another person strongly committed to our friends who live in NYCHA. Ladies and gentlemen, Mayor Adams.
Mayor Eric Adams: We cannot thank the governor enough on all of these initiatives during so many challenging times. I mean, from the subway safety plan to the support around the migrant asylum seekers to the criminal justice assistance to the housing assistant. During tough times, a tough person stands up and gives real leadership. Governor, kudo to you and the statewide leadership that you have been showing during these challenging times.
I know we mentioned some of the electeds, but it is really the partnership on the city, state and federal level that makes it happen. We have other great electeds that are here that have been real partners. The amazing assemblywoman from Queens, Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, coming up for her Diwali Tour, Senator Sepúlveda, Senator Cordell Cleare, Senator Robert Jackson, always fighting on behalf of children and families, Assemblymember Harvey Epstein.
It is just a partnership of all of us coming together to really deal with this important issue. And I am just pleased. This is probably one of the most significant things we were able to accomplish with our partners in Albany and Washington and with the governor’s office to go after those men and women who are seeking assistance that live in NYCHA. The foundation of our city is public housing.
Under Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer, we included NYCHA funding in our overall housing plan. She made it clear that you cannot talk housing and leave out NYCHA. That was one of her most important aspects of our housing plan.
And so that is the partnership that we needed. And so although we are facing major budget challenges, and let’s be clear, COVID dollars are running out. We’re not receiving the money we need on the national government for the asylum seeker issue. We are looking at major financial challenges. But we know what we are doing today. This is not spending, this is investing.
When you invest in NYCHA, you are investing in the future. And that’s something that the governor understand and I truly understand and our other partners and government understands. We’ve been through tough times making ends meet, the pandemic, dealing with all the other crises, but the emergency rental assistant program is the right thing to do. And as the governor stated, it was unbelievable that as we were talking about giving a lifeline to every other segment of our society, we stated that there was nothing for NYCHA residents, unacceptable.
And the lawmakers knew that went back to the drawing board and now NYCHA residents and subsidized housing tenants are going to be considered as they come through the tragedies that were associated with the pandemic.
And I know that’s like – to live in a fear of homelessness. I grew up with that hanging over our heads all the time. When you’re backing your rent, you’re unsure of what tomorrow looks like. We are not going to allow you to live in that fear, and that’s what the governor has stated.
It was important for us to stand up and stand tall. We saw how government works this time. Everybody talks about the dysfunctionality of government, but this time we saw how it worked. We saw the countless number of people who went to Albany and advocated on behalf of NYCHA residents.
We saw them come together. We heard from them, and our lawmakers heard. And then the governor, the state elected official, NYCHA leadership and the Office of Temporary and Emergency Disability Assistance, all came together to put in place. And the Senate and Assembly, thanks to those leaders up there, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Majority Leader and Speaker Carl Heastie.
The Senate and Assembly added funding to the fiscal year 2024 budget to help fill this urgent need and the governor signed the bill, which was so important. But it didn’t stop there because if you just have the money sitting on someone’s desk somewhere, then it is ineffective. So, what did we do?
NYCHA worked with OTDA to fast track a bulk submission process for the program, which was designed to provide up to 12 months of financial relief to households that fell behind on rent during Covid. Unbelievable. And they submitted more than $128 million worth of ERAP applications on behalf of 33,000 households.
And so today, as the governor indicated, we are proud to announce the wave of funds is now being applied to resident rent accounts. That is moving through government at a rapid pace, stating we’re not going to sit back and analyze policies while you are dealing with emergencies. We saw how government worked when you get stuff done. And listen, NYCHA’s home. One out of 17 New Yorkers live in NYCHA. That’s real power. That’s real strength. And you saw that strength materialize into action.
But we can’t stop there. We have a real plan. We fought and got NYCHA Land Trust, folks, we got it. Now let’s make it happen. Nostrand Houses are voting on the future of their homes and whether to join the NYCHA Trust or the PAC program, they went on the ground to get those votes done.
And you know what? You may not realize it. You may think they’re not here. But all that noise you hear right now, that’s them. Getting it done. Getting it done. Look, what are we saying, folks? We’re saying that NYCHA may have been overlooked in the past. NYCHA may have been passed over in the past, not in this form of leadership you are seeing now. We will not forget you. We will work for you, and we will stand side by side.
NYCHA deserved the quality and equity and the dignity that you fought for so long. We’ve heard it before. Those bugles you were hearing was not the calvary. It was ‘Taps.’ NYCHA was dying, and everybody was saying, wait until next year, wait until next year, wait until next year, and next year never came.
We must be creative, we must be focused, we must be disciplined, and we must stop waiting until next year and deal with this year. Let’s stay with NYCHA right now.
And so, I’m proud to be here today, and I had a lot going on, but I said, I need to come here and celebrate this enormous achievement. You have some great lineup of speakers who’re going to talk about this.
I got to honor two, three police officers at City Hall. But no matter what I did today, I was with the governor earlier as we did a capping-off ceremony at JPMorgan Chase, one of the most important businesses that’s coming to our city, but the business of NYCHA is the business that’s important to all of us.
So, I wanted to be here and say congratulations. Thank you to all of our lawmakers for making this happen. Let’s continue to do so. Thank you very much.
November 20, 2023 New York, NY
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