ACCOUNTABILITY OR PUBLICITY?

December 18, 2018 at 4:30 am

From Trump Tower to New York City Housing Authority housing. For one Department of Housing and Urban Development official, the view from her office will change dramatically. But is this a publicity stunt, or is this a move for accountability? We have the details.

Aired on December 17, 2018. 

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>> GOOD EVENING, WELCOME TO
"METROFOCUS."
THANKS FOR JOINING US.
I'M JACK FORD.
FROM TRUMP PLAZA, DEPARTMENT OF
HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
OFFICIAL LYNNE PATTON IS MAKING
HER WAY TO HARLEM IN JANUARY IN
AN ATTEMPT TO FULLY UNDERSTAND
THE CRUMBLING INFRASTRUCTURE.
HOWEVER, AMID REPORTS OF RAT
INVASIONS, TOXIC MOLD AND HEAT
OUTAGES, WILL HER STAY BE ENOUGH
TO GAIN A PERSPECTIVE ON THE
HOUSING SYSTEM AND TO HELP MAKE
CHANGES?
IN A TWEET, LYNNE PATTON
EXPRESSED HER CURRENT TAKE OF
NYCHA'S LIVING CONDITIONS,
COMPARING IT TO -- DEAR MIGRANT
CARAVAN, WE KNOW MANY OF YOU ARE
FREEING OPPRESSED CONDITIONS OF
ABJECT POVERTY.
SHE SAID WITH ALL DUE RESPECT,
DON'T COME TO NYC, BECAUSE NYCHA
RESIDENTS DON'T HAVE IT HERE,
EITHER.
SO IS NYCHA'S HOUSING AS EXTREME
AS SHE STATES AND WILL HER STAY
BRING ABOUT THE CHANGES NYCHA
RESIDENTS ARE HOPING FOR, OR DID
IT MAKE FOR AN EXCELLENT
HEADLINE?
HERE IS A WOMAN WHO FIRST
BROUGHT YOU THIS STORY FROM "THE
WASHINGTON POST," TRACY JAN.
WELCOME TO YOU.
>> THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
>> LET'S START OFF AND TO GET
SOME CONTEXT HERE FOR VIEWERS
WHO MIGHT NOT BE FAMILIAR WITH
THIS STORY.
TELL ME ABOUT LYNNE PATTON, HER
BACK GROUND AND WHAT HER JOB IS.
LYNNE PATTON IS THE REGIONAL
HEAD ADMINISTRATOR FOR NEW YORK
AND NEW JERSEY.
BUT MORE INTERESTINGLY, HER
BACKGROUND IS A LONG-TIME TRUMP
FAMILY AIDE/LIAISON.
HE'S BEEN WORKING WITH THEM
ABOUT A DECADE, AND IT'S THOSE
CONNECTIONS THAT GOT HER HER JOB
AT H.U.D.
>> LET'S TALK ABOUT HER ROLE AT
H.U.D. AND THE IMPACT IT COULD
HAVE.
MANY PEOPLE MIGHT BE SAYING
WELL, THIS IS NEW YORK CITY
HOUSING.
WHY DOES THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
GET INVOLVED?
WHY WOULD SHE WANT TO BE THERE?
WHAT'S THE ANSWER TO THAT
QUESTION?
>> NYCHA IS ACTUALLY A FEDERALLY
FUNDED AGENCY, SO THE FEDERAL
GOVERNMENT IS INVOLVED FROM THE
GET-GO.
UNFORTUNATELY, THE FEDERAL
GOVERNMENT -- UNFORTUNATELY FOR
NYCHA, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
HAS BEEN NOT FUNDING IT AS MUCH
SINCE 2001.
I THINK IT'S LOST OVER $3
BILLION IN FEDERAL CAPITAL AND
OPERATING FUNDS SINCE THEN.
>> SO WHEN YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT
THE POSSIBILITY OF CHANGE, WHICH
OBVIOUSLY WOULD INVOLVE COST,
GETTING EXECUTIVES FROM H.U.D.
INVOLVED IS CERTAINLY ESSENTIAL,
YES?
>> THAT IS RIGHT.
SIT THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO FUND
NYCHA.
>> TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HER
IMPETUS.
SHE HAD AN INTERESTING STORY HOW
THIS NOTION CAME TO HER, TELL US
ABOUT THAT.
>> THAT'S RIGHT.
WELL, ACCORDING TO LYNNE, SHE
WAS SITTING ON HER COUCH AT
TRUMP PLAZA WHERE SHE LIVES OVER
THE THANKSGIVING WEEKEND.
SHE AND HER BOYFRIEND AND HER
DOG, HER SHIH TZU NAMED WINSTON
CHURCHILL WERE WATCHING "CRAZY
RICH ASIANS," AND SHE HAD BEEN
AWARE GIVEN HER ROLE OF THE
PROBLEMS AT NYCHA, BUT FROM HER
COFFEE TABLE, BLARED THE
HEADLINE THAT NYCHA RESIDENTS
WERE, AGAIN, WITHOUT HEAT AND
HOT WATER.
AND SO SHE THOUGHT, YOU KNOW,
LET ME JUST MOVE IN THERE AND
SEE WHAT KIND OF IMPACT I CAN
MAKE DURING A MONTH-LONG STAY.
>> NOW, THIS IS NOT COMPLETELY
UNHEARD OF IN THE WORLD OF
POLITICS, RIGHT?
>> THAT'S RIGHT.
>> THE NOTION OF A POLITICAL
FIGURE SAYING I'M GOING TO
LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY
IMMERSE MYSELF INTO THE
CIRCUMSTANCES HERE THAT I'M
GOING TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH,
CORRECT?
>> THAT'S RIGHT.
MOST FAMOUSLY, THE CHICAGO MAYOR
DID IT IN 1981.
SHE MOVED INTO CABRINI GREENS
FOR ONLY THREE WEEKS, BUT SHE
AND HER HUSBAND TOOK A WHOLE
APARTMENT.
HER GOAL WAS TO EMPHASIZE HOW
MUCH SAFER CABRINI GREEN WAS
COMPARED TO PUBLIC PERCEPTION.
SHE MOVED IN WITH A BUNCH OF
SECURITY AND THAT DIDN'T GO OVER
AS WELL.
>> WHAT IS THE PLAN, THEN, IN
TERMS OF LYNNE PATTON MOVING IN
FOR HOW LONG, UNDER WHAT
CIRCUMSTANCES, WHERE
SPECIFICALLY WILL SHE BE?
>> SURE.
LYNNE AND H.U.D. OFFICIALS, AS
WELL AS THE TENANT ASSOCIATION
PRESIDENT AT FOR THE NEW YORK
PUBLIC HOUSING RESIDENTS,
THEY'RE WORKING OUT THE
LOGISTICS.
HER GOAL IS TO MOVE IN, IN THE
MONTH OF JANUARY, STAYING WITH A
DIFFERENT FAMILY ALREADY LIVING
IN NEW YORK PUBLIC HOUSING FOR
ONE WEEK AT A TIME.
FOUR FAMILIES TOTAL, ONE WEEK
STAYS WITH EACH, AND IN FOUR
DIFFERENT BURROUGHS AROUND THE
CITY.
>> I SEEN SOME FOLKS COMMENTS ON
THIS AND SOME SAID WELL, IT'S
JUST AN ATTEMPT TO GENERATE SOME
PUBLICITY.
BUT I GUESS THE QUESTION WOULD
BE, WOULD THAT BE A BAD THING?
AGAIN, YOU'RE A JOURNALIST.
I'M NOT ASKING YOU TO JUMP IN ON
ONE SIDE OR THE OTHER.
BUT I THINK YOU CAN MAKE A GOOD
ARGUMENT THAT IT'S ALREADY
GENERATED PUBLICITY ABOUT THE
PROBLEMS IN THE NYCHA HOUSING,
AND MAYBE JUST THAT BY ITSELF
CAN BE BENEFICIAL?
>> THAT'S RIGHT.
IT IS AN ATTEMPT TO GENERATE
PUBLICITY, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN
THERE CAN'T BE ACCOUNTABILITY
ALONG WITH IT.
SHE HASN'T EVEN MOVED IN.
SHE COMES IN JANUARY, IF ALL
GOES WELL WITH THE APPROVALS
THAT NEED TO HAPPEN, AND
WE'RE -- NATIONAL MEDIA IS
ALREADY TALKING ABOUT A PROBLEM
THAT NEW YORK RESIDENTS PROBABLY
KNOW A LOT BETTER.
SO IT'S ALREADY WORKING.
I THINK THE REAL TEST IS WHAT
HAPPENS AFTER SHE LEAVES.
ARE THE PROBLEMS THAT SHE'S
HIGHLIGHTS, WILL THEY BE FIXED?
I SPOKE WITH A NEW YORK
PROFESSOR WHO IS AN EXPERT IN
NYCHA HOUSING, HE'S WRITTEN A
BOOK ABOUT IT, HE SAYS THIS IS
LIKE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION RULING
BY REALITY SHOW.
THAT SAID, IT'S SAVVY PUBLICITY
MOVE.
>> WE'RE SEEING MORE ATTENTION
DEVOTED TO THIS BECAUSE OF WHAT
SHE HAS DONE.
I GUESS THE LAST QUESTION FOR
YOU IS, DOES SHE, IN HER ROLE,
HAVE THE ACTUAL POWER, AFTER SHE
COMES OUT OF THIS, AND LET'S
ASSUME SHE IS AFFECTED BY THIS
AS SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN IN
TERMS OF THE IMPACT OF THE
PROBLEMS HERE, DOES SHE HAVE THE
ACTUAL POWER TO SOMEHOW EFFECT
CHANGE?
>> HER JOB IS TO BE THE LIAISON
BETWEEN NYCHA AND THE TRUMP
ADMINISTRATION.
SO SHE DOES HAVE POWER.
AND SHE HAS A DIFFERENT TYPE OF
POWER BEING THAT SHE HAS A
DIRECT LINE TO THE WHITE HOUSE.
IRONICALLY, IT IS H.U.D.,
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT THAT HAS BEEN
CUTTING FUNDING FOR NYCHA.
SO THE PRESIDENT HIMSELF HAS
GUTTED NYCHA'S FUNDING FOR
INFRASTRUCTURE AND OPERATING
BUDGET IN THE -- HIS LAST COUPLE
OF BUDGET PROPOSALS.
SO SOME WOULD CALL IT
HYPOCRITICAL THAT SHE'S DRAWING
ATTENTION TO A PROBLEM THAT HER
OWN PRESIDENT IS ATTEMPTING TO
MAKE WORSE.
HER RESPONSE IS CONGRESS DID
APPROVE AN INCREASE IN FUNDING
FOR H.U.D., INCLUDING MONEY FOR
PUBLIC HOUSING, AND TRUMP SIGNED
OFF ON IT.
SO IN THE END, THE MONEY IN THE
LAST COUPLE OF BUDGET CYCLES,
HASN'T BEEN DECREASED.
FROM HER PERSPECTIVE, SHE THINKS
THAT THE PRESIDENT BEING FROM
NEW YORK AND ALL, HAS A SOFT
SPOT FOR THE CITY AND ITS
RESIDENTS, INCLUDING RESIDENTS
OF NYCHA.
>> AS YOU SAID, THERE'S ALREADY
BEEN A POSITIVE RESPONSE IN
TERMS OF ATTENTION PAID AND
HOPEFULLY SOMETHING MORE CAN
COME FROM IT.
WE APPRECIATE YOUR REPORTING ON
THIS AND SPENDING TIME WITH US.
THANK YOU SO MUCH.
YOU TAKE CARE.
>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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