ACCOUNTABILITY OR PUBLICITY?

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. 

TRANSCRIPT

> 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.

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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