By Greg B. Smith
A federal judge on Wednesday rejected the city's agreement to bring in an independent monitor to oversee public housing, saying the deal doesn't have enough teeth to trigger actual reform for NYCHA's long-suffering tenants.
Manhattan Federal Judge William Pauley declined to sign off on a consent decree reached in June between Mayor de Blasio, the authority and federal prosecutors whose in-depth investigation revealed years of lies about NYCHA's failures to provide habitable apartments to its 400,000 residents.
"The court does not reject the proposed consent decree lightly," Pauley wrote in his 52-page decision. "But as it stands, the proposed decree suffers from fatal procedural flaws, including its formless injunctive relief and enforcement mechanisms."
In June, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman filed a stunning complaint detailing how NYCHA managers for years covered up failures to address a long list of health and safety issues, including lead paint, mold infestation, heat outages and faltering elevators.
To settle the case, de Blasio and NYCHA agreed to the appointment of a monitor who would have the power to make sure NYCHA complied with all local, state and federal laws and regulations requiring that public housing apartments be maintained in safe and healthy condition.
The agreement required the judge's approval, but in the weeks after it was filed Pauley questioned whether the monitor would really have the ability to make things happen and not just be another added layer of bureaucracy that further slowed what has been up to now glacial progress.
"Because the proposed consent decree is not fair and reasonable, and because its entry would disserve the public interest, the government's motion for approval is denied," he wrote, ordering all sides to file a status report with the court by Dec. 14.
NYCHA, de Blasio and Berman had no immediate comment.
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