Mayor Bill de Blasio, in response to an audit that found the city’s public housing agency failed to comply with federally mandated lead paint inspections, announced on Monday the appointment of a new “chief compliance officer,” to reform the troubled agency.
De Blasio named Edna Wells Handy, who currently serves as legal counsel to NYPD Commissioner John O’Neill, to serve in the newly created position of chief compliance officer of the New York City Housing Authority.
The move comes after the city’s Department of Investigation released a report last week indicating NYCHA failed to conduct lead inspections on thousands of public housing units as required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development starting in 2012. The report found that NYCHA Chairwoman Shola Olatoye, a de Blasio appointee, signed and submitted certification notices to HUD indicating the city was in compliance with the inspections, even though she was aware they had not been conducted.
De Blasio, speaking at an unrelated news conference in Queens, called NYCHA’s actions “unacceptable,” but defended Olatoye amid calls from other lawmakers — including Public Advocate Letitia James — that she step down.
“The people I have entrusted to fundamentally change and reform NYCHA are the right people — I’m convinced of that,” de Blasio said, adding, “That doesn’t mean what happened in this case is acceptable to me, it’s not. But I also have think about the overall needs of the 400,000 people who live in NYCHA and I am convinced that the leadership we have now is part of the solution to the problems that plague NYCHA.”
Handy will start her new post in December, and will be tasked with ensuring that the agency meets all city, state and federal regulations, de Blasio said. She will also field complaints from residents and employees of the agency.
“The bottom line is the health and safety of our public housing residents is absolutely paramount,” de Blasio said.