Contact: Richard Weiss 917-560-0046

In testimony, today, before the New York City Council Joint Committee of Housing & Building and Contracts the leadership of the Mason Tenders District Council of the Laborers International Union of North America, called on the City Council to enact comprehensive procurement reform for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development.

“Mayor de Blasio’s aggressive and much needed housing plan is a bold attempt to address one of our City’s major challenges – affordable housing for the middle-class,” said Mike Prohaska, business manager of Laborers Local 79. “However those goals can only be reached if true reform and transparency is brought to how HPD conducts its business. Over and over again we have seen how a small group of corrupt, well-connected contractors have been awarded contracts in the millions of dollars, taxpayers’ dollars, only to find them brought up on charges, ranging from wage theft, to tax evasion, to sub-standard work. Too much is at stake to continue to turn a blind eye,” Prohaska said.

Within the last month New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced charges against Lalo Drywall for stealing $800,000 in wages at the Sugar Hill Development in East Harlem. This was the same development lauded by Mayor de Blasio as the “epitome” of what affordable housing development should look like.

“No less than four previous HPD commissioners, as well as the current commissioner, Vicki Bean, have been made aware of the rampant corruption in the affordable housing industry in New York City,” said MTDC PAC Director Mike McGuire. “Anyone who went to the Sugar Hill site could see what was going on, yet once again a blind eye was turned and once again workers were robbed.”

In 2012 the HPD Transparency Act was passed by the City Council in hopes of addressing the lax attitude of the city officials to the rampant corruption. NYSAFAH went to court to attempt to stop the implementation of Intro 730, a position which unfortunately the de Blasio Administration has followed. Transparency remains the key to resolving the problems that continue to plague HPD.

“We are very disappointed that the de Blasio Administration has chosen to take the same misguided action that that the Bloomberg Administration took in supporting a lawsuit to prevent the implementation of Intro 730, said Patrick Purcell, executive director of Greater New York LECET. “Transparency and full disclosure in the discourse of government business is vital to ensure that taxpayers’ money is being spent properly and that honest, responsible businesses are charged with fulfilling the commitments made by our elected officials. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development is charged with fulfilling Mayor de Blasio’s mandate to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing. With hundreds of millions of dollars, and thousands of workers, involved, it flies in the face of good, progressive government, not to require full transparency and disclosure of who is being entrusted with our tax dollars, and how the money is being spent,” concluded Purcell.

Robert Bonanza, business manager of the Mason Tenders District Council said, “the Mayor’s plan is ambitious and necessary and we applaud him for his vision on this vital issue. Unfortunately, it is very clear that the City of New York is neither inclined nor equipped to deal with the rampant corruption taking place in the affordable housing industry which it facilitates through HPD. The only answer is for the City of New York to stand up and take a proactive stance, rather than relying on the federal and state authorities to take reactive stances to clean up our city’s messes. If you stop awarding corrupt contractors, the corruption will stop. It is as simple as that.”