The city’s been investigating NYCHA for more than just its lead paint scandal

Claims involved faulty elevator parts, disappearing generators

Luis Ponce and Brian Clarke (Credit: New York City via NYDN)
Luis Ponce and Brian Clarke (Credit: New York City via NYDN)

For several years, the city’s Department of Investigations received complaints about the New York City Housing Authority that went beyond the lack of lead paint inspections.

Former Senior Vice Presidents for Operations Brian Clarke and Luis Ponce allegedly ignored concerns that NYCHA was using unsafe elevator control boxes from a firm called Claddagh Electronics, according to the New York Daily News. Robert Louisa, then head of NYCHA’s elevator inspection unit, alerted the city’s Department of Investigations in 2011 that the boxes were unsafe and possibly hadn’t been properly tested.

He also wrote an email to his bosses, including Clarke and Ponce, in 2011 asserting that the elevator unit felt the equipment was unsafe. In a 2013 lawsuit against NYCHA, Louisa alleged that Clarke and Ponce ignored the warnings and took steps to ensure that Claddagh continued to secure contracts with NYCHA. While the DOI found that the control boxes in some cases hadn’t been properly tested, it ultimately declined to investigate claims that Clarke and Ponce pressured subordinates to use Claddagh as a vendor. When confronted by DOI, Claddagh had the parts tested.

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In another case, NYCHA worker Dean Giudiucci told the New that he informed the DOI that Charles Pawson, the director of the unit that handles lead paint inspections, diverted lead paint workers to do work at his restaurant in the Bronx. The DOI told the Daily News that it has no record of the allegation.

In a 2014 report, the DOI found that 100 generators disappeared from NYCHA’s Hurricane Sandy recovery headquarters at the direction of two unnamed administrators. Clarke and Ponce were in charge of those efforts.

Last month, city officials announced that 1,160 children in public housing developments suffered from high lead levels since 2012. The city came to an agreement with federal prosecutors in June to appoint a federal monitor who would supervise reforms at NYCHA. [NYDN] — Kathryn Brenzel