NEW YORK — Appearing to take aim at Bill de Blasio, mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan on Friday argued his past experience as housing secretary would enable him to get funding for a public housing system that’s lacked adequate federal support for decades.
“There’s no question, Errol, that I’m the far and away best person in this race to go to Washington and get help for public housing,” Donovan said in an interview with Inside City Hall anchor Errol Louis.
Donovan previously served as housing secretary and budget director under President Barack Obama. Before that, he was a top housing commissioner under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The New York City Housing Authority has been in dire straits. NYCHA needs billions of dollars in funding for repairs and major overhauls of buildings as tenants contend with mold, lead paint, and overall dilapidated housing.
For years, the city has pointed to Washington to address these issues, saying it cannot afford to make all the repairs without federal help. But Donovan contends City Hall did not do enough to fix public housing when the Obama Administration was providing help.
“One of the reasons I’m running for mayor is the frustration that those resources sat in a bank account rather than going to work for residents of NYCHA,” Donovan said. “We need a mayor on the ground here in New York who can work with the federal government but actually knows how to get things done.”
It’s unclear, however, how much a Mayor Donovan could do to address NYCHA’s crisis. Although critics have demanded the city do more to help public housing, huge sums of federal funding are needed to bridge the gap — a tall task with the coronavirus pandemic straining the economy. The housing authority previously put its needs at over $30 billion.
Criticism of School Closures
Another issue Donovan appeared to take aim at de Blasio for was his decision to close schools. The mayoral candidate told NY1 schools should have stayed open given that infection rates were consistently under 0.33%. Critics, including some health experts, assert that the threshold — a 3% seven-day rolling average of positive COVID-19 cases — should be amended since schools have been mostly safe for students.
Donovan also criticized the de Blasio administration for New York City getting to 3%.
“What we saw around the world is that with infection rates at the level that we’ve had, schools have been able to stay open and be healthy and teach our kids,” he said. “And we should have been able to do that sooner here if we had a mayor who really got to work, rolled up his sleeves, and worked with our teachers and our principal union and with our parents to make sure we were doing the things — ventilation, outdoor classrooms, [using] neighboring Ys and other spaces.”
Although Donovan has yet to officially launch his campaign, he has already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. The primary for the race is in June. More than a dozen Democrats are either running or considering a run.