At least 70 current and former New York City Housing Authority employees are being charged in a vast kickback scheme that federal prosecutors are calling “the largest single-day bribery takedown in the history of the justice department.”
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said superintendents, assistant superintendents and other NYCHA officials accepted more than $2 million in kickbacks from contractors in exchange for over $13 million in NYCHA business across at least 100 developments.
Williams said at a press conference on Tuesday that the workers exploited a no-bid process for contracts worth less than $10,000 to complete minor construction projects, window repairs and other small-scale jobs. He called the scheme “classic pay-to-play.”
“Superintendents accepting and extorting bribes from contractors had become business as usual,” Williams said. “They used their jobs at NYCHA to line their own pockets.”
Williams said the “culture of corruption” permeated through scores of developments, where superintendents and associates allegedly skimmed relatively small amounts of $500 to $2,000 from the contracts.
While the work was completed, the systemic corruption “eroded public trust,” Williams added.
The New York Post first reported on the arrests on Tuesday morning.
NYCHA CEO Lisa Bova-Hiatt said the agency has “zero tolerance for wrongful and illegal activity” in a statement.
“The individuals allegedly involved in these acts put their greed first and violated the trust of our residents, their fellow NYCHA colleagues and all New Yorkers,” she added.
NYCHA is the country’s largest public housing agency, with around 400,000 tenants in 335 developments citywide. It employs more than 12,000 staff and has a budget of more than $3.3 billion.
In a Tuesday morning email with the subject line “combatting malfeasance,” Bova-Hiatt and NYCHA Chief Operating Officer Eva Trimble told agency staff that federal agents arrested “numerous NYCHA employees and retirees on charges of bribery.”
“While it is a difficult day in NYCHA history, we will not allow bad actors to disrupt our progress or undermine our achievements,” read the internal email, which was obtained by Gothamist.
The federal raid took place while Mayor Eric Adams was in Albany asking state lawmakers to take up his policy goals.
Charles Lutvak, a spokesperson for City Hall, said the administration would work with federal authorities to root out corruption.
“Anyone who breaks the law in New York City will be held accountable — no matter where they work,” he said. “But misusing resources set aside for our public housing residents is particularly egregious.”
This story was updated to include additional information about the charges and remarks from the U.S. attorney.