Back in Minnesota: NYCHA President Greg Russ to step down with city housing still a mess

New York City Housing Authority Chairman Gregory Russ, top earner, is stepping down from his comfortable six-figure job this week.

Russ, who made between $414,000 and $430,000 a year as NYCHA chairman and CEO, will announce his departure on Thursday, The City first reported.

A former head of the Minneapolis Housing Authority, Russ was tasked with rescuing the nation’s largest public housing authority from a financial hole fueled by decades of mismanagement.

But he took the role as he traveled from his Midwestern home to his rented high-rise in Tribeca.

He was making well over $400,000 a year until last fall, when fallout from an arsenic crisis at NYCHA housing estates prompted the federal agency to separate the positions of chairman and CEO.

Greg Russ pictured with Mayor Eric Adams in June 2022.
Paul Martinka for NY Post

According to The City, Russ’ salary then fell to $258,000 – the same as New York City Mayor Eric Adams and more than Governor Kathy Hochul’s $250,000.

Russ’ last day is reportedly scheduled for mid-February. After his departure, the role of President will transition to a part-time volunteer position.

“By having NYCHA’s president on a part-time basis, NYCHA’s governance reflects the public housing industry norm of having a part-time president,” said Alicka Ampry-Samuel, HUD Office Administrator overseeing New York, at The City.

Greg Russ faced the unenviable task of saving NYCHA from financial straits.
Greg Russ faced the unenviable task of saving NYCHA from financial straits.
William Farrington for NY Post

Details of the change are “still under discussion”, she said.

In addition to ameliorating NYCHA’s money troubles, Russ also had to clean up the mess left by his predecessors after an investigation by the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan uncovered a history of mismanagement and laxity regarding unfit conditions.

Former prosecutor Bart Schwartz, who was also called in for his high salary at taxpayer expense, was appointed Comptroller of Authority before Russ was hired, and a timeline for reforms and reparations was put in place .

But despite NYCHA’s valiant efforts to remove lead paint from tens of thousands of units and improve ventilation systems to ward off mold, Russ’ tenure ultimately lacked major progress.

Last spring, city council members were outraged to learn that Schwartz had spent $32 million but failed to institute many of the expected changes.

Thanks in part to a rent collection shortfall during the pandemic, unresolved repair claims from NYCHA residents rose from 582,000 to 681,000 last year, the city said.

A city-paid elevator repair sweep has also been delayed. During the holidays, thousands of tenants found themselves without heating or hot water.

Amid a series of false starts, the main victory of Russ’ tenure was the formal approval of a “preservation trust” that will transfer funding for 25,000 apartments to federal Section 8 housing bonds.

The change will allow a NYCHA-run trust to borrow millions in reparations funds through bond offerings. The board of directors that will oversee the activities of the trust will be formed later this year.

New York City Hall and the Department of Housing and Urban Development did not immediately respond to the Post’s request for comment.

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