May 5, 2023
Board’s Formation Marks Another Key Step Towards Unlocking Billions of Dollars to Repair Homes for NYCHA Residents
NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Interim CEO Lisa Bova-Hiatt today announced six appointments to the newly established board of the New York City Public Housing Preservation Trust. Following the publication of final voting procedures for the Trust last December, the formation of the board marks another key milestone, which is expected to unlock billions of dollars in federal funding for much-needed repairs for NYCHA residents across the five boroughs.
The six appointees are:
“There is no team better prepared to lead NYCHA into this new chapter than the six women housing leaders we are appointing today,” said Mayor Adams. “This group brings deep ties to NYCHA residents, decades of service to our communities, and an unmatched commitment to their neighbors. I want to thank the board for taking on this responsibility, because I am confident that with the right tools and leadership, NYCHA can live up to the promise of providing safe, high-quality, affordable housing for New Yorkers.”
“It is an honor to join the board for the NYCHA Public Housing Preservation Trust. As envisioned in Mayor Adams’ ‘Housing Our Neighbors’ blueprint, the board includes resident leaders who have strong records of advocating for their fellow tenants,” said Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz. “Tenants will join me, my colleagues at NYCHA, and vital housing advocacy and labor voices to serve NYCHA tenants and protect our public housing. Tenant decision-making is the future of NYCHA and has long been my priority. I know this entire board shares these values and will make them a pillar of this board’s work.”
“Today’s appointments to the board are foundational to the future success, governance, and oversight of the Public Housing Preservation Trust, an innovative tool that — along with PACT and comprehensive modernization — will bring investment into NYCHA developments and long-overdue improvements for residents across the city,” said NYCHA Interim CEO Bova-Hiatt. “As we move another step closer to the first resident votes, we are grateful for the service of these exceptional board members whose diverse expertise, talents, and experiences will help guide this pioneering effort and usher in a new chapter for the Authority.”
“As NYCHA’s chief financial officer, I contend every day with the dire financial needs and realities of the Authority as we work to address our pillar areas and preserve public housing for future generations of New Yorkers,” said NYCHA Chief Financial Officer Annika Lescott-Martinez. “I am pleased to serve on the board of the Trust and look forward to seeing necessary capital infused into NYCHA buildings to the benefit of the residents who live there.”
“As a 40-year public housing resident and tenants-rights leader, I am honored to have been a part of this process from the outset and to continue my involvement as a member of the board,” said Karen Blondel, president, Red Hook West Houses Tenant Association. “For far too long, my neighbors and I have felt forgotten — but with the Trust, we will now have real choice and another viable path for improving the conditions of our homes. I thank NYCHA and the city for including me and for ensuring that the voices of residents are heard.”
“I am honored to be appointed to the board of the New York City Preservation Trust,” said Baaba Halm, vice president and New York market leader, Enterprise Community Partners. “As the largest public housing authority in North America and New York City’s single biggest source of deeply affordable housing, the success of NYCHA is critical to the very future of New York City. I look forward to joining the other appointees and bringing our collective expertise to bear toward preserving these most important of assets.”
“I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the Trust because I firmly believe that it will afford me and my neighbors the opportunity to receive desperately needed repairs, while protecting our rights and keeping our rents affordable,” said Barbara McFadden, president, Nostrand Houses Tenant Association; and vice chair, NYCHA Citywide Council of Presidents. “Residents deserve to have all options on the table — and I can’t wait to see the possibilities that come to public housing as a result of this measure.”
Terms for board members will be three years but staggered at initial appointment to ensure continuity. Board members, except ex officio members, will be compensated with a $250 stipend for every four hours of work performed for the Trust, not to exceed $1,500 per month. State law outlines a nine-member board for the Trust; the outstanding positions must be filled with two nominees by the Citywide Council of Presidents and one from a labor union representing NYCHA employees, and members will be seated expeditiously when nominations are received.
The first board meeting is expected to take place in the months ahead, along with the announcement of the site of the first Trust vote. NYCHA is continuing work to establish the Trust.
Mayor Adams and NYCHA are establishing the Trust at a critical moment for NYCHA, which faces tens of billions of dollars in capital needs following decades of federal disinvestment and urgent financial challenges. As a fully public entity, the Trust will bring billions of dollars in federal funding to finance comprehensive renovations for thousands of NYCHA apartments, while always maintaining residents’ rights — including permanently affordable rent and keeping NYCHA properties 100-percent public.
A hallmark of the Trust is the resident opt-in process that allows residents to choose the future of their homes and whether their development — if selected for a vote — would enter the Trust. NYCHA published draft and final voting procedures in October 2022 and December 2022 respectively, following an engagement process that included resident leaders and policy experts, as well as the submission of more than 300 comments from the public.
About Lisa Bova-Hiatt
Lisa Bova-Hiatt was appointed interim chief executive officer of the New York City Housing Authority in September 2022.
Bova-Hiatt has more than 25 years of experience in the public sector. She joined NYCHA in February 2020 as general counsel, where she led the Authority’s Law Department and was involved with all NYCHA executive matters, including compliance with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development agreement, NYCHA’s transformation and implementation plans, and operations and administration.
She was previously general counsel of the City University Construction Fund and executive university counsel of the City University of New York (CUNY). Prior to CUNY, Lisa served as executive director of the New York Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, where she played an integral role in helping the agency carry out the reconstruction of over 12,000 homes and hundreds of infrastructure projects.
Lisa previously spent 19 years in various roles at the New York City Law Department, including as the deputy chief of the Tax and Bankruptcy Litigation Division, where she specialized in real estate acquisition and development, and chief advisor to administration officials.
She is a graduate of Villanova University and Brooklyn Law School.
About Karen Blondel
Karen Dawn Blondel is a community leader, organizer, and longtime resident of public housing in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
She is an alumni member of the AmeriCorps Vista Program, the Red Hook Public Safety Corps, Friends of the Library, Red Hook NY Rising Committee, Red Hook Community Collaboration, and the Red Hook West Tenant Association. Most recently, the Human Impacts Institute and New York City Department of Transportation declared her one of New York City’s “Climate Heroes.” During the pandemic, she partnered with the Red Hook Container Terminal and spearheaded the weekly distribution of fresh produce to Red Hook and Gowanus residents.
She worked as a civil engineer assistant for several engineering firms and began working two years ago on the impacts of the Gowanus Canal remediation on NYCHA residents. Since that time, she has become certified in biomedical and behavioral research with human participants and completed the Coursera COVID-19 Contact Tracing Certification.
She serves as a community liaison for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Blondel is also a certified U.S. Census field representative and data collector. In 2020, she founded the Public Housing Civic Association, a local, community-based nonprofit organization that gives voice to public housing residents as they address issues related to the built environment.
Blondel studied commercial cooking and catering in Ogden, Utah, before participating in the New York State Department of Transportation’s Joint Urban Manpower Program as part of her Non-Traditional Employment for Women apprenticeship, where she trained as a computer aided designer and drafter as well as a construction inspector.
About Baaba Halm
Baaba Halm has two decades of experience in housing, community development, and policy, and a deep commitment to racial equity. She currently serves as vice president and New York market leader at Enterprise Community Partners.
She most recently served as the executive deputy commissioner and chief diversity officer at the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). There, she oversaw six divisions, including asset and property management and diversity, equity, and inclusion/EEO. During her tenure, she crafted the Equitable Ownership Requirement benefiting minority-owned developers and the agency’s first in-kind program to foster the participation of minority vendors across the entire affordable housing portfolio; led HPD’s assessment of equity and inclusion practices to strengthen the recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce; and partnered with Enterprise to create the Pathways to Opportunity Program for minority- and women-owned business enterprises and nonprofits to become marketing agents for affordable housing projects.
Previously, Halm served as an assistant commissioner at HPD, managing the government relations and regulatory compliance department at the agency; leading legislative strategy and negotiation; and working with federal, state, and local elected officials on policies from mandatory inclusionary housing to tenant protections. During her eight years with the New York City Council, she served in various legal and leadership roles, with responsibilities ranging from steering communications strategy to negotiating and drafting legislation.
Halm also brings rich experience from her work in the nonprofit sector at Covenant House New Jersey and Housing Works, where she focused on issues such as homelessness and housing discrimination.
She is a graduate of Morgan State University and Brooklyn Law School.
About Jessica Katz
As New York City’s chief housing officer, Jessica Katz oversees the HPD, NYCHA, the New York City Housing Development Corporation, the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations, and the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants. Katz most recently served as executive director of the research nonprofit Citizens Housing and Planning Council, where she led a policy and research agenda on topics ranging from basement apartment conversions to equitable code enforcement and resident decision-making at NYCHA.
She previously served for over 10 years at HPD, most recently as the associate commissioner for new construction, where she oversaw the creation of affordable and special needs housing. Katz held a variety of other roles at HPD in the past, including as assistant commissioner of special needs housing, senior adviser to the commissioner, and assistant commissioner for preservation finance.
Katz is a graduate of McGill University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
About Annika Lescott-Martinez
Annika Lescott-Martinez was appointed NYCHA’s chief financial officer and executive vice president of finance in February 2020. In this capacity, Lescott-Martinez leads the financial planning and analysis, accounting, payroll, risk management, and investment activities of the Authority. She is also responsible for fiscal policy and financial performance of the Authority, including the $4 billion operating budget, $1 billion investment portfolio, and the issuance of the annual financial statements for NYCHA and its subsidiaries.
Prior to joining NYCHA, Lescott-Martinez was a presidential management fellow in the Executive Office of the President of the United States, where she worked on non-partisan housing policy analysis and the president’s budget. Lescott-Martinez provided strategic oversight on the $40 billion budget of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, crafted national housing policy reforms, reviewed national public housing regulatory changes, and implemented landmark legislation to streamline workforce development programs. She also worked at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, an innovative community development financing institution where she facilitated reinvestment in low-income communities across the five boroughs.
Lescott-Martinez is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
About Barbara McFadden
Barbara McFadden serves as vice chair of the NYCHA Citywide Council of Presidents and the district chair for Brooklyn South. She additionally serves as tenant association president for Nostrand Houses in Brooklyn.
She previously worked at the New York City Department of Education as a substitute teacher and volunteered for the NYCHA youth leadership councils from 2017 to 2019. She was part of the Public Housing Preservation Trust voting procedures working group in fall 2022.
McFadden is a graduate of Touro College.