NYCHA chairman skips hearing on arsenic water test fiasco

New York City Housing Authority boss Greg Russ blew off a City Council hearing Friday that blasted his agency over the botched water tests that prompted an arsenic scare at a Manhattan housing complex.

The false results came from a lab that was not certified by New York State, which NYCHA officials revealed at the hearing had been picked by another vendor in violation of contract requirements with the agency.

“Mr. Russ is not in New York,” said interim CEO Lisa Bova-Hiatt, who added that the chairman made the decision to not appear.

Lawmakers dogpiled on his no-show, with Public Advocate Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) ripping it as “disgusting,” and at least three demanding Russ’s outright firing or resignation.

Russ was serving as both NYCHA’s chairman and the chief executive officer over that critical period in August and earlier this month when his agency first received the botched positive results for arsenic in the water at the Jacob Riis Houses.

He relinquished his role as CEO in the aftermath of the fiasco, which left residents in the sprawling East Side public housing development without drinking water for more than a week.

A laboratory responsible for testing the water at the housing complex retracted its test results showing amounts of arsenic in early September.
James Keivom

Russ made more than $400,000 annually as NYCHA’s boss and was selected for the role under an agreement between then-Mayor Bill de Blasio and the agency’s federal monitor Bart Schwartz in 2019.

His deal with the city allowed him to frequently travel back to Minneapolis, where his family remained and where he served as public housing chief being hired here in 2019.