NYCHA chair Gregory Russ announced he was stepping down from his post Thursday after three years in the role — and the end of his tenure will also mark the end of his enormous salary. When Russ served as chair and CEO of the public-housing agency (while commuting from Minneapolis), his salary, which eventually hit $430,977, was widely criticized by NYCHA tenants and city officials alike. Last fall, those two roles were split, and as chair, Russ made $258,000, which is not $430,000 but still more than the salary of the governor. Now, The City reports, it looks as if NYCHA is planning to turn the chair position into a voluntary appointment with a $250-per-month stipend. (This is also what’s known as a very stressful internship.)
As HUD officials noted to The City, this would bring the position in line with other housing-authority chairs across the nation, most of which are volunteer. “By having NYCHA’s Chair be part-time, NYCHA’s governance reflects the public housing industry norm of having a part-time chair,” regional HUD administrator Alicka Ampry-Samuel wrote to The City. (The particulars are “still under discussion.”)
This is one way to save money, though it also seems as if NYCHA might need some incentives to attract a new leader. It’s already under a federal monitor following years of mismanagement and a federal lawsuit, and it continues to be in crisis as tenants deal with heat outages, leaks, flooding, and broken elevators. The authority recently admitted it was struggling to conduct court-mandated repairs given a drop in rent collection during the pandemic. (Public-housing tenants were functionally excluded from the pandemic-era Emergency Rental Assistance Program by being pushed to the back of the line.) The search for a new chair, who will now likely make $3,000 per year, is underway.