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Trump appointee completes month of public housing stays
AP 7 days ago
In this March 7, 2019 photo, Queensbridge Houses Tenant Association President April Simpson, left, listens as HUD executive Lynne Patton, conducts a town hall meeting to air residents' concerns at the Queensbridge Houses in New York. Patton spent a month living in four NYCHA public housing units to learn first-hand basis the problems public housing residents face. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
In this March 7, 2019 photo, residents of the Jacob Riis Settlement at the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing project in New York City, hold enlarged photographs of damages to their apartments caused by leaks, mold, peeling paint and other issues during a community town hall meeting in New York with HUD executive Lynne Patton. Patton spent a month living in and touring some of the city's public housing projects to discover first-hand persistent problems in the city's public housing projects. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
In this March 6, 2019 photo, HUD executive Lynne Patton, listens as a resident at the New York City Housing Authority's Queensbridge Houses in New York complains about conditions in her apartment. Patton says she wanted to shine a spotlight on public housing ills such as mold and heat and hot water outages by spending a week at a time in four different complexes run by the New York City Housing Authority. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
In this March 6, 2019 photo, Lynne Patton, right, HUD executive, and Robert Madison, left, associate director of community organization Jacob Riis Settlement, tour Queensbridge Houses residencies in New York. Patton has spent the past month living with tenants in New York City public housing complexes. She says she wanted to shine a spotlight on public housing ills such as mold and heat and hot water outages by spending a week at a time in four different complexes run by the New York City Housing Authority. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
In this March 7, 2019 photo, Queensbridge Houses resident Marilyn Keller, right, talks to HUD Region 2 Management Analyst Jacob Dale, about conditions in her apartment, following a community town hall called by HUD executive Lynne Patton in New York. Keller says she has no heat or hot water and has faucets that spew "disgusting" rust-colored water. Patton spent one month living in four of the city's public housing projects to shine a spotlight on public housing ills such as mold and heat and hot water outages. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
FILE- In this Thursday, March 7, 2019 photo, residents of the Queensbridge Houses listen during a community town hall called by HUD executive Lynne Patton in New York. Patton, who spent a month living in four public housing complexes, called the meeting to discuss residents' needs, monitor oversight and learn how things can be improved. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
In this Wednesday, March 6, 2019 photo, Lynne Patton, HUD executive, sits near a wall mural during an interview at the Queensbridge Houses tenant associations' activity center, in New York. Patton, one of the most visible African-Americans in President Trump's administration, spent the past month living with tenants in New York City public housing complexes to view problems first-hand and hear complaints from tenants. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
In this March 6, 2019 photo, Luis Pauilno, center, a resident at the New York City Housing Authority's Queensbridge Houses, peels away a makeshift plastic covering to show Lynne Patton, left, HUD executive, and April Simpson, right, tenants association president, a hole in his bathroom ceiling, at the Queensbridge Houses in New York. Simpson hosted Patton during her sleepovers at the NYCHA residencies, to help her view problems first-hand and hear complaints from tenants. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
In this March 7, 2019 photo, Queensbridge Houses resident Marilyn Keller describes how her apartment has no heat or hot water and how the rust-colored water that comes out of her faucets makes her nauseated, during a town hall meeting with HUD executive Lynne Patton in New York. Patton lived in some of NYCHA's public housing projects for one month to learn first-hand about resident's issues. Patton has said her goal is to shine a spotlight on public housing ills such as chronic heat and hot water outages. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
In this March 6, 2019 photo, HUD executive Lynne Patton, left, listens as a resident at the New York City Housing Authority's Queensbridge Houses complains about conditions in her apartment, in New York. Patton spent a month in four NYCHA residencies to help her view problems first-hand and hear complaints from tenants. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
FILE - In this Feb. 19, 2019 file photo, HUD executive Lynne Patton, center, accompanied by U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, left, and NYCHA Tenant Association President and resident host Carmen Quinones, see water leakage and damage in an apartment, in the Douglas Houses in New York. Patton has spent the past month living with tenants in New York City public housing complexes. She says she wanted to shine a spotlight on public housing ills such as mold and heat and hot water outages. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
NEW YORK (AP) — Since she took over as President Donald Trump's top housing official in the New York City area, Lynne Patton has been criticized for bringing a reality TV approach to what's traditionally been a bureaucratic job.
She's feuded with journalists, calling one White House reporter "Miss Piggy ." On Twitter, she tosses barbs at liberal politicians and lavishes praise on the Trump family, which she worked for as an aide before being installed in 2017 at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Patton, 46, even sought guidance from HUD last fall as to whether she could take time off to appear in a TV "docuseries" about black Republicans.
So when Patton announced she'd be living in New York City's decaying public housing system for four weeks to get a sense of what it was like for tenants, there was skepticism. Was she there to learn and come up with policy solutions? Or was it a stunt?
As the experiment winds down this week, several tenants who met her said they were impressed by her passionate advocacy.
"Listen, she's the messenger. I think she deserves a chance," said Leilani Smith-Simon, a longtime tenant who attended a town hall with Patton at the Queensbridge Houses in Queens. "I have to hope things can change and things can get better. She seems trustworthy and she wants us to hold her accountable. There's something to be said for that."
Some were more skeptical.
"This is all a show," Queensbridge tenant Tracy Harris said. "I don't believe one word that's coming out of her mouth. She's saying all the right things, but they're empty promises. Just like the last person who came up in here, and the person before that. She's all for show."
Patton spent her last week of overnights at Brooklyn's Fenimore-Lefferts Houses, where she held a media event Tuesday.
Wearing high-heeled boots, a chic black cape and sunglasses perched atop her head, she led reporters through apartments with moldy ceilings and down to a fetid basement where she covered her nose and mouth with her scarf.
"I'm happy that she's here," Patton's host in Brooklyn, Gwendolyn Jones, said. "She can share some insight with whoever, let them know that enough is enough. She's wonderful. She's concerned."
After delays caused in part by the 35-day government shutdown, Patton launched her tour on Feb. 11, toting an air mattress into the Patterson Houses in the Bronx. She went on to stay with other host families in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.
Patton has said her goal is to shine a spotlight on public housing ills such as chronic heat and hot water outages.
"It hit me like a ton of bricks that this is no longer OK," she said in November when she first floated the sleepover idea.
Along the way she joined a Zumba class, watched "The Wendy Williams Show" with her Queensbridge host, April Simpson, and got stuck in an overcrowded elevator .
She also took a break to make a surprise cameo appearance at the congressional testimony of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
Patton stood silently behind North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows as he told fellow lawmakers that Patton wouldn't have gone to work for Trump if Trump were a racist, as Cohen claimed. The performance prompted Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib to accuse Meadows of using Patton "as a prop."
"I am not a prop," Patton said at the Queensbridge Houses the week after Cohen testified. "The only prop in that room is Michael Cohen for the Democratic Party."
The Washington Post reported this month that last fall Patton sought guidance from HUD on whether she could work with Truly Original Productions, the producers of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," on a reality series about black Republicans.
Patton told The Associated Press that the TV show was shelved because she couldn't do it at the same time as her HUD job.
"All I did was decide to run it past HUD ethics to see if it was possible to do it," she said. "My whole point was I wanted to keep my job."
The New York City Housing Authority, which has more than 400,000 residents in 328 separate complexes and has long been plagued by problems such as vermin and leaky roofs, was hit with a new scandal in 2017 when investigators accused it of falsifying reports about inspections for lead paint. The Justice Department sued the city, accusing it of neglecting tenants.
Threatened with a complete federal takeover, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an agreement in January with Patton's boss, Housing Secretary Ben Carson, to put the authority under the eye of a federal monitor. Bart Schwartz, a former federal prosecutor and the chairman of the investigations firm Guidepost Solutions, was named to the position last month.
Patton says she will brief the monitor on her stays.
"The whole purpose of this excursion is to bring my findings to the federal monitor so that they can effectuate permanent change," she said.
Patton's Queensbridge host, Simpson, said she expects Patton's visit to yield results.
"It doesn't matter whether you're a Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal, I don't give a crap," Simpson said. "Human beings are living under conditions that are horrid. We need as a society to fix that."
To de Blasio and other New York Democrats, the authority's problems stem from years of federal disinvestment.
"Certainly, a lot of people have praised her for staying in NYCHA developments, but if there's not a parallel effort to boost federal funding for repairs and maintenance, that won't accomplish much," said Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a Democrat whose district includes 31 NYCHA developments.
She said the president's budget proposal, released this week, would slash money for public housing nationwide.
Patton bristled this week in Brooklyn when asked about the proposal, saying more money wasn't necessarily the answer.
"You can throw money at a problem all day long but if it's mismanaged and misspent it doesn't matter," she said.
Associated Press writer Sabrina Caserta contributed to this report.
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