De Blasio defends public housing boss accused of toxic behavior toward women staffers
Mayor de Blasio on Wednesday defended NYCHA general manager Vito Mustaciuolo while the city conducts an “objective” investigation into allegations that he belittles, bullies and berates female employees at the public housing authority.
Mustaciuolo cultivated a toxic and unprofessional work environment that’s helped drive away high-level staffers, according to current and former NYCHA employees who told Daily News that he specifically undermines women working for the authority. They said he screams and swears at women staffers without provocation, making several cry after his demeaning outbursts.
The city Law Department launched a “full and objective investigation” last week after The Daily News reported on his alleged behavior.
De Blasio said that the city takes concerns from employees “about the work environment and how they’re being treated, particularly based on who they are…very seriously.”
“I also affirm that very, very important work is being done right now to fix NYCHA, it’s very tough work,” the mayor said at an unrelated press conference at police headquarters. “I want to acknowledge how hard Vito has worked to try and change that place and I think with some real success.”
De Blasio’s comments enraged former NYCHA employees who say they had to put up with Mustaciuolo’s demeaning outbursts.
“This is why people didn’t officially report him – because everyone said the ‘progressive’ mayor had Vito’s back,” one former NYCHA employee told the News on Wednesday. “The mayor’s comments today are disgusting but also completely expected,” the former employee wrote, adding several eye-roll emojis.
“It’s utter bullshit,” another former NYCHA employee said.
De Blasio said he didn’t believe one account from a former staffer who told the News that Mustaciuolo suggested public housing tenants living with a horrifying rat infestation were “dirty.”
“I could say the tenants were dirty if I were black, but I can’t,” Mustaciuolo had said, who is white, according to a former NYCHA employee present for the remark.
“I know him very well, I’ve watched his interaction with residents and his commitment to them,” de Blasio said when asked about the alleged comment. “So I’m just going to say, very straightforward, I don’t buy that one.”
De Blasio also said he didn’t believe accounts from former NYCHA employees who said Mustaciuolo had lied to him by saying the city could test about 130,000 apartments for lead in just a couple years using x-ray technology. “I’ve only seen integrity from him,” the mayor said.
“The mayor’s staff was fully aware of these actions towards female staffers and the lies about policies,” a former NYCHA employee said. in response.
Since de Blasio made Mustaciuolo NYCHA’s general manager in February 2018, at least 18 high-level authority staffers have quit or been forced out. Fourteen of them were women.
Current and former NYCHA employees told the News Mustaciuolo’s management style is at least partially to blame for the exodus. They say he frequently speaks over and condescends to women working for him and that he expects “deferential” treatment. Some said they were told by NYCHA officials that he was too important to discipline and that they needed to keep him happy.
No formal complaints were filed with the city by the seven current and former NYCHA employees who spoke to The Daily News.
De Blasio’s office said a “full and objective investigation” began immediately after The News published its report.
Under the city’s Equal Employment Opportunity policy – created to ensure staffers aren’t discriminated against – complaints against agency heads or high-level officials are investigated by the Law Department, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services or another agency’s EEO officer.
The Law Department’s investigation will complete this month, according to the mayor’s office.