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Get to work, Mr. Russ: First day better a good day for NYCHA’s new headman


Keep smiling.

We are going to be nice to Gregory Russ on his first day as chairman of the New York City Housing Authority. Welcome, sir. From here on out, you’ll have to answer not just to the men who appointed you, Mayor de Blasio and HUD Secretary Ben Carson, but NYCHA’s 400,000 residents. Russ previously worked for public housing agencies in Minneapolis, Cambridge, Philadelphia and Chicago. NYCHA has more buildings, apartments and residents than all of those combined.

Today also means that, for the first time in 16 months, NYCHA will have a permanent boss. Permanence matters. These are people’s homes, where they live for decades, raising their families. The last full-time chair, Shola Olatoye, was ousted for deceiving the feds and City Council over faked inspections. To her credit, she had tried to improve living conditions, but was undercut by de Blasio who prized labor peace with Teamsters Local 237 President Greg Floyd over the tenants.

Also watching will be U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, Manhattan Federal Judge William Pauley and federal monitor Bart Schwartz, whose first report last month found continuing problems.

Russ, who’s getting paid more than the president’s $400,000 salary, might think that he’ll be able to regularly jet back to the Twin Cities. Be warned, buddy: For that big paycheck, you’ve signed on to a 24-hour gig, just like residents who live there.

There’s a lot to learn, but this short list should be easy for Russ to keep in mind: Yes to working elevators, heat and hot water. No to lead paint, mold, vermin and garbage.