December 11, 2012

KATRINA ON THE HUDSON, NOW WITH EXTRA BUREAUCRACY: NYC Housing Authority Misses Big On Sandy.

FEMA is still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy more than a month after the storm hit New York City. Although most of the city has returned to normal, federal disaster employees continue to find distressed people, often the elderly and disabled, trapped in apartments in the farthest corners of the city. Federal and city authorities are now assessing what exactly went wrong. Much of the blame thus far lies with the city Housing Authority, which is charged with managing city-owned housing and preparing for exactly this sort of catastrophe.

A new feature in the New York Times explores just how unprepared and ineffective the Housing Authority was in tackling the largest disaster the city has seen since 9/11. . . . The article compiles an overwhelming list of failures: signs of deep incompetence, political game-playing and multilayer bureaucratic failure on the part of the Housing Authority. Faced with a serious crisis, the agency failed miserably in doing its most basic job—not so much because of a lack of money as because of slothful management and an inefficient, ossified bureaucratic culture. The Housing Authority after Sandy did exactly what bureaucracies usually do: it covered its rear, staged heartwarming photos for the press, and shamefully neglected the poor and the helpless it was supposed to serve. In other words, it behaved much like a failing public school, or any other blue model institution out of its depth and focused mostly on preserving its routine as the real world crumbles around it.

Disgraceful. But hardly surprising.