NYCHA’s not always there when you call — so rapper Ja Rule joined city pols to turn up the heat on the failing housing agency.
“The mayor, the governor, they should all be ashamed of themselves. These are Americans, New Yorkers living in Third World conditions, and it should not be this way,” Ja Rule said Tuesday at a rally outside City Hall.
This winter, 80% of NYCHA residents lost their heat or hot water at some point. The agency has been unable to keep its aging boilers up and running, leaving residents to shiver in their homes.
Ja Rule, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, grew up in Hollis, Queens.
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“I know what it’s like to not have heat, not have water, be evicted from my home,” he said.
The “Always On Time” artist urged civil disobedience, saying residents should not pay rent for time they’re left in the cold.
“Let’s shut the city down. We ain’t paying no more rent until these situations are dealt with,” he said. “No heat, no hot water — no money, no rent.”
NYCHA chair Shola Olatoye was grilled at a City Council hearing on the boiler outages and refused demands that she apologize for the heat debacle.
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“The chairperson of NYCHA could not even bring herself to say ‘I am sorry.’ She cannot even bring herself to apologize to the 323,000 residents who had no heat and hot water,” said City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx), chair of the oversight and investigations committee.
Ja Rule said he plans to join pols and residents in pushing both Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo for more funding for public housing fixes — saying the $200 million de Blasio has announced for boilers and other heating improvements is a drop in the bucket, with the agency’s capital needs topping $20 billion.
“It’s really not enough,” he said. “We’ll go to the mayor, we’ll go to the governor, we’ll try to get what we need in funding. And if we can’t do that, then I think we’ll take our show to Gracie Mansion next.”
Ja Rule has a history of controversies of his own, including co-founding last spring’s infamous Fyre Festival, where a fellow organizer was charged with fraud, and prison time he served on a gun charge.
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He has feuded with rapper 50 Cent and last month went on a homophobic rant branding his rival a “power bottom.”
NYCHA responded to the celebrity appeal by pointing to the federal government, which has for years slashed funding for public housing.
“We appreciate anyone with a platform bringing attention to the critical funding issues NYCHA faces. We hope today’s rally will highlight the catastrophic cuts proposed by the Trump administration and the need to support public housing as a vital resource,” said spokeswoman Jasmine Blake.
But Ja Rule said he views Trump as a lost cause and is focusing on local pols.
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“The truth is he is at the top of this problem. The trickle-down effect is what we see right now. The President doesn’t care about black and brown people, so why should anybody else under his guise and his tutelage?” he said. “They don’t care, and so I think it’s up to us.”
Cuomo’s office noted the state has committed $300 million in capital funding to NYCHA during his tenure, more than was spent in the 21 prior years.
“We agree with the sentiments expressed by the Council members and speakers this morning that the conditions at NYCHA — due to severe mismanagement by the City — are unacceptable,” said Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever. “That’s why we gave NYCHA an unprecedented $300 million and told the Council that the State stands ready to help in any way they deem appropriate.”
The rapper said he usually stays away from politics but decided to jump into the public housing fight because he was troubled by the plight of kids living in crumbling buildings.
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“How can the kids go to school and get a good education if they’ve got to go home and there’s no heat and there’s no water?” he said. “These are the things that are going on right here in our city under NYCHA’s watch.”
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