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Candidates For Mayor Debate Housing Issues

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About 1,000 New Yorkers flocked to the St. Paul Community Baptist Church in East New York Thursday night to hear six candidates for mayor talk about housing at an event moderated by NY1's Errol Louis. The candidates did not turn on each other, but gave the city's public housing authority a beating instead. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

The six candidates for mayor who spoke at a forum Thursday night in East New York all have a few things things in common. They say they want more affordable housing in New York City, and they think the city's public housing authority is falling short.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio placed the blame on Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The housing authority is often called by its acronym, NYCHA.

"NYCHA can't work if the mayor doesn't care about the people [who] live in public housing," de Blasio said. "The fish stinks from the head."

Publisher Tom Allon compared the head of the embattled agency to the city's former schools chancellor, who lasted a mere three months on the job.

"As far as I am concerned, John Rhea is the Cathie Black of NYCHA," Allon said.

The former MTA chairman, Joseph Lhota, slammed the agency for its management of the Section 8 housing program for low-income New Yorkers. This was Lhota's first campaign event since jumping into the race last week.

"They broke something that was fixed," Lhota said. "We have to change the entire management."

City Comptroller John Liu came to the defense of the agency chairman while saying more can be done to improve the lives of public housing residents.

"I don't know John Rhea," Liu said. "I don't know if the solution is to throw him under the bus constantly."

As for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, she took aim at Mayor Michael Bloomberg's latest housing initiative. It appeared to be her latest effort to create distance between herself and her usual ally.

"We just did a whole competition of how to make itty-bitty little apartments on the East Side of Manhattan," Quinn said. "Why don't we go out and ask the development community, 'With this amount of money, with this type of stuff, what can you do for us to build senior housing?'"

Former City Comptroller William Thompson said building more affordable housing will take a lot of will.

"Do we have the will to make sure we keep people here, that there is income diversity?" he said.

The event was sponsored by the Daily News and Metro Industrial Areas Foundation New York, a network of community organizations. NY1 political anchor Errol Louis was the moderator.

The organizers of the event have two more mayoral forums on the calendar. They will focus on education and public safety.

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