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City Hall housing official moving to newly created No. 2 post at BMHA

More changes are being made at Buffalo's public housing agency.

The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority is set to hire a top-level executive to take over some of the day-to-day responsibilities of running the 27 housing developments where some 10,000 tenants live.

Yvonne C. McCray, who currently serves as director of housing at the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency, will fill the BMHA post of assistant executive director for operations, a newly created position. She will deal with tenant issues and serve as a liaison to the housing developments and their building managers.

The appointment will free up Executive Director Dawn Sanders-Garrett to focus on the larger financial, development and other policy issues the financially strapped agency faces, agency officials said.

McCray's salary is still being negotiated, Sanders-Garrett said.

McCray, 44, would be Sanders-Garrett's second-top assistant, joining Modesto Candelario, who is assistant executive director for finance and development. His base pay is about $94,000.

During her interview, McCray displayed "energy, passion and a love for the residents," BMHA commissioners said.

"She was very impressive, and has extensive housing experience," said BMHA Commissioner David J. State, who chairs the board's personnel committee.

McCray had headed up a community housing organization, FLARE – Fillmore Leroy Area Residents Inc., before being named in 2009 as the BURA housing director, in charge of overseeing some of the federally funded low-income housing being developed in Buffalo. She earns about $77,000 annually in  that post.

McCray's appointment is the latest in a series of changes at the Housing Authority that started in July, when Mayor Byron W. Brown replaced a majority of the BMHA board members. Among the new commissioners was David Rodriguez, a former agency attorney was who named the housing authority's board chairman.

Two months later, the new majority hired Gillian Brown as the agency's attorney. Brown had previously served as BMHA attorney and as interim executive director prior to Sanders-Garrett being appointed in 2008.

McCray does not yet have a starting date, Sanders-Garrett said.

The BMHA began talking about bringing in an assistant executive director of operations in early 2017, but Sanders-Garrett last year said funding was not available.  Other city and BMHA officials at the time said no decision had been made on who to appoint to the job.

The BMHA  in recent years has been struggling to maintain many of its developments, with residents complaining that buildings aren't properly maintained. In recent months, there have been complaints of unclean buildings, bug infestations, broken elevators and a lack of heat. Residents have said it often takes unusually long for BMHA staff to respond to complaints.

At Thursday's BMHA meeting, for example, residents complained that windows at the Marine Drive high-rise apartments haven't been cleaned in years.

Sanders-Garrett has blamed cuts in federal aid, that have led to the BMHA slashing its payroll over the past decade, for many of the agency's troubles. There are about 100 fewer BMHA workers today than there were 10 years ago.

BMHA officials have said they hope having an assistant executive director of operations will help address some of the complaints more efficiently.

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