News Roundup

John B. Rhea to Head New York City Housing Authority

Mayor Bloomberg announces the appointment of new NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea. (Source:

Former Lehman Brothers executive John B. Rhea, 43, will take over as chairman of the New York City Housing Authority (Nycha), the nation’s largest public housing authority, June 1.

In announcing the appointment last week, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg cited Rhea’s more than two decades of investment banking and private sector experience. However, critics are concerned that Rhea has no experience in affordable housing management.

“John will bring new dynamic leadership and innovative thinking to managing Nycha at a particularly challenging time for public housing,” said Bloomberg at a news conference last week. “John’s experience makes him the perfect person to lead our efforts to create long-term financial stability at the Authority, and to ring in a new era of transparency and agency responsiveness to improving resident and community quality of life.”

Acknowledging his lack of experience in the public housing sector, Rhea said: “I have not only managed within large complex organizations in which NYCHA clearly is. I’ve also managed multi-billion capital dollar budgets.”

Rhea takes over an agency with a $137 million annual deficit and a history of mismanagement and maintenance problems — most notably unsafe elevators. He is replacing Tino Hernandez, who held the post for seven years before leaving in November.
A graduate of Wesleyan University who also holds a Masters of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School, Rhea began his career at PaineWebber Inc., and most recently served as managing director and co-head of global consumer/retail group at Barclays Capital (formerly Lehman Brothers).

The Nycha provides affordable housing to more than 402,000 people in 340 housing developments and 178,000 apartments. It also administers the nation’s largest Section 8 program, which assists more than 95,000 families in renting apartments in private homes.

–Deborah Creighton Skinner

Despite Family Infighting, DreamWorks to Film MLK Biopic


Despite opposition and threatened legal action from members Martin Luther King Jr.’s estate, DreamWorks still wants to make a movie about the slain civil rights leader if his feuding children can reach an agreement, the movie studio said Wednesday.

DreamWorks announced a deal this week with the King Estate for a film about the civil rights icon. Bernice King and Martin Luther King III are against the movie. Their brother Dexter, who oversees the estate, signed off on the deal.

“The purpose of making a movie about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is to tell a great story which could bridge distances and bring people together,” said DreamWorks spokesman Chip Sullivan in a statement given to the Associated Press. “We remain committed to pursuing a film chronicling Martin Luther King’s life provided that there is unity in the family so we can make a film about unity in our nation. We believe this is what Dr. King would have wanted.”

In announcing the biopic, DreamWorks said the film would be the first big-screen portrayal of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner that would be authorized by the estate and use King’s intellectual property, including copyrighted speeches and other works, as the basis for the film, according to the AP. Steven Spielberg was listed as a co-producer.
“I sincerely believe that the film project we have been working on with DreamWorks … offers an unprecedented opportunity for educating the largest possible audience about our father’s legacy as the leader of America’s greatest nonviolent movement,” Dexter King said in a statement.

Bernice King and King III have been feuding with their brother for years, accusing him of hurting their parents’ legacy. In March, the siblings were upset about an $800,000 licensing deal Dexter made with the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation, which is building a monument to King on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The three are also embroiled in three lawsuits involving their parents’ estates

–Deborah Creighton Skinner