New York City Housing Authority Randomly Sends Tenant’s Private Financial Data to Reporter

NYCHA asked Motherboard to “please ignore and delete” the sensitive records it had sent, which no one had asked for.

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 15: Public housing residents and their supporters rally to demand New York City Housing Authority conditions be improved, outside of City Hall, February 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

On a Wednesday afternoon in April, according to a report from The City, during a routine video conference, employees of the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA, were startled to see a male superintendent and a woman, naked, in bed. This bizarre incident ended, for reasons that require some explanation, in an equally bizarre one: NYCHA sending Motherboard sensitive documents outlining the finances of a tenant who had nothing whatsoever to do with any of this.


Three days after The City published its report, Motherboard, seeking fuller context for the incident, filed a request under New York’s Freedom of Information Law seeking a recording of the video conference. “Please be advised,” NYCHA responded a week later, “that a diligent search of the New York City Housing Authority’s records did not reveal any responsive records regarding the above-mentioned request.” 

(This was mildly suspect because The City obtained and published a cellphone video of the call, in which people are heard screaming and shouting “Oh my God! No!” as first the woman and then the superintendent appear in frame. The superintendent, who according to The City had a long history of disciplinary issues, was ultimately suspended without pay for 30 days, with NYCHA proclaiming it would immediately begin the process of dismissing him; a NYCHA spokesperson did not respond to a question about whether he’s still employed.)

Do you know what on Earth is going on at NYCHA? Contact the reporter at or, using a non-work device, on Signal at 267-713-9832.

On the same day it filed a request for the video, Motherboard, seeking insight into how NYCHA handled the incident, also filed a request for related emails, text messages, and other communications in the possession of Barbara Brancaccio, the agency’s top flack. In late July, the agency acknowledged the request, and a month after that, the agency proclaimed that it had located the records in question and sent them along. Unfortunately, when a Motherboard reporter opened the files, they had nothing to do with the subject at hand.


NYCHA had instead sent a variety of totally unrelated records about a tenant in Section 8 housing, who had apparently been accused of not reporting household income from a job they held last year. The tenant, explaining that they had only worked for the employer for three days, had filled out a form and attached a paystub, a W-2 form, and other financial records. Another document warned the tenant that they had to allow inspectors into their apartment. Another, explaining that this was necessary for means-testing purposes, demanded authorization for “NYCHA and/or [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] to get information directly from third party sources in order to verify the income, the value of assets, expenses related to deductions from income (including medical, pharmaceutical and day care expenses), family composition information and related information for every household member,” warning that not signing the form could result in the tenant being kicked out of their home.

The tenant could not be reached for comment. Whether the information would even be releasable under FOIL if it had been asked for (the law forbids disclosure that “would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy”), and why the FOIL administrator had it all, are unclear. A NYCHA flack did not answer questions on these subjects.

Upon being made aware that NYCHA had sent a random person’s sensitive financial information to Motherboard, a flack said that this had been a clerical error, that the agency will look into the matter and “take appropriate action,” that Motherboard’s initial FOIL request from April will be replied to within 30 days, and that “we will offer identity theft protection services to the affected tenant at no cost to them.” 

The flack also instructed Motherboard to “ignore and delete” the private information it had sent.

NYCHA oversees housing in which about 380,000 people, roughly the population of New Orleans, live. Last year, one of its staff analysts sent an email to city, state, and federal officials from their work account comparing vaccine mandates to “LOCKING THE DOOR ON THE TWIN TOWERS ON 9/11 AND KEEPING THE PEOPLE INSIDE TO DIE” and “PUTTING PEOPLE IN THE CATTLE CARS TO THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS AND UPPING THE COUNT OF THE HOLOCAUST.” Recently, as reported by The City, NYCHA has been trying to explain why it didn’t tell residents it had detected arsenic in their drinking water weeks after it found out.