MANHATTAN — The oft-criticized New York City Housing Authority forked over approximately $100,000 to a Seattle PR firm over the past year to improve their online image, the New York Post reported.
Search Impact Consultants promises to help companies "take control of your brand's image," according to the company's official website. Company CEO Rebecca Bilbao lists "reputation management campaigns" among her qualifications.
NYCHA officials admitted to paying the firm, but said the cash-strapped agency was just trying to make its information more available to the public.
"Those seeking our information should not need to wade through page after page of Google search results to find the answers to their questions," NYCHA spokeswoman Sheila Stainback said in a statement sent to DNAinfo.com New York.
"Specifically, our goal is to identify where NYCHA’s messaging was not appearing in the search results and utilize state of the art SEO tools to make sure our target stakeholders would find them when they look for us online."
NYCHA has come under attack from critics who take issue with a host of problems ranging from months-long wait times for critical infrastructure repairs like stairs, elevators, and door locks, to those who say the agency doesn't properly manage its facilities.
An air conditioner recently fell from a 20th-floor window onto a nursery school playground where children were playing below, prompting an outcry from parents and residents who say NYCHA doesn't properly supervise installation and removal.
A Google search for the term "NYCHA" reveals a link to the agency's official website and Wikipedia page on the first results page, as well as a link to two stories about tenants who sued the agency for repairs.
Another search for the term "New York City Housing Authority" reveals two news stories about the agency among its first-page results, including one Daily News story about the agency hiding a $10 million report from the public.