The “golden” residents of Pomonok Houses are refusing to let the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) send them off into the sunset.
Senior citizens, many of whom have lived in Pomonok for multiple decades, are furious after they say NYCHA sent them threatening letters demanding they move into a different apartment or an entirely new housing complex.
“I think this is terrible and a travesty,” said Carolyn Ledogar, 71, who has lived in Pomonok for 52 years. “It is terrible that people in their 70s and 80s are getting letters that we have to vacate or relocate. We are supposed to be in our golden years. What golden years?”
Residents like Ledogar, who live in apartments deemed to be under-utilized based on the number of people occupying them, began receiving letters last month informing them they may have to move into smaller units to make room for larger families.
Initial letters offered $350 to offset incurred moving expenses and requested residents visit the Pomonok management office within 10 business days to discuss their living situation. A second, sterner letter followed, notifying recipients they had to visit the office or their lease would be terminated.
“NYCHA faces a real crisis with more than 161,000 people on its waiting list for public housing,” NYCHA officials told The Courier. “There are nearly 50,000 people in NYCHA housing units who are not living in apartments properly sized for their needs – meaning they have too many rooms for their family size.”
According to a NYCHA spokesperson, the letters were sent in compliance with a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requirement, and that each resident’s lease includes notification of potential relocation. To facilitate seniors, NYCHA is partnering with Met Council, which is developing new senior housing adjoining Pomonok, located at 67-10 Parsons Boulevard in Flushing.
“NYCHA is not bullying residents out of their apartments,” said Monica Corbett, president of the Pomonok Residents Association. “On the lease, it says that when you become under-occupied, NYCHA sends you this letter. People complain to me but I have two sides – people who need and people who don’t need. I have mothers who are in one-bedroom apartments with five kids, and they have been on a waiting list for over 10 years. Then I have other apartments which are under-occupied, because the resident’s children have moved out.”
Upon receiving the letters, many residents flooded the offices of Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz with phone calls, complaining about the possibility of eviction.
“It is unfair what the housing authority is doing,” said the assemblymember. “No one denies that there is a need for larger sized families, but to threaten people that if they don’t move they would be in violation of their lease is completely unfair. We are talking about senior citizens. A lot of these seniors are living alone and the only safety nets and lifelines they have are their neighbors.”
Simanowitz claims NYCHA has known for years that some residents have been living alone, and choosing to send the letters now is “inhumane” and “selective enforcement.”
Ledogar, who has lived in the same two-bedroom apartment for the past 40 years, has osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and two herniated discs.
“All of us in Pomonok are very angry,” she said. “The seniors don’t want to move. If they try and force us to move then we go to court. I’m not going to cater to them, and none of the other seniors will. If we have to go to court, at least we’re going down fighting.”