Tag Archives: New York City Housing Authority

91-year-old WWII veteran fighting NYCHA for Flushing apartment


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

 
Ninety-one-year-old Ralph Calinda has fought his fair share of battles over his lifetime.

He fought for the United States during World War II, he battles diabetes and high blood pressure every day, and now he’s facing a different conflict — keeping the apartment he has called home for more than 60 years.

Calinda lives alone in a three-bedroom apartment in the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Pomonok Houses in Flushing. Through NYCHA’s downsizing policy, which moves residents who “overuse apartments” to smaller ones, the city agency wants to kick him out of his home.

They have sent letters to force him to take one-bedroom apartments, but in foreign neighborhoods such as the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City and the Ravenswood Houses in Astoria. Finally, they asked him to move to an apartment in the Pomonok Houses, but it lacked essential appliances and was unfurnished. Calinda, who retired nearly three decades ago, believes he wouldn’t even be able to make the move physically or financially, since he depends on social security payments.

Councilman Rory Lancman and other politicians rallied with Calinda and his family against the NYCHA policy in a protest on Friday, to call on the agency to halt its downsizing of senior residents and to overhaul the initiative.

“They have lately stepped up in a very, very aggressive way,” Lancman said about NYCHA. “We are here today to demand that they stop and that they treat their long-time residents like valuable citizens of the communities that they’ve lived in, rather than as pieces of furniture they can move around from one place to the other.”

Calinda uses a cane to walk, and that’s only during the rare times he leaves his apartment. “Pop,” as he is known among family members, friends and neighbors, now enjoys painting, word puzzles and gardening.

But before he retired, Calinda used to build fighter jets for the Air Force. He even helped build the NASA space shuttles, and although Calinda wouldn’t say which one, he allegedly engraved the name of his late wife on the tail of one of the space rockets.

Calinda raised seven children from his apartment, which has six rooms, counting a living room, kitchen and a bathroom. He said he may have been willing to leave if NYCHA first came to him when his kids became adults and left 30 years ago, but not now.

“It’s been my home for so long, I just think it should be my home forever,” he said.

NYCHA has yet to return a request for comment.

 

 

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Queens highways, other city infrastructure ‘badly’ in need of repair: report


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons / Jim.henderson

Queens is facing some serious infrastructure challenges, according to a new report.

The Center for an Urban Future found the borough has five of the nine worst maintained highways in the city.

Based on a 10-point scale, where 1 to 5 is considered “poor,” 6 is “fair,” 7 to 8 is “good,” and 9 to 10 is “excellent,” in 2012, the Jackie Robinson Parkway received a surface rating of 5.8, and the Shore Front Parkway, Cross Bay Parkway Route 25A and Route 24 earned a 6.0.

Overall, highway conditions in the borough have been deteriorating, the report said. In 2008, 38 percent of Queens highways were rated “fair” or “poor.” Four years later, 52 percent were in the same shape.

The report, released Tuesday, showed additional infrastructure issues in the borough.

About 30 percent of its streets were in “fair” or “poor” condition.

Other findings showed that Queens New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments have the most deteriorated building façades and roofs, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development inspections. Four of the NYCHA complexes in the borough need over $70 million in façade repairs through 2016.

Several of the city’s oldest wastewater treatment plants are in eastern Queens, including Jamaica (1943) and Bowery Bay near Flushing (1939), according to the report.

John F. Kennedy International Airport also needs upgrades due to age.

Its facilities are 40 years old on average, “with 63 percent of cargo space considered ‘non-viable,’ or unfit for modern screening, storage and distribution,” the report said.

Queens was not alone in its infrastructure problems.

The report calculated that New York City needs $47 billion over the next four to five years to bring its “aging infrastructure to a state of good repair.”

It found that a “significant portion” of the city’s bridges, water mains, sewer pipes, school buildings and other important infrastructure is more than 50 years old and “badly” in need of repair.

“New York won’t be able to address every one of the city’s infrastructure vulnerabilities at this time,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future and co-editor of the report. “But if a significant chunk of the city’s critical infrastructure is not brought to a state of good repair in the years ahead, it could seriously undermine the city’s economic competitiveness and quality of life—and lead to substantial long-term costs.”

The aging infrastructure includes 1,000 miles of water mains more than 100 years old; more than 160 bridges across the five boroughs that were built over a century ago; and 6,300 miles of gas mains that are on average, 56 years old.

The report suggests creating new dedicated revenue sources to pay for repairing and modernizing infrastructure.

 

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Backpack giveaway helps Far Rockaway students


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Leticia Barboza, NYCHA photographer

Students in Far Rockaway get to go back to school in style, thanks to a giveaway that doled out more than 1,000 backpacks to the tykes in need.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) teamed up with nonprofit organization Kars4Kids and ventured to the Hammel Houses and Beach 41st Street Houses to help out the families still recovering from Sandy on Thursday, August 29.

“The kids were excited and appreciative, the parents were excited and appreciative,” said Peggy Thomas, Resident Council Association President at the Hammel Houses. “It went very well.”

Thomas added these types of giveaways are typically held “in the Bronx or Brooklyn or Staten Island, or even the other side of Queens,” but the Hammel Houses has never seen an event such as this one.

This is the second year NYCHA and Kars4Kids have collaborated to put on the event. Originally, the crew was supposed to cap the giveaway at 500 backpacks, but upped the ante when they saw the kids’ needs, according to Thomas.

“We’re here to send our kids back to school the right way,” said NYCHA Chair John Rhea.

More free backpacks are available at kars4kids.org/charity/backpack_giveaway.asp, while supplies last.

 

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Call to reinstate free parking at Pomonok Community Center


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Visitor parking spots that were once free will now cost a Pomonok community center roughly $2,700, officials said.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), since partnering up in March with Greystone Parking Services, has come under fire for spiking some annual parking rates at 43 citywide developments.

Now it is facing more heat for billing the Pomonok Community Center $272 for 10 visitor spaces that used to be complimentary.

“The new parking fees at the Pomonok Community Center are outrageous and unacceptable, and NYCHA must repeal them immediately,” said Congressmember Grace Meng. “They’re treating this parking lot like it’s their own business, and it’s a business gone bad.”

The Pomonok Community Center at the Queens Community House provides meals, activities and cooling stations during hot weather to more than 50 seniors who visit daily, officials said.

“It’s unconscionable that NYCHA and Greystone are extorting money from senior citizens,” said State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky.

Monica Corbett, president of the Pomonok Resident Association, said the center is a second home to residents even outside the neighborhood.

Parking is already limited, she said, since Queens College and P.S. 201 are around the corner.

“The nearest senior center is not close nor is there an after-school center that serves children from K-5 grade,” Corbett said. “To ask staff and participants to pay for parking is asinine.”

Local leaders said hundreds of residents have complained to Greystone about a slew of issues — including months-long waits for parking permits and multiple cars being assigned to one spot — to no avail.

“The current policy is extremely shortsighted and threatens the operation of the center,” said Assemblymember Mike Simanowitz.

NYCHA did not immediately comment.

 

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$300G in repairs not made at Long Island City NYCHA center


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos By Angy Altamirano

Long Island City seniors are waiting for fixes to be made to their senior center, and have been doing so for three years.

Funds allocated to fix various problems at the Jacob Riis Settlement House at the Queensbridge Houses have yet to be put to use, and now the community wants answers as to why.

Betty McCord, a senior at the center, said that it was difficult for her to breathe last month during a Queensbridge town meeting that took place inside the gym on a hot day. There were fans available but according to McCord, they did not help.

“This place is not suitable for our seniors” said McCord.

Over the past three years, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer has allocated $300,000 for the renovation of two bathrooms and the installation of an air conditioning system in the gym. After meeting with New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) six months ago, the agency only told him the changes would take two more years.

He added NYCHA gave reasons such as not enough designers or workers for the project’s delay.
Representatives of the center said the major problems of the bathrooms are the exposed pipes on the ceiling, toilets that are either too high or too low, rusting appliances, infestation of insects, and flooring that could be dangerous to seniors.

“The lack of safe, functional, and welcoming rest room facilities for our participants and staff, particularly our seniors and young people, has been a problem for several years now,” said Robert Madison, director of Senior Services at the Jacob Riis Senior Center. “Our older adults are often forced to use the upstairs facilities because many of them simply will not set foot in the downstairs bathrooms.”

On Friday, August 16, Van Bramer gathered with seniors and representatives of the Jacob Riis Settlement Neighborhood House, the Jacob Riis Senior Center and the Queensbridge Houses to call on the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to repair problems at the community center.

“Jacob Riis Settlement Neighborhood House is the hub and heart of Queensbridge,” said Van Bramer. “How long do our seniors and youth have to wait for these renovations and improvements to take place? It is impossible and unconscionable to believe that it is going to take NYCHA nearly five years to fix our community center. This is a disgrace. We cannot and will not wait any longer.”

According to a recent NYCHA report sent to the city council, the agency has held onto nearly $50 million in taxpayer dollars which should be used for repairing projects, such as restoring New York City community centers which include the Jacob Riis Settlement House.

“I call on NYCHA to get this work done for the residents of Queensbridge,” said Van Bramer. “Not tomorrow, but today.”

Requests for comment from NYCHA were not returned as of press time.

 

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Op-Ed: More than a sleep-over, a real eye-opener


| oped@queenscourier.com

GREGORY FLOYD

As president of City Employees, Local 237, nearly 9,000 of my members work in developments operated by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Their work ranges from apartment repairs to grounds caretakers, boiler and elevator services, to rent collections. About one- third of these workers also live in NYCHA apartments throughout the city.

The problems in public housing have gotten a great deal of attention lately, as the long-standing tenant and worker frustration reached a new high due to sequestration cuts in federal dollars—basically, the only source of funding for the largest and oldest public housing in the nation. The $208 million in cuts would mean a loss of jobs and services.

Despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pledge to restore $58 million of federal dollars lost, the fact remains that NYCHA already has a $61 million operating deficit and $6-7 billion in much-needed capital repairs.

This is a case of too little, too late. With a three-year backlog of repairs, security cameras funded but not installed, reminders of Sandy everywhere in affected developments (and still without a plan to overcome the devastation of the next storm) and with a proposal—long kept secret—to build high-end housing on NYCHA property,

I have joined our members and residents to say “Enough is Enough!” We even held a huge rally at City Hall recently to send a strong message to all of the mayoral contenders: “NYCHA is broken. You need to fix it.” All of the candidates were invited to join the protest. Only one showed up—Bill Thompson. Thompson vowed to end the long suffering of the more than 600,000 NYCHA residents if he becomes mayor.

I guess I wasn’t surprised when Thompson invited me to join him and the other mayoral candidates for a “sleep-over” organized by Reverend Al Sharpton at a NYCHA development, Lincoln Houses in East Harlem. The choice of Lincoln Houses was not random. Residents of the aging, 25-building complex are suing NYCHA for 3,800 unfulfilled repair orders dating back to 2009. Thompson knew I had made repeated attempts to address the backlog and other key problems, all of which went unheeded.

So, after the many speeches and the grounds tour covered by dozens of reporters during the night of the sleep-over, Thompson and I met our host, Barbara Gamble, a NYCHA resident for 44 years, 30 of which were in the 10th floor apartment we visited. Without air conditioning on the sweltering night and with mold throughout the bathroom, we could now feel the human pain associated with the repair tickets that dated back so many years. We saw the struggles of Gamble— a proud grandmother who takes matters into her own hands by routinely cleaning the hallways of her entire floor!

When we met with the other candidates the next morning, the talk was about what they saw in their host apartments: ripped-out kitchen cabinets, chipped paint, water damage, faulty toilets, broken flooring and urine in the elevators (which frequently do not work). But, in my view, this was not the worst part of living in a NYCHA development.

No, it was the news that a few days after our visit, a 23-year old woman was shot to death on the project’s grounds in a location where NYCHA failed to install security cameras even though $ 1 million had been allocated by a NYC Councilmember. Despite these conditions, 227,000 people are on a waiting list for a NYCHA apartment because affordable housing in NYC is scarce. With an average of only 5,400 to 5,800 openings annually, the wait can take years.

NYCHA began more than 75 years ago as an experiment in municipal responsibility that developed into a model of social pride. Many former residents, including a NYC mayor, a supreme court justice, and a world-renowned entertainment mogul, have all gone on to make a lasting, positive impact on society.

Yet, as I saw the hardships of Barbara Gamble and her neighbors first-hand, it became clear that what is wrong with public housing today is not only broken buildings, but broken management.

The next mayor, with the ability to appoint a new chairman and form a new board, also has the ability to fix it.

Gregory Floyd is president, Teamsters Local 237, IBT

 

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Unhappy Housing Authority residents offered payment plan for new parking spots


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Rory Lancman

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is offering an installment plan to ease parking rate hikes on burdened drivers.

“Increases are a way of life, but if it’s falling on the residents, at least give us ample time to prepare for this increase,” said Craig Kinsey, president of the James A. Bland Resident Association. “Not to give these residents enough time to pay—it was totally unheard of, insensitive and immoral.”

NYCHA increased parking costs this year for residents paying for unreserved spaces. Costs went up to $265 for most drivers, $212 for seniors and a whopping $500 for on-site employees.

NYCHA spokesperson Zodet Negrón the agency is getting rid of unreserved parking lots and changing them to reserved ones starting May 1.

She said the shift, which will designate a specific spot for each driver, will improve safety and make enforcement easier.

Conversion plans were released last December, with notifications reaching residents in March and April, according to the agency. But residents in the borough’s two NYCHA houses said authorities did not give them enough time to make payments.

“My son is going to college. I’m paying deposit fees for tuition, deposit fees for room and board,” said Monica Corbett, president of the Pomonok Residents Association. “I’d be stuck if I had to choose between my son’s education and parking fees. I’d be parking on the street.”

Drivers in 43 developments throughout the city now have the option to pay in four installments instead of in full.

The first payment is due April 30.

The installment plan is only available this year for residents who have not yet paid the lump sum.

“It’s better than paying all at once,” Corbett said. “It’s a new avenue for the Housing Authority. But sometimes when you don’t include the major stakeholders, things get lost in translation.”

NYCHA began a new partnership with Greystone Parking Services in March. The payment plan was offered “in response to concerns expressed by many residents,” a spokesperson said.

Kinsey lambasted the agency, saying NYCHA should have included residents in earlier discussions.

“You put a band aid on the wound, but the wound is there,” he said. “We’re working check by check like every other individual who is two checks away from being homeless. These are not objects. These are people that you’re dealing with.”

 

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NYC Housing Authority residents outraged over parking hikes


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Rory Lancman

Queens residents are outraged over a price hike in the city Housing Authority’s annual parking rates.

“Raising the cost to park in public housing . . . is a slap in the face to all,” said Monica Corbett, president of the Pomonok Residents Association. “These fee increases hurt all residents, especially our seniors and fixed income population.”

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has spiked parking costs for some residents from $75 to $340 for non-discounted drivers, $60 to $272 for seniors and handicap, and $150 to $650 for on-site employees.

The agency has two types of parking facilities — reserved spaces for renters with assigned designations and non-reserved ones for motorists with no specific spots.

It is doing away with non-reserved lots and changing them to reserved ones starting May 1, said NYCHA spokesperson Zodet Negrón.

Expenses will rise only for drivers who currently pay for non-reserved slots.

NYCHA began a new partnership with Greystone Parking Services last month. New parking rules include police ticketing and towing of unauthorized vehicles.

“These changes to the Resident Parking Program will help ensure cleaner and safer parking lots for all residents,” Negrón said.

Conversion plans were released last December, according to the agency. But Queens residents said the news was sudden.

“NYCHA’s massive parking fee hike is unfair enough, but springing it on residents with next to no notice and requiring payment in full up-front really adds insult to injury,” said former Assemblymember and City Council candidate Rory Lancman. “NYCHA needs to focus on fixing its many shortcomings, from backlogged repairs to inadequate security, and not gouging residents.”

Assemblymember Mike Simanowitz said the change would force people to look for parking on public streets.
“The idea that our city streets will be further choked with vehicles is simply unacceptable,” he said.

 

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Agencies give Sandy testimony before City Council


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Nearly three months after the storm devastated the tri-state area, and with residents still trying to recover, the City Council has begun investigating how various agencies handled Sandy.

Testimony has been given by representatives of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the New York City Housing Authority, Con Edison and the Long Island Power Authority, among other agencies.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich, when addressing OEM, inquired why the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department had been denied a request for a rescue boat, despite the anticipated flooding in the hamlet. Ulrich also asked why OEM had not looked at the Breezy Point Cooperative’s evacuation plan, or had better communication with the several volunteer fire departments of southern Queens.

OEM Commissioner Joseph Bruno said commissioners had been on the ground working with volunteer fire departments on plans during the lead up to the storm and had always maintained communications between the volunteers and the FDNY. It was not the office’s policy to approve of other entities’ evacuation plans, he said, but OEM could give input for both cooperatives and volunteer fire departments in the future, he said.

Ulrich suggested to Bruno that once recovery is completely over, and some stability is back in the area, OEM officials begin to work with these waterside communities to better prepare for future storms.

“I think in the next year it might be a good time, when everything settles and the rebuilding starts and life gets somewhat back to normal, that OEM try to engage these communities and these fire departments.”

 

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Queens Morning Roundup


| brennison@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Rain before 10am. The rain could be heavy at times. High near 56. Breezy, with a west wind 20 to 24 mph, with gusts as high as 55 mph. Friday night: A slight chance of snow showers after midnight. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 35. West wind around 16 mph, with gusts as high as 31 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20 percent.

EVENT of the DAY: Irish Movie Night

Two Emerald Isle flicks will be screened. The Dead (1987), John Huston’s last film, is an adaptation of James Joyce’s love letter to the land of his ancestors and the country where his children grew up. Cluck (2011) is a comedy short about a feathered friend who upsets a family’s pecking order. New York Irish Center, 7:30 pm.Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Queens music teacher accused of sleeping with 16-year-old

A music teacher out of Jamaica was arrested for allegedly maintaining a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Vaughn McKinney, 58, is accused of starting a relationship with the female student when she was 16 after the two met through a Brooklyn church choir group, led by McKinney’s wife at the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church, according an Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI) report. Read more: Queens Courier

Nation to join Connecticut in moment of silence for Sandy Hook shooting victims

People across the county will pause Friday for a moment of silence to remember the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre one week ago. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy urged other states to honor the moment of silence at 9:30 a.m. ET, almost the exact minute that gunman Adama Lanza stormed the Newtown, Conn. school, killing 20 children and six adults. Read more: Daily News

NYers flock to ‘end of the world’-themed bashes to celebrate ‘Mayan apocalypse’

It was either a real “last call” — or just another excuse to get blotto. New Yorkers flocked to “end of the world”-themed parties at local bars last night to celebrate their potential final hours on Earth as the Mayan calendar predicted doomsday this morning. Read more: NY Post

Deli clerk killed in Queens bodega shooting

A deli clerk working alone in a Queens bodega was shot and killed last night during a brazen robbery. Cops said Ishak Ghali, 26, was shot once in the head after a lone gunman entered the All Friends Grocery & Deli on Onderdonk Avenue in Ridgewood, shortly after 6 p.m. Read more: NY Post

City housing to provide $5.6M for post-Sandy rent abatements

Some New Yorkers living in city public housing buildings will start seeing rent credits in their January bill. The New York City Housing Authority said it will provide $5.6 million in rent abatements for approximately 35,000 families affected by Hurricane Sandy. Read more: NY1

Formerly conjoined twin girls greet the public after successful separation surgery

Nine-month-old girls who were formerly conjoined twins are making their public debut at the Philadelphia hospital where they were separated. Allison June and Amelia Lee Tucker and their parents were introduced at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on Thursday. Read more: Daily News

 

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Partly cloudy in the morning, then overcast. High of 59. Winds from the North at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the East in the afternoon. Chance of rain 20%. Monday night: Overcast with rain. Low of 54. Winds from the SE at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the NNE after midnight. Chance of rain 60% with rainfall amounts near 0.2 in. possible.

EVENT of the DAY:  Queens Restaurant Week 

The ninth annual Queens Restaurant Week starts today with many eateries offering prix-fixe menus at $25 for a three-course meal or other specials. More than 100 restaurants are participating in the event, which takes place October 8-11 and October 15-18. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Poll finds tight Queens state Senate race

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. and City Councilman Eric Ulrich are locked in a tight race for Addabbo’s Queens seat in a key battle for control of the Senate, a new poll finds. Read more: New York Post

New York City Housing Authority finally placing cameras at the Pomonok Houses in Queens, but mostly in areas where there is no crime

It seems like a no-brainer — put the cameras where the crime is. But that’s not what happened at the Pomonok Houses in Queens, a Daily News examination found. Read more: New York Daily News

Friends to have fundraiser for Army Guardsman in police shooting

The friends of the Army National Guardsman who was shot and killed by a detective during a traffic stop in Queens, will raise money to help his family pay for his funeral Sunday. Read more: Fox New York

Students turned away from SATs because of ID confusion

Taking the SAT is a rite of passage for many high schoolers but some Queens students were mistakenly turned away because of confusion over their IDs. Read more: NY1

MetroCards go on sale with ads on both sides

It sputtered out of the subway vending machine, an oddity that deserved careful examination. Some riders asked a station agent how to swipe it. One woman was confused about whether it was even a MetroCard at all. Read more: New York Times

Yankees win ALDS playoff opener over Orioles 7-2

CC Sabathia, Russell Martin and the New York Yankees crashed a party that was 15 years in the making. Read more: Wall Street Journal

Obama ribs his own debating; Romney eyes speech

On a last dash for cash in the celebrity scene of California, President Barack Obama on Sunday took a good-natured shot as his own underwhelming debate performance, marveling at how his friends in the entertainment business could turn in flawless showings every time. Read more: AP