As if facing a lack of cooking gas after a leak was discovered last month wasn’t enough for numerous residents at the Pomonok Houses in Flushing, those living in underoccupied apartments there may soon be forced to move.
The 35-building complex at 67-10 Parsons Blvd. that houses over 4,000 people contains a number of apartments that have more bedrooms than residents. That is something the New York City Housing Authority wants to remedy by relocating those occupants to other NYCHA-operated housing complexes in Queens.
There’s only one problem. Those living in underoccupied apartments have no plans on moving anytime soon.
At a NYCHA-led meeting on Monday at Pomonok to explain the authority’s program of making the most of apartment occupancy in the complex, 74-year-old Beverly Riley made her voice heard.
“We’re talking about isolating seniors in a time in their life when they need their community and their neighbors that know them,” Riley yelled to a round of applause. “It is cruel and inhumane treatment. If this was happening to us as a result of a fire or storm, we would be on TV with people making donations for us because our lives have been turned upside down.”
Riley, a resident of Pomonok for 52 years, was responding to NYCHA’s attempt to slowly push out the dozens of Pomonok residents who live in apartments that are either underoccupied, meaning there is one extra bedroom, or extremely underoccupied, defined as units that have two or more extra bedrooms, in an effort to properly fill them.
Carolyn Jasper, the director of NYCHA’s lease enforcement department, attempted to quell the worries of the dozens of nervous seniors in attendance by telling them the housing authority is not attempting to immediately evict those affected.
“At no point is NYCHA looking to put tenants out,” she said. “This is not a policy that targets seniors.”
Letters notifying residents of their underoccupied apartment status began going out early this year.
According to Jasper, NYCHA will help facilitate those residents who move by providing them with $350 towards moving expenses, not charging them with a security deposit on their new apartment and by allowing the tenant to move to another location in Pomonok or placing them in another NYCHA development in Queens.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) spoke briefly on behalf of the seniors at the meeting and admitted her frustration with NYCHA only giving out a few hundred dollars for moving expenses instead of covering the entire cost.
“Nobody wants to be forced to do something that disrupts their lives,” Stavisky said. “The real problem is they’re only getting $350 to move. That’s not enough.”
After two residents cursed the process and stormed out in anger, Jasper described medical exceptions that may allow a resident to stay, but Riley continued to hammer Jasper on her possible future eviction.
“I got assigned to a building at 84-16 Rockaway Beach Blvd. in Rockaway,” she said. “I’ve been made a target in a high-crime area. I won’t go.”
Jasper says no one has been evicted yet.