A group of Rochdale Village residents said this week that the management of the Jamaica housing complex has banned their organization and aggressively blocked their efforts to put together a meeting to review the administration’s policies.
The Rochdale Village House Congress, which once acted as a liaison between the sprawling complex’s 22,000 residents and its elected board of directors, is no longer permitted to meet within the development, according to several members of the organization. House Congress members also accuse management of issuing violations to residents who are circulating a petition demanding an official meeting that would review the actions of the board of directors.
“They are silencing every voice here in Rochdale Village,” said J. Hall, a member of the Congress who did not want her first name used for fear of retribution from management.
Hall said her group is collecting signatures for a “stockholders meeting,” because House Congress members are concerned about management policies, including a 12 percent rent increase and a 12 percent fuel surcharge, both of which went into effect within the past year. The group is also unhappy with the board of directors’ decision to close its general meetings to the public.
“The business and finance meetings are held in secret,” said Brother Malik, a member of the House Congress. “We have no idea what is going on when the increases took place.”
Under the complex’s bylaws, the board must hold a stockholders meeting if 25 percent of the 5,820 people who own an apartment in Rochdale request it, according to Hall. The organization’s drive is about 350 signatures short of 2,000.
“This is not a small group of people who are concerned,” Malik said.
Hall said that Rochdale management has issued violations to several senior citizens who were collecting signatures, accusing them of solicitation and holding a public gathering. If a resident receives a certain number of violations, management can seek to have them evicted.
Marion Scott, the managing agent for Rochdale Village, did not return several calls for comment.
The petition drive is the latest tactic by a vocal group of Rochdale residents, who want to see changes made at the complex. They organized a series of protests before the adoption of the rent increase and the surcharge. Rodney Reid, a former member of the board, sued the board and Scott to force an internal audit of the complex’s finances. The case, filed in September 2005, is still pending.
The residents have also reached out to local politicians. Last year, the group enlisted the help of Councilman Thomas White Jr., a Rochdale resident, during his campaign. White supported the official re establishment of the House Congress in a letter dated June 27, 2005. White could not be reached for comment this week.
The House Congress continues to meet regularly at nearby P.S. 80. It started in the 1960s as a representational group for residents and the president of the organization was permitted to present a report at every meeting of the board of directors, according to Hall. But the relationship between the board and the House Congress became strained in the 1990s.
“We were a tenants association to take care of our own needs. Our only concern was (the tenants’) best interest,” she said.