If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.
Residents of Pomonok Houses in Flushing, for years considered the crown jewel of public housing, are about to see some long-awaited improvements but, according to the president of the Pomonok Residents Association, a lot more needs to happen.
Monica Corbett said a major move toward improving the 35-building complex, bordered by 65th and 71st Avenues and Parsons and Kissena Boulevards, is about to get underway through a $100 million Bond B grant. Work trailers are already in place and scaffolding is starting to go up.
Corbett said the project is expected to take three years to complete and will tackle the buildings’ crumbling exterior facades, among other issues.
“We have 62-year-old brick and mortar that’s falling apart,” she said.
Also planned are new roofing and windows throughout, and replacement of a nearby water tower, which, Corbett said, will mean a better water supply and improved water pressure.
Best of all, she said, “residents are going to be employed. Employment is the key.”
Under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development law, she said, the contractors must hire between 40 and 50 residents from the development to work on the project.
Once the work is completed and the trailers are removed, the space on which they sit, a dilapidated basketball court, will be completely rehabilitated, Corbett said.
In other positive news, a faulty gas line that left tenants in four of the complex’s buildings without cooking gas for weeks has been repaired, according to Corbett.
Buildings 10 through 13 were without gas beginning in late March, affecting a total of 279 apartments, she said.
But within six weeks, things were up and running. And, while work to install new gas piping was underway, any asbestos that was found was removed, Corbett said.
But not all is as it should be, she added.
An ongoing issue at Pomonok involves a security system for which the residents have been fighting for years.
According to Corbett, “We have the layout and everything” in place for the long-planned installation of cameras, but “we have not seen contracts yet.”
She admitted that “crime still happens, but people feel secure with cameras.”
Especially needed, she said, are cameras on the interiors of the buildings, including stairwells and elevators, as well as improved lighting.
As far back as 2011, a combined $700,000 had been promised between state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and retired assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn, money which Corbett said has been received.
In addition, she said, former Council member James Gennaro promised a contribution of $750,000, which was ultimately allocated to the NYPD and spent on security for the entire district.
This left enough funds to provide Pomonok with two NYPD cameras on the outskirts of the development, Corbett said. The cameras have yet to be installed, she said.
“We don’t have enough money (to improve security) for every building,” she said.
Corbett said the complex also suffers from a lack of staff, indicating that there is “a total of four people who work the grounds. We have 52 acres.” Eyeing the overgrown vegetation, some of which has begun invading residents’ living space, she said, “It’s horrible.”
She indicated one case in which mice have been known to climb up the window-high bushes and walk right into the tenant’s living room. Parking continues to be a problem.
“We’re not being serviced,” she said.
In addition, “recycling isn’t happening. That’s a city mandate,” she said. And the drainage system results in stagnated water gathering in catch basins. During heavy rain falls, she said, Kissena is a stream.
“You cannot cross the street,” she said. “Pomonok is a swamp area when it rains. This is horrible.”
Pomonok is not the only site operated by the New York City Housing Authority to have been neglected for years.
In 2012 after the Daily News ran a series of articles detailing a seemingly dysfunctional agency under former NYCHA Chairman John Rhea had been sitting on more than $45 million dedicated for security cameras at high-crime housing projects; holding onto about $1 billion in federal housing money earmarked for upkeep and repairs; and allowing the accumulation of about 420,000 backlogged repair requests throughout the city.
Mayor de Blasio appointed Shola Olatoye as Rhea’s replacement in February.
Another issue that has been receiving attention at Pomonok, according to Corbett, is the case of nonagenarian resident Ralph Calinda.
She said he has been fighting to keep his apartment despite NYCHA regulations that would require him to downsize and possibly move to another part of the city.
“He’s been here since they put in the first brick — 62 years,” Corbett said. “He raised his kids here.” To the community, she said, “He’s pop.”
But he received a letter from the New York City Housing Authority, Corbett said, informing him he would have to move because his apartment, in which he lives alone since his seven children moved out and his wife passed away, is now considered underoccupied.
Corbett said she still turns to Calinda, a former board member, for guidance. She said he is currently hospitalized but is planning to continue his fight to remain in the home that has been his for over six decades.