A rising sense of urgency over public safety among residents at the Pomonok Houses, the result of a recent spate of crime in and around the Flushing development, led to a town hall meeting on July 20, attended by nearly 100, including lawmakers and officials of the city Housing Authority and the NYPD.
In a highly publicized incident at the start of the Fourth of July weekend, a 39-year-old nursing assistant was shot to death and her teenage son wounded as they sat in a car parked outside the housing complex.
Earlier in the day, another shooting had taken place in the area and police believe the two incidents are related.
Residents have become unnerved by recent criminal activity at Pomonok, which for years had been viewed as the city’s crown jewel in public housing.
“When you send Housing a complaint, they do nothing. They let things escalate. That’s probably what’s going on with this shooting,” said Brenda Gurley, a resident since 1996.
Another longtime resident, who did not want to be identified, said, “It’s not safe to come out of your apartment, at night and in the daytime, too. I don’t know if they screen people anymore. They’re just after the rent.”
Her fiance, who does not live at Pomonok but is “very familiar” with the area, said, “These people here are fearing for their lives. People get beat down trying to get their mail.”
Rosa Miller, who has lived at Pomonok for seven years, knew Christina Coleman, the victim of the fatal shooting.
“We don’t see anything being done. They need to crack down on people selling drugs,” Miller said. “We sit on a bench outside and see dealers bringing drugs to people who want them.”
She added that she does not feel safe living there. “You have to keep turning your back. They need to do something to stop the violence,” Miller said. “If they don’t, there will be a lot more.”
The woman’s friend, who did not wish to be named, said, “This place used to be so nice and quiet. People wanted to move here. Now they want to get out.”
City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), who organized the meeting with members of Pomonok’s residents association, suggested that “the road to provide for a safer Pomonok is for residents to talk directly to those who run the development. The residents of the development need to be the eyes and ears.”
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), who allotted $250,000 in state funds toward the installation of security cameras at Pomonok in 2009, said that the more cameras, the better off residents will be. “It is a deterrent. We have got to reverse” the situation.
Stavisky promised that “better days are ahead.”
Recently retired Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing), whose office is in the Pomonok area, was not in attendance, but she has allocated half a million dollars for cameras.
Gennaro pledged to match the combined contributions of Stavisky and Mayersohn, or $750,000, from his next budget allocation toward the surveillance equipment, saying, “We’re happy to do cameras but it’s going to take more than that.”
Deputy Inspector Edward Britton, of the NYPD’s Housing Bureau Police Service Area 9, admitted the shootings earlier this month provided “one of the most difficult events I had to deal with. It was a terrible tragedy.”
He said arrests have been made of “the three main persons involved. Now we’re building a case to make sure they stay in,” Britton indicated. “No one knows better than you what’s going on. We need your help. You can give information anonymously.”
The officer added that he will do everything in his power so that Pomonok gets back to being the model of public housing.
Since the recent violence, several measures have been taken to protect the area. Extra officers have been placed on foot patrol, though Britton admitted that “we do the best we can” based on limited resources.
And, according to Carolyn Jasper of the Housing Authority, 10 work orders are in place to repair malfunctioning intercom systems throughout the complex.
Jasper also said that 21 cases are being heard regarding undesirable tenants in the development.
Migna Taveras, senior policy analyst for the Housing Authority, said that by the end of the year, people will start seeing work being done on security measures.
Jewel Bryant, a 22-year resident, who said her son had survived 22 stab wounds in an attack, declared, “As tenants, we have to take our neighborhood back.”
The most recent violence occured on July 2 when it is alleged by police that Marc Coleman shot two suspected drug dealers. Later that day, Coleman’s mother and her other son were shot in their car in what police think was a case of mistaken identity.
The NYPD later arrested the alleged gunmen, Lerome Robinson and Malik Wallace, who have been charged with second-degree murder.
Last week, police arrested Marc Coleman and 11 others on drug charges at the Pomonok Houses. He was also charged with attempted murder.
Liz Rhoades contributed to this story.