Flushing’s Pomonok Housing was once considered the crown jewel of the NYC Housing Authority, but some tarnish has accrued over decades of neglect, mismanagement and budget cuts, according to tenants.
Monica Corbett, president of the Pomonok Residents Association, guided elected officials through the development last Thursday to show them the unkempt grounds, flooded parking lot, broken doors and overall lack of maintenance.
Corbett said the development was once a nice place to come home to, but at this point NYCHA is demanding more money from residents for very few services. She called on the agency to work with the residents to make Pomonok a better place to live.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) and City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) observed the conditions and spoke about the root causes and the need for NYCHA to address the issues.
“This is an ongoing problem,” Stavisky said. “The Dumpsters are overflowing; there’s debris on the street; we have a little lake over there in the parking lot. I’m sorry for the person whose car is partially underwater, but this shows the lack of personnel here at Pomonok to take care of these situations.”
The submerged parking space in “Lake Pomonok” costs the tenant approximately $600 for the year.
Stavisky said there are only 12 caretakers for the entire complex, down from 45 about 10 years ago. NYCHA says there are 25. There used to be seasonal summer and winter workers, but they’re gone.
Pomonok consists of 52 acres with 14 buildings and 2,171 apartments.
“If you only have a handful of people trying to maintain a property, it’s not going to get maintained,” Simanowitz said.
Rents range from $400 to $1,600, according to Corbett, and are determined by the number of occupants and their income.
She said that when people call to complain about knee-high grass, NYCHA tells them they cut grass every day, but Corbett says that is not true at Pomonok. She showed playgrounds where leaves from last fall still lie in the gutters and a tree limb that fell during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 remains.
Simanowitz added that the grounds are only part of the problem: inside the buildings, the lack of maintenance is more apparent.
“It’s not unheard of for my office to get calls about puddles of urine in the elevators,” Simanowitz said. “Now there are two parts to that. Number one, I would hope that the residents would care for their own buildings and not use their elevators as a bathroom, but even somebody who’s inconsiderate enough to do that, the rest of the residents shouldn’t have to wait days or weeks even before maintenance comes by with a mop to clean up.”
Corbett showed a mailbox, where several of the doors are broken and the mail is not secure, adding that there is no security at Pomonok. While Stavisky’s office allocated $700,000 for cameras, NYCHA estimates that putting them throughout the complex will require $14 million.
Corbett said that because there is no security, drug addicts regularly pop the locks to the trash compactor rooms to the point where some of them do not lock anymore. In some places, the buzzers do not work, so doors are propped open.
Though security is a major concern, Corbett said the complex is relatively safe, as it is situated in a middle-class community bounded by the LIE, Queens College and the Electchester complex. The last shooting was more than four years ago, drug busts occur occasionally and most crime is domestic.
Corbett said that when the compactors break, NYCHA is slow to fix them and merely puts garbage bags on door handles in the interim, which attract rodents. Some apartments are inundated with mold and mildew from leaky roofs and bathrooms without vents, while others have electrical issues.
While these issues are supposed to be addressed within 48 hours, NYCHA is often slow to deal with them, the president said.
Other complexes in other parts of the city have been completely revamped, but in three years Pomonok residents are supposed to get new windows for the first time in 35 years.
Corbett said that while NYCHA provides stoves and refrigerators, many of the appliances break and are replaced with “rehabbed” ones from other apartments, which often don’t work well either.
She guided the officials to a playground full of children playing on rusted and corroded structures, the newest of which was installed in 1989.
“I think the housing authority has to acknowledge the fact that they are shortchanging the residents of Pomonok in terms of maintenance and care for this property and they need to do a little better job taking care of the grounds so the people of Pomonok have a place that they can be proud to call home,” Corbett said.
Lancman attributed the issues to state and federal government cuts to NYCHA over the past few decades, coupled with its poor management.
One of the most pressing issues in the community is that NYCHA is trying to move some of the seniors with large apartments who have been there for decades into smaller ones, but many don’t want to leave.
Stavisky said she is fed up with the agency. “Nearly every day my office gets a call from a Pomonok resident who is upset and frustrated by the deteriorating living conditions and NYCHA’s extremely slow responses. Enough is enough. The residents deserve a complex that is clean, well-maintained and safe and I call on NYCHA to deliver that.”
Both she and Simanowitz keep forwarding complaints to the agency. The tour was meant to draw attention to the issue and “hold NYCHA’s feet to the fire,” according to the senator.
NYCHA issued the following statement on the charges: “NYCHA is looking into the complaints and taking them seriously; staff on site ... is working hard to provide quality up-keep given resource constraints and the age and needs of the development.”