The citywide affordable housing crisis has spawned a secondary predicament within the bounds of the Pomonok housing complex in Flushing, as well as every New York City Housing Authority-operated facility in the city.
Standing outside the Pomonok Senior Center, Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) criticized NYCHA’s process of freeing up underoccupied apartments by relocating those already living there.
Lancman claimed many residents being forced to move are seniors and that NYCHA has dehumanized those who have spent decades in their residences.
“We’re here today to talk about what is really a cruel and inhumane policy of NYCHA of downsizing seniors and the elderly from apartments they’ve lived in for decades,” Lancman said. “We’re here to demand that they stop; that they treat their longtime residents like valuable citizens … rather than pieces of furniture you can move around from one place to another.”
According to Carolyn Jasper, the director of NYCHA’s lease enforcement department, who spoke to concerned Pomonok residents last month, the goal of the downsizing process is to properly occupy apartments.
This would allow for families looking for housing to occupy larger apartments while those living in units with one or more extra bedrooms would be relocated to another residence in the same complex or a different NYCHA-operated building in the city, depending on availability.
Stavisky says many of those living in large apartments are seniors whose children moved out years earlier, leaving their old bedrooms empty.
In addition to calling for a moratorium on the downsizing process, she also criticized the agency for hypocrisy.
Stavisky cited Jasper’s speech to Pomonok residents in April in which she said the policy did not specifically target seniors and that NYCHA was not looking to “put tenants out,” as proof.
“I’ve never heard such double talk from NYCHA. This, to me, is elder abuse,” Stavisky said. “Here, they’re ignoring the veterans and ignoring seniors with a heavy-handed approach, and that has to change.”
According to NYCHA General Manager Cecil House, who testified to a City Council panel about the downsizing process last month, 71,219 housing authority residences, about 40 percent, are not correct for the family composition occupying them.
Just over 15,000 apartments are overcrowded, House said.
Legislation sponsored by Simanowitz that would bar NYCHA from downsizing any resident older than 61 or a tenant who has lived in an apartment for 20 years was introduced last January, but has yet to come up for a vote.
Simanowitz said the bill is in front of the housing committee in the Assembly and he is unsure of whether it will pass, if it ever comes up for a vote.