Months after a new parking system was sprung on them, residents at Pomonok Houses in Flushing remain unwitting participants in a game of dodgeball.
According to some tenants, both the New York City Housing Authority and Greystone Management Services, the private company NYCHA hired to run the complex’s parking lots, have been unresponsive to their complaints.
Under the new plan, NYCHA converted the parking lots at the housing development from unreserved lots to reserved lots, and, in conjunction with Greystone, was to issue parking permits for NYCHA residents and employees. The agency indicated it would enforce new rules that include ticketing by police and towing unauthorized vehicles.
With the reserved parking, spaces were to be assigned to specific renters. Fees for seniors and the handicapped were increased from $60 per year to $272 per year; regular spaces went from $75 to $340 per year; and rates for nonresidents rose from $150 to $650 per year.
“People paid their money and have not received their parking permits. They’re still waiting,” said Sharon Early, the grievance officer on Pomonok’s Residents Association board.
According to the board’s recording/corresponding secretary Audrey Drayton, “The majority of the people did not get their permits.”
Drayton said the permits were supposed to go into effect on May 13 and be good for one year. Now, she asks, will they still be valid from that date or beginning on the date they are actually received?
Cars that are parked in the lots without valid permits are likely to be towed, the board’s officers said. As a result, residents have all but abandoned the lots and are forced to forage for hard-to-find spots on the street.
Surveying the nearly empty lot nearby, Early said, “It’s just crazy here. People paid all that money. It looks like the desert.”
Drayton agreed, adding, “It’s unsettling. It’s desolate. It’s like a bait-and-switch. You got nothing.”
An email to Greystone seeking comment for the Chronicle was met with an automated reply that said, in part, “We do not set policy or pricing and are not authorized to speak on the agency’s behalf.”
A prepared statement from NYCHA reads: “As of March 2013, the Greystone Co. in partnership with NYCHA’s Parking Administration is now administering and issuing parking permits for NYCHA residents and employees and will play an active role as it relates to the enforcement of unauthorized use of NYCHA parking lots. Although NYCHA has two types of parking facilities, reserved and unreserved, it will continue to convert all parking lots until all NYCHA parking has reserved spaces. These changes to the Resident Parking Program will help ensure cleaner and safer parking lots for all residents, and use of the parking spaces by those with valid permits.”
“People are just frustrated,” Drayton said. “I’ve told residents to e-mail Greystone and Housing.” She said 23 pages of e-mails had been sent from the board to Greystone.
“We’ve had residents who have gone down there to try to get their sticker,” she added.
According to Early, residents were told they’d get it in a week, but have heard nothing. Another issue is the apparent random assigning of the spots.
“It was a total nightmare,” said resident Johanne Colon. “They habitually put everybody in the back. My brother is severely handicapped. They gave him a spot all the way back there. It’s dangerous for him, especially in the rain and snow.”
After months of haggling, she said her brother’s spot was relocated, but not to the one they wanted. “I was told the one I requested was taken. I know for a fact it was not,” she said.
Further complications arose when Colon’s brother’s car was towed, even though it had a permit and was in its assigned spot. “I had to pay to get the car back. I went down, but according to their records, the car wasn’t there. It took three hours to locate the car,” she said.
Responding to Colon’s story, Drayton said, “This is a game for them,” while Early added, “We are trying to come up with a plan to see how we can fight harder.”
Several politicians have taken up the cause. Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) called the situation “frustrating,” and suggested that “the implementation of the program was not thought out well enough.
He believes the number of complaints has diminished but there is “still a steady stream. I am on the phone with NYCHA on a daily basis. Hopefully, they’re starting to get their act together. We’ll stay on top of it. Pomonok is a big footprint. Logistically, there are a lot of issues.”
Simanowitz indicated that while NYCHA has been “responsive,” there needs to be “more accountability on the part of Greystone.”
Former Assemblyman and current City Council candidate Rory Lancman said the City Council should hold hearings to get to the bottom of the situation, to find out why Greystone is not doing what it is supposed to do.
“Greystone is a private company, in the business of making money. How much of its own money will it put into customer service? As little as possible,” Lancman said.
He added that “NYCHA would like to avoid responsibility for the parking debacle. Ultimately, it’s NYCHA who has to be responsive to the tenants and to the taxpayers.”
Lancman suggested that the contract with Greystone shouldn’t be renewed and NYCHA has to manage better.
Of the whole situation, he said, “Like a lot of what NYCHA does, this was poorly conceived and executed.” He said he “didn’t see the need to outsource.
“It isn’t like NYCHA doesn’t have the staff” to oversee the parking situation itself.
“By outsourcing to Greystone, if a tenant has a problem, Greystone points the finger at NYCHA and NYCHA points the finger at Greystone. The tenants don’t know who to go to,” Lancman added.