Over the last 61 years, Ralph Calinda raised his seven children in a three-bedroom apartment at the Pomonok housing complex.
On Friday, the 91-year-old World War II veteran, known around his building as “Pop,” appeared fearful as he described how the New York City Housing Authority is attempting to downsize him from his apartment at a Friday press conference at the Pomonok Senior Center.
“I think it’s terrible,” Calinda said. “I have to move away from all my friends.”
NYCHA’s plan to relocate residents living in underutilized apartments to allow larger families to move in has left the housing status of many seniors in flux.
Calinda is no different.
One of the more respected area residents, the diabetic who walks with a cane has received multiple letters from NYCHA, demanding that he relocate.
“I should have got downsized at least 25 to 30 years ago,” he said. “My wife has been gone for five years, I’m by myself. I shouldn’t be downsized now.”
A grandfather of 22, Calinda lives alone. His wife, Peggy, died five years ago, decades after their last child moved out. During his time in the workforce, he helped build fighter jets for the Air Force and worked with NASA to build the space shuttles.
Even at 91, he still tends to the Pomonok grounds, serving as a gardener.
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), among other elected officials, has criticized the policy at the press conference, saying it unfairly targets seniors who have lived in their apartments for decades.
To allow for a larger family to move in, Calinda has been told in the mailings there are apartments waiting for him in the Ravenswood and Queensbridge housing projects in Long Island City, as well as a unit across the Pomonok complex.
Mike Jenkins, Calinda’s grandson who was raised in that same apartment, said the building within the complex his grandfather was asked to move to was the scene of a recent shootout, and bullet holes riddle the unit’s front door.
“He raised two generations in the same apartment,” Jenkins said. “He should be the last one [to be downsized.]”
If Calinda is eventually forced out of his apartment, Jenkins said he won’t have to worry about moving to an unfamiliar environment across the borough.
“I’ve said ‘Come live with me.’ If it gets real ugly, I’m not going to take no for an answer,” he said. “I’m just going to pick him up, put him in the car and never look back.”