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NYCHA seeks to evict seniors from Pomonok

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (l.), who once sat on the Committee on Aging, stands with Sen. Toby Stavisky to protest how the New York City Housing Authority went about forcing seniors to move out of their Pomonok Houses apartments. Photo by Joe Anuta
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Lawmakers blasted the city Monday for its policy of forcing residents as old as 90 out of their longtime homes in Pomonok Houses to make space for larger families.

In the middle of last month, the New York City Housing Authority sent out letters to some residents of the complex, at 67-10 Parsons Blvd., informing them that they had to leave their homes. If they did not request a smaller apartment by Dec. 5, they would risk being moved anywhere in the borough.

Lila Poris has lived in the same apartment for 51 years. She and her husband raised two children in the two-bedroom unit, but the younger generation moved out long ago to start families of their own and her husband died about five years ago.

“My whole life is tied up here,” said the 84-year-old woman, who just had a hip replacement and now lives alone in an apartment that used to house a family of four. “It’s criminal.”

In mid-November she — along with what politicians estimate is 200 others in the complex — received the letter from NYCHA explaining that her apartment was underused and she was required under her lease to move to a smaller unit so another family could occupy her unit.

A subsequent letter said much of the same thing, but ended with a bold-face sentence: “If you do not submit the completed Tenant Request for Transfer indicating your transfer choice within the next ten days, you will be placed on a waiting list for the first appropriate size apartment that becomes available in your borough; you will not have any choice.”

NYCHA said that there is already 161,000 people on a waiting list for public housing. About 50,000 people live in apartments that are bigger than they need, NYCHA said.

“It is critical that NYCHA utilize this scarce public resource as it was intended — to assist the greatest number of families eligible for affordable and subsidized housing,” NYCHA said in a statement.

State Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Electchester) called the letter “threatening” and likened it to an eviction.

He advised residents who did not want to move not to fill out the form and pledged his support should NYCHA take any of the residents to court.

“I have no problem asking people who live in underutilized apartments to move to smaller units,” he said. “But when a person is in their 80s or 90s and has a lifetime of memories in that apartment, to tell them that they must move is cruel.”

Simanowitz instead called on the city to provide more incentives for tenants to move to smaller units — and to do it sooner.

NYCHA has known for decades that the apartments were underused since they survey residents each year about family size, but have only decided to force out Pomonok tenants now and many are in their twilight years, he said.

Many of the seniors have no family left and rely on neighbors for support. One woman in her 80s said that if it were not for her longtime friends, “you could drop dead and nobody would know the difference.”

Many of the residents live on a fixed income and the $350 incentive the city provided to move is not nearly enough to cover the costs, according to Simanowitz.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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