By Joe Anuta
A group gathered at Pomonok Houses last week to castigate the city for increasing annual parking fees by more than 400 percent weeks before the money is due.
Staff from state Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz’s (D-Electchester) office; former Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who is running for City Councilman James Gennaro’s (D-Fresh Meadows) seat; and Pomonok Residents Association President Monica Corbett took the city Housing Authority to task for more than quadrupling parking fees in the Queens housing project — along with 42 other lots around the city.
Annual senior and handicap parking rates will rise from $60 to $272, while resident rates will climb from $75 to $340 and non-resident rates from $150 to $650, according to Lancman, who added that the changes go into effect May 1 and must be paid in a lump sum.
“NYCHA’s massive parking fee hike is unfair enough, but springing it on residents with next to no notice and requiring payment in full upfront really adds insult to injury,” Lancman said. “NYCHA needs to focus on fixing its many shortcomings, from backlogged repairs to inadequate security, and not gouging residents.”
Lancman is currently running in a Democratic field against Isaac Sasson, a Flushing lottery-winner and former cancer researcher, and Briarwood Task Force founder Andrea Veras.
But NYCHA said the increase will simply bring lots like Pomonok’s into a different category called reserved parking, where each resident is assigned a number.
“As part of NYCHA’s plans to enhance customer service and cover rising expenses, [the authority] is in the process of upgrading non-reserved lots to reserved lots after they are painted, numbered and new signs have been installed,” NYCHA said in a statement. “Rates for residents in the converted developments will match those in existing reserved parking developments and NYCHA will enforce new rules that include ticketing by police and towing unauthorized vehicles.”
The changes, the authority contends, will make parking at housing developments cleaner and safer. They were first discussed in a December 2012 planning document.
But after hearing news of the impending rate spike, Simanowitz fired off a letter to NYCHA protesting the increase, and later said in a statement that the new rates will deter people from parking in the lot and instead drive residents to look for spots on the surrounding streets.
“This will force people to look for parking on the public streets outside of the development,” he said in a statement. “Parking is already at a premium in the community.”
That is because Pomonok is flanked by Electchester, another housing complex that houses 5,500 residents. In addition, Queens College across the street boasts a total undergraduate enrollment of more than 16,000 students, many of whom commute by car, according to Simanowitz.
“Raising the cost to park in public housing over 300 percent is a slap in the face to all,” Corbett said. “These fee increases hurt all residents, especially our seniors and fixed-income population. And why was the residents association not even consulted?”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.