NYCHA chair surveys ‘chronic issues’ at long-neglected Pomonok Houses, promises to present action plan

Photos courtesy of Assemblymember Rosenthal’s office

The chair of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) visited the Pomonok Houses on Monday with local officials to survey a “litany of challenges” that affect residents’ quality of life.

NYCHA Chair Gregory Russ joined Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal, Pomonok Residents Association President Tamika Williams and representatives from the offices of Congresswoman Grace Meng, Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Councilman Rory Lancman for a tour of the facilities. The officials raised several chronic issues residents face including security concerns, unsanitary conditions and NYCHA’s failure to address residents’ work order requests.

“The living conditions faced by my constituents at Pomonok are absolutely unacceptable,” said Rosenthal. “I would like to thank new NYCHA Chair Gregory Russ for an honest, but frank conversation that was necessary in order to look forward, collectively, and work together to improve the lives of residents.”

Built in 1952, Pomonok Houses is a 35-building, 4,200 resident development and boasts the “largest concentration of individual buildings in all of Queens County.” Once considered NYCHA’s  “crown jewel”, Pomonok Houses was the center for a “record number of complaints” in 2019 according to Rosenthal’s office.

A major focus of Russ’ visit was the subsequent problems following a simultaneous breakdown of over half the development’s trash compactors. The officials highlighted the fact that this issue exacerbated health and sanitary concerns for residents.

Officials also addressed safety concerns, namely, the defective intercoms, “inoperable locks” to entryways and dozens of extinguished exterior lights.

“Productive politics encompass open and honest dialogue followed by accountability, and that was our achievement today,” said Williams. “Pomonok constituents are happy to have Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal, NYCHA Chair Russ, and all of our elected officials at the table. Together we can restore Pomonok Houses to its original state as ‘the jewel’ it once was.”

In addition to those complaints, officials had worked to get lead paint tested and removed from Pomonok Houses, which according to NYCHA data, has the “highest number of children under 6 in Queens.” In 2019, Meng urged NYCHA to expedite lead testing at the development, which was part of Mayor de Blasio’s LeadFreeNYC campaign.

Officials were reportedly “hopeful for change” at the end of the walkthrough and NYCHA scheduled a return visit “within eight weeks” to present an action plan for the development and its residents.

“I would like to thank my colleague Assemblyman Rosenthal for arranging this walkthrough at the Pomonok Houses with the new NYCHA Chairman Gregory Russ,” said Stavisky. “Over the past year my office has been inundated with complaints from constituents about the deteriorating conditions at Pomonok that were being completely ignored by local management at Pomonok. I am delighted to hear that leadership changes were made. I appreciated Chairman Russ’ candor about the challenges facing the facility but also his willingness for a fresh start and an effort to increase capital improvements at Pomonok.”