NYCHA Downsizes 91-Year-Old WWII Vet

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

Elected officials gathered at Pomonok Houses to deliver a message on the New York City Housing Authority’s downsizing policy: enough is enough.

Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) and State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) rallied around Ralph Calinda, a 91-year-old World War II veteran who NYCHA is attempting to move out of his apartment. Despite having lived in Pomonok for more than 60 years, NYCHA is downsizing Calinda out of his apartment and asking him to move to a complex in another neighborhood.

Councilman Rory Lancman (center), State Sen. Toby Stavisky (left) and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz are protesting NYCHA’s forced downsizing of Ralph Calinda, a WWII vet at Pomonok Houses. Photo by  Joe Marvilli

Councilman Rory Lancman (center), State Sen. Toby Stavisky (left) and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz are protesting NYCHA’s forced downsizing of Ralph Calinda, a WWII vet at Pomonok Houses. Photo by Joe Marvilli

Downsizing is part of NYCHA’s rightsizing process to make sure that residents are living in an apartment that is not under-utilized or overcrowded. These rooms qualify as under-utilized if there are more bedrooms than the residents of that apartment requires.

The only way to opt out of moving elsewhere for a downsizing is if the move itself puts the resident in a life-or-death situation. Any other types of inconveniences or hardships are not acceptable excuses for NYCHA, according to Lancman.

“We’re here to demand that they stop, that they treat their longtime residents like valuable citizens and families of the communities they live in, rather than pieces of furniture they can move around,” he said.

A few weeks ago, Lancman called out NYCHA during a City Council hearing, addressing his concerns to the agency’s general manager, Cecil House. The councilman said that NYCHA acknowledged that the system was flawed and seemed to put a moratorium on involuntary downsizes until the policy was reviewed.

“Cecil House said, ‘We should not be taking enforcement action or inconveniencing residents until we get this policy appropriately in place.’ We thought that was good news, that NYCHA was taking a time out,” Lancman stated, finding out about Calinda’s case in the subsequent weeks.

Calinda was given three options for his move; Queensbridge, Ravenswood and Far Rockaway. The closest out of this three, Ravenswood, is still nine miles away from Pomonok. Simanowitz argued that by moving Calinda, you take away his entire support system.

“We have a constituent who actually asked for a downsize. They’ve been waiting three years. Where is the common sense? Why are they threatening seniors?” he asked. “I have a question for NYCHA. Are they going to come and pack up 50-plus years of Ralph Calinda’s life and move it to another apartment?”

Stavisky attended NYCHA’s meeting with the seniors of Pomonok a few weeks ago, where the agency laid out their downsizing policy. She labeled the conversation as “double talk” from NYCHA.

“To me, in every society, we respect our senior citizens. We respect, especially, our veterans. This, to me, is elder abuse,” she added. “NYCHA is a prime example of what not to do.”

Monica Corbett, president of the Pomonok Residents Association, was also upset that longtime seniors who have become part of the community are being forced to leave.

“Our seniors are the fabric of where we live. We don’t want them to keep moving. They invested so much into Pomonok. It’s not fair,” she said. “We don’t want to interrupt their lives. Let them live out their golden years.”

When asked to comment, NYCHA’s dept. of communications sent a statement on its policy.

“Rightsizing helps us fulfill our mission to provide safe, decent, affordable housing to as many people as possible,” the statement read. “The New York City Housing Authority will continue to work with our stakeholders, including residents, elected officials and advocates, to ensure that this policy is sensitive and fair.”

Calinda himself was on hand, speaking about how he wanted to stay in his current home.

“I’ve been here over 60 years. I’ve been very good to Pomonok. I think it’s terrible that I have to move,” he said.

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, jmarvilli@queenstribune.com, or @Joey788.