While it was reported last week that St. Nicks Alliance offered nearly $6 million to save the building at 211 Anslie St., Williamsburg developer Harry Einhorn successfully purchased the nearly 40-year-old community center for just $4.5 million and hiked the rent on the Conselyea St. Block Association, which currently operates the senior center.
“To me that spells that something is wrong,” said Michael Liantonio, who has been the president of the Swingin' Sixties Center advisory board for the last five years.
With the programming threatened by the acquisition, Liantonio said he prays the new owner will have some heart and continue to let the nearly 200 seniors and 90 children continue to use space in the building.
Frank Lang with St. Nicks Alliance said the new owner is now asking for $40,000 per month, or a 20 percent increase in rent.
“We’re trying to find how we can convince this owner to do the right thing and make a reasonable return and maintain this building as a community facility for the daycare and the seniors,” Lang said.
Jan Peterson, a member of Community Board 1, joined local elected officials along with nearly 100 community members and seniors, as well as parents and children from the center to rally support to save the programming.
“We are being threatened by a new landlord who is wanting to lock the door and maybe throw us out or maybe build a high-rise condo,” Peterson told the concerned crowd.
Councilman-elect Antonio Reynoso touted his “good relationship” with newly elected mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council speaker frontrunner Melissa Mark-Viverito, and assured that he would do all he can to fight for the seniors and children who use the building.
“Moving forward, we might have to get a little more aggressive as to what our plan is to keep this center here,” Reynoso said. “Ultimately, this building needs to be purchased by this community.”
Although Assemblyman Joseph Lentol acknowledged the landlord had the right to sell the building, he and a number of local elected officials wrote a letter requesting a meeting to reconsider the deal.
“I don’t know that we’ll get an answer to that letter,” Lentol said. “We have to make it difficult to want to sell the building to anybody but us.”
Lentol added that he plans to look into why the St. Nicks Alliance was undercut on the sale.
“There has got to be something shady about that,” he said. “There has to be some legal way that we can prevent this type of sale from going forward.”