Notice was given in a meeting on March 5 to 120 residents that they had to move out by June. On May 2, the residents filed a lawsuit, claiming that services had diminished in the home and that the owners were not providing the proper assistance in finding the elderly residents alternative housing options.
The plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order (TRO). Both will allow for the residents to live at Prospect Park Residence until other accommodations are made, and will require services for the residents to continue as they were before the surprise eviction notice was given.
Among the complaints of the residents are that cleaning services have diminished — one daughter of a resident said her mother’s apartment was “dirty as can be” — and food quality has decreased.
There have been issues with hot water, staff members have been fired, aides of the elderly have been threatened to leave and a night nurse is no longer available on the premises.
One of the biggest complaints, however, is that proper assistance has not been given in finding the seniors a new place to live. While some presentations have been given from other homes — including some as far away as New Jersey — no individual assessments have been made to figure out what would best serve each resident.
In defense, lawyers representing Prospect Park Residence pointed out that of the 120 people living in the building when the announcement was made, 90 have relocated.
But Joyce Singer, whose 90-year-old mother Alice Singer is a resident, said that those 90 people did not move happily or because they had found appropriate housing.
“The truth of the matter is that people left in fear,” Singer said. “It’s not that people were granted wonderful places to stay, they weren’t. They were just terrified that they were going to be thrown out and there were going to be no places to go.”
For her mother, Singer said the eviction notice was devastating.
“My mother cried and cried,” Singer said. “She didn’t sleep for nights. She said, ‘This is what happens when you live too long.’”
Of all of the complaints made by the plaintiffs, the only one that the defendant agreed was true was the staffing of a night nurse. A lawyer representing Haysha Deitsch, the landlord, confirmed in court on June 13 that a night nurse was on call if needed, but was no longer present in the building.
Besides the one admission, the defendant’s lawyer claimed that services had remained the same, and that the complaints from the residents were unfounded.
“What you have here is a situation where the plaintiffs are happy where they are and don’t want to move,” he said. “And they’re trying to put up roadblocks, they want to stay there as long as possible. They brought this action for no other purpose.”
The state Department of Health (DOH), which is also a defendant in the case, agreed that services have remained the same. A representative from DOH said that visits have been made twice a week to check that the residents were still receiving proper care.
Residents’ family members disagree, saying that DOH has failed to discuss issues with residents themselves and have only talked to the home’s directors.
For Sandy Reiburn, whose 93-year-old mother Trina Kruger used to live in the home but now lives with Reiburn in Fort Greene, the issue comes down to justice for the seniors.
“It’s about the injustice of real estate developers who are using the absence of oversight, real oversight,” Reiburn said. “The fact that the Department of Health has made cursory visits twice a week is nonsense. If they make a visit to the owners, what are they going to know? Did they speak to any of the residents? Never happened. This is a sham.
“These are the most evil people,” she said of the landlord and DOH. “It’s beyond belief.”
Councilman Brad Lander has been fighting on behalf of the seniors since they were told about the eviction.
“We stand with these residents and their families against this immoral act,” Lander said. “An enormous human toll has already been taken as a result of the pending closure. I am proud to be part of the legal action to reverse the closure decision, and to ensure that the owner and NYS Department of Health live up to their obligations to the full measure of the law.”
For now, Justice Wayne Saitta of Kings County Supreme Court has ordered that the residents continue to receive services until a decision has been made in court regarding the preliminary injunction. Saitta is hearing the case this week, from June 17 through the 20, and then picking back up in July if necessary.