Seniors, Electeds & Community Stand Up Against Deplorable Conditions at Prospect Park Residence

Seniors, Electeds & Community Stand Up Against Deplorable Conditions at Prospect Park Residence

BROOKLYN, NY -- Senior citizens, their families, elected officials and outraged community members gathered in front of the Prospect Park Residence on Saturday morning to protest unlivable conditions designed to drive the elderly residents from their homes.

Protesters including NYC Council Member Brad Lander, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, and NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer decried the owner’s cruelty, as well as the inaction of Governor Cuomo and the NYS Department of Health, accusing the State of failing to protect the health and safety of residents in the building, as required by law.

Problems at Prospect Park Residence (an assisted living facility located at 1 Prospect Park West, on Grand Army Plaza) first began in March when the building’s owners Haysha Deitsch, moved to evict over 130 seniors living in the building with only a 90 day notice, including a Holocaust survivor, a Tuskegee airman, a floor of individals with dementia, and many individuals over 100 years old. Deitsch has admitted that he purchased the building in 2006 with the secret plan to evict the seniors and convert to market-rate housing when the building’s tax break expired in 2013. The NYS Department of Health (DOH), which oversees the building, granted Deitsch’s closure application with no notice to residents or their families, even encouraging Deitsch to keep the application secret from them.

Seniors at the residence, with the help of the Legal Aid Society, MFY Legal Services and pro-bono representation from Fitzpatrick, Cella have entered a court battle with the owner. The legal team representing the seniors has won multiple motions in court, winning a stay on evictions from Judge Wayne Saitta. The judge also ordered Deitsch to maintain services and conditions in the building while the case is in court.

Judge Saitta also ordered the NYS Department of Health to insure that services and living conditions were maintained in the building, in order to protect the health and safety of the residents. However, Governor Cuomo and DOH have failed to intervene to protect Prospect Park Residence’s vulnerable senior citizens. Neither the Governor nor DOH have made a single public statement in support of the seniors. On most motions in court, they have sided with Deitsch rather than the seniors they are entrusted to protect. While DOH inspectors have repeatedly visited the building, they have failed to correct the deplorable conditions or Deitsch’s wanton disregard for the court orders.

Meanwhile Deitsch, who hopes to convert the building to luxury condominiums, has deliberately worsened building conditions and forced many of the seniors out. Recent actions taken by building management include downgrading security, firing all cleaning staff, and dimming the lights in hallways so they remain dark and dangerous spaces for the elderly. Conditions have grown dramatically worse in the past week.

“I am appalled that the Governor and the NYS Department of Health have failed to protect our seniors from exploitation and abuse,” said Council Member Brad Lander who represents the area where the facility is located. “We have long known that the owner of Prospect Park Residence is morally bankrupt, and values his own profit over the health and safety of these frail elderly residents. Governor Cuomo and the state Department of Health are required – by law, by court order, and by simple human decency – to take action to protect them.”

Seniors and their family members gave firsthand descriptions of the conditions at Prospect Park Residence to rally attendees. Anniemarie Mogil, a 92-year-old resident of the building, spoke of her love for the neighborhood, and of how badly conditions have declined in recent days. Healthy food is no longer served, not even yogurt. Last week, she was served rotten blueberries when she asked for fruit. Instead, in recent days it has been breaded fish sticks, like you serve a child. The hallways are dark. The staff have been laid off, so the cleaning and laundry are not getting done. 

“Everyone agrees that what has happened at Prospect Park Residence is immoral. I don't understand why anyone can believe it is legal,” said Joyce Singer, daughter of Alice Singer, one of the seniors who lives in the building. “The Department of Health should be responsible for protecting our elderly loved ones. My mother is being evicted because of evil and greed.”

Public Advocate Letitia James recalled the brief time her own mother had lived in the building, and the need we all have to live in dignity. She denounced the morally bankrupt landlord, and called on the New York State Department of Health to take immediate action.    

Comptroller Scott Stringer promised to work with the community to "turn up the heat" on the "bully on the block." "We know how to stand up to bullies," he declared.

“No person or entity should be allowed to treat these elderly and vulnerable residents in such an appalling manner while they await their day in court,” said Judith Goldiner and Aurore DeClarlo of the Legal Aid Society. “We are committed to fighting for the health, comfort and well-being of these residents without forfeiting their right to be duly heard."

"Despite the court's orders, Prospect Park Residence is still trying to force these residenct out of their homes," said Kevin M. Cremin of MFY Legal Services. "It's time for the Department of Health to act to protect the health and safety of these vulnerable seniors."

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