Elected Officials & Families of Seniors Denounce NYS Department of Health for Abandoning 90-Year-Olds, Seeking to Force Their Eviction

Elected Officials & Families of Seniors Denounce NYS Department of Health for Abandoning 90-Year-Olds, Seeking to Force Their Eviction

NYS DOH Refusing to Advance Funds Needed for Safe Building Operation to Receiver Whose Appointment They Requested

BROOKYLN, N.Y. – Monday morning, Council Member Brad Lander, Public Advocate Letitia James, families of seniors living at Prospect Park Residence, and concerned community residents gathered outside the Brooklyn Supreme Court to denounce the failure of the NYS Health Department and Governor Cuomo to protect the elderly residents remaining in the building. For the past year, NYS DOH has failed to protect residents – despite repeated court orders – from the contemptuous management of owner Haysha Deitsch, who has consistently worsened building conditions (including downgrading security, firing all cleaning staff, and serving spoiled food) while attempting to force residents out, in order to sell the building for luxury housing.

After a year of neglect, NYS DOH finally requested the appointment of a receiver to operate the building earlier this spring. Judge Wayne Saitta appointed a receiver earlier this month. Now, however, the NYS DOH is refusing to advance the funds needed to insure safe building operation – despite the fact that they have done so in other cases, and could easily recoup any advances upon sale of the building. Instead, DOH is requesting that if Deitsch will not pay to care for the building and its residents, the seniors should be evicted and PPR should close – exactly what Deitsch has wanted all along.

Those in attendance called on the State to advance the funds necessary for the receiver to ensure the immediate well-being of the elderly residents, one of whom is a Holocaust survivor, and most of whom are in their 90s. This would allow the residents to remain, while their lawsuit challenging the legality of the closure is heard in court.

“Once again we are in court to try to get the DOH to meet any of its obligations toward my 92 year old mother. We cannot understand why Governor Cuomo's health department would take the side of a greedy operator over the needs of vulnerable elderly people" said Alice Singer, daughter of a resident at PPR.

“In March of 2014 the DOH approved the closure of Prospect Park Residence with only the most flimsy protections in place for the 130 residents who lived there, as a consequence of which a disproportionate number of whom suffered severely deleterious medical and emotional consequences. Upon Judge Saitta's decision to now appoint a receiver to oversee the building during its final transition from an assisted living facility and to institute crucial safety repairs, we ask that the DOH meet the moral obligation implicit in its role by providing the go-ahead and funding to enable such receiver to carry out the task to which it was assigned, said Deborah Pollack, daughter of PPR resident Lillian Guide.”

“From the beginning, the NYS Department of Health has failed to protect the elderly residents of PPR from the rapacious greed of building owner Haysha Deitsch,” said Council Member Brad Lander. ”They approved his closure plan in secret, allowed Deitsch to bring new residents in (and take big one-time upfront payments) even after they knew they were going to approve the plan, and have sided with Deitsch against the residents on motion-after-motion in court. Despite appeals to Governor Cuomo and the Health Commissioner, they consistently failed to prevent Deitsch from withholding services (even heat and hot water), providing inadequate food and lighting, and pressuring frail and vulnerable seniors into leaving their homes. Governor Cuomo and the Health Department must not abandon our elderly neighbors – instead, they must follow through on their own proposal, advance funds to the receiver to operate the building safely, recoup that funding when the building is sold, and allow the residents to have their day in court.”

“Every New Yorker deserves to live in a safe home, and our seniors, whose contributions have built our great city, deserve to live out their lives in dignity and respect,” said NYC Public Advocate Letitia James. “Unfortunately, the New Yorkers in the Prospect Park Residence have been subject to abuse, harassment, and unlivable conditions that no one should have to endure. I am calling on the state Department of Health do their job, and protect the residents of this building.” 

"The State Department of Health is abandoning seniors in their time of need and we will not stand for it!” said NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer.  “This is a travesty and a failure of government to provide basic needs for some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers. The Courts must intervene and put an end to this disgraceful charade and make the State hold Haysha Deitsch accountable for putting seniors' lives at risk."​

"After more than a year defending its heartless evictions of senior residents - many of them quite frail – Haysha Deitsch has refused to pay the receiver appointed by Justice Saitta to run the Prospect Park Residence. The court appointed a third party receiver so that the few remaining frail seniors would not be left to live out their final days in fear, hunger and squalor. That the landlord refuses to pay the receiver is not a surprise. But I am shocked that the State Health Commissioner is also refusing. I strongly urge Health Commissioner Zucker to do the right thing and implement the court's order,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.

“I am concerned about the news that the NYS Health Department is considering walking away from protecting the seniors still residing at Prospect Park Residence.  Judge Saitta’s order must be followed without delay and a receivership should be created as soon as possible to oversee the facility’s operations before they fall into complete disrepair. The landlord has once again failed to act in the interest of the residents.   Now, the Health Department needs to do the right thing by establishing and paying for the receivership until the issue is fully resolved. I will continue to work with my colleagues and concerned neighbors to make sure that the residents of Prospect Park are protected,” said Assemblymember Jim Brennan.

“The State of New York must live up to its obligations to very elderly residents of the Prospect Park Residence and ensure that a receiver takes over the operation of the facility from the venal operator of the residence.   Anything less is a complete abandonment of the state’s legal obligations to protect the health and safety of these most vulnerable residents,” said Aurore DeCarlo, Attorney in Charge, Brooklyn Office for the Aging.

“The DOH is tasked with protecting this vulnerable population. It specifically asked the Court to appoint a temporary receiver and now is backing away from that obligation because it does not want to follow its own rules and regulations to front the cost of the receiver to properly run the facility. It is unfortunate the DOH has apparently decided to take the side of the owner over these elderly individuals, ” said Jason Johnson, of Fitzpatrick,  Cella, Harper & Scinto.

Background on Today’s Rally:

  • Recent problems at Prospect Park Residence began in March 2014 when the building’s landlord Haysha Deitsch, moved to evict over 130 seniors living in the building with only 90-days notice, in order to sell the building for $76.5 million for conversion to luxury housing. The 130 residents included Holocaust survivors, a Tuskegee airman, many people with dementia, and several people over 100 years old.
  • The NYS Health Department approved Deitsch’s closure plan in secret, even allowing him to continue to move new elderly residents into the building promising them the opportunity to “age in place,” and taking large, upfront payments.
  • ·      Residents and families challenged the legality of the closure plan, charging that the NYS Health Department acted in error in approving Deitsch’s plan with insufficient planning for the safe relocation of residents. Judge Wayne Saitta agreed to hear their case and ordered that Deitsch and the Health Department keep the building open and operating safely during the court case.
  • Deitsch has deliberately worsened building conditions as part of his attempt to force the remaining seniors out – including downgrading security, firing all cleaning staff, and serving spoiled food.
  • The NYS Health Department has failed to protect the residents of PPR from Deitsch’s greed, neglect, and harassment, despite being required to do so by the law, and by repeated court order. They have sided with Deitsch on most motions in court, and consistently failed to prevent him from worsening conditions.
  • Only the consistent work of Judge Wayne Saitta, the residents’ great legal team, and some help from the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development have kept the heat and lights on for the handful or residents who continue to live there.
  • Most PPR residents, after months of harassment and mistreatment, have moved out the building, but seven residents remain. Most are in their 90s, including one Holocaust survivor.
  • To address the worsening conditions – at the initial request of NYS DOH – Judge Wayne Saitta ordered the owner to provide a temporary receiver to immediately intervene and take care of the seniors while legal proceedings continue.
  • The owner, Haysha Deitsch, has indicated a refusal to pay for the court-ordered receiver (since his goal continues to be closure and sale of the building).
  • In other cases, the NYS DOH has agreed to advance funding to receivers to operate safe assisted living. They would be repaid for this advance when the building is sold.
  • However, DOH is refusing to advance funding to enable the receiver to take care of the building, even though they are the ones that asked for the receiver in the first place.
  • DOH is proposing that if Deitsch doesn’t advance the money himself (which they know he will not, since his goal all along has been closure and sale), then PPR should be closed and the remaining residents forced to move against their will – giving Deitsch exactly what he wanted from the beginning.

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