The owner of an embattled Park Slope old-folks home raised his tenants’ rent after cutting services and conditions in the home, then tried to evict the old timers for refusing to pay the increased rates, say lawyers for the residents.
The seniors, who are in the middle of a court battle with Prospect Park Residence owner Haysha Deitsch over his attempt to evict them a year ago, say he jacked up their fees by 15 percent four months ago, then slapped them with eviction notices when they refused to pay.
Kings County Supreme Court Judge Wayne Saitta on June 30 ruled that Deitsch can’t just kick his tenants out willy-nilly while the lawsuit is going on, and lawyers for the residents say they will continue to pay the original rates and are confident they won’t be booted out.
“We have good protection here,” said Jason Johnson, who is representing the seniors and their families.
Deitsch first attempted to close the facility in March last year so he could sell the building for $76.5 million, giving his 130 residents three months to scram — a plan the state Department of Health approved. But a handful of the seniors refused to leave, and their relatives sued Deitsch and the state, claiming the closure scheme was illegal and inadequate. The court ordered Deitsch to keep the residence open and continue providing services for the holdouts throughout the litigation.
Deitch’s attorney says that the rent increase was justified given the cost of keeping the nine-story home building up and running for the seven tenants who are now left, and are scattered amongst the more than 100 rooms. He claims the seniors have refused to leave their current apartments to move onto the same floor, or allow Deitsch to rent out the empty rooms to help pay for operating costs.
“Is it unreasonable under those circumstances to raise the fees a little bit?” said Joel Drucker. “One might argue they should be paying for the cost of having the facility open.”
But the residents’ friends and family say, if anything, the fees should go down. They claim the nursing home has cut the services and conditions they signed on for, including serving shoddy meals, failing to bathe residents regularly, cutting staff, and, most recently, refusing to turn on the central air conditioning during the summer months.
“There certainly has been a decline in services,” said Nancy Richardson, whose friend AnneMarie Mogul lives in the facility. “Why should they be having to pay?”
Saitta handed the residents another victory on July 1, throwing out a motion Deitsch and the state had filed last year to dismiss all of the charges against them. The seniors’ loved ones and legal team said they are delighted with the decision.
“This is a good thing,” said Johnson. “We can now move forward with the case.”
Local pols joined in the chorus.
“We celebrate Judge Saitta’s decision, and will continue to support the residents as they move forward to have their day in court,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), who has long rallied alongside the seniors.