Elected Officials, Families of Seniors at Prospect Park, Legal Aid and Fitzpatrick Cella Denounce NYS Department of Health for Abandoning 90-Year-Olds, Seeking Their Eviction
MONDAY, MAY 18, 2015
Council Member Lander with Judith Goldiner

Monday morning, Council Member Brad Lander, Public Advocate Letitia James, families of seniors living at Prospect Park Residence, and members of the legal team including The Legal Aid Society and the law firm of Fitzpatrick Cella, Harper & Scinto 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 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.

“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, co-counsel with Legal Aid on the lawsuit to keep Prospect Park Residence open.