Lawsuit Filed to Prevent Closing of Brooklyn Assisted-Living Home Leaving 120 Seniors At Risk of Homelessness
FRIDAY, MAY 02, 2014

New York - (May 2, 2014) A lawsuit was filed today in State Supreme Court in Kings County to prevent the closing of the Prospect Park Residence, an assisted-living facility in Brooklyn which is home to 120 Seniors. Lawyers from The Legal Aid Society, MFY Legal Services, Inc.; and the law firm of Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto are representing seven of the residents. Plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order.

Council Member Brad Lander, who has been leading the fight for the seniors at Prospect Park Residence, said:

“Today's lawsuit is a vital step in protecting 120 of our elderly neighbors from cruel and heartless evictions, announced with just 90 days notice from the NYS Department of Health.  We stand with these residents and their families against this immoral act.  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. Thanks to Legal Aid and the rest of the legal team for bringing this pro-bono lawsuit in support of our neighbors."

Defendants in the lawsuit are Haysha Deitsch, the landlord, and the State Health Department, which accepted the landlord’s proposal to close the facility after he submitted a closing plan relinquishing a conditional assisted-living facility license.

United States Senator Charles Schumer has sent a letter to the State Health Department requesting that the decision to close PPR be reconsidered and that levels of service be monitored. The letter says in part: “The Prospect Park Residence announced closure on March 5, 2014, giving 122 elderly residents just 90 days-notice to find a new home. Residents and their families and loved ones are very concerned about maintaining an adequate level of services within the building, starting now, but especially after the 90-day period ends. A thorough examination of the impacts and soundness of this proposal strongly argues that the DOH reconsider the closure decision and strongly monitor levels of service are maintained far beyond the 90-day period. DOH must also enforce requirements of the plan for Prospect Park Residence to assist residents individually in the relocation process and provide packing and inventory services.”

"The plan is completely pro forma, and what the Department of Health did was basically rubber-stamp it, "Judith Goldiner, the Attorney -in-Charge of the Civil Reform Unit, told the New York Times. Affidavits from the relatives and families of residents point out that Prospect Park Residence is considered “home” to the elderly residents. The daughter of an 89-year-old resident said that “any move will be extremely traumatic for my mother and will sever her ties to important services and support groups.” The daughter of a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor wrote that “my father loves living at Prospect Park Residence because of the activities and the neighborhood.”

Aurore DeCarlo, Attorney in Charge, Brooklyn Office for the Aging, said that “ The Department of Health is aware that there are almost no available places for the elderly and disabled residents of the Prospect Park Residence. Yet in violation of its own rules and state law, DOH summarily approved an improper closure plan and has failed provide any meaningful oversight to ensure compliance with minimal requirements of the closure process. Meanwhile, the landlord is forcing the elderly and disabled residents to move to alternative residences which don't meet their needs, and is causing the departure of essential health aides and the reduction of necessary services. All in pursuit of an opportunity to convert the building into luxury housing. Our lawsuit seeks to remedy the landlord and DOH's illegal actions and to preserve the health, well-being, safety, and dignity of these vulnerable residents.”

"By failing to provide the required oversight, the Department of Health is leaving these residents with little choice other than to move to unnecessarily restrictive nursing homes," said Kevin M. Cremin of MFY Legal Services, Inc.

Lawyers handling the case include: (The Legal Aid Society) Aurore DeCarlo, Susan Edelstein, Judith Goldiner, Adriene Holder, Justin Lim, Rebecca Novick, Kimberly Skadden, and  Liliana Vaamonde; (MFY LEGAL SERVICES, INC.) Lisa Collins and Kevin M. Cremin ; and (Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto) Jeanette Zelhof, Donald J. Curry, Jason E. Johnso, Laura A. Bayne, and Dominick P. DiSabatino.

The New York Times
Residents Sue Brooklyn Assisted-Living Home, Seeking to Halt Its Closing
By Vivian Yee
May 2, 2014

A group of residents of the Prospect Park Residence, an assisted-living facility for seniors in Park Slope that is scheduled to shut down by this summer, filed a lawsuit against the facility and the state’s Department of Health on Friday morning, seeking to halt the closing.

The residents say the Department of Health should not have approved the residence’s closing plan, which was announced unexpectedly in March, because it did not provide for the residents’ needs while they remained there and did not consider the lack of other housing options for them. The lawsuit also accuses the residence’s operator of already failing to comply with its own closing plan by cutting back on basic services and not helping residents find new places to live.

The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, seeks to force the Department of Health to revoke the closing plan, keeping the residence open for the time being.

“The plan is completely pro forma, and what the Department of Health did was basically rubber-stamp it,” said Judith Goldiner, the attorney-in-charge of the civil law reform unit at the Legal Aid Society, which is representing the seven residents who are suing along with MFY Legal Services and the law firm of Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto.

The owner, Ms. Goldiner said, was “required to meet the needs of each person and help each person come up with appropriate alternative places. Instead, the landlord just said, ‘You’ve got to get out. Just figure it out.' ”

According to the lawsuit, services at the facility have declined, with the building becoming dirtier and staff members leaving. It also accuses the residence’s operator of misleading residents by continuing to market the home and accepting new residents even as it submitted a closing plan to the state.

A few residents’ families are also considering filing a legal claim for damages.

Until residents began moving out in recent weeks, about 120 people lived at the home, a large classical revival building that overlooks Prospect Park and Grand Army Plaza. They and their families believe that Haysha Deitsch, the owner, plans to sell the building to a real estate developer so that it can be converted into luxury apartments. Mr. Deitsch has not made his plans public.

“This is a moral indictment of a society that would let something like this happen,” said Brad Lander, the city councilman who represents the area. “They moved people in well after they filed their closure plan with the state, and that’s a galling act of deception, that you would represent to people that they could age in place while you were planning to evict them.”

The home’s managers announced the closing at a meeting with residents on March 5, telling them they had 90 days to move before the building was shuttered. Many residents’ families worry that there are few places available for the residents to move to, much less ones comparable to the Prospect Park Residence in price and location. And moving, they said, would be stressful and harmful to the aging residents, some of whom have Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or other diseases.

“We were absolutely devastated when we learned the news of P.P.R.'s closure,” several residents’ children said in affidavits attached to the lawsuit. “Any move will be extremely traumatic for my mother and will sever her ties to important services and support groups. We have not been able to find an alternative residence for her.”

A spokesman for Mr. Deitsch, Paul Larrabee, said a rising tax burden and maintenance costs and required upgrades costing more than $2 million had made the building too expensive to operate, forcing Mr. Deitsch to sell.

Mr. Larrabee said Department of Health representatives had been monitoring and inspecting the residence to make sure it was still providing services and appropriately placing residents elsewhere.

“Despite concerns to the contrary, the closure plan and the transfer of residents to alternate living arrangements has been compliant and seamless,” he said. “Any claims of deception or fraud are without merit and we will vigorously defend our actions.”

The residence’s legal troubles may continue to mount: The office of the state attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, is also investigating. The chief of his health bureau has met with several residents and their family members.

The Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment.