Sateesh Nori, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Practice at Legal Aid’s Queens Neighborhood Office, leads the fight to stave off eviction for two holocaust survivors in Kew Gardens, Queens.
New York Daily News
Two Holocaust Survivors Fight Landlord to Stay in Queens Apartment
By Dale W. Eisinger & Denis Slattery
March 19, 2017
Two Holocaust survivors who have battled prejudice and war are now fighting to stay in the Queens apartments they’ve called home for decades.
Both seniors are in danger of losing their Kew Gardens homes to a predatory landlord who says neither of them is paying market value for their homes, according to their advocates.
Nellya, whose family asked that her last name be withheld, lives on the sixth floor of the Kew Gardens co-op with a full-time home health aide.
The 89-year-old great-grandmother, who emigrated from Ukraine, lost her husband when she was 40 and raised two children by herself. She was a doctor in her home country. By the time she came to the U.S. she was of retirement age already. She doesn’t speak English and is confined to a bed with several health problems including asthma, diabetes and osteoporosis. She also has Alzheimer’s.
“Every person who comes here, their heart is breaking,” said Nellya’s granddaughter, Alana Sokolsky. “Where are we going to move her?”
Nellya hasn’t left her apartment in two years and has trouble recognizing relatives.
“She’s very disoriented. We have everything set up in this room,” Sokolsky said. “She is completely bedbound, completely homebound.”
Four floors below, 93-year-old Solomon, a Ukrainian World War II veteran and also a Holocaust survivor, lives by himself. His family also asked the Daily News not to publish his last name.
Solomon has an aide who takes care of him eight hours a day and he suffers from dementia and cataracts. Solomon brought his family to Queens in 1989 to escape prejudice.
“When we came here we were refugees,” his daughter Irina Mogilner said. “In that country at that time, we were discriminated by religion. So we came here for a better life.
“When he came here it was OK. He was OK. He had an apartment, food, everything was perfect up until that moment the landlord started to fight with all these things,” she added.
Nellya and Solomon’s landlord took them both to court in recent years and tried to have them booted from the co-op building.
Apartments in the building rent for between $1,600 and $2,200.
The pair were unable to represent themselves in housing court and were forced to rely on legal guardians, a process that left both facing eviction.
A nonprofit, Selfhelp, contacted attorneys from the Legal Aid Society who are attempting to get judges to stop the eviction process.
“There are no additional protections for elderly or disabled tenants and landlords can make business decisions to seek their evictions,” said Sateesh Nori, attorney-in-charge of civil practice with Legal Aid’s Queens office.
A lawyer for the building owner, Forest & Garden Owners Inc., did not respond to requests for comment.
Relatives said while they aren’t surprised by the owners attempts to kick out the seniors, they vow to keep fighting.
“Some things are more important than money in this world,” Mogilner said.