Park Slope

Hearing vs. owner of Prospect Park Residence postponed after death of two seniors

Whole facility has bed bugs, families say

January 30, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
An attorney for the seniors at the Prospect Park Residence shared this photo of a leaking ceiling at the facility, which is also infested with bed bugs. Photo courtesy of Judith Goldiner, Legal Aid Society

Court proceedings against the owner of a Brooklyn assisted living facility — who has been trying to empty the residence so it can be sold to a developer — were put aside until next week due to the deaths of two of the elderly plaintiffs.

State Supreme Court Justice Wayne P. Saitta put aside Friday’s hearing on several motions until Feb. 4 due to the deaths. The seniors had moved from the facility, located across from Prospect Park at 1 Prospect Park West, but remained plaintiffs.

Judith Goldiner, who heads the Law Reform Unit of the Civil Practice of the Legal Aid Society, told the Brooklyn Eagle, “We’re disappointed we’re not able to move forward but we understand, given the tragic passing of two of the plaintiffs.”

“The judge put it aside because two of the plaintiffs passed away,” commented Joel Drucker, attorney for Prospect Park Residence owner Haysha Deitsch.

Other defendants include David Pomerantz, administrator at the residence, and Sam Zalmanov, as a member. The state Department of Health, past DOH Commissioner Nirav Shah and current Commissioner Howard Zucker are also named.

Families of the eight seniors remaining at the facility, who range in age from 88 to 99 years and have various disabilities, say Deitsch has not abided by a judge’s order to restore services – and now, they say, the place is infested with bed bugs.

Joyce Singer, whose mom Alice, age 90, is a resident, has contracted with a bed bug removal firm and has spent hours cleaning out her mom’s apartment and doing laundry, she said.

Other family members in court quietly discussed the best ways to rid their parents’ rooms of the infestation. “Freezing and heat,” one recommended.

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More than a hundred residents were forced out in March after Deitsch gave them just 90 days to find a new home. Their children say this put added stress on the already-frail elders.

One of those who died this week was plaintiff Mary Burger.

“She was one of the big fighters,” said Singer.

The other resident who died this week was Lillian Marks, age 107. Marks, an adventurous world traveler who published a best-selling typing book, was the oldest living graduate of NYU.

Seniors at the residence, with the help of the Legal Aid Society, MFY Legal Services and pro-bono representation from Fitzpatrick, Cella, have won multiple motions in court, including a stay on evictions. Justice Saitta has ordered Deitsch to maintain services and conditions in the building while the case is in court.

Legal Aid’s Goldiner, however, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Friday that Deitsch is not abiding to the agreement.

“There are no activities, which were required. The dining room is cold and the activity room is actually freezing,” she said. “They’ve unlocked the upstairs, but there’s no activity there.”

On Wednesday, when Goldiner visited the facility, “water was pouring down from a leak upstairs.” She shared a photo of a hole in the ceiling with the Eagle.

Singer said the food was a bit better, however. “They’re not feeding them hotdogs anymore.”

Families of the elderly residents were shocked to learn in court in November that the Deitsch had made an agreement back in January 2014 to sell the property to Sugar Hill Capital Partners for $76 million. Deitsch bought the building in 2006 for $40 million.

According to court documents, the deal would only close if Deitsch cleared the elderly out of the 4th floor dementia unit and obtained a final discharge plan approved by the New York State Department of Health (DOH).

Deitsch emptied the dementia unit by June 2, and DOH approved a closure plan on Feb. 24. A legal dispute, however, has prevented the parties from closing on the sale.

In a separate lawsuit, Deitsch, who received 10 percent of the total sales price of the building as a deposit, was fighting to keep that money.

With eight seniors refusing to leave the residence and litigation holding up their evictions, the buyers, One PPW Residence, LLC, claimed that the conditions had not been met, and refused to close on the property.

Advocates say that DOH “rubberstamped” the closure.

Justice Saitta will be considering appointing a temporary receiver to operate the residence, with the expenses paid by Prospect Park Residence, LLC.

“This fight foreshadows what could happen . . . It establishes what our eldercare places could look like in the future,” said Sandy Reiburn, the daughter of a former resident.

She said that a lobbying group, LeadingAge, was “pushing back” against a bill sponsored by former Assemblymember Joan Millman and state Sen. Kevin Parker which would better regulate evictions from nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The bill is currently “in limbo,” she said.

LeadingAge (formerly known as American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging) is a Washington lobbying group representing not-for-profit nursing homes and senior living facilities. The Eagle has reached out to them for comment.

Update: A non-confirmed reference to Deitsch was removed.

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