Claiming that operating costs are too high to keep the facility open, the managers of the Prospect Park Residence informed its residents on March 5 that they have 90 days to vacate the premises. For almost anyone in apartment-challenged New York such an ultimatum would be anxiety-producing. But if you were an elderly man or woman, frail and vulnerable, such news could be devastating.
“That is the main topic of conversation” said 95-year-old Lillian Bernstein. “Where to go, where to go.”
Bernstein moved into her large one-bedroom apartment in the pre-war building which overlooks Prospect Park and the farmer’s market on Grand Army Plaza less than one year ago. Now she and more than 100 other seniors are worried they will need to move so soon. Not only that, but they believe there are plans to build luxury apartments with the trendy address of 1 Prospect Park West.
“Today, despite its best efforts, Prospect Park Residence is no longer viable” said Prospect Park Residence director David Pomerantz in a statement. “This was not an easy decision.”
Children of the residents, many of whom are professionals also living in Park Slope, are organizing an effort to nullify the eviction, or at the least give their parents more time to make proper arrangements for their move. Eric T. Schneiderman, New York State Attorney General addressed about a dozen family members of the residents. He told them that his office was “looking very carefully at the situation.”
“It is very hard to argue that it is reasonable conduct to tell vulnerable seniors you have 90 days to get out of your homes” he said, declining to say more because “it is an ongoing matter.”
Councilman Brad Lander (D—Park Slope), Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D—Park Slope), and Assemblyman James Brennan (D—Park Slope), requested that the owner of the building, Haysha Deitsch to refrain from closing the facility. He said that that such a short-notice move could be “traumatic” for the seniors.
Under such pressure it is no wonder there is nervousness and fear about the future. Many residents, some as old as 100 or more, have hurriedly already left, worried that as staff and other residents start to leave, places in comparable facilities will be taken while quality of care in this facility tumbles. Some of the residents have forms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Others have Parkinson’s. There are also some Holocaust survivors.
“All of us have trouble with change, and it doesn’t get easier, it gets harder as you get older” said Judy Willig, who is the executive director of Heights and Hills, a Brooklyn-based social services agency for seniors, and whose 90-year-old mother lives in the Prospect Park Residence. “I just worry that this is going to be a lot of trauma on a lot of very frail people, and big decisions are being made kind of in a state of panic. And understandably so – there are not enough beds.”