Inside, PPR staff was shredding boxes worth of documents, including all of the paperwork for former, and perhaps current, residents.
“Everything from the day they came in to the day they died,” an employee said. “Us guys in the front, they just brought it down one day and said, ‘Start shredding.’”
The underhanded behavior is not unfamiliar to the residents of PPR, who have been fighting their landlord since March, when he unceremoniously issued them a 90-day eviction notice.
Since then, the residents have been bullied into leaving — despite court orders to maintain living conditions during an ongoing legal battle — with Deitsch decreasing or completely cutting services from cleaning and food to lighting and hot water.
With the situation becoming more and more dire, Councilman Brad Lander, who has been fighting Deitsch with the residents from the outset, called together a rally on Saturday to point out the “appalling indifference” of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of Health (DOH).
“This is a Health Department that received the application to close this building over a year ago and did not tell the residents, did not tell their families, did not tell the public,” Lander said. “In fact, they encouraged Deitsch to keep it a secret while they were negotiating the closure plans.”
Deitsch apparently knew that he would eventually close the building, which he marketed as an “age in place” facility to all incoming residents since the day he purchased it eight years ago.
“He told us when we met with him in the spring that he purchased this building in 2006 with the express intent of waiting until the tax break that he was getting from all of us expired in 2013 to flip the building to luxury housing by throwing out all 130 of its residents,” Lander explained.
But when Deitsch put in the application to close the building a year ago, he also continued to advertise the assisted living facility as a place where the elderly could go to live their final days peacefully and with full medical services.
Ann Marie Mogil, 92, moved into the building in November last year, after Deitsch already had plans to convert the building into luxury housing. She said she was told she would be able to age in place.
“It’s been scary and demoralizing,” Mogil said of the deteriorating conditions and legal battle that has been ongoing for over six months now.
Mogil must now go to the grocery store to buy food for herself, because the provided meals have become inedible. The other week, Mogil was served rotten blueberries to eat with her breakfast.
For Public Advocate Letitia James, the stories of the harassment endured by these seniors are indefensible.
“I’ve seen a lot of harassment in my time,” James said at the rally. “I’ve seen landlords harass tenants, but there’s something really morally bankrupt and unconscionable when you focus on seniors.”
Saying there was “a special place in hell for landlords like this,” James also called out the governor and DOH for not doing their part to protect the elderly.
“The Department of Health, to side with the landlord and to negotiate behind the backs of the individuals that they purport to represent is really, really a new low,” she said. “I urge Governor Cuomo to demand that the Department of Health immediately report here to this center and demand that this landlord do the right thing.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who also attended the rally at Grand Army Plaza, reiterated James’ call for government intervention in protecting the City’s most vulnerable population.
“We need more inspectors, we need more watchdogs,” Stringer said. “We all can’t do this without the cooperation of a government that cherishes the kind of assisted living housing that will protect our grandparents and our parents.”
Despite the drop in services, residents at PPR also continue to pay full rent, which averages at $4,500 a month.
Arlene Glotzer, whose 91-year-old mother Hanna Eskin is one of a handful of residents still living in PPR, pays $5,100 a month in addition to what she pays her mother’s aides, who help provide the services that Deitsch has cancelled in his facility.
Glotzer said that she is stuck without any other options for her mother, who Glotzer does not want to move due to her deteriorated mental state.
“At this point, my mother has advanced dementia, and my sister and I are trying very hard to comply with her wishes to let the end come peacefully,” Glotzer said. “Which is why we are strongly opposed to the idea of moving her to a nursing home, where there’s going to be medical intervention in a way that we’re not ready to accept. And where else would a person with dementia live?”
The situation is not uncommon for the number of residents still living at PPR. Family members are struggling with the decision to keep their loved ones in a place that is lacking necessary services, or risk their health with a potentially traumatizing move.
The residents went back to court on Wednesday, November 5, to continue fighting Deitsch and DOH. Even with months of fighting behind them, the elderly residents and their families do not seem ready to back down.
For his part, Lander said that he and the rest of the Park Slope community are not ready to throw in the towel, either.
“As long as it takes,” he said, “this community will keep standing with the residents of this building.”