Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tenants' Response to Salvation Army PR Statement

Last year, the Salvation Army posted a PR statement on their website in response to television and printed media coverage of the eviction proceedings undertaken against the residents. We have re-published their statement below, in italics, accompanied with our experience of the matter.

Salvation Army Residence Programs

STATEMENT
Media contact - Laura deBuys
Laura.debuys@use.salvationarmy.org
Mobile: 347 242 6788

On January 18th remaining residents at The Salvation Army's Parkside and Ten Eyck residences in Manhattan were served with eviction with eviction notices. The serving of these notices is a required part of the legal process we must follow as we close these residence programs and prepare these buildings for sale.


In most cases, eviction notices are served by the landlord and one witness. In this case, six people delivered the eviction notices.

At the Parkside Residence, the team knocked on the door so loudly and persistently that many residents believed it to be a case of emergency. When a tenant answered the door, she would be photographed without consent before receiving her eviction papers. One such resident claimed she had just emerged from the shower when the force of pounding on her door convinced her that there must be a fire. She answered the door wrapped in a towel, and her photo was instantly snapped before the two men and four women present. (No apology had been issued for this invasion of privacy.) Also with the crew was a man with a video camera filming the girls as they were served the notices.

When the photographer for the New York Daily News came to the Parkside to take photos to accompany the news article, Major Carol Bryant, the administrator of the residence, put an end to the photo session, stating that "no filming is allowed in the building", although he was a guest of two of the residents. The photo session was moved outside, and, ironically, as the pictures were taken for the Daily News, the camera crew from the Salvation Army's legal offices walked past and entered the building for a second round of video/still shot eviction proceedings.

At the Ten Eyck residence, the legal team appeared as residents ate dinner, and a roster was taken of the women present in the dining room. As each woman's name was called, she was made to walk up to the legal team and receive her papers as her picture was taken in what came to be dubbed by residents "the eviction ceremony".

These residences were bought and renovated by The Salvation Army in 1954 and 1963. The city and our society were very different then. Providing safe residences and programs for working women of moderate means which was in keeping with The Salvation Army's mission of providing wholistic [sic] aid and support to those in need.

The Daily News reports that these buildings were donated and not bought for this purpose. New York City is notoriously expensive, and safe residences in Manhattan are becoming ever more unaffordable for individuals of moderate means, regardless of whatever societal changes may have taken place since the acquisition of the buildings.

New York City has changed. Providing this type of housing in affluent areas of midtown Manhattan does not help us meet the greatest needs of our constituents, nor is it fiscally responsible. We have invested in the buildings and the infrastructure over the years and have worked very hard to maintain these buildings. They however are extremely costly to maintain and more so because they are in Manhattan. By reducing our carrying costs and redeploying the assets gained from the sale of these buildings we will be able to expand programs in needy areas and create neccessary programs needs are greatest and fit our mission and service profile. Through expansion, of such programs plus the building of a Kroc Community Center, and 375 units of senior housing we will be able to meet the needs of thousands more New Yorkers every year.

What this statement fails to address is that residents pay between $1,100 and $1,400 a month for the rental of a room that averages 9 x 11 ft. Considering the fact that the Parkside residence houses approximately 300 rooms and that each resident contributes at least $1,000 a month, the gross profit stands at approximately $300,000 per month. In addition, all such properties receive tax exempt status, as they are claimed by the SA to be not-for-profit. The Salvation Army has also allegedly reported that the money to be earned from the sale of the buildings would be allocated to their programs in Africa, not New York. As for requiring funds for the building of the Kroc Community Center, the bounteous donation of $1.5 billion was gifted to the Salvation Army by Joan Kroc for the express purpose of constructing several such centers.

When one resident recently called the Salvation Army's New York Division, she asked the following questions:

-Is it true that the money from the sale of these buildings is going to programs in Africa?
-Where did the money for the Kroc center come from?
-You reported that money is going to 375 units of senior housing. Where are these units and how can current residents apply?

To each question the office stated they could not comment and that there was no one who could answer these questions.

What have we done to help the tenants?
We have helped almost 450 of the 600 residents find other housing in other Salvation Army facilities and or other housing locations of their choosing.


Unfortunately, there is not one resident who can substantiate this claim; assistance of this nature was never and still has yet to been offered. Most residents, fearing eviction, left on their own. The most facilitation provided by the Salvation Army has been to provide some residents the option of moving to another, higher-rent building called the Markle, also owned by the SA. As such, any resident relocating to the Markle is required to sign a stipulation stating that they will not extend their stay in the residence past a maximum of two years. Senior residents were afforded similar assistance regarding an SA building specifically for the elderly called the Williams.

It is also important to note that residents with disabilities have been denied tenancy at the other Salvation Army buildings. One resident with a serious disability was refused by the Director of Admissions at the Markle who told her that she would not be permitted to move into the building unless she could walk up 16 flights of stairs.

We have had caseworkers helping these people for over a year and we have provided furnishings, moving costs and other matters of support to those who needed help to make the moves. We continue to work with tenants on relocation.

Caseworkers have not been made available to the tenants. Some residents claim the alleged "caseworker" was one person who offered to print ads from craigslist for them. Residents at both buildings state that they had only been notified about the possible sales as late as last spring, which conflicts with the Salvation Army's contention that caseworkers had been in place for "over a year". The only provision of furnishings made by the SA is allowing residents to purchase used furniture from their rooms upon moving, for $150-$500. In no known case have moving costs been furnished for any resident.

The few residents who were proffered any means of help or assistance were those who had resided in the building for longer than 30 years. It does not seem a matter of coincidence that these same tenants, who were protected by law under the Rent Stabilization Act due to the length of their tenancy, were quickly moved and never made aware of their rights by the Salvation Army.

We are doing everything we can to help those in need in our city and no person is being thrown out onto the streets.

The Salvation Army has taken the residents to court in hopes that the law will grant them license to evict the remaining tenants, whereafter they could very well be "thrown out onto the streets".

Several tenants who wish to take advantage of the situation have banded together and have initiated legal action that will gather media attention. We will not battle this matter in the press, but will continue, through our actions, to show compassionate care for all.

The Salvation Army's allusion to "tenants who wish to take advantage of the situation" is an oblique reference to the women who have discovered that they do have legal rights in this matter and are pursuing the avenues they can to protect their living situations under New York State law. The reason they can and are "initiating legal action" is because they feel the Salvation Army has not shown compassion in this situation and are not following proper protocol in assisting "those in need" to find safe and reliable housing in New York City.

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