Friday, January 19, 2007

They need Salvation from Army


Dayna Price and Princess Usanga, tenants of Salvation Army building at Gramercy Park, are getting kicked out by the top service organization, which plans to sell building.

Salvation Army plans to put Parkside Evangeline, at Gramercy Park, and Ten-Eyck Troughton, on E. 39th St., up for sale, which means residents must go.

The Salvation Army, the second-largest charity in America, is quietly evicting nearly 200 women, many of them elderly and low-income, from a pair of 18-story Manhattan buildings.
Tenant leaders at the two single-room occupancy hotels, the Ten Eyck-Troughton Residence on E. 39th St. and the Parkside Evangeline at Gramercy Park, say officials from the charity have been harassing them for months and have already frightened many long-term residents into moving out.

On Tuesday, lawyers for the charity hand-delivered 30-day eviction notices as a prelude to selling the buildings.

State Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), a former tenant advocate, says the Salvation Army is callously trying to cash in on Manhattan's sizzling real estate market. She claims the group is taking advantage of the charity's exemption from rent-stabilization laws. Those laws would normally give tenants certain protections from eviction in a building sale.

The clear implication is that the Salvation Army is being downright greedy.

"That's a very negative way of looking at a service organization," said Laura DeBuys, director of communications for the Salvation Army of Greater New York. "We're going to redeploy our assets and move them to where they can do the most good."

The 276-unit Gramercy Park building could go for more than $100 million, while the larger Ten Eyck building is expected to fetch a slightly lower price.

The buildings were originally donated to the Salvation Army decades ago specifically to provide housing for women of modest income. Many of the residents are working women who pay between $1,000 and $1,200 a month for a room, with tenants sharing common bathrooms for each floor.

"We're all being harassed," said Princess Usanga, president of the tenants association at the Parkside. "Some of these women have been here for 20 and 30 years. Where will they go?"

You would think the charity had enough money, considering they got a $1.5 billion grant a few years ago from Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald's magnate Ray Kroc. The money was earmarked to build 25 community centers around the country, DeBuys said.

But now the Salvation Army says it must raise more money to operate those centers, one of which will be on Staten Island.

New York is notorious for having some ruthless landlords, but several housing advocates said this week they have rarely seen the kind of tactics used by the Salvation Army.

About 8 p.m. Wednesday, for example, Ellie Van Savage heard a loud knock at the door of her tiny rented room in the Ten Eyck Residence for Women.

Van Savage opened the door to find the building's manager and four total strangers standing in her doorway.

One of the strangers - a Salvation Army lawyer - handed her a 30-day eviction notice. Another stranger who was carrying a video camera then proceeded, without uttering a word, to film Van Savage receiving the notice.

"I was totally shocked and shaken by the whole thing," Savage said yesterday.

The same day, nearly 200 other women at the Ten Eyck and the Parkside Evangeline Residence were confronted with the same knock on the door, the same 30-day eviction notice, and the same Fellini-like stranger with a video camera.

Michelle Leone also got a nighttime visit. She's a U.S. Navy veteran battling cancer.

"I was sick most of last year so the Salvation Army wouldn't accept me in any of its other residences without any income," she said last night. "I can't sleep worrying about being homeless."

The charity relocated some of the oldest residents to another SRO it owns on the upper West Side, but has offered no relocation assistance to most of the women.

"We're dealing with each resident on an individual basis," DeBuys said, but she refused to explain what kind of help the charity was offering.

"They fund-raise at Christmastime to prevent people from being evicted from their homes, and here they are evicting all these women themselves," Krueger said yesterday.

Originally published on January 19, 2007


Anonymous said...

Very tipical of the salvation army... they don't practice what they preach. Believe me this is just the tip of the iceberg, there will be more to come.

Anonymous said...

I agree there is much about the salvation army that most sensible caring people would be horrified to learn. They are an organization that is stuck in the 19th Century, rarely professional and often discriminatory.