PARK SLOPE — Frail seniors who are being forced out of their assisted living facility so the building can be turned into luxury housing are being neglected by the very state agency responsible for protecting them, angry politicians charged at a rally Monday morning.
City Councilman Brad Lander and Public Advocate Letitia James slammed the state Department of Health for "abandoning" vulnerable seniors who live at Prospect Park Residence, an assisted living facility on Prospect Park West at Grand Army Plaza.
“We have called on Gov. Cuomo and the health commissioner to step up and protect these residents and they have failed to do so, and that’s why were here today, plain and simple," Lander said in front of the Kings County Supreme Court on Monday morning.
Residents were hopeful they would see improvements when Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Wayne Saitta recently ordered that a receiver — a third party — take over the facility and provide adequate care for seniors.
But the DOH has refused to advance the money to pay for a receiver, and has said that if Deitsch doesn't cover the cost, the seniors should be evicted and the facility should close, according to a statement from Lander and other elected officials.
“The Health Department’s arguments are morally offensive,” Lander said.
A DOH spokesman declined to comment because the matter is in litigation.
“The court appointed a third party receiver so that the few remaining frail seniors would not be left to live out their final days in fear, hunger and squalor,” said state Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon in a statement. “That the landlord refuses to pay the receiver is not a surprise. But I am shocked that the state health commissioner is also refusing.”
Simon has introduced legislation calling for a halt to closures of long-term care facilities while the state studies the effects of such closures.
There were 130 residents at Prospect Park Residence when the facility's closure was announced 14 months ago. Now there are just seven, including a 100-year-old and a Holocaust survivor.
Instead of living their remaining days in peace and comfort, residents have been subjected to a lack of heat and hot water, rotten food, and dwindling staff — which their attorneys say is systematic harassment aimed at forcing the remaining residents out so Deitsch can sell the building.
Deitsch at first claimed he was forced to close PPR because he couldn't afford to run it, but it was later revealed in court proceedings that Deitsch plans to sell the building for $76.5 million so it can be turned into luxury housing.
Residents sued both Deitsch and the state Dept. of Health for approving Deitsch's closure plan. A spokeswoman for Deitsch could not be reached immediately for comment.
The seniors' plight has shocked families who were stunned to learn that their elderly loved ones had few rights and could be tossed out of their assisted living facility on such short notice.
Attorney Judith Goldiner of The Legal Aid Society, which is representing the remaining seniors, said she was unaware how vulnerable assisted living residents are before she took the Prospect Park Residence case. "You could put your loved one in a facility and they could just decide the next day, 'We're closing it, you have to leave,'" Goldiner said.
Worse yet, families say, Deitsch continued to advertise the facility and took in new residents — and their hefty deposits — after he informed the state he would be closing Prospect Park Residence. The remaining seven are still paying up to $7,000 a month to live there, and the facility's management recently tried to raise rates, attorneys said.
"This is an illustration of the greed that's consuming our whole culture," said Sarah Wellington, an activist with We Will Not Be Silent who was at Monday's rally. "We should take action. Even if it's not your grammy, it could be. It's terrifying."