Volume 76, Number 45 | April 4 - 10, 2007

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Sharon Gee, a resident of the Ten Eyck building in the East 30s, rang a bell just like Salvation Army Santa Clauses do during the holidays. However, instead of collecting money, she was calling out, “Help! The Salvation Army is going to evict me!”

Salvation Army residents pray homes will be saved

By Jefferson Siegel

A protest two weeks ago served to remind New Yorkers that the city is losing affordable housing at an accelerated rate. Six hundred more units of affordable housing will vanish if the Salvation Army empties and sells two of its residential buildings in Manhattan.

The Parkside on Gramercy Park S. and the Ten Eyck in Murray Hill are being systematically emptied in order to facilitate a sale. On its Web site, the Salvation Army claims the eviction process being undertaken is legal. Calling some news reports of the evictions “slanted,” the Salvation Army maintains: 

“The sale of these residences will enable us to serve thousands more New Yorkers, in addition to the 600,000 we currently serve each year.” 

Residents of the two buildings were joined on March 23 by tenant advocates from the Met Council on Housing, lawyers and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried at the early-evening protest outside the Hilton Hotel in Midtown, where the Salvation Army was holding its spring gala with a special guest, former President Bill Clinton. 

“I think it’s disingenuous, because they held themselves out as a charity organization,” said a Parkside resident who asked that her name not be used. “They’re just taking advantage of the New York real estate market.” The woman, who has lived in the building for several years, said no exact sale date was given to tenants until they were served with notices of eviction in January.

Gottfried joined protesters in handing out informational fliers to passersby.

“I like the idea of the Salvation Army being well funded,” Gottfried said. “But they shouldn’t do it by destroying affordable housing.” Gottfried said a meeting had been scheduled with the Salvation Army to discuss the issue of the sale, but, “they cancelled it. It’s been pretty frustrating. They said they would only meet with us if we promised to keep everything they said a secret.” Gottfried said when he declined those terms, he was told the meeting was off. 

Fred Ruth, the Salvation Army’s representative to the United Nations, disputed the tenants’ claims.

“Nobody’s putting them out,” Ruth said before going inside to the gala. “They knew two years ago that this residence was going to close. [The tenants] signed a paper saying they understood that the building would be closing in six months and they would have to find a residence somewhere else.” 

Tenants are being represented pro bono by the firm Phillips Nizer.

“Tenants deserve an opportunity to remain in affordable housing in New York City,” attorney Marc Landis said as he passed out fliers. “To see [the Salvation Army] turn their back on tenants is extremely disappointing.” Landis’ firm joined with Manhattan Legal Services to file a suit in State Supreme Court, asking the court to rule that the Salvation Army is subject to rent-regulation laws, which would prevent the evictions.

Landis said he does not believe the charitable exemption status claimed by the Salvation Army applies to their housing. The suit will be heard April 20. In the interim, Landis said the court has suspended any further eviction proceedings until the case can be heard.

Last year the Salvation Army put another building up for sale. The Chinatown Community Center, a 10-story building at 199 Bowery, was offered at $25 million. Tenant representatives have said the Parkside could sell for $100 million. 

The Salvation Army bought the Parkside in 1954 and the Ten Eyck in 1963. They also operate other residences, including the Markle, at 123 W. 13th St. in Greenwich Village, and the Williams, a residence for seniors on West End Ave. on the Upper West Side.

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