SENIORS FEEL ‘BETRAYED’ AS SALVATION ARMY EYES SALE OF WILLIAMS RESIDENCE

williams

Residents at an Upper West Side senior residence run by the Salvation Army are on edge as the building’s future is unclear.

The Salvation Army, which has operated the Williams Residence at 95th street and West End Avenue for decades, has filed papers paving the way for the building to be sold, according to a letter sent by local politicians to the Salvation Army leadership claiming the leadership misled them about their intentions (the letter is posted below). The Salvation Army has also told residents that their rents could rise 30% to 100% to pay for changes to the building.

The Williams Residence is an apartment building where people over 50 can get meals and services like physical therapy. It has a diverse group of residents (the monthly calendar “includes a writer’s group, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bible study, a Yiddish club and bingo among the many offerings,” according to the Times). The rates, according to the West Side Council for the Aging, run from $1,014 for a kitchen-less studio to $3,995 for a one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen (the rents are not subsidized or regulated, but it’s considered one of the more affordable senior residences in the neighborhood).

The residence opened in 1965 after being bequeathed to the Salvation Army by brothers Edgar and Lyndon Perkins Williams (Update: The Salvation Army says they bought the residence; it wasn’t bequeathed and there are no restrictions on the deed). It has room for about 300 people. But lately, the Salvation Army has been allowing many of those rooms to go empty, resident Eva Yachnes told us:

“When we moved to The Williams, all of us expected to spend the rest of our lives, barring the need for nursing home care, in this place. We took the apartments that we could afford, and have been paying modest yearly rent increases. About a year ago, we began to notice a strange thing: when apartments became empty, they were not rented out. Anyone asking for an application was told that they were not renting apartments at this time. Different reasons were given, mostly along the lines of “We’re renovating,” or “We’ll be renting in the Fall.”

There are now over a hundred empty apartments. Once or twice we have seen realtors being given a tour of the facility. When we asked the Majors Carver and Major Boone, who run The Williams, what was happening, they all claimed to know nothing.

As you may imagine, we grew extremely concerned for our futures. It seemed likely that The Salvation Army was looking to sell the building. They have done so in the past with other residences that they owned. The Salvation Army no longer has another place in Manhattan to put us, so if they sell The Williams we will be out on our own. Most of us are in our eighties and nineties, with some residents close to a hundred years old.”

After the residents called City Council member Helen Rosenthal, the Salvation Army called a meeting and told residents that they didn’t plan to close the building, but that rents were likely to rise. A letter given to residents says that improvements were being considered for the building and that rents could be expected to rise by 30% to 100% from current rates (the letter is posted below).

“In the discussion that followed, we were not given a timeline for any of this to occur. For many, if not most of the residents, it would be impossible to pay such a raise in rent. We have been looking for alternatives, but there is nothing in Manhattan that offers housekeeping and meals that would be affordable to us.

Many have put their names on waiting lists for subsidized senior housing, but those who are too frail to cook and clean for themselves can’t go to such housing. We are hoping that The Salvation Army will make these proposed rent increases in a compassionate way by grandfathering the present residents so that we continue to get increases at the old rates. They are a religious and charitable organization—surely they wouldn’t want to throw old people out of their homes in order to make a profit.”

williams residenceLater, Yachnes said residents found out the organization was planning to sell the building to a private entity, and may be clearing out the remaining residents to deliver the building empty to a buyer. She said they feel “betrayed.”

A Salvation Army spokesperson said the organization had no comment on the potential sale or rent increase. The spokesperson did not answer a series of questions sent by West Side Rag. The major in charge of the residence also did not respond to questions.

The Salvation Army is an international faith-based organization founded in the 19th century to help “the downtrodden, the tired, and the poor.” In the past few years the organization has been selling several buildings in New York, including a homeless shelter in Chinatown that fetched $30 million and will become a new upscale hotel and condo complex (a new shelter is expected to open in Brooklyn’s Chinatown). The Salvation Army also emptied and sold two buildings in Gramercy Park and Murray Hill a few years ago despite protests and political opposition. The group has said in the past that they can use the money they raise from real estate sales for more charitable work.

Helen Rosenthal says “we’re working closely with the tenants” but did not respond to our further questions about whether there has been any agreement to sell the building.

Williams Letter

The letters below were handed out to residents at a meeting. Click to enlarge.

williams flyer

williams handout2

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 34 comments | permalink

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    1. Miki Fiegel says:

      Has anyone looked at the will which conveyed the property to the Salvation Army? Are there terms under which the building was left to the Army that prohibit this sale? Or are there deed restrictions as to the building’s use?

    2. Pedestrian says:

      Is this the same Salvation Army that has engaged in a massive building campaign over the country in the last few years with hundreds of millions of dollars it received from a donor? If this the Savation Army that claims to be a religious group and enjoys nonorifit status? It is really time that the government revise its rules regarding non profit tax exempt religious groups and the sale of priority and the provisos of services?
      Its all about the money and allegedly religious groups are after it too. Tax Exemptions and other benefits for these groups are out of dates and burden taxpayers. It is time to end those now.

      • Pedestrian says:

        I see that there are a few typos in my comment I was referring to the rules that exempt and benefit so call religious organizations when they sell their property or receive services and money from governments, state, federal and local.

    3. Wendy says:

      I hope they can find a way to grandfather in the seniors already there in the midst of any renovations or price increases. Affordable senior housing is urgently needed in the city. Do they really need money so badly they would throw out elderly and seniors who have lived there for years?

    4. Eva Yachnes says:

      The Williams brothers will has been looked into. What is happening now is that the Salvation Army has filed for a waiver from the will with the DAs office. We have until July 2 to answer, so we are collecting money among ourselves and friends and family to fight the petition. The proposed rent increases were a ruse to get us to move out.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        they should be ashamed of themselves, Eva. that is the sort of ruse the most vile private landlord would use.

        many “props” to you on how you are organizing against this.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        people should write to the DA to oppose the William will waiver.

        • Cato says:

          It is almost certainly *not* the DA. The District Attorney handles criminal matters.

          It is most likely the State Attorney General, who may have the ability to change the terms of charitable gifts. Those mobilizing should start there.

      • Dr dave Matthews says:

        Eva, could you please give contact information so we can support your efforts:
        1. With the DA
        2. With donations
        May the force be with you!

    5. Bruce Bernstein says:

      this is appalling, and the latest example of long time residents being forced out or even evicted from our community.

      this is a community-wide issue.

    6. diane wildowsky says:

      Greed abounds everywhere. What’s going to happen to all of us who don’t have enough money? This action is absolutely sickening.
      Somehow, someway these actions, by not just the Salvation Army, but by everyone who squeezes out anyone or anything for a few pennies more.

      We talk about a “housing shortage” in Manhattan, but so many of these high end apartments–are pied-a-terres. They’re trophy homes for people who DON’T LIVE IN THEM. Some of these multi-million dollar apartments are 3,000, 5,000, 10,000 square feet and are occupied no more than a few days or weeks a year. It’s all disgusting and appalling! Seniors are as important to the fabric of our city as the triple-wide strollers being pushed about on the UWS. What are they/we going to do to keep the Williams a viable solution to Seniors in need? We all need to get involved here.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        well said Diane.

      • YoungSally says:

        I absolutely agree, Diane.

        While it is fine for someone who can afford to invest in real estate, I don’t know that they should get any particular tax breaks as non-NYC residents for doing so…

        While it may be hard for DiBlasio to actually pass a meaningful tax increase on the uber-wealthy, perhaps he can insist that any tax breaks the rich get must be escrowed and spent in NYC to support local business etc.

      • Cyrus says:

        “They’re trophy homes for people who don’t live in them”

        So? Why do you care if they live in them or not? Are you the vacancy police?

    7. webot says:

      It is private property and the owner’s have rights to do as they wish.
      that said,
      Sorry that the Salvation Army is giving up on their mission – think about that when they ask you to donate.

      That said, aren’t the tenants protected by rent control/stabilization?

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        actually, the owner DON’T have the right to do whatever they wish. thus they have to get a waiver on the bequest of the property from the DA or perhaps the NY State AG.

        rent-stabilization might not cover senior living facilities.

        • webot says:

          Happy to discuss and have an intelligent conversation with anyone on this site, except Bruce Bernstein.

          You abuse, tunnel vision, rudeness I want know part of.

          thank you

          • West Sider says:

            Let’s avoid the back-and-forth in the comments, as several readers have been telling us recently that it’s making the site less enjoyable. If anyone has constructive comments or suggestions, please feel free to post. Otherwise, enough.
            Avi

            • webot says:

              Agree Avi.

              You do seem to allow one person to have free reign with their attacks.

              While my comments are often blocked – for example – I am not attacking Diane directly. But i do disagree with the knee jerk attack the rich comments. This is the workings of the non profit Salvation Army, not a private developer and not some rich Euro billionaire buying a 10,000 SF apt to sit vacant. Again this is just an acceptable form of prejudice by some UWSers. I am not rich , but I recognize thier contribution to this city, where they pay the vast majority of the taxes and support countless jobs, non profits, arts, theater, etc.
              They are not perfect, but neither is anyone just because they live here a long time and are rent stabilized.

    8. BILL says:

      You know times are tough when even the salv army is selling out for the big bucks..maybe big Bill Wilhelm can help….oh no thats not his kind of people!

    9. Eva Yachnes says:

      You are correct, I meant the Attorney General’s office, I’m a bit wonky after a bad night’s sleep. For those who offered donations, I’ll post the address as soon as I’m sure. Thank you all.

    10. Eva Yachnes says:

      For those who want to help, send checks made out to Williams Residents Association to me: Eva Yachnes
      720 W End Ave
      #1103
      NYC 10025

      If the funds are not used, we will return the checks to you, so make sure your information is on the check. If you are free on Wed. at noon, come join our rally in front of the building.

      • Concerned says:

        You’re getting legal advice, I hope.

        • Cato says:

          There’s a legal clinic at Cardozo Law School “which has become a nationally prominent legal service provider for the poor and elderly” (from the website). I have no affiliation with them and can’t make a recommendation from personal experience, but you may want to talk to them if you don’t already have legal counsel.

          The clinic is called the Bet Tzedek Legal Services Clinic and the website is http://www.cardozo.yu.edu/legalservicesclinic

    11. Julia Fine says:

      We are so grateful that you published this piece. We are living in a terrible state of anxiety. We’ve tried to find options, but find that there are waiting lists of 3-10 years. The Army has been less than honest with us; we found out that they have been marketing the building since 2011 and have a potential buyer under contract but ONLY if the Army can deliver the building EMPTY.

    12. Sylvia says:

      Disgusting that the very organization staffed with many volunteers and established to help the needy would so callously and heartlessly turn their backs on the population they were set up to serve. Shame on them. Who knew they could be so deceptive? Certainly not all us generous folks who made donations based on their posing as a humane organization. They shouldn’t get away with it.

    13. Howard Freeman says:

      I stopped reading when I came across $3995 for a one bedroom apartment. For seniors??!

      • Nancy Schafer says:

        I don’t understand your comment about losing interest once you heard that a one-bdrm costs $3995 (which includes 2 meals/day). That may be true, but it’s due to the high rent increases each year. In 8 yrs, the rent on a 1 bdrm increased almost $1,000/mo. These are high increases for individuals on fixed incomes!

    14. I am clergy leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Three of our members live in the Williams Residence. They appreciate the proximity to our meeting house and expected to live out the rest of their lives at the Williams Residence. Shame on the Salvation Army for closing yet another residence! My congregation will join the rally on Wednesday, June 18, at noon and hope that all of your readers will join us.

      Dr. Anne Klaeysen

    15. w90's says:

      No one should be surprised by the moves by the Salvation Army. They need these millions to continue their anti-gay agenda all under the rouse of being a “charity”

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zinnia-jones/the-salvation-armys-histo_b_4422938.html

    16. Maxine says:

      I really hope that this is the Salvation Army that I was raised in, and would probably would have had a dismal childhood. I love the organization, however there are some things that leaves a bitter taste when I read this. I hope they did not lie, because its a commandment not to. But…..they are the one of the only organizations where the money is put back into the community, and the top people do not make the big bucks. They do so much, and myself am so grateful for the good example the provided for me.