SALVATION ARMY RESIDENCE FETCHES $108 MILLION; SENIORS WOULD BE MOVED TO EAST HARLEM

williams residence3

The Salvation Army has made a deal to sell The Williams senior residence on 95th street and West End Avenue to a private developer for $108 million, and plans to remove the remaining seniors from the building. The nonprofit expects to build a new 10-story residence on East 125th street where the seniors who live at the Williams can move.

The plan is drawing opposition from the people living in the building and from politicians at the local, city, state and national level. The momentum has increased since we broke the story of the potential sale last week.

“It’s outrageous that the Salvation Army would do this,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer told us in an interview Tuesday. “But it’s not a done deal. Not yet.”

Brewer says that if the Salvation Army feels that it must sell, it should sell to another nonprofit that will maintain the building for seniors.

For the building to be sold to developer Brack Capital Real Estate, a state judge and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman must sign off. Schneiderman’s office didn’t get back to us. The Salvation Army has already applied to Schneiderman’s office for permission and building resident Eva Yachnes says that building residents have until July 2 to respond.

Among the politicians who are pushing back against the plan are Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, Congressman Jerry Nadler, State Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, and Public Advocate Letitia James.

“By selling the Williams to a luxury housing developer, the Salvation Army will force a vulnerable population of seniors out of their homes – many of whom are not physically, mentally, or financially capable of moving,” said Rosenthal in a statement.

“The Salvation Army’s proposed sale of the building to a private developer is in complete opposition to its charitable mission,” said O’Donnell.

Politicians, residents and their supporters plan to rally in front of the Williams at noon on Wednesday and are hoping locals will come out to join them.

The Salvation Army has run the Williams Residence since 1965. Residents there get services, including meals, housekeeping and physical therapy. They pay between $1,000 and $4,000 to live there, depending on the size of the room and the services. It’s considered affordable, but it’s not an income-restricted residence — in fact, the Salvation Army requires that residents make more than twice as much as they need to pay the fees, according to the West Side Council for the Aging. There are 352 apartments in the building, but resident Eva Yachnes tells us that the Salvation Army has allowed more than 100 to remain empty as they worked on a sale.

The Salvation Army has hired BerlinRosen, a political consulting and PR firm that touts its liberal bona fides and has close ties to both Schneiderman and Mayor de Blasio. In a press release issued through BerlinRosen on Tuesday, the nonprofit said the deal to sell the building is the best way for the Salvation Army to help the seniors. They claim they would otherwise have had to make substantial renovations to the residence that would have displaced the resident anyway.

“A lot of thought went into this project, and after a lot of analysis, the creation of a new facility allows us to serve the most seniors with the best facility,” explained Major James Betts, General Secretary for The Salvation Army Greater New York Division. “We are excited about how much more we will be able to offer to seniors and the community at large with this move.”

The Salvation Army performed an exhaustive analysis of all alternatives,  including renovating the Williams Residence, which would have required residents to move during the renovation process and would have increased occupancy fees significantly.

The Salvation Army has declined repeated requests to answer questions about this project, but will apparently speak with us tomorrow.

1215-02_-_OPT4.rvt_2012-Nov-05_04-54-27PM-000_3D_View_2.jpgThe new residence on 125th street and Third Avenue (pictured at right) is expected to have “250 apartments for people 55 and older and will include a fitness facility, a city view dining room, a café, outdoor space including a rooftop garden, as well as meeting rooms and places for the residents to gather,” the press release says. “The senior residence will sit above a community facility which allows The Salvation Army to also offer many additional services, including a full basketball court sized recreational area, library, computer room, music and art room, cafeteria and numerous game rooms and classrooms.

But residents and their supporters note that the seniors are not looking for fancy new cafes — they want to be close to their doctors, friends and family. Some even left rent-stabilized apartments to move into the Williams because they wanted a more senior-friendly environment.

Offering to move the seniors to s new neighborhood doesn’t make much sense, said Carol van Deusen, whose mother was a resident at the Williams. The people who live there now aren’t destitute; they just wanted a place to live in the neighborhood that had some senior-friendly services.

“Why bother [moving them to a new residence] at all.  These people are not the usual people who go to the Salvation Army for help….They pay good money to live at the Williams and had to prove their income ability when they moved in.  There may be some people who have limited resources especially if the SA threw them out of there other properties when they sold them; like the one on 18th Street now selling apartments for 30 million dollars.  One friend of mine pays $4000.00 a month for her one bedroom at The Williams. She’s 89 years old and although she can’t hear, she’s as sharp as a tack.  And then to read how the SA will pay for their move and not raise their rent for  at least 18 months…”

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    1. Eli says:

      Anywhere else but Manhattan, selling a run-down place so as to build a better one just a mile and a half away, would be considered a GOOD thing!

    2. Amy says:

      125th and 3rd is not exactly the same neighborhood. These seniors were a block from Riverside Park, Symphony Space, and stores on Broadway. At the proposed new location their lives would become quite circumscribed.

    3. Paul RL says:

      Ultimately this development is a great thing for the surrounding neighborhood, which has been in decline over the last few years and needed a shot in the arm. However it would be nice if the current residents either get grandfathered in or are given a decent payoff to move.

      • Lisa says:

        I think if they move them to 125th & 3rd, they should 1) lower their monthly payments because the residents would be losing out on current neighborhood amenities and 2) give them all some form of payout and an option to be grandfathered in the new building.

        Developers have ruined this city and sucked every ounce of the personality out of it.

    4. Wendy says:

      It sounds like a much nicer building and facility (The Williams was small and without many amenities) but a much worse location. Platooning them into Harlem on the busiest avenue up there? That intersection is like midtown: busy, full of traffic, noisy, difficult streets to cross, long walk to a supermarket, etc. Not the best for Seniors…. and no character whatsoever around there.

    5. Politicians and community activists should make an offer to buy the building from the Salvation Army. Make the deal sweeter than what the developer is offering. This is the only way to keep the residents in their current location.

      • webot says:

        first let me say, I do think the Salvation Army is doing its tenants a disservice here. Lets remember the building was donated to them for this purpose.

        That said, NYCissues , who would pay for the building is politicians got involved? the NYC taxpayer..

        Lisa , again please do not blame “developers” , they are the ones who constructed the built city that we know. they provide housing , offices, and pay the property taxes.

        No developer made the Salvation army sell the building.

        The Harlem location is interesting – clearly more affordable to build something new. It is up and coming.. but, it is not the UWS.

        I am really surprised that the existing tenants are not protected by one of the many controls we have: RS, RC, SCRIE

        • The city is allocating $41 billion for the creation and preservation of affordable housing for the next ten years. The cost per unit to purchase is cheaper than many of the projects the city is currently working on or planning. There are no moving costs and the housing units would remain or become available immediately. According to someone who has a relative in the building, the leases are month to month and close to market rate. There are also many vacant units in the building that could be filled. Yes, the tax payer will have to pay which is always the case. This could be win-win for both community and the Salvation Army.

    6. diane says:

      Once again only the rich need apply! So who needs or cares for the seniors? Send them to the boondocks so that an already wealthy developer can make more money with all the new money moving into the area. Its all depressing and disgusting.

      • webot says:

        While this is not a pleasant story Diane.

        People want to live in New York , there is limited supply of housing, there a huge barriers to build new and substantial amounts of units in manhattan. The pressure is intense and prices will escalate.

        You want depressing and disgusting? See the article and photo above this one of the gangs fighting on 92nd and Columbus.

    7. Carol L. says:

      The Salvation Army spends a great deal of money on Public Relations especially when it comes to their Real Estate holdings around the country. I was surprised to read however that the Public Relations firm Berlin Rosen with close ties to the Mayor and Attorney General have taken this on. I guess it’s all about money and the Salvation Army like any Charity is big business. The only difference is that they are a Religion and therefore their books are closed.

    8. Susan says:

      Call me stupid, but I always thought the salvation army is here to help people… not evict them!

    9. Beth says:

      My husband’s aunt lives in the Williams. We live one block away and she frequently helps me with the kids. It is shameful that the Salvation Army wants to take away residents from their family members. The rent she pays is not cheap btw. If this goes through, I will think twice about putting some money into their collection boxes at Christmastime.