Seniors at The Williams Residence on 95th street and West End Avenue can stay in their apartments through at least 2017, according to the terms of a tentative deal shared by a resident with West Side Rag. They were not able to completely squash the sale of the building, but it looks like they’ll at least be able to delay having to move.
The Salvation Army owns the senior residence and had agreed to sell it to a developer for $108 million. But residents in the building fought the sale and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a motion to stop it. Salvation Army Major Jim Betts told us that the building was in dire need of repair and the Salvation Army couldn’t pay for it. The organization is building a new building on East 125th street and has said it will accommodate any of the Williams residents who want to move.
Residents pay market rates to live at The Williams, and receive certain basic services like physical therapy and meals, but not the kind of intensive nursing care of a nursing home. It’s also become a tight community where writer’s groups and other activities have flourished. The residence has room for 300 residents but has slowly been getting emptied out as the Salvation Army has declined to rent out the rooms in recent years, ostensibly preparing for a sale, residents say. Many residents are over 80 years old, including several Holocaust survivors. They did not want to have to suddenly pick up and move to a new neighborhood away from the services and people they know.
Since Schneiderman filed his motion, the seniors have been negotiating with the Salvation Army. Eva Yachnes, one of the residents who has fought the sale, sent us the following bullet points describing the deal:
The Williams Residents’ Association and our lawyer John Gorman have come to a tentative agreement, pending a majority of those in the law suit signing in favor, with The Salvation Army. The following is a summary of the terms:
- That we agree to vacate the Williams by December 31, 2017 or when the new facility at 125th Street and Third Avenue receives a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, whichever is later.
- The SA will hire a professional, licensed moving company to pack, move, and unpack those going to the new facility. Those not going to the new facility will be given a one-time payment of $500 toward their moving expenses and assistance with packing but not unpacking.
- Those residents going to the new facility will have their occupancy fees at the new facility frozen at the current rate for three years.
- Everyone wishing to go to the new facility is guaranteed an apartment. There is no penalty for deciding to relocate elsewhere.
- Those who sign the agreement agree to give up their right sue the SA except for breach of the settlement agreement.
- Those not signing the settlement agreement are liable to eviction, as is anyone who violates the terms of the agreement.
- The SA agrees to maintain the present level of services at the Williams until the vacate date.
- The Salvation Army agrees to keep us informed of the architect’s plans for the new facility.
We won a great many concessions from the SA. We got much more time than any other group they ousted in the past.
We got them to hire professional movers to pack, move, and unpack us, instead of who knows who they were going to use.
They were going to freeze our rents for eighteen months, we got twice as much.
Some things were left undefined, such as how the new units are to be assigned, and how they will reconcile the rents in the new facility, which they say will have only three different apartment sizes, with our present facility which has something like six different sizes and many different rents.
What happens if the SA fails to live up to its agreement? Will we need to hire a lawyer? They already cut some services, such as closing the lobby coffee shop when the employee running it is away on sick time, or as last year when she was on a three week vacation.
It is illegal for a non-profit organization to sell to a for-profit organization at a loss. An independent appraiser has tentatively stated that the sale price is below market value, especially for an empty building. She couldn’t say by how much without being able to examine the entire building. The sale may therefore be illegal.
A rep for the Salvation Army hasn’t responded to a request for comment. Schneiderman’s office declined to comment. We first broke the story about the issue here.