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Assemblyman Joe Lentol’s bill would make it easier for the city to grab the Swinging Sixties Center with eminent domain

Elderly domain! W’burg pol pitches state seizure as solution to senior center woes

The Brooklyn Paper
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A Williamsburg official is pushing a law that would let the city seize a building from its owner to save the embattled senior center inside.

Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Williamsbu­rg) is planning to introduce a bill to allow the government to yank private property from its owners using eminent domain without the normal review process. The proposal is a bid to keep open the Swinging Sixties Senior Center, which is fighting an eviction notice it received on Christmas Eve. The pol said he understands why people would hesitate to give officials that kind of power, but said in this case it is justified.

“There are reasons for the city to shy away from eminient domain, but this is one they should embrace,” said Lentol. “It is not raining on anyone’s parade. It might hurt the individual people who were offered it for sale, but they should have known that it was always intended for public use.”

The 40-year-old community hub, which serves hundreds of seniors and also houses a daycare, is in a fight for its life because its father-and-son owners, Victor and Harry Einhorn, want everybody out by the end of January.

Lentol said he tailored the bill so narrowly that it could not be abused. The law would only apply to facilities built with public funds that have been used for public programs for more than 25 years.

The city canceled the previous owner’s lease held in 2012, at the same time that it briefly de-funded both the senior and childcare programs, but then caved to community pressure and reinstated the funding.

The Einhorns purchased the three-story Ainslie Street building in November and raised the rent by a third the following month, prompting outcry from regulars and neighbors. Then came the harshly-timed eviction notice.

Lawyers for the center are planning to sue to keep it open on a number of grounds, including claims that the city illegal nullified a lease that was supposed to end in 2015, that the programs at the center were third-party beneficiaries of the lease and should have had a say before it was cancelled, and that the old landlord should have given the city first dibs on buying the building.

“Even if the assembly bill is a slow boat to China, it is symbolic and indicative that the conversation is turning,” said Jan Peterson, a neighborhood activist who helped organize the Swinging Sixties Center in the 1970s. “People are starting to understand that all of this greed is not helping the common good.”

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
I have mixed feelings on this, but as a voter I think I have more room to criticize the government than I have room to criticize the owner without being a co-owner.

If the gov't wants to use public funds to build public spaces, maybe it shouldn't sell them to private entities! There is a tried and true way to retain control over property, and that's to own it.
Jan. 24, 2014, 7:31 am
Ian from Williamsburg says:
If the city is so committed to a senior center, then find funding to build or relocate. You can't require a private property owner to collect below market rent and blackmail them with the threat of eminent domain. This is not constitutional and the city will never commit the funds to acquire the property in a protracted legal proceeding.
Jan. 25, 2014, 8:24 am
Toni from Brooklyn says:
I would normally tend to agree with the above comments, but in this case no. These are horrible, horrible people the Einhorns. Their entire family. Cheats ,frauds, con artists, and WORSE. Look it up. Screw these scumbags. Make a lesson out of them.
Jan. 25, 2014, 1:22 pm

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