The owner of embattled Park Slope old folks’ home Prospect Park Residence will pay his elderly tenants $3.35 million as part of a lawsuit settlement, ending a high-profile and sometimes ugly two-year court battle between the two parties.
The nonagenarians have been fighting eviction since landlord Haysha Deitsch and state health officials abruptly gave them three months to scram in March 2014, and while settling the suit means they’ll still have to leave, the payout will help them find and fund somewhere they can live comfortably, according to their attorney.
“Our clients have always been worried about having the time and resources to move to an appropriate setting that was safe and not unduly restrictive,” said lawyer Kevin Cremin of MFY Legal Service, one of several firms working on the case. “We think this settlement will provide both the time and money.”
The lion’s share of the cash will go to the five oldsters who are still living in the 134-unit Prospect Park West assisted living facility — who will then have three months to leave — while a small amount will go to 10 residents who have already left but were involved in the suit, Cremin said.
But this week’s settlement is bittersweet news for the residents, according to their loved ones — the tenants had hoped to live out their final days in the Prospect Park-side property, and don’t think they really will find a comparable abode elsewhere, even with the extra cash.
“I’m happy for my friend, but she and some of the other residents would rather stay,” said Nancy Rich, whose friend Anne-Marie Mogil moved into Prospect Park Residence just three months before she was told to leave. “It’s very traumatic to move, but that seems to be the only option.”
Mogil and her neighbors are just a handful of holdouts and their families who refused to take the facility’s marching orders lying down two years ago, and sued claiming its eviction plan was too hasty for such frail seniors, and didn’t offer them enough support in finding comparable accommodation.
A judge ordered Deitsch to keep the residence open during the case, but the battle became mired in sideshow litigation as the residents claimed he was trying to force them out by hiking their rent and cutting amenities — depriving them of central air-conditioning during the summer and serving up moldy food — while he filed a countersuit claiming their families were dragging his name through the mud.
A lawyer representing Deistch and the Residence said his clients are glad to finally put both matters to rest.
“We’re happy that component of the litigation involving the remaining residents has been resolved amicably,” said attorney Frank Carone.
But Rich also said she is holding off on any celebrations until they actually come through with the money.
“It’s not over until it’s over,” she said, quoting the late, great, Yogi Berra.
The lawyers say there are contingencies for that in the settlement, though — if Deistch doesn’t pay on time, he will have to give the oldsters even more time to move and cash, said Frederick Millett, another attorney representing the residents.
The court battles aren’t over, however — the residents and their families are also pursuing a suit against the state Department of Health for signing off on the eviction plan.
That case is still in its early stages, however, and isn’t about financial compensation — it is to get a court to decree that it was a crummy plan and force the state to make sure it doesn’t happen again, Millett said.