The state has abandoned a group of vulnerable seniors in a Grand Army Plaza old-folks home, says a group of pols and activists who demanded the Department of Health provide money to pay for a temporary caretaker to run the embattled facility during a rally in front of Brooklyn Supreme Court on Monday.
“We have called on Gov. Cuomo and the health commissioner to step up and protect these residents and they have failed to do so, and that’s why were here today, plain and simple,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope).
At the request of the New York State Department of Health, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Wayne Saitta ordered Prospect Park Residence owner Haysha Deitsch on April 10 to hand the reigns of the assisted-living facility over to Brian Rosenman, a nursing home administrator, for at least six months, because Deitsch no longer has a license to operate the facility and had failed to address building, food, and sanitation violations, putting the residents’ health and safety at risk, according to his ruling.
Rosenman needs about $100,000 to keep the lights on and provide services to the seven residents living in the home, said a lawyer for the residents and their families. But Deitsch is refusing to pay, Lander said, so Rosenman has still not accepted the appointment. According to Lander, the New York State Department of Health could front Deitsch the money — which it has done in previous, similar cases — but the department won’t open its wallet, saying that if Deitsch doesn’t pay up, Prospect Park Residence should just close.
But keeping the home up and running is exactly why Saitta appointed a temporary caretaker in the first place. Deitsch moved to close the home and quickly evict all his elderly tenants early last year so he could sell the building to a Manhattan investment firm for $76.5 million. But a handful of the residents — including a Holocaust survivor, a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, and several centenarians — remained, and their relatives are suing Deitsch and the Department of Health to keep the facility open and create a new closure plan.
Saitta has ordered Deitsch to keep Prospect Park Residence open while the legal battle continues, but the residents and their loved ones say Deitsch has been trying to force them out by cutting services, including serving poor-quality meals, dimming hallway lights, and dismissing cleaning staff. Saitta appointed Rosenman to take over the facility in part to address these very issues, according to the ruling.
Deitsch first applied for a closure plan with the Department of Health in September 2013, but continued taking in new residents as late as December of that year. One nonagenarian who moved in as Deitsch was actively moving to shut the nursing home has found the whole episode traumatic, said a friend.
“She moved in and adjusted and was happy and then the owner told everyone to get out,” said Nancy Rich, whose 91-year-old pal Anne-Marie Mogil was famously served a rotten orange at the home.
The Department of Health declined to comment due to ongoing litigation.