According to Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, St. Nicks Alliance and other community groups, as well as the city, had the right of first refusal to purchase the 40-year-old center.
Although it is still unknown whether the building was offered to the city for the same price as it was sold to Brooklyn developer Harry Einhorn for $4.5 million, the St. Nicks Alliance says they offered to pay nearly $6 million for the property, but were turned down.
“We’re all together in this fight with you,” Lentol told a crowd of concerned seniors and parents last week.
After purchasing the property last December, Einhorn and his father offered to lease the the space to the Conselyea Street Block Association, the organization that operates the two centers, for $40,000 per month – an estimated rent increase of nearly $7,000 a month, 20 percent more than they currently pay to lease the property.
Lentol was joined Assemblywoman Maritza Davila and State Senator Marin Dilan to announce joint legislation called the Expedited Citizens Action Act, granting power to the city to take back the property through eminent domain in an expedited process, an idea brought forth by community activist Jan Peterson and others at a rally to save the senior center in December 2013.
“We’re putting in a bill to allow the city to take by eminent domain a piece of property that is public property and has been for 40 years,” Lentol said. “(The city) can take action with us to make sure that it stays that way, by condemning the property if we don’t prevail in the lawsuit, taking it by eminent domain and selling it back to us.”
He added that while they are also prepared to take the new landlord to court, they continue to look for a compromise towards keeping the senior center and daycare.
“This is probably a weapon of last resort,” Lentol said. “We would hope that negotiations with the owner would prevail and that he should do the right thing to allow us to continue to use this space as community space. If not, we have another weapon.”’
Dilan said he plans to do everything in his power to make sure the bill passes swiftly. While the Conselyea Street Block Association has attempted to work out a peaceful resolution with the new landlords, “if greed prevails, eminent domain will be applied,” said Dilan.
Councilman Antonio Reynoso called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to join their fight in saving the senior center and daycare.
“He has fought actively to keep open Long Island College Hospital, out there getting arrested because he thinks it’s that important, “ he said. “ I want him to come here and get arrested with me if need be.”