EXCLUSIVE: Elderly residents at Park Slope assisted living facility win months-long court case
by Jess Berry
Nov 21, 2014 | 1165 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In what can only be described as a momentous victory, the senior residents remaining at Prospect Park Residence (PPR) found out today that the court has ruled in their favor, staying PPR owner Haysha Deitsch from commencing any proceedings to evict them.

The announcement is a huge one for the residents and their families, who have been fighting Deitsch’s attempts to evict them since May.

Judge Wayne Saitta of Kings County Supreme Court issued his decision this afternoon, wherein he outlined a multitude of reasons as to why he was issuing the elderly plaintiffs a preliminary injunction, allowing them to remain in their homes.

First and foremost, the Judge outlined his concerns regarding the residents’ health were they to be moved from their current homes.

“Without a preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs, who are in their nineties and suffer from severe disabilities, face the loss of their homes,” the decision reads. “Given their advanced age and infirmities, the disruption and harm that Plaintiffs would suffer if they were removed would be devastating.”

Judge Saitta also reviewed extensively the claim that Deitsch did not set out an appropriate closure plan for the assisted living facility, and that what he did come up with in terms of a plan was given the Department of Health’s (DOH) stamp of approval despite its inadequacies.

According to statutory requirement, the Judge wrote, DOH must “approve and supervise a closure plan that ensures the residents are transferred to facilities that are appropriate for their individual needs and that services be continued during the closure process.”

In March, Deitsch convened the 120 residents of the facility and unceremoniously handed them a 90-day eviction notice. Residents then took Deitsch to court in May after he failed to adequately prepare and assist them in transitioning to new facilities.

Over the last seven months, services have seriously declined at the facility. Former residents were nearly forced into moving out of the facility after having hot water and electricity turned off, activities cancelled, aids fired and basic dietary needs not being met, with some residents being served rotten food.

And, after reviewing Deitsch’s closure plan, Judge Saitta agreed with the plaintiffs and stated that it was not adequate in addressing the individual needs of the facility’s elderly residents.

One of the biggest problems with the plan was its ambiguity. Closure plans must include a timetable and list the procedures that would be used to relocate the residents.

Instead, Deitsch wrote up a closure plan that stated, “All residents will be relocated to appropriate facilities. Staff will find appropriate facilities, and arrange for the relocation of each resident. Every effort will be made to work with the residents and families to find the best facilities.”

No timetable for when residents would be instructed on other options or when they would be moved was included.

Deitsch was similarly vague regarding what measures PPR would take to assess the needs and preferences of the residents for their relocation. Once again, the plan only stated that “an assessment of each resident’s needs will be completed by the case manager or her designee by reviewing and updating the resident’s ISP.”

Judge Saitta found the plan for their individual assessments insufficient.

“The Plaintiffs still in residence are in their nineties, two are holocaust survivors, several suffer from dementia and all have severe infirmities,” his decision reads. “Assessing their individual needs in order to find an appropriate placement is not a mere technicality.”

Regardless of the plan’s ambiguity, Judge Saitta also pointed out that no evidence was ever produced to show that the operator had, in fact, assessed the individual needs of each resident or found them appropriate facilities.

In fact, numerous former residents’ family members sent in letters to the judge throughout the months-long hearing informing him of their loved ones’ deterioration after being moved to inadequate facilities. A number of former residents have died since their relocation.

In the face of the serious accusations of mistreatment of the seniors at PPR and mismanagement of the closure of an assisted living facility, Judge Saitta made the decision to prevent Deitsch from evicting any of the remaining residents at PPR. The decision is a huge relief for the remaining residents, and according to the Judge, will not be an imposition to Deitsch.

“The burden that an injunction would impose on the operator is not onerous,” Judge Saitta’s decision states. “Temporary continued operation of the facility pending determination of this action does not impose an undue hardship on the operator.”

Residents recently discovered that Deitsch was rushing to close the facility because he had sold the building on Jan. 27 of this year for $76.5 million, a full month before he even informed the residents that the facility would be closing.

Now the buyer of the building at 1 Prospect Park West is arguing their contract, due to the fact that eight residents still remain in their apartments.

But the Judge stated that the sale was not enough reason to discontinue the operation of the facility.

“The operator seeks to voluntarily surrender its certificate, not because of any financial difficulty in operating the facility, but in order to sell the building to an entity that will convert the building to unregulated housing,” the decision reads.

Many were elated to hear of the Judge’s decision, including attorney John O’Hara, who has six wrongful death actions pending against the facility in separate court cases, the first of which is scheduled to begin on Jan. 9.

“That was a big hurdle for the seniors to cross,” O’Hara said after the decision was released.

On Monday, a contempt hearing will be held against Deitsch, where residents and their family members will testify against the PPR owner after months of mistreatment. The hearing will be at 10 a.m. with Judge Saitta at Kings County Supreme Court.
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On Stage at Kingsborough presents GOTTA DANCE!
by Andrew Shilling
Nov 21, 2014 | 174 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Following the success of his production of Broadway Backstage at On Stage at Kingsborough, director Daniel C. Levine is now preparing to debut his next musical GOTTA DANCE! at the Brooklyn performance venue. “It’s meant to take the audience on a journey through the evolution of dance on Broadway as performed by six of the top choreographers currently working in the industry,” Levine explained. Through a series of biographical video clips, providing a backstage look at the historical progression of dance, performers will recreate legendary dance routines for a firsthand look at the Broadway art. “I wanted to make it more personal and take the audience through a journey of what it means to be an actor,” he said. In anticipation of the debut on November 22, Levine is working on the finishing touches with his seasoned cast of choreographers. Mark Myers, from Wicked and If/Then, is the lead choreographer on the show, and Bryan Perri, from Wicked and Alter Boyz, has been tapped to be the musical director. Levine started his Broadway career as an actor in the ‘90s in Les Miserables. Since then he has also seen significant Broadway success in his roles in Chicago, Mama Mia, Jesus Christ Superstar, Rocky Horror Show, Tommy, Little Shop of Horrors and more. “In between the shows I would do concerts with symphonies in theaters all around world,” he said. “As I was doing these concerts, I said, people are just hungry for fantastic Broadway singers and Broadway stories.” Anna Becker, executive director at On Stage At Kingsborough, first approached Levine about putting together the performance of GOTTA DANCE! after she saw the success of his previous production of Broadway Backstage. “Since then, Dan and I have been in conversation a lot because he’s so talented and really puts together great shows,” Becker said. After taking her role as the lead of On Stage at Kingsborough back in the summer of 2010, Becker has been focused on finding work, “that can’t be found anywhere else.” “We really try to make a lot of our programming unique,” she said. “This is something that I have put forward as our mission.” Levine said he currently has roughly 10 shows booked after their performance this November, however he added that right now, he is just looking forward to how his show is received in Brooklyn. “I’m thrilled and honored to do it in Brooklyn because of the way the audience just responds,” Levine said. “There is that savviness and the theater appreciation of a Brooklyn audience that you just don’t get anywhere else.” Tickets for GOTTA DANCE! are available at the On Stage at Kingsborough box office on Oriental Boulevard and Oxford Street, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., by phone at (718) 368-5596 or online at here.
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P.S. 84 breaks ground on school-top greenhouse
by Andrew Shilling
Nov 21, 2014 | 71 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
P.S. 84 parents, faculty, and city officials break ground on the first rooftop greenhouse in Brooklyn last week.
P.S. 84 parents, faculty, and city officials break ground on the first rooftop greenhouse in Brooklyn last week.
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P.S. 84 parents Heather Langsner and Diana Zelvin with the school’s principal Sereida Rodriguez prior to the official groundbreaking.
P.S. 84 parents Heather Langsner and Diana Zelvin with the school’s principal Sereida Rodriguez prior to the official groundbreaking.
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Councilman Antonio Reynoso helped contribute to the nearly two years of fundraising efforts to make the $2 million  project possible.
Councilman Antonio Reynoso helped contribute to the nearly two years of fundraising efforts to make the $2 million project possible.
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Following nearly two years of fundraising and advocacy from P.S. 84 parents and administrators, the very first school-top greenhouse in Brooklyn is now under construction on top of the south Williamsburg school. “We’re going to have the real thing right here,” said P.S. 84 parent Diana Zelvin. “We did it.” Zelvin and fellow parent Heather Langsner first began advocating for a greenhouse at their children’s school, located at 250 Berry St., after catching word that the principal was interested in building a rooftop garden. “We had $100,000 privately, we had fundraisers, a garden party and a bake sale and it wouldn’t have happened without our parents,” Zelvin said of the $2 million project. “We are so excited to be the very first greenhouse classroom in Brooklyn.” The new 24,000-square-foot greenhouse is expected to provide hands-on curriculum on soil-enriching insects, hydroponic systems and nutrient film technique (NFT) systems, a method that provides a low flow of nutrient-filled liquid to plants to accelerate growth. P.S. 84 principal Sereida Rodriguez first began discussing a rooftop garden at her school in an effort to put a focus on environmental awareness. “We started with this tiny little dream of having a rooftop garden and that grew into a rooftop greenhouse laboratory for our children,” Sereida said. Her school has added arts to the conventional STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum, or “STEAM” as she called it “Our children are not just going to learn about the hydroponics,” Sereida said. “It’s about global warming, it’s about sustainability. It’s the skills of the 21st Century and they’re going to be learning that here in the first rooftop greenhouse in Brooklyn.” Standing in the space where the new greenhouse will soon be built, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, an alumni of P.S. 84’s forerunner P.S. 37, said he is excited to see the progression of environmental awareness in his community. “When I was growing up, we never heard the words sustainability, hydroponic, climate change, we knew nothing about the environment,” Lentol said. “Just think of where we’ve come, and where kids as a result of this project are going to be.” Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna added that she hopes to see other schools in the borough also take the initiative and pursue rooftop garden infrastructure to further their cultural education. “We are able to teach families about the environment and what it means to be able to have a sustainable community,” Reyna said. “This is now the model for a borough-wide initiative that we are going to start at Borough Hall.”
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Brooklyn t-shirt company puts spin on traditional athletic gear
by Jess Berry
Nov 20, 2014 | 766 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Walk into a Sports Authority or Dick’s Sporting Goods and you will see lines of the same t-shirts lining the walls, neon in color and plastered with motivational phrases like the classic “Just Do It.” But two Brooklyn women got tired of the status quo and decided to create a clothing line that speaks to a different kind of athlete. “I’m a runner, because I don’t want to look like a meatball,” reads one of the designs created by the new, Brooklyn-based athletic wear company Whiptail Athletic. The idea behind Whiptail is simple, explained co-founder Jaimee Nelsen. “Let’s be honest, why do half of us work out?” Nelsen asked. “To look good naked. It’s just having fun with that, and that’s okay. It’s just a matter of not taking yourself so seriously.” Whiptail is all about not taking itself too seriously, with t-shirts slapped with silly phrases and images, ranging from triceratops doing tire flips to Vikings working out on an erging machine. “I’ve always kind of seen it as social commentary on current workout culture,” Nelsen said. “It’s trying to mix the geek and athlete together. It’s for individuals who are just kind of individuals.” As athletes themselves, Nelsen and her partner Sarah Litt are well aware of the needs specific to athletic clothing. The t-shirts are made to be soft and smell-resistant, Nelsen explained, so that “you can work out in it if you wanted to, but you can also wear them out.” And, she said, Whiptail will ideally not be stopping at t-shirts. Nelsen and Litt have both played rugby with New York Rugby Club for many years, a sport that is well-known for players with body shapes and sizes that run the gamut. “I think my ultimate pipe dream is to do some athletic clothes that fit athletes that aren’t pink or purple,” Nelsen said. “Just functional things. Like spandex that actually fit you, or women’s shorts, but if you have a booty you can still fit in them.” Whiptail will have its launch party this Friday night at the Brooklyn Pub, with first come first serve free beer and t-shirts for sale starting at 6 p.m. All are invited and will have a chance to meet the Whiptail co-founders and learn more about the company. For more information on the company and to see the t-shirt designs, check out their website.
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Family and friends remember longtime sanitation worker Steven Frosch
by Andrew Shilling
Nov 19, 2014 | 696 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Remembering Steven Frosch
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The family of longtime Queens sanitation worker Steven Frosch, who died in a work-related accident at the Queens West 5A Broom Garage back in June, were honored today by the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY). Surrounded by his former coworkers, supervisors and local elected officials, Frosch’s family and friends looked on as Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and others unveiled a plaque and shrine, naming the garage in his honor. Jason Vazquez, Frosch’s immediate supervisor at the garage, located at 58-02 48th St. in Maspeth, said he will always remember his longtime coworker as, “one of the best workers that the department ever had.” “He was one of these guys that when you meet him, in five minutes you’re always going to feel more positive than you were before,” Vazquez said. “He was always a positive influence and helped me continue on in my path.” Vazquez also worked with Frosch when he was at his former post in Forest Hills. “The people there loved him and as a supervisor out there, he didn’t need to be supervised,” he said. “He always did his job 100 percent perfect.” Frosch died on scene when he was struck and pinned by a mechanical broom while repairing his “street cleaner” in the Maspeth garage. Commissioner Garcia said she has remained close with the family ever since the accident, adding that it has been her mission to create a safer department ever since. “There is a real focus now on safety in all aspects of our operations, not just what you would think as being the more dangerous portions of the job,” Garcia said. “Also, I think there has been a real support for one another during this particular time of mourning.” While she said they have placed more of a focus on creating a safer work environment for their employees, Garcia noted that the job is a dangerous work place and that workers must “remain focused at all times.” Last summer Garcia said DSNY put their workers through defensive driving classes as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. “He was a great guy, he was a fabulous employee and he left behind a family of four small children,” she said. State Assemblyman and former member of DSNY Michael DenDekker said while he never met Frosch on the job, they both worked at the same garage together and he remembers his name. “When people turn around and say, ‘what do you do for a living,’ it kind of identifies you when you say ‘a sanitation worker,’” DenDekker said. “That’s not who Steven was. He was a husband, a father, a brother, a family person.”
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