Victor Einhorn and his son Harry bought the building for $4.5 million in December and raised the rent to $40,000 per month on the Conselyea St. Block Association, the community group who rents the space for the center and daycare.
For the families and elected officials that thought the new operators would let the decades-long programs stay despite the rent hike, that hope ended the day before Christmas.
In a press release from the St. Nicks Alliance, it was reported that the notice was delivered by a “burly man with a brusque manner,” just five days following a rally to preserve the community space, which is used by nearly 200 seniors and 90 children.
The building also hosts the monthly meeting of Community Board 1.
John Pelle, director of the Swingin' Sixties Center, was there on Christmas Eve when the news was placed in his hand. When he asked what the man was doing there, he replied to Pelle, “I have bad news.”
“Just before, they were eating a meal and singing carols,” Pelle said. “It was a joyous, happy time, and then this intimidating guy comes in and basically tells them that he’s closing their center. It was heartbreaking.”
St. Nicks Alliance, a local nonprofit, offered to buy the building for $6 million with intentions of saving the programs, however its offer on the 40-year-old community center was denied.
“You could tell by the way he was acting that he didn’t have good intentions, and I think that was intentional,” Pelle added of the man who delivered the notice. “I believe the timing of this was intentional. He could have waited to serve these papers after Christmas. He did this Christmas Eve to send some kind of message to the seniors and to us.”
The building was built by the city and originally turned over to the former landlords in 1975. Assemblyman Joseph Lentol believes the Conselyea St. Block Association has a good case at regaining control and their programs from the new landlords.
“The property is required to be sold back to a community association,” Lentol said. “They waited until there was a lapse in the lease to get around that. It was a violation of the spirit of that contract.”
Lentol said he is currently waiting to hear back from lawyers for advice on how to move forward with the case, however if there is no legal tactic to get it back, he added they would, “just have to entrench.”
“Whether it’s demonstrating in front of the senior center with the moms and dads of those toddlers or another strategy to force the owner to comply with the community’s wishes,” he said.