Swinging Sixties Senior Center nearing final days
by Andrew Shilling
Jan 08, 2014 | 1899 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Building that houses the Swinging Sixties Senior Center and Small World Daycare at 211 Ainslie Street
Building that houses the Swinging Sixties Senior Center and Small World Daycare at 211 Ainslie Street
Assemblyman Joseph Lentol
Assemblyman Joseph Lentol
Henrietta Mastandrea, 81, has been coming to the Swinging Sixties Senior Center for nearly 20 years and said she doesn’t know what she would do if the building’s new landlord evicts them at the end of the month.

“We love everybody here and I don’t know why they’re doing this to these good people and these seniors,” Mastandrea said.

The building at 211 Ainslie St. in East Williamsburg was recently purchased by developer Harry Einhorn and his father Victor for $4.5 million.

After the two reportedly raised the rent on the Conselyea St. Block Association, the civic group that operates a senior center and daycare out of the building, they delivered a 31-day eviction notice on Christmas Eve to make room for new condominiums.

“It’s crazy with all these buildings,” Mastandrea said. “It’s not our neighborhood anymore.”

With a neighborhood in distress over the future of their community space, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol assures that the end is not here, just yet.

“The lawyers are looking at the case from the point of view of setting aside the transaction because of a question about the lease,” Lentol said.

The city purchased the vacant property and later leased the property in 1969 to the recently formed Conselyea St. Block Association, which was started by a group of female activists.

They then formed the Swinging Sixties Senior Center and Small World Daycare as multi-use space for the community.

“There was a covenant in the lease that the city required that if the property were ever sold by the landlord, that it had to be offered first to the seniors and the daycare at the Conselyea Block Association,” Lentol explained.

It was reported that St. Nicks Alliance offered $6 million, $1.5 million more than the Einhorns, to buy the building and save the space for the senior center and daycare. It was sold to the Einhorns late in 2013.

Following a funding hiatus during a contract renewal phase, the new landlords ultimately priced out the senior center and daycare with a $40,000 rent increase, or near 20 percent more than previously paid.

“The question becomes in a court of law, did the landlord violate the terms of the contract?” Lentol posed. “I think a court would say that if they didn’t violate the letter of the contract lease, they violated the spirit of the lease.”

John Pelle, director of the Swingin' Sixties Senior Center, said that while the landlord is no longer accepting rent and the centers both face eviction, they are still confident that the law will swing in their favor.

“It’s inconceivable that something like this could happen,” Pelle said. “It has always been a place for people to come for their problems. When there was a blackout, when there were floods and hurricanes, it was an evacuation site for the 90th Precinct.

“It is a cooling center in the summer and heating center in the winter,” he added.

The block association is confident they will be able to keep their space, but they are currently looking for a new space just in case. Lentol and Pelle both said it has been a difficult task to find something in the neighborhood.

“With rents being what they are, it’s going to be difficult,” Pelle said. “Right now, we are just trying to get the new owner to sit down with them and keep the centers here and acquiring the building as a community center.”

Pelle said that the seniors will be there until the dreaded end, however parents are already starting to look elsewhere for a place to drop off their kids before work.

“Their situation is more severe I think because of the nature of childcare,” he explained. “What do you do when you wake up in the morning for your child when it’s gone?”

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