Activist Jesuits take rent fight to court/NYC FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 2 Nov 1998 10:05:23 -0400


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=46WD  New York Daily News  - News and Views | City Beat |
          Sunday, October 25, 1998


TEST OF WILL:
DEVINE ORDER VS. FISCAL REALITY
ACTIVIST JESUITS TAKE RENT FIGHT TO COURT

By PATRICE Patrice O'Shaughnessy
Daily News Staff Writer


Twenty-nine years ago when a group of Jesuits moved into the Borchard, on
W. 98th St. off Broadway, many of the apartments were vacant, there was no
lock on the front door and the walls and plumbing were in disrepair.

Elderly Holocaust survivors living in the once-grand edifice looked to the
priests as some protection in the run-down neighborhood. "To them, we were
'the boys,' " recalled the current superior, the Rev. Joseph Keck.

They are mostly white- haired or graying now. One runs a soup kitchen in
the Bronx, another ministers to city hospital patients, one was involved in
Northern Ireland peace negotiations; a theologian, a Greek scholar, and
legendary anti-war activist Daniel Berrigan are also among the community of
23 Jesuits living in 16 apartments.

Now they are engaged in another idealistic battle, hoping and praying that
human values might somehow transcend the almighty dollar.

=46acing eviction from their home, they are going to court Friday to fight
their landlord, who is raising the fee for the 16 rent-stabilized
apartments on the cusp of the now trendy upper West Side from $14,500 a
month to $34,000 a month.

Their lease expired Sept. 30, and technically they are squatters, a title
the Jesuits proudly embrace, reflecting their activist, humanitarian
spirit. But they are trying to apply ethereal principles to a basic
financial situation set in 1990s reality.

"The market can't make all the decisions," said the Rev. Donald Moore.
"There are other values than money. There is the issue of a human
community, living in family style. . . . It's putting human essentials at
the mercy of the market."

Moore wondered, seriously: "What's he going to do with half-a-million a
year more?"

"We had no objection if they remained and pay what other tenants pay," said
Warren Estis, of Rosenberg and Estis, which is representing the landlord.
"They want a private landlord to subsidize them."

Estis said the order is a corporate entity, albeit a nonprofit one, and by
law cannot claim the same rights as individual tenants.

He said landlord Johny Melohn did offer to compromise, but the priests
"want to litigate to the end. They said 'This is what we're paying and
we're not paying anything more.' They are relying on sympathy and public
relations rather than trying to resolve it."

Douglas Kellner, an attorney for the priests, said they "are an
institution, not a corporation. The Jesuits take a vow of poverty, and the
New York Province negotiates contracts on their behalf. For the landlord to
exploit that is wrong."

As they sat in their dining room one evening last week, depictions of the
Last Supper on the walls, several of the priests discussed the situation.

"It's so crude and crass," said Berrigan, dressed in faded jeans. He added
that he has been living there since 1975.

"Soon after you got out of Danbury [federal prison for anti-war
activities], right?" Keck asked him.

"When you think of the services these people have rendered," Berrigan said,
indicating the roomful of clergy. "I guess we're getting a taste of what a
lot of other people get."

"Housing is not something where you make a personal fortune," Keck said.
"It's like food or water."

The Jesuits will ask for summary judgment, claiming the order is not a
corporation in the usual sense, and that their rent is stabilized. Former
U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark is lending a hand in the case.

The landlord's petition lists the adversaries as 220 W. 98 Realty against
The New York Province of the Society of Jesus. The priests are listed, by
name and by "John Doe."

The group went through a similar fight 10 years ago and won, but "the law
is different now, plain and simple," Estis said. He cited a 1994 ruling
that allowed a landlord to terminate leases for Lenox Hill Hospital
employees because the apartments' primary tenant was a corporation - the
hospital.

No one has threatened to shut off electricity or heat, but the Rev. David
Toolan, who works for a Jesuit magazine, America, nevertheless feels
imperiled.

"There is not much space in Jesuit communities in the city. . . . They'd
have to break us up, and this is my family, the people I expect to be with
when I die," Toolan said.

Edwin Gragert, a member of the building's tenant association, said the
address has a history of tenant activism.

"Most of the 120 apartments are rent-controlled or rent-stabilized, we have
had rent strikes, and the Jesuits backed us up," he said.

"If there is any move to force them out, you'll see people picketing on the
street," Gragert said.

Moore said he has written letters, called Melohn and invited him to dinner.

And together, the priests continue with a quiet method of persuasion.

"We pray for the landlord every day," Moore said.

END FORWARD
** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **

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=46WD  New York Daily News  - News and Views | City Beat |

          Sunday, October 25, 1998



<paraindent><param>right,left</param>TEST OF WILL:

DEVINE ORDER VS. FISCAL REALITY

ACTIVIST JESUITS TAKE RENT FIGHT TO COURT


By PATRICE Patrice O'Shaughnessy

Daily News Staff Writer

</paraindent>


Twenty-nine years ago when a group of Jesuits moved into the Borchard,
on W. 98th St. off Broadway, many of the apartments were vacant, there
was no lock on the front door and the walls and plumbing were in
disrepair.


Elderly Holocaust survivors living in the once-grand edifice looked to
the priests as some protection in the run-down neighborhood. "To them,
we were 'the boys,' " recalled the current superior, the Rev. Joseph
Keck.


They are mostly white- haired or graying now. One runs a soup kitchen
in the Bronx, another ministers to city hospital patients, one was
involved in Northern Ireland peace negotiations; a theologian, a Greek
scholar, and legendary anti-war activist Daniel Berrigan are also among
the community of 23 Jesuits living in 16 apartments.


Now they are engaged in another idealistic battle, hoping and praying
that human values might somehow transcend the almighty dollar.


=46acing eviction from their home, they are going to court Friday to
fight their landlord, who is raising the fee for the 16 rent-stabilized
apartments on the cusp of the now trendy upper West Side from $14,500 a
month to $34,000 a month.


Their lease expired Sept. 30, and technically they are squatters, a
title the Jesuits proudly embrace, reflecting their activist,
humanitarian spirit. But they are trying to apply ethereal principles
to a basic financial situation set in 1990s reality.


"The market can't make all the decisions," said the Rev. Donald Moore.
"There are other values than money. There is the issue of a human
community, living in family style. . . . It's putting human essentials
at the mercy of the market."


Moore wondered, seriously: "What's he going to do with half-a-million a
year more?"


"We had no objection if they remained and pay what other tenants pay,"
said Warren Estis, of Rosenberg and Estis, which is representing the
landlord. "They want a private landlord to subsidize them."


Estis said the order is a corporate entity, albeit a nonprofit one, and
by law cannot claim the same rights as individual tenants.


He said landlord Johny Melohn did offer to compromise, but the priests
"want to litigate to the end. They said 'This is what we're paying and
we're not paying anything more.' They are relying on sympathy and
public relations rather than trying to resolve it."


Douglas Kellner, an attorney for the priests, said they "are an
institution, not a corporation. The Jesuits take a vow of poverty, and
the New York Province negotiates contracts on their behalf. For the
landlord to exploit that is wrong."


As they sat in their dining room one evening last week, depictions of
the Last Supper on the walls, several of the priests discussed the
situation.


"It's so crude and crass," said Berrigan, dressed in faded jeans. He
added that he has been living there since 1975.


"Soon after you got out of Danbury [federal prison for anti-war
activities], right?" Keck asked him.


"When you think of the services these people have rendered," Berrigan
said, indicating the roomful of clergy. "I guess we're getting a taste
of what a lot of other people get."


"Housing is not something where you make a personal fortune," Keck
said. "It's like food or water."


The Jesuits will ask for summary judgment, claiming the order is not a
corporation in the usual sense, and that their rent is stabilized.
=46ormer U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark is lending a hand in the
case.


The landlord's petition lists the adversaries as 220 W. 98 Realty
against The New York Province of the Society of Jesus. The priests are
listed, by name and by "John Doe."


The group went through a similar fight 10 years ago and won, but "the
law is different now, plain and simple," Estis said. He cited a 1994
ruling that allowed a landlord to terminate leases for Lenox Hill
Hospital employees because the apartments' primary tenant was a
corporation - the hospital.


No one has threatened to shut off electricity or heat, but the Rev.
David Toolan, who works for a Jesuit magazine, America, nevertheless
feels imperiled.


"There is not much space in Jesuit communities in the city. . . .
They'd have to break us up, and this is my family, the people I expect
to be with when I die," Toolan said.


Edwin Gragert, a member of the building's tenant association, said the
address has a history of tenant activism.


"Most of the 120 apartments are rent-controlled or rent-stabilized, we
have had rent strikes, and the Jesuits backed us up," he said.


"If there is any move to force them out, you'll see people picketing on
the street," Gragert said.


Moore said he has written letters, called Melohn and invited him to
dinner.


And together, the priests continue with a quiet method of persuasion.


"We pray for the landlord every day," Moore said.


END FORWARD

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is=
 distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in=
 receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. *=
*


HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page

ARCHIVES  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN

TO JOIN  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <<wgcp@earthlink=
=2Enet>

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