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In the wake of 40 eviction notices, electeds call on state Attorney General to investigate Urban Ministry

Dec. 27, 2016 By Christian Murray

Three elected leaders are calling on the state attorney general to investigate the New York School of Urban Ministry, claiming that the religious-based organization that is in the midst of evicting nearly 40 tenants from its Astoria housing facility is mismanaging its finances.

The electeds, in a letter sent to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, claim that NYSUM is trying to evict its tenants so it can lease the facility to a third party to generate greater income. The unnamed third party, the pols say, plans to convert the facility into a homeless shelter.

The tenants live in a three-story, 39-unit dorm located at 31-65 46th Street. They all pay between $400 and $500 for their room and many have been living there for years. They were caught off guard when NYSUM notified them around Thanksgiving that they had to leave by December 31.

“NYSUM confirmed that they intend to remove these tenants in order to operate a homeless shelter on site,” the letter, dated December 27, reads.

The letter, penned by Congressman Joseph Crowley, State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, calls into question NYSUM’s claim that the eviction stems from the facility hemorrhaging money.

Leslie Hilton, resident, in her room

The electeds, based on the non-profit’s 2014 financial disclosures, argue that the net rent NYSUM generates from the facility– $447,000 in 20014–is more than enough to cover its cost.

“This income appears to be sufficient to cover operational costs that may exist, given the tax status of the organization,” the letter reads. Furthermore, the property is fully paid off.

Simotas said that the eviction notices were abrupt and shameful, adding in a statement: “Because the organization’s actions towards these residents is so contrary to its stated mission and its plans for the building where they live are so secretive, I think it is important to investigate all of NYSUM’s practices as a so-called charity.”

Gianaris, meanwhile, in a statement said: “Needy residents should not be victimized by poor management looking to make more money off their misery.”

Ira Clair, the attorney for Urban Ministry, was unable to be reached for comment.

Electeds Call for AG Investigation of NYSUM by Queens Post on Scribd

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5 Comments

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religionasbusiness

If they want to run the place like a for-profit org, and that’s what ultimately I think they’re up to (forget the notion of Christian charity), here’s a suggestion: pull their tax-free status away from them. Enough with tax-free rides from these so-called religious companies, and that’s ultimately what they all are.

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the_the

So the question remains, $447k in income but $234k in rent collected.

Where does the other $213k come from? Are they getting grants from the city or the state (where I am paying for it with my tax dollars)? Do they have fund drives and get the money from private donors?

With the city paying $600 per night for hotel rooms for the homeless there is a huge upside to this organization renting out the entire building to a company that runs homeless shelters. They’ll probably lease out the entire building for $50k a month, no longer have to pay para-professionals, office staff, or cleaning staff and make more money with no effort (and probably still maintain their tax free status).

Just to give them the benefit of the doubt, if this organization provides other homes or other outreach services perhaps they will plow some of the additional funds into other programs. This is what happened recently on the upper west side of Manhattan where Phoenix House sold a similar type building so that they could provide services to double or triple the number of people all over the city.

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Jenlastoria

“Electeds” is not a noun. Perhaps the author means “legislators” or “council members” or “local representatives.”

Regardless, there’s something fishy going on, no doubt.

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the_the

These guys are politicians not business people. How do they know that $447,000 is plenty to run the building.
No doubt that they have a full time staff to not only take care of the building’s public spaces but also to take care of any special needs tenants that might require specialized services. Throw in a plumbing, heating or roof repair and you are in the red pretty quick.

Also not understanding the math. 39 units at (maximum) $500 per month is $19,500 per month or at most $234,000 per year. Does the state or city pay them some money on the side to house these people?
If it actually is $234,000 good luck making any money at all on this place.

Need more facts but it seems that if it isn’t making money at $500/month, they should just raise the rent and keep these tenants and keep to their supposed religious values.
Hard to resist the gold mine that a homeless shelter would become though.

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jenlastoria

Key part of the letter is: “given the tax status of the organization…” In other words, they don’t pay taxes because they are suppose to be a religious organization. Regular landlords, in theory, pay taxes. So this place is starting out will less liability and can’t make it financial. That raises questions.

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