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.
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.