On a cold, blustery, Mid-January day, The Salvation Army, the second largest and Christian non-profit organization in the U.S., served Thirty Day Notice of Termination letters to over 200 young and elderly women of the Parkside Evangeline and Ten Eyck-Troughton Residences in Manhattan. This charitable act of kindness is exemplary of the Army’s slogan, “Doing the Most Good.” Or rather, “Doing the Most Good in Manhattan Real Estate.”
Picture this scenario: A graduate student, aspiring actress or young professional comes home to her tiny, walk-in closet sized abode in the safeness of Gramercy Park after a long, stress-filled day of work only to be greeted by representatives of Borah, Altschuler, Schwartz & Nahins with a camera crew in tow issuing and an eviction notice. And not because little Suzy Jane didn’t pay her rent. Rather, the Salvation Army wants to cash in over $100 million dollars to sell the property to luxury condominium developers.
And so, this scenario has become a harsh reality for a couple hundred women of modest means who now have to scramble to find affordable housing elsewhere in a brutal, 1% vacant New York rental market in just thirty days.
The Parkside Evangeline (now tenderly known as “The Darkside”) and the Ten Eyck-Troughton Residences have long been fixtures in New York City as safe, affordable housing for young women pursuing their academic or early professional careers. Allegedly, the Parkside even played muse for the early ’80s sitcom, “Bosom Buddies”.
Former tenant advocate and New York State Senator, Liz Krueger has publicly voiced her opinion of the Salvation Army’s actions of acting as “a slum lord” and attempting to cash in on hot Manhattan real estate that has decades long been tax-exempt. To top that, the charity is taking advantage of New York City rent control and rent-stabilization laws and the Emergency Protection Act for a “class B mutiple dwelling”, kicking residents out in the cold before the buildings have even been sold.
Sources do vary on how the Salvation Army acquired the properties. Some report that the pair of buildings were donated to the charity for the sole purpose of providing affordable housing to young women. Others report that the S.A. acquired the Parkside property for $1.1 million ($600,000 of which was spent on repairs) in the early 1960s. If that source is accurate, even adjusting for inflation the S.A. is expected to make nearly a quarter billion killing – tax free. I guess the thought of using even a drop of that money to help relocate these unfortunate displaced women didn’t come to mind.
The rooms at the S.A. owned properties didn’t come cheap either. Residents were shelling out between $1,000 – $1,300 per month for approximately 100 square feet on space, with weekly late fees (for being greater than 2 days late) that would make exorbitant credit card interest charges look like a drop in the bucket. In spite of the S.A.’s claims that they’ve been offering very affordable housing for decades, the current rental rates are not considerably lower than rental rates elsewhere. Playing the role of landlord must have been quite a profitable operation for the Salvation Army on a non-profit basis.
In the weeks leading up to the official “notice” residents of the Parkside building have been harassed and bullied by the buildings’ administration. The two elevator building has virtually become a seventeen-story walk-up with constant construction until late evening hours, boarded up elevator shafts and X’s marking rooms that have now been vacated. Not a cozy way to live for at least a grand a month.
Despite the Salvation Army’s legal request of an exodus from residents the S.A. has offered little or no reasonable help and absolutely no financial retribution to residents for moving costs or rental expenses elsewhere. On top of that, the building is holding residents’ security deposits for thirty-days after they’ve left the premises. It’s not like they’re looking for room damages when the buildings will be gutted or demolished. A young Californian native recently moved cross country to lay her roots down in NYC. “I was thrilled when my application was approved and I got a call that a room was available. A week after I checked in they told me I would have to find an apartment somewhere else. You’d think they’d mention that before I moved 3,000 miles across the country.”
Tenants of both buildings are fighting back the looming February 28th deadline with the aid of Manhattan Legal Services.
In an official statement to the press, the Salvation Army released the following: “The Salvation Army will be selling these buildings and will re-deploy the assets as it embarks on new ventures of opening a Kroc Center, a facility capable of providing an extraordinary range of programs and services to a community in need of recreational resources.”
Apparently the $1.5 billion dollar grant the S.A. received on behalf of the late Joan Kroc, (the widow of Ray Kroc, the McDonald’s mogul) hasn’t been enough to fund the S.A.’s new business endeavour. $87 million alone went into the enormous 12.4 acre San Diego members’ community center fully equipped with an ice arena, aquatic center, gymnasium, skatepark, rock wall, recreation fields, performance center and education center. A day’s visit at the Joan and Ray Kroc San Diego center will cost a single adult $25 bucks. The S.A. has plans to open 25 Kroc centers across the country. Kicking out paying residents that no longer fit into their business plan will help fuel their project.
In the end, non-profit or not, it seems like all organizations are in the business of making money. And if they can add additional donated tax-free dollars to the mix who’s to blame them for taking advantage of the system except for the unfortunate, unsuspecting donors and benefactors thinking they were doing some good. Perhaps they should have been thinking of investing in the Salvation Army instead of donating money for its own “doing the most good”. Salvation Army – You’re a Load of Kroc!
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