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Politics

Gianaris, Crowley, Simotas Call Probe of Non-profit Urban Ministry School

December 29, 2016

ASTORIA – New York State Senator Michael Gianaris, Congressman Joseph Crowley, and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas called on Attorney General Eric Scheiderman to investigate possible mismanagement of the non-profit, the New York School of Urban Ministry (NYSUM).

Senator Gianaris that “claiming financial hardship to pressure low-income tenants out of their homes during the holidays is a new low. Needy residents should not be victimized by poor management looking to make more money off of their misery.”

Congressman Crowley said that “it is unconscionable that the New York School of Urban Ministry would look to evict its tenants in the midst of the holiday season and literally leave families out in the cold.

“At a time, when our city is grappling with an unprecedented homelessness crisis, we need to make sure we’re doing everything possible to keep people in their homes and protect them from unscrupulous landlords or any undue hardship that might result from their poor management.”

Assemblymember Simotas said that “the abrupt and shameful manner in which the New York School of Urban Ministry tried to force out its low-income tenants raises serious concerns about how this tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization is operating.

“Because the organization’s actions towards these residents is so contrary to its stated mission and its plans for the building where they are living are so secretive, I think it’s important to investigate all of NYSUM’s practices as a so-called ‘charity.’”

During this holiday season, NYSUM blindsided and misled current low-income tenants at its Astoria dormitory, demanding residents vacate by December 31.

NYSUM Executive Director Pastor Peter DeArruda has confirmed his intentions to lease the building to a third party for more money, stating that NYSUM is facing financial hardships and can no longer afford to pay the existing operational costs.

The 39-unit dormitory, located at 31-65 46th Street in Astoria, is fully paid off and clear of any mortgage.

The offices of Gianaris, Crowley, and Simotas offered Pastor DeArruda the opportunity to meet and discuss a potential solution to this disturbing situation. He did not respond to this request.

Since the inception of this problematic situation, in November, Gianaris, Crowley, and Simotas have encouraged residents to remain in their homes and work with the Legal Aid Society, which will examine all documents and assist the residents.

The letter to General Schneiderman follows.

Dear Attorney General Schneiderman,

As representatives of Astoria, Queens, we write regarding the disturbing situation affecting the residents at the New York School of Urban Ministry. NYSUM is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit Christian ministry and school which, in addition to offering training in “hands on multicultural urban ministry,” rents rooms to low-income residents and missionaries in a 39-unit dormitory located at 31-65 46th Street in Astoria.

NYSUM blindsided tenants with a letter close to Thanksgiving demanding residents vacate by December 31, 2016. The majority of NYSUM residents pay rent between $400 and $500 a month, and would not be able to afford market-rate apartments in New York City.

NYSUM confirmed that they intend to remove these tenants in order to operate a homeless shelter on the site, which these tenants may very well need due to NYSUM’s actions. Upon emphasizing our concerns to NYSUM Pastor Peter DeArruda, he suggested that NYSUM was losing money on the location at issue and is generally facing financial hardships.

NYSUM claims a net rental income of $446,881, according to their 990 filing from 2014. This income appears to be sufficient to cover operational costs that may exist, given the tax status of the organization.

The attached document indicates the property is fully paid off and owned by NYSUM, clear of any mortgage.

While we will continue to encourage residents to remain in their homes and avail themselves of their legal rights, we are extremely concerned that these residents are paying the price for the mismanagement of this 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Accordingly, we respectfully request your investigation of this situation. Thank you for your consideration and attention to this important matter.

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