2016-12-28 / Political Page

Gianaris Calls For State Probe Of Astoria Ministry’s Finances

By LIZ GOFF

State Sen. Michael Gianaris is spearheading a request for a state probe into possible mismanagement of the non-profit New York School of Urban Ministry (NYSUM) – the Astoria-based Christian ministry that blindsided 30 tenants in its on-site dormitory with eviction notices just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Gianaris, in a December 27 letter to State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, co-signed by Congress Member Joseph Crowley and State Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, is requesting the probe to determine why NYSUM is claiming financial hardship to pressure low-income tenants at the dormitory out of their homes. “Needy residents should not be victimized by poor management looking to make more money out of their misery,” Gianaris said.

NYSUM Executive Director, Pastor Peter DeArruda, gave the tenants verbal notice in November that they would have to vacate their units by December 31. He followed that up with a written “Notice of Termination” that was slipped underneath each door at the dormitory-style residence just before Thanksgiving.

DeArruda said, following a December rally outside the Ministry at 31-65 46th Street in Astoria, that the Christian organization has turned over the lease for the building to another not-for-profit group that intends to operate a residence for battered women at the site.

“Pastor DeArruda has confirmed his intentions to lease the building to a third party for more money, and that NYSUM is facing financial hardships and can no longer afford to pay the existing operational costs,” Gianaris said. The Astoria lawmaker is questioning NYSUM’s claim of financial hardship, and said the building is “fully paid off and clear of any mortgage.”

Gianaris, Crowley and Simotas offered DeArruda an opportunity to meet and discuss a potential solution to the situation, but he did not respond to the request.

Gianaris said in his letter to Schneiderman, “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…We are extremely concerned that the residents are paying the price for the mismanagement of this 501(c) (3) nonprofit.”

NYSUM’s attempted forced eviction of dormitory tenants raises serious concerns about the nonprofit operation, Simotas said. “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,” Simotas said.

“At a time when our city is grappling with an unprecedented homeless crisis, we need to make sure we’re doing everything possible to keep people in their homes and protect them from unscrupulous landlords,” Crowley added.

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