Nonprofit ministry sends eviction notices to Long Island City tenants

Kemberly Richardson Image
Monday, December 12, 2016
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Kemberly Richardson reports

LONG ISLAND CITY, Queens (WABC) -- There are allegations that a nonprofit ministry that serves those in need is evicting more than 30 people, and it's happening at a time of year when people need housing the most.

"He just ripped the rug right out from underneath us," said Linda Lane Smith, a tenant.

Smith and others are trying to make sense of what's quickly unfolding at the building where they live in Long Island City, Queens.

The property is an extension of the New York School of Urban Ministry, a faith based nonprofit run by Rev. Peter DeArruda.

After getting referrals from churches, tenants can rent rooms there for several hundred dollars a month, but 34 people just received this unsettling notice.

They must move out by December 31st, or if they agree not to fight the eviction, they can stay until January 31st.

"We are a family, a dysfunctional family, but we love staying here and we want to stay," said Amy Burgmaier, a tenant.

Standing by their side, vowing to help them fight, is City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.

He met with Pastor DeArruda, who refused to speak with Eyewitness News.

Van Bramer says the Pastor insisted his organization is losing money on this property, and that the evictions were the only option.

"Whether you call it profit or need, money is at the heart of what's happening here," Councilman Van Bramer said.

At one point, the city was in talks with the nonprofit to possibly making this a homeless shelter, but those meetings fell apart November 17th.

A spokesperson tells Eyewitness News, "At the time the city considered this property, it had no knowledge that there were residents living at this location who would be displaced."

For now, legal aid is working with these tenants, who face a very uncertain future.