Seniors to rent-raising landlord: Don’t take our community center

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WILLIAMSBURG (PIX11) – It was built by the city for the people of Williamsburg and they intend to keep it that way.  That was the message from local politicians, community leaders, and people who use the Swinging Sixties Senior Center at an emergency meeting Thursday night.

“Nobody has any place to go if this center is closed, and I don’t think it’s right what they’re doing,” said one senior at the meeting.

People are worried they could be forced out of the community building after the new owner, Harry Einhorn, told them he was raising the rent 20-percent without any notice.  For 40 years the building has been the neighborhood town hall and is home to the senior center and a daycare.

“The landlord is being extremely aggressive, even threatening to lock the doors and not allow the children and the seniors to come in,” said councilman-elect Antonio Reynoso.  “So, we don’t think he’s ready to play.  But this community is extremely strong, we’re extremely organized and we’ll make him play.”

Despite organizers offering $6 million to buy the building in April, Einhorn bought it for $4.5 million last month.  Meanwhile he and his father Victor, who has been convicted of fraud in the past, are reportedly being sued for violating a leasing contract on another Williamsburg property.

“It’s not as easy as it sounds, but we have to make it difficult for the landlord to want to sell the building to anybody but us,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol.

And those who depend on the center agree.

“To take that away would be a terrible thing,” said Noreen Liss who has a son in the daycare center.

Since the building was paid for by the city, there’s a chance the community may have a leg to stand on.  Reynoso says the lease may allow the city right of first refusal, but right now it’s too early to tell.  Either way the community made it clear, they’re not giving up the building without a fight.