More than 150 indigent men are set to move next week from the old Schenectady YMCA into a newly renovated building next to the Department of Social Services on Broadway. Their current living quarters are cramped, without air conditioning or private bathrooms. Their new quarters will be at least four times as big, with rooms that feature kitchenettes and private bathrooms.
But not everyone views the relocation as a good thing.
According to one tenant, Wayne Jacksen, the new amenities will be great but the process that the YMCA is using to transition the men from one locale to the other has been arbitrary, capricious and unfair.
He filed a notice of petition June 12 in Supreme Court in Schenectady County alleging multiple violations of New York State Real Property Law and other state and federal codes. He claims that the YMCA has made “unconscionable demands” from him and other tenants who “may not understand their rights and obligations” when it comes to the impending move.
“Those people over there, some of them need some help,” said Jacksen from the Adirondack Trailways station across the street on Monday. “They don’t understand what’s happening and they’re really depending on the Y to actually live, so they don’t want to do anything against them. But I’m of the opinion that if there’s things that should be improved, then it should be taken care of.”
Jacksen declined to give his age, but describes himself as more than 70 years old. He’s lived at the old Schenectady YMCA at 13 State St. for six or seven years now. He can’t afford an attorney, so he wrote up the notice of petition himself with the help of an attorney from the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority.
He said that YMCA Executive Director Lou Magliocca and Director of Operations Ed Kowalczyk called a tenants meeting on May 15 to go over details of the move to the new building at 845 Broadway, called The Commons. They discussed items tenants would not be allowed to bring, like dressers, tables, book cases, microwaves, candles and even medically necessary oxygen tanks.
In his notice, Jacksen wrote that he “finds it unconscionable” that the YMCA would restrict tenants from taking “legally purchased property to The Commons after perhaps taking an extensive amount of time to save for the said purchase.” Residents were informed that they can’t take their bed sheets to The Commons but won’t be reimbursed for them, he wrote.
He said one resident whose name he can’t remember came home from the hospital once with an oxygen tank, and was told to leave.
YMCA spokeswoman Erin Breslin said she was surprised to hear of Jacksen’s allegations. She declined to respond to any specific allegations, like the restriction of oxygen tanks, but said the YMCA is legally obligated to enforce certain restrictions.
“We have specific guidelines put in place by the government about who can and cannot live there,” she said. “And there is no need for someone to bring furniture or an air conditioner, since we will provide it.”
The four-story, 96,000-square-foot building on Broadway will house a mix of individuals who are poor, homeless, mentally ill, developmentally disabled, struggling with substance abuse or recipients of rental subsidies like Section 8.
More egregious than the restrictions, Jacksen said Monday, was that the YMCA never issued a complete tenants handbook so residents could know their rights. At the very least, he said, residents should understand what their rights are.
He also alleged that the YMCA has refused to recognize a tenants association that formed last year, and said when he told management and their attorney about his legal proceedings, he was promptly served with a notice telling him his lease was up.
Breslin confirmed last week that Jacksen is one of the 150-plus men who will be moving to The Commons.
Jacksen said Monday they appeared to back off after he spoke with an attorney at the Housing Authority.
Some allegations were unrelated to the move. In one claim, he said the YMCA requested and received “private protected information” about residents from the Social Security Administration. In another, he said the YMCA did not correct code violations in a timely manner and failed to take timely action against a bed bugs infestation in the summer of 2011. He also accused staff of entering tenants’ rooms without “notice or permission.”
The men are scheduled to move into their new home this weekend, Jacksen said. He wants the YMCA to appear in court July 18 to hear him give an oral argument for his case.
Breslin said she was at the Schenectady location last week and had a chance to speak with some of the men about the move. The only negative thing she heard was that some men had incorrectly filled out their paperwork, but those issues have since been corrected, she said.
“I appreciate if someone is having difficulty with the transition,” she said. “We know that for these men, it’s a very positive change. But even positive change can be stressful. But 99 percent of these men will agree it’s a change for good.”