, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dr. Deirdre McNamara
Testimony, NY City Council*
Date June 16, 2008
First I would like to thank Speaker Quinn for the opportunity to testify. It’s not well known, but when she was working with Councilmember Tom Duane, Christine Quinn helped to save the hospital chaplaincies, a vital component in long and short term health care.*
Speaker Quinn, Rosie Mendez and voting members of the NY City Council should be commended for the passage of Initiative 627. It’s a good start, but needs more muscle, stronger teeth. In other words, criminalise severely negligent landlords. If I rent a car, that’s a civil contract. If I scratch the car, or the renter has not cleaned it, that’s a civil matter. However, if the car rental company has failed to maintain it safely, uses it for the transfer of illegal substances, etc., etc., or other crimes such as reckless endangerment and drug trafficking, such are criminal violations subject to police action.
Condoning drug trafficking in his building makes the landlord an accessory. The landlord who fails to address roach and rodent infestation seriously jeopardises the health and life of tenants, particularly children and the elderly. The landlord who turns off heat and hot water in winter, risks the life of all tenants, as does the landlord who fails to secure outer doors, etc., and should be subject to criminal charges.
For the record, New York landlords can thank Kalimian Associates and Jerome Belson Associates for the foregoing remarks.
For artists, actors, writers, living in low rent buildings as they work hard to become established, the professional cost of ill maintained buildings is catastrophic. Yet the arts bring in nearly four billion dollars annually to NYC’s economy.
Since the Mitchell Lama questionably lawful buyout my rent has tripled without any commensurate improvement in services.
There is gross discrimination against long term residents, and newcomers to “Roosevelt Landings,” aka “Eastwood” do not receive the same benefits and services as tenants of other buildings on Roosevelt Island, even though they may be paying higher rent.
I came to the US in 1971. I left behind the offer of a starring contract from Sergio Leone of Italy, a directors post at the National Television station, and a science scholarship and career at a prestigious British Government Research Institute and was “one of Ireland’s outstanding young poets.”
I moved into an old but well maintained apartment on East 80th Street owned by the widow of a rabbi. A few years later she sold it to Iranian immigrant Ari Kalimian, who turned the heat and hot water off every week-end in winter for three years. By the time inspectors arrived on Tuesday, the building was warm again. While expecting my first child I had to go to friends for a shower, avoid falling plaster in the kitchen and bathroom, sit by the open stove for warmth and creating the worlds first theatrical celebration of Bloomsday for my late husband, a Broadway actor- now taken over by Isaiah Sheffer and continuing today, June 16th, 2008.
Eventually life in a Kalimian building became intolerable and we moved briefly to a tiny nearby apartment. However, because of construction next door I had to sit up at night with the children asleep on either side to protect them from the rats. My Marxist father gave me Upton Sinclairs “The Concrete Jungle” to read when I was twelve. I was shocked but thought it was in the past, like Dickens’ England pre the Islamic takeover. I never expected to be living it.
A ranking friend from British Racing Motors – Formula One – sent a car to pick me up for lunch but the driver thought he had the wrong address, as the building was so shoddy, and my brief respite from misery was kaput.
A woman at a pediatricians office told me about Roosevelt Island. The apartments were nice, rents subsidized but it was downhill from there.
My personal information was exposed to a hateful spite on white racist who shoved a note under my door the first morning I awoke there. It said “We don’t want you here. We came to get away from people like you…” It was followed by door slamming, overt insults, and a campaign to force me to leave. The woman, who must be ACORN, since despite her semi literate, abusive and vicious conduct, she had fingers in every “slush fund” in the city and was protected by one of the most notorious, corrupt, ex Congressmen in the history of New York.
My career was crashed by unscheduled wildcat tram shut downs, slowdowns, weather outages; even lately, work on Dark Waters was impacted by R Is transport exigencies, The Brave One, by landlord’s abusive agents in Public Safety. How can Staten island run a reliable ferry, gratis, while Roosevelt Islanders are stranded time and again, only ten walking minutes from Manhattan by tram shut downs, train diversions at full fare. Perhaps transport anxiety a means of concealing the shoddiness of other aspects of life here.
The double fare was a killer to a family in the arts with a ‘feast or famine” income and I was set next door to the neighbour from hell, her rather sweet drug and prostitute daughter, and her traumatised granddaughter, now a convicted felon. (Attempted murder, presently working as a surgical assistant in a municipal hospital!) Despite intensive screening, 70% of the tenants on my floor were heavily into drugs. Roosevelt island became widely known as a drug distribution center. The absence of professional New York City Police (NYPD) made it a haven for predators outside and on site. The son of the Personnel Director for RIOC, bullied island kids relentlessly, aided and abetted by his father’s selections in “Public Safety” and as his mother ran an illegal day care center and was close to neighbor from hell, my son became a target. Neighbor from Hell colluded with the landlord, Jerome Belson, to drag me down to Housing Court months in a row on false accusations of non-payment of rent and upped harassment. There were no police on the island, except an occasional bout of “rubber gun” NYPD Community Liaison officers co-opting Public Safety into their protective blue wall.
On paper due to criminal violations of my civil and human rights by the landlord’s agents, I look like an undesirable tenant.
In the public school, children of Belson and NY State employees assaulted my son with impunity.
Between the stress of living in an intensely hostile environment and pneumonia-pleurisy induced by hypothermia due to wildcat tram outages in freezing weather and tropical rainstorms, my health crashed and my career disappeared into a black hole. However my plays are archived in a major European literary institution, and my work as the first Homeopath to successfully treat antibiotic resistant and Hep c patients is documented in major medical institutions in NYC – saving the city and state millions in the process. My answers in the form of questions at a Federal briefing on Aids in the 80s may have contributed to the extended life-span of persons with HIV, and I am a pioneer in the resurgence of alternative health and the alteration of the food pyramid.
I was in the process of developing a corporation to develop phytotherapeutic products based on original formulae when an assailant entered my building through chronically unlocked doors. The abuse to which I was subjected from EMTs to Elmhurst Hospital ER was shattering. In the interest of keeping crime statistics low, there was no investigation of an assault that cost me three years of my professional life. All of this courtesy of Jerome Belson Associates.
I can only imagine where I might be if I could have afforded to leave Roosevelt island and return to NYC with constitutional protections and responsive politicians such as Christine Quinn.
During the questionable Mitchell Lama takeover, I watched my long term neighbors walking the streets in tears as they were forcibly downsized. There was no respect for family, and the fact that the majority of targets -those known to me- were mature women, first or second generation European immigrants and single, divorced or widowed mothers was relevant. A specific community, that of mature white and Jewish single, widowed and divorced women, was targeted by Jerome Belson, an alleged refugee from Nazi Germany. There was no compensation for the intimidation, harassment, misleading letters, and moving expenses. They had to do their own packing, sclepping, etc.,and settle for never having their families together in their homes again.
Even persons in the upper income levels on Roosevelt Island say they’d “love to leave, but where can we go?” They’ve been saying this for years, but since the Mitchell Lama egregiously mismanaged buyouts rents have tripled. On Roosevelt Island’s “Eastwood,” the buyout process trampled on our First Amendment rights and led to serious criminal conduct by uniformed NY State employees with the astonishing collusion of the State District Attorneys. This has been covered up. NY State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has ignored my letters and those of my elected representative.
If I had not resisted downsizing, my daughter would have had no place to come to have her baby, my beautiful grandson, when her relationship in Ireland broke down., and she needed specialist care unavailable in Ireland. However, my rent has tripled with no appreciable change in standard of apartment, fittings, floors, doormen, etc. I still have to contend with the particulates from worn and broken, ageing vinyl asbestos tiles, incredible dust, inadequate fridge, worn bathroom tiles, long delays in improvement, replacement of a new air conditioner due to faulty wiring (repeatedly reported) losing a day’s work to wait for packages, etc., or schlep to the post office and eviction notices from new owner, Urban American – who are charging the US Taxpayer luxury rent rates via Section 8, for shoddy apartments. In any other business, this would be fraud.
One Island grandmother has to fly to California and Australia to see her grandchildren. She cannot afford the fares and was downsized after Mitchell Lama so her family pays. She’s a great cook and loved to have her family together. A hardworking immigrant has to sleep in the living room and share a bathroom with two strapping sons. When one son joined the military, she was downsized to a two bedroom, There is no place for her daughter to return after graduation., and now that both sons are home again, it’s becoming a little crowded. We are not talking about ciphers, but human beings, families, with their intricacies, complexities and exigencies. All over the city, for one reason or another, grandparents are caring for their grandchildren, and adult children are returning home, as they cannot afford independence in New York City.
At 11 Horatio Street, a woman paying $50 a month for a walk up was bought out for $15,00. The landlord now receives $2,800 per month for the same apartment.
A teacher and recent single mother had to move after her rent went up by $1500 a month to $5,200. She came to Roosevelt Island, where her rent increased from $3,200 to $3,600 in the space of one year.
In the meantime, the municipality continues to encourage the development of massive luxury dwellings , sucking the air and water out of the city, overstretching the sewers, risking power outages, etc. and passing on the costs to the city at large. These buildings may not even be owned or occupied by New Yorkers, or Americans, “adopted or otherwise.” Who can afford them? Are New Yorkers exploitation fodder for foreign business? Kalimian and Belson could provide insights there.
They can do this because of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, providing mortgages for populations who cannot pay, artificially conflating the housing market and making it impossible for the working person to pay his/her own way. I challenge Fannie and Freddie and HUD to prove that white Americans have received equal opportunities for home ownership, equal “clinics” in finding affordable apartments, low interest mortgages and funded developments. Then again, if the government stayed out of the mortgage business, we wouldn’t have the present economic disaster, and the housing index would not be as out of control, conflated and inaccessible as it is at present.
I continue to write drama and books on Homeopathic medicine. The Irish American Theatre Company produced my “Irish Ghost Stories” in commemoration of the Irish Famine and we will be hosting a fundraiser for FDNY widows and orphans with my play Nine Eleven in July. We receive no funding from City or State, and are certainly open to it.
The want of affordable housing in NYC has affected a number of my patients. Some were able to get into a building for the disabled, but were then subjected to racist harassment. They were Irish and Irish American, and bless their hearts, successfully organised to end it. I am so proud of them.

A beautiful retired ballerina and dance teacher at a prestigious college came to me with inoperable pancreatic and hepatic cancer. She was on daily shots of Interferon and Sandestatin., unable to work, socialise or travel., and very frail. With the co-operation of her oncologist at Memorial Hospital, I weaned her off the medications and started a program of Homeopathic therapies. She returned to work, went out to theatre and dinner and took a long vacation, but with care. She lived on the fifth floor of a walk up. The landlord refused to fix the buzzer, so if she were tired she could not order in without schlepping down and up five flights of years.
She did progressively well for three and a half years until we hit a summer of 19 straight days of 90 degree weather. The stairs were, predictably, not air conditioned. Ordering food, carrying groceries upstairs in severe heat impacted harshly on her health and at my request she was admitted for hydration and given a high dose of Lasix and no follow up hydration. Definitely not my recommendation.
Exhausted and dehydrated she collapsed and was brought to Calvary hospice which she had sought to avoid where she died two months later.
It is my belief that decent, affordable housing in an elevator building would have prolonged and enhanced the life of this beautiful, gentle and talented woman.
Another Kalimian story. A elderly patient lived in a Kalimian building on the upper East Side, on the third floor. No elevator and a dangerous, winding flight of stairs. from the first to second floors. It hadn’t been painted for years, crawling with cockroaches, etc. My patient was a dignified lady, an Irish immigrant,; too embarrassed to invite friends over she became increasingly isolated.
The apartment was freezing in winter, but facing west, not too bad in summer. Kalimian’s response to complaints of cold was the provision of a fake thermometer fixed at 80.
My dear patient suffered from malnutrition – she was too weak and subject to hypothermia to fend for herself and was manifesting malnutrition related dementia. I hadn’t seen her for a number of years when a neighbor called a mutual friend to say that she was “wandering the streets.”
After hospitalisation and three square meals for a while, she was back to her feisty self. (more)
There is great danger that seniors with malnutrition are being misdiagnosed with age related dementia or Alzheimers.
After I spoke publicly about the extreme prices at the state subsidised supermarket on Roosevelt Island, and the appearance of malnutrition in seniors, buses were laid on to take the seniors to supermarkets off Roosevelt Island and are still in use.
In the Orwellian nightmare that is Roosevelt Island, with Urban American’s Federally funded apartment grabbing and their desire to convert the Senior and Disabled building to luxury condominiums, discontinuing the shopping buses may be the quickest way to induce manutrition based dementia and empty the building.
In the old days we could throw our coat over our pajamas and go out to get an early (5-6am)newspaper and coffee. Worked for me – I filed the occasional article on European time. Today that would translate as “wandering the street in one’s nightwear,” a quick trip to ‘Shady Pines” apartment grab.
Take my friend, “Daisy.” Retired nurse, early eighties, smart as a whip, but a rascal. Wednesday she’d glam up and toddle out to party with old friends in Woodside. Thursday morning, no sign of Daisy – hangover time. Friday, she’d run out for cigarettes and “still in the moment,” lose her keys. Saturday and Sunday were spent with family and she’ d return on Mondays ready to rock and roll all over again.
They wanted her apartment. As a long term resident she would have rights. As the mother in law of a Real Estate attorney, and popular neighbor, she’d easily fight eviction. Housing/Public Safety started to call her adult daughters.
“Your mother was wandering….” “we found your mother…” etc.
It’s easy to misdiagnose Alzheimers with unchallenged “official” statements like that, and a Thursday or Friday “symptom” picture, and eventually she moved away to stay with a family member and died of a stroke a few months later. (Note: Alcohol serves as a blood thinner and should never be abruptly withdrawn from long term users without careful monitoring.)
There is a lot of smoke to the effect that landlords all over NYC are using EMS to solve their eviction problems and that a very few may be on the take. Mature women are the main targets. “Crazy lady” needs to go into the garbage along with “nigger,’ “dyke” and “kyke.” It is a virtual immolation, de facto de-humanisation, and more enduring than any of the fore-going epithets.
My own experience with a rogue EMT and Roosevelt Island’s Public “Safety”made these rumors plausible to me. Employed by NY State and receiving considerable revenue via Jerome Belson Associates, these de facto felons forcibly abducted me from Main Street, causing grevious bodily harm. My life was spared by the intervention of the NYPD, but physical and neurological problems continue. The NYPD was prevented from investigation, no report number was provided, and no Crime Victim Services were provided. It was followed by another assault on my home, breaking and entering, etc., again interrupted by the NYPD with no investigation.
Still in shock after the assault, kidnapping, abduction with apparent intent to homicide and absence of NYPD investigation despite the NYPD intervention, I mentioned it to a former mayoral housing executive who responded with a hug and sad comment –
“Deirdre, they’re after your apartment.”
They are still “after (my) apartment,” and that of the Seniors and Disabled, but I have nowhere in New York City to go. The Seniors and Disabled have some protection if they act quickly. As of now, with three hundred Senior centers closing, the new landlord trick of giving new leases dating back a year, thereby destroying eligibility for SCRIE and DRIE exemptions, and the massive rumors of EMTs moonlighting on of landlords and dragging long term tenants out as “Demented” it may already be too late.
The Barbarians have over run the gates of civilization.
Thank you.
**Testimony not given. Was #114 when I arrived. They were still around the 20 mark when I left.