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THE CHURCH STREET Apartment building is being foreclosed by the county. Its tenants are being evicted by the county, but they say they were never notified of the situation by their landlord.

Foreclosure Handled Poorly,
Say Apartment Tenants

By Jeanne Sager
ROSCOE — February 1, 2002 – Jennifer Seiden isn’t looking for a handout; she just needs a break.
Seiden has been living in the Church Street Apartments in Roscoe for a year.
“Far from perfect,” she said, “the apartments were at least warm and cozy.”
Her husband, Daniel Schoonover, works for the Roscoe Central School but doesn’t drive, making the location, just above the school, ideal.
That was, until Jan. 18. When Seiden stepped out of her apartment, a county official in a truck was waiting to notify her that she would have to move soon.
It seems landlord Eugene Grossarth, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla. resident, owed more than $60,000 in taxes from as far back as 1998, and the county was about to foreclose on the property.
The officials from the Sullivan County Real Property Administration told Seiden that she could call the Division of Health and Family Services for assistance if the move would cause financial hardship.
And for Seiden, already six months pregnant with her first child, it is. Neither she nor Schoonover can drive – her because of a reflex problem and him because Olympia, Wash. (where he lived until last February) had a transportation set up that made it unneccessary for residents to learn to drive.
Though he’s gotten his New York State learner’s permit, the couple have been unable to purchase a vehicle for him to practice with.
And the salary he brings in from his job at the school and she makes as a freelance writer makes it hard for them to afford a move and higher rent in a new building.
So she called Health and Family Services, but to no avail.
“Because of Sept. 11, there are absolutely no funds available for anything,” she said.
Besides, there are no apartments available in the area that the couple can afford – especially if that means looking for new jobs in a new area so Schoonover can walk to work.
“If they move us away from Roscoe, he will have to quit his job,” Seiden explained, “making us poorer than we are.”
Looking in nearby Delaware County has only made the process more frustrating, because if they move outside of Sullivan County, it would make it even more difficult to get any county funding.
She’s keeping an eye out for jobs and sending in applications, but at six months pregnant, times are hard, she added.
But it isn’t the money Seiden is worried about – she’s worried about the other tenants and what they are going to do.
Seiden’s parents live in a downstairs apartment in the building – she can’t move in with them to solve her problem and, of course, they couldn’t move in with their daughter until they found a new place to live.
At least three of the apartments are occupied by older residents and other occupants have children, making a relocation even more difficult.
And Seiden wants to know why she wasn’t told of this sooner.
Grossarth never notified the tenants, she said, and the last she heard from him, he was telling them not to worry, that it would all be taken care of.
Meanwhile, she added, there have been people dropping by to examine the building in case they decide to purchase it from the county.
According to Bob Theadore, director of Real Property Administration, the Church Street Apartments are expected to be on the auction block Feb. 28 at 1 p.m.
The title is currently in front of a judge to be turned over to the county, he explained.
The fact that the tenants were not notified is not the county’s fault, Theadore said.
“I don’t know if there’s any law about it,” he said. “But it would have been common decency for him [Grossarth] to notify them.”
“We’ve met with the tenants and advised Social Services of their situation and asked them to work with them,” Theadore added.
Once the county takes title to the property, they will not be forcing the tenants out.
They have requested that they be gone by the auction date, but if the residents are still there, they will have to go through an official eviction process, which could take quite a long time, he explained.
“We just would like them to be out as soon as possible – we don’t want to be responsible for things like plowing snow, and God forbid if something should happen to one of the tenants in the building.”
Theadore noted that the Town of Rockland building inspector will most likely be asked to enter the building once it is in the county’s possession to check for any code violations.
If the building were deemed unsafe, the tenants would, of course, be asked to leave even sooner.
According to Grossarth, however, the county has yet to notify him in writing of the foreclosure proceeding.
He has contacted the county to find out what is going on, but only because he received a complaint from a tenant.
“I’m working to pay those taxes back,” he said. “And they didn’t give me a date for the auction.
“I’m very much surprised that I haven’t gotten anything in the mail,” he added.
There is a possibility, he noted, that any mail regarding the matter was sent to his lienholder instead of to his home in Fort Lauderdale.
Grossarth said he has spoken with his tenants.
“I spoke on the phone with them, two days ago,” he said Wednesday, “and I wrote them letters today.”
According to Theadore, however, the county has attempted to speak with Grossarth and resolve the issue, but the matter is still proceeding.
Seiden’s biggest concern currently is how all the tenants can move on from this problem.
“I’ve had worse times than this,” she said. “But I just don’t know how to fix it this time.
“This is not a charity thing,” she added. “I don’t need a lot, and I don’t need a handout, but I need a break.”
Her warning to other prospective renters is to check up on their landlords to make sure they are moving into a stable home.
“It’s my fault for not checking,” she said, “but I thought I didn’t have to.
“But people need to know they shouldn’t just move into an apartment – they need to check it out. From now on, I’m going to be a lot more wary.”
Judith Maier, commissioner of the county’s Department of Health and Family Services, said they will be sending their Intervention Outreach coordinator to the apartments to work with the tenants.
“She’ll go out and see what she can do to help the people – assist them in moving and find what county services can help them,” Maier said.

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