By Jeanne Sager
ROSCOE February 1, 2002 Jennifer Seiden isnt 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 doesnt 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 hes gotten his New York State learners 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.
Shes keeping an eye out for jobs and sending in applications, but at six months pregnant, times are hard, she added.
But it isnt the money Seiden is worried about shes worried about the other tenants and what they are going to do.
Seidens parents live in a downstairs apartment in the building she cant move in with them to solve her problem and, of course, they couldnt 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 wasnt 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 countys fault, Theadore said.
I dont know if theres any law about it, he said. But it would have been common decency for him [Grossarth] to notify them.
Weve 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 dont 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 countys 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.
Im working to pay those taxes back, he said. And they didnt give me a date for the auction.
Im very much surprised that I havent 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.
Seidens biggest concern currently is how all the tenants can move on from this problem.
Ive had worse times than this, she said. But I just dont know how to fix it this time.
This is not a charity thing, she added. I dont need a lot, and I dont 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.
Its my fault for not checking, she said, but I thought I didnt have to.
But people need to know they shouldnt just move into an apartment they need to check it out. From now on, Im going to be a lot more wary.
Judith Maier, commissioner of the countys Department of Health and Family Services, said they will be sending their Intervention Outreach coordinator to the apartments to work with the tenants.
Shell 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.