Inher90th year, my mother became an activist. She had been a singer, and with my dad had owned the Waverly Lounge in the Earle Hotel off of Washington Square Park. I grew up there, and have fond memories of the folks who passed through those legendary portals. Everyone from Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, to Barbara Streisand, Phyliss Diller, Sidney Poitier, Judy Garland and even crazy Joe Gallo! Which is why, I think that Ruth was somewhat surprised when I left P.R. to found R.I.D. a dozen years ago. It’s been difficult at time to be the target of so much mistreatment by the hands of the Sixth Precinct, but nothing compares to what Mom experienced at the hands of Lt. Lee in Manatus recently.
As we were enjoying her favorite chicken salad sandwich and coffee, he burst in purporting to be serving a court order and announced that she was going to be hospitalized for her own good. What followed was one of the most dastardly deeds I have ever witnessed. Almost an hour of threats and terrorizing an old woman with no regard to her safety and wellbeing, it turns out there was an attempt to force my mom into a nursing home in order to vacate our two bedroom rent controlled penthouse apartment.
AdultProtectiveServices had orchestrated this charade, aided, and abetted by my evil landlord Lloyd Goldman. Formerly Goldman, Goldman, DiLorenzo, the latter who went to prison for racketeering, apparently the court appointed temporary guardian was just “looking out for her welfare” when he interrupted her belated birthday lunch. After repeated requests to see the order, an ambulance arrived and quickly determined Ruth Berk was in fine health and doing amazingly well for someone in her ninth decade. Rather than falling apart, she became furious and pledged to live long enough to see everyone involved in this debacle held responsible. I only wish I was holding up so well. Nauseous and somewhat light-headed, I emerged from the bathroom to her polishing off the other half of the sandwich. She then asked me to get her “good clothes” as she had plans to get a lawyer, go to court, and make herself available to the media. Now I see where I get this from. Happy birthday Mommy dearest! I’d hate to be in the shoes of those unfortunate few who thought they could take you on and win.
Speaking of winning, Mrs. Berk sued her/our landlord and won, which is when the retaliatory abuse started. Even though she was a tenant representative, the refusals to repair or replace anything became a common occurrence! Messages, visitors, and deliveries were hardly ever received. My father’s items in the storage room were “lost” and even her wheelchair was thrown down a flight of stairs. I had formed a new Tenants Association with help from Tom Duane, but those that stood up to Management were threatened and taken frivolously to court. We are still there, and as my mom said recently, you’d have to drag her out by the hairs of her chinny chin chin.