One day when visiting my former tenant, Edwina Fontaine, at the DeWitt Nursing Home (see Goodnight, Edwina page 21), the woman in the next bed began talking to me. This woman was lucid, lively, and had lived on Christopher Street for her whole life. I asked her her name, and it turned out that she was Ruth Berk, mother of Jessica Berk, one of the Village’s quirkiest activists. Jessica had told me that her mother was “kidnapped” and placed against her will in a nursing home and barred from seeing her daughter.
It turns out that Jessica was right. Her mom does not belong in a nursing home. She can speak eloquently, feed herself, ambulate (with or without a wheelchair), and function with minimal support of another person (such as her daughter). Instead, she is in a horrific nursing home whose under- staffed facility is a warehouse where people are brought to catch communicable dis- eases and die—after Medicare and Medicaid shell out tens of thousands of dollars.
Ruth Berk was a fabulous opera singer, who, with her husband, opened the Wa- verly Lounge in the Hotel Earl on Washington Square North, where she enter- tained as a cabaret singer. But by 2013, to the landlord at 95 Christopher Street, she was a rent-controlled tenant living in a 2-bedroom worth a lot of money on the open market. So he called Adult Protective Services (APS) and alleged that Ruth was being abused by Jessica. Next thing you know APS arrives, with the police, guns drawn, to interview Ruth. They find a messy, cluttered apartment and a 92-year- old woman scared out of her wits, and they run to a judge seeking to have a guardian. The agency appointed as guardian pulled Ruth out of her home and shipped her off to DeWitt, where she exists in a room with two other non-ambulatory people who wear diapers and are frequently sick with illnesses that could kill a horse.
The guardian, an entity called “Self Help,” convinced Justice Tanya Kennedy that Ruth Berk was incompetent and didn’t understand that her visits from her daughter were “harmful,” and had Jessica Berk and her domestic partner barred from visiting Ruth in DeWitt.
I am writing this as a public promise that after seeing DeWitt basically killing Edwina Fontaine, I will do everything I can to get Ruth out of her imprisonment at DeWitt and back home to Christopher Street.
And I will need my fellow Villagers to give Ruth their support. She is part of the history of the Village and she wants to live the rest of her life here. She needs everyone’s support.
3 thoughts on “Ruth Berk Must Be Freed!”
Can you imagine those poor souls who dont have Arthur Schwartz to advocate for them? Something must be done to insure that APS doesn’t continue to engage in emptying all Rent-Controlled apartments in manhattan. Many Thanks to everyone who has responded with their well wishes! Mom is so grateful to have had her prayers for help answered so powerfully ….
Contact Senator Brad Hoylman’s office.
Stay away from Brad Hoylman. Before he became a State Senator he ran the NYC Partnership, the political action club for NYC developers and landlords. Go to Hoylman at your own risk.