91-Year Old Ex-Opera Singer Gets To Go Home, Scores Release From 'Involuntary Detention' In Nursing Home By Defying Order & Serenading Judge In Open Court; Daughter & Attorney Say Sneaky Landlord/Developer Made Anonymous Complaint To City Social Service Agency In Push To Have Senior Granny-Snatched Out Of Her Rent-Controlled Pad Where She's Lived Since 1960
- She got her home back for a song.
A 91-year-old former Broadway singer who was declared incompetent and tossed into a nursing home was returned to her Greenwich Village apartment — after wowing a Manhattan judge with her vocal talents.
Elderly songstress Ruth Berk sang the show tunes “Summertime” and “My Funny Valentine” to help convince Justice Tanya Kennedy that she was still fit to live there.
At her hearing, “although the justice refused to allow her to speak, [Berk] interrupted the court and told the court that she wanted to go home. She then began to sing for Justice Kennedy,” her lawyer, Arthur Schwartz, recounted in court papers.
Berk’s daughter, Jessica, said the judge was stunned at the impromptu performance last summer by her mom, whom she called “a cross between Bea Arthur and Elizabeth Taylor” in her younger years.
“[The judge] stepped off the bench, took [her] robe off and shook her hand and said, ‘Mrs. Berk, that was wonderful. Thank you very much for honoring me with that,’ ” Jessica, 55, told The Post.
Ruth was finally returned to her home, where she has lived since 1960, earlier this year. But she may still have to update her repertoire with a selection from “Rent,’’ her camp said.
Landlord and real estate developer Lloyd Goldman has filed an eviction notice to try to boot Berk and her daughter from their rent-stabilized, $700-a-month penthouse. Goldman’s lawyer, Lawrence Wolf, told The Post that Ruth and Jessica — who also resides in the two-bedroom pad at 95 Christopher St. — owe $27,000 in back rent.
Ruth’s lawyer and guardian, Arthur Schwartz, said the pair aren’t current on their payments because the rent-stabilized unit — in a building where apartments go for $7,000 a month — is like a “slum” with multiple violations. He added that the building owner has brought 21 unsuccessful landlord-tenant actions over the past 20 years.
Jessica Berk said she believes that their landlord made the anonymous complaint to Adult Protective Services that landed her mom in a nursing home as part of his push to get them out of the cheap pad. “Who else would have a motive to get rid of my mother?” Jessica reasoned.
The landlord’s lawyer said his client did not make the 2012 call but acknowledged providing Kennedy with information for the case. Berk will be back in front of Kennedy in June for the eviction trial.
See also, WestView News (The Voice of the West Village): Ruth Berk Must Be Freed! - where Ruth's lawyer and new guardian Arthur Schwartz writes this excerpt of a longer story:
- [R]uth Berk was a fabulous opera singer, who, with her husband, opened the Waverly Lounge in the Hotel Earl on Washington Square North, where she entertained 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.(1)
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 [Nursing Home], 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.