A New York State Supreme Court judge has ruled that the venerable Yippie Museum be cleared for new tenants and has handed yippie leader Dana Beal a hell of a birthday gift, forbidding him from setting foot inside of his home of 40 years.
Since 2009, the owners of 9 Bleecker Street, Yippie Holdings LLC and the National Aids Brigade, have been fighting foreclosure for alleged non-payment on the mortgage. Yesterday, as Beal turned 67, Justice Jeffrey K. Oing ordered all of the building’s occupants to take their stuff and leave by Jan. 17 — unless, that is, the owners can come up with unpaid back rent amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, according to attorneys familiar with the proceedings.
The good news is: the building’s owners won’t have to pay $250 a day in civil penalties or face possible jail time for failing to pay the $20,000 a month rent that a court-appointed receiver imposed last May. The judge dismissed the receiver’s request to auction off Beal’s personal belongings as “crass,” said Beal’s lawyer, Noah Potter.
“He’s given people in the building” — including yippie Alice Torbush, another longtime resident — “a period of grace and the opportunity to get their stuff out on their own schedules,” Potter added.
Potter said Beal is expected to be released on parole from a Nebraska prison in the spring, but the court’s ruling denying him entry to the Yippie Museum complicates his desire to return to New York because of requirements by parole officials. Beal, a longtime advocate for legalizing marijuana and an organizer of the annual Global Million March for Marijuana, was convicted in Nebraska in 2009 for transporting 150 pounds of pot in a van that was to be supplied to members of the New York City Medical Marijuana Buyers Club, Potter said during another court hearing before Oing. Beal was also convicted on a similar charge in Wisconsin in 2011.
Brooklyn attorney Meryl L. Weinig, whose firm represents the receiver, said her team had argued that Beal’s belongings had been “abandoned” and that he had no right to keep them in the building since he was not legally a tenant (Beal had identified himself as a “caretaker” in court papers). She said Oing’s ruling still allows her firm to renew its contempt motion against the defendants if they do not comply with his order to leave and “remove all personal possessions — whether they’re yippie or not” — from the space by January 17. “We’ll see where it goes” after that, she said during a telephone conversation with B+B.
Nancy Allen, who has been talking to Beal daily during the 15 minutes he’s allotted from prison, said a personal friend of Beal’s has offered to rent storage space for the activist’s “personal and historical possessions” before the court’s deadline for them to be removed next Friday. Torbush, she said, has moved most of Beal’s possessions up to her third floor space “because she was rightfully concerned that somebody might come in and trash them.”
Meanwhile, the larger issue of who owns the title to the building in a trendy downtown neighborhood one block from the Bowery — which the receiver has put up for rent by Corcoran — remains part of ongoing litigation against Yippie Holdings LLC and the National Aids Brigade by the mortgage holder and lender, Centech LLC. The plaintiffs accuse the defendants of defaulting on a mortgage loan of $1.4 million that has now ballooned to $3.5 million because of interest accrued.
John Diffley, the defendants’ lawyer, said Yippie Holdings and the National Aids Brigade have not lost their status as owners and will continue to fight foreclosure against Centech in separate hearings.
“We will comply with the court order but that doesn’t mean our position as the owners is finished,” Diffley told B+B. “There is a procedure with receiverships and that procedure will be followed. But we are still the owners and the litigation continues.” Diffley said one of the still pending motions of his clients alleges “bad faith” during negotiations within the transaction for a mortgage initially made in 2004. “Much of the $3.5 million is default interest,” he said.” We claim that we were compelled into foreclosure and that there was no default.”
Centech’s attorney, Steven L Einig, told Judge Oing during a hearing last November that “my client just wants to to be paid.” He added: “If the case is about money, money can fix this case.”
Einig made a similar statement to B+B in an email yesterday. “The defendants can come in any time before a sale and pay the mortgagee what they owe and the case will be over,” he said. “Today, the judge ruled that the Receiver should not be interfered with by the defendants in conducting his duties, which involves taking control of and leasing the premises. Had the defendants paid a market rent to the receiver, there would be no need for such a lease.”
As for his motion on a summary judgment in the foreclosure proceedings that could allow him to sell 9 Bleecker Street, Einig said he expected a hearing on that matter in a few months.
Correction: an earlier version of this post misspelled the first name of Meryl L. Weinig.