By Anna Gustafson
Around this time of year, longtime Bayside residents Phyllis and Jeffrey Steiman are normally celebrating Hanukkah with their children and grandchildren.
But this year the married couple, who have dealt with amputation, sickness and a job layoff in recent years, are facing an eviction they are fighting in court.
“We are devastated that this has happened, especially with all my husband has been through,” said Phyllis Steiman, who has lived in Bayside for 30 years.
The Steimans, who live on 75th Avenue, last Thursday were served an eviction notice, which they are contesting in Queens Civil Court. The couple said they owe about two months of rent, or a little more than $1,600, while a representative of their landlord, Shaifa Trust, said they owe $4,000.
“They are going to throw us out now, at this time of year?” said Phyllis Steiman, 56.
Phyllis Steiman said while she understands she and her husband of 17 years still owe money, she said they need a little time or help to pay it back because of the challenges the couple have recently faced.
Jeffrey Steiman had to have his right leg amputated because of complications from diabetes in January 2009, after which he has been unable to continue working as an EMT for Transcare, a group that provides emergency services for area hospitals. His wife lost her job about a year ago when she tried to cut back her hours at a medical office in Queens to take care of her husband, who besides having a prosthetic leg also has congestive heart failure and is unable to move around without help. Her boss said he could only offer her a full-time job instead of part-time work, and Phyllis Steiman has since been looking for a job.
Jeffrey Steiman, who also volunteered for the Glen Oaks Ambulance Corps, did not receive disability payments until May, and the couple is now living on about $1,200 a month. They pay $811 monthly for the rent for the co-op they have lived in together for the past 17 years, as well as about $75 for medication and various amounts for the several doctor’s visits he makes weekly. She moved into the co-op 30 years ago.
“With rent plus electric and phone, it doesn’t leave much for cash for his medication and doctor’s visits,” Phyllis Steiman said.
Besides having diabetes and congestive heart failure, Jeffrey Steiman also has coronary artery disease, multiple sclerosis and severe renal failure, his wife said.
Jeffrey Steiman and Phyllis Steiman said they cannot imagine leaving their community where they have invested so much of their lives. Their four children spent much of their lives in the house and they have celebrated many a holiday there — except for this year.
“We have no money for Hanukkah this year,” Phyllis Steiman said.
A spokeswoman who would not give her name from Shaifa Trust said the couple owes $4,000, not the $1,600 they say they owe.
“If she shows us she paid it, and we made a mistake, we can talk,” the spokeswoman said. “We’re willing to work out a deal. Once she pays, she can stay.”
Phyllis Steiman said she has reached out to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) for help. In the past, she worked with City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) when he was in the state Assembly. Weprin helped to build a wheelchair ramp for their house.
The Steimans will return to the courthouse at 89-17 Sutphin Blvd. in Jamaica Wednesday.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.