Harsh! Yippie Museum’s Building Manager Wants Pot Activist Kicked to the Curb
Already fighting foreclosure, the home of the Yippie! Museum faced another buzzkill last week, as attorney Meryl L. Wenig asked a State Supreme Court judge to consider civil contempt charges against its owners and even jail time for failing to pay rent at 9 Bleecker Street.
Wenig represents David F. Segal, the receiver, who claims that “not one cent” of the $20,000-per-month rent he demanded via a notice in September has been paid since May, when the court authorized him to manage the building. As a result, Wenig asked a judge last Monday to fine the building’s owners $250 per day for each alleged civil violation, evict its occupants and permit the auctioning of any possessions that aren’t removed by October 15. The judge will set a court date on October 18.
Among the property that could be targeted for auction are the writings, clothes, and computer files of Yippie leader Dana Beal, who remains in a minimum security prison in Nebraska after receiving a four-to-six-year sentence last year for transporting 150 pounds of marijuana in a van with two others.
Court papers cited by the plaintiffs show that Beal described himself as a “caretaker” of 9 Bleecker, not a tenant. But his lawyer, Noah Potter, insisted the 66-year-old has lived there for 40 years, organizing protests against marijuana laws and advocating for other leftwing causes. The plaintiffs, Potter said, are “trying to pull the plug on his life,” which would be “destroyed” if his personal effects were auctioned off.
In her motion, Wenig contends that Beal has no “personal interest” in the building and his possessions have prevented the second and third floors from being rented out. “This is not a storage space,” she told B+B, noting that the building’s court-appointed receiver has a right to “seek sanctions” because Beale “has not paid a dime” in rent. (She said Beal might be allowed to use the space if he paid $6,000 a month, plus arrears.)
Potter described Monday’s contempt motion as a “one-two punch,” given that it came after the building’s lender initiated foreclosure proceedings over the non-payment of a $1.4 million mortgage. Wenig, says Potter, has made a motion “on the same grounds” as the lender. “This is a further pressure tactic around the upcoming hearing” set for January in the foreclosure case, he claimed.
Potter also described the receiver’s statement that he has not received not “one cent” of rent as “an extremely deceptive mischaracterization of what has been happening. The court issued an order appointing the receiver in May but he apparently didn’t even start getting ready to take office until August.” Potter said that Beal had proposed a renter in June but claimed Segal “blew off” the prospective tenant.
John Diffley, the attorney for the building’s owners Yippie Holdings LLC and the National AIDS Foundation, told B+B that his clients have “never defied a court order” and said he would make clear they were in “complete compliance” when he files his response to Wenig’s motion.
Last week, at a party at 9 Bleecker celebrating John Lennon’s birthday,Yippie pie thrower Aron Kay doubted whether anyone would rush to the building’s aid. “There are people who claim they’re into the cause, but they don’t put their money where their mouth is,” he said. “They talk the talk, but they won’t walk the walk.”
Civil rights attorney Ron Kuby, who said he has known Dana Beal for 30 years, also expressed concern over the weekend about 9 Bleecker, describing it as a focal point “for an astonishing level of political and social organizing that has made a large contribution to the vibrancy and richness of New York City. It would be tragic to lose this treasure to yet another greedy landlord.”