A museum dedicated to preserving the history of Italian-Americans in New York City has decided to evict one of the few remaining descendants of Italian immigrants living in Little Italy, the New York Times reports.
The Italian American Museum owns six apartments in the building next door to the museum, including the one in which Adele Sarno, an 85-year-old American whose parents were born in Naples, has lived since the 1960s. Five years ago, after the museum warned Sarno that her rent would go up, Sarno recruited the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, an affordable housing non-profit, to argue on her case. It was then that the octogenarian learned that her rent was not eligible for rent stabilization. The Italian American Museum followed through on their warning and served Sarno with an eviction notice in November.
The museum claims that income from the six apartments helps fund its operations. In a conversation with the Times, museum spokesperson Joe Carella asked, "So the museum should be running a charity or providing residences at discount rates?"
According to the Times, a census in 2010 found that there were no Italian-born Americans living in the small Manhattan area defined as Little Italy. Sarno, whose rent is $820 a month (her upstairs' neighbors pay $4,500 a month), has been asked to leave within a few days, though she has been living in the neighborhood for her entire life. The museum founders do not seem to see the problem here:
In an interview, Joseph V. Scelsa, founder and director of the museum, rejected the idea that the eviction was at odds with the institution's mission.
Little Italy, he said, "is not a community of Italian-Americans any longer." He said at some point the population that gave the area its name would disappear entirely, but that "the legacy would still remain because we have an institution that does that."
If Sarno is pushed out, she will be forced to move to Wisconsin to live with her only daughter.
"How could you throw old people out?" she told the Times yesterday. "I'm not going to be here that many more years. Let me die in my home."