The owners of an English-language school received an eviction notice weeks before its abrupt closure left staff and visa-dependent students stranded last week, court documents show.
The American Language Communication Center (ALCC) owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent, taxes and utility bills on three floors it rented on West 36th Street, according to an eviction case brought by ALCC’s landlord.
The building’s owner, West 36 LL, LLC, said the language school was behind on rent in the fall and gave notice to ALCC to leave by the end of November 2018, according to court documents.
In December, the landlord went to court to force ALCC out, and won. The record shows New York County Civil Court Judge Elena Baron ordered eviction in late January, and the New York Marshal’s office issued a warrant for eviction on March 5.
It wasn’t until four weeks later that ALCC’s leaders — manager Peter Pachter and his brother, Jean Pachter, according to former staff and business records — alerted the school community that it would close.
At that point, students had less than four days to transfer to new schools to avoid losing their student visas.
The school’s shuttering caused chaos among students, many of whom had recently paid tuition for 10-week classes in the days before the closure. In a letter to staff, ALCC manager Peter Pachter said “we are not able to make any refunds.”
Attempts to reach the Pachters by phone, email and through their attorney were unsuccessful.
In court papers, the Pachters defended themselves, claiming to have made partial payments on what they owed.
In a March 26 affidavit filed with the court seeking a 90-day stay of the eviction order, Peter Pachter stated, “Since the decision against us by this Court, we have tried to find alternative space and at the same time attempted to negotiate resolution with the Landlord.”
“We are still desirous of negotiating a long term solution with the Landlord,” he said in the document, noting that his attorney had been prepared to provide a cash payment as security in addition to the remainder of funds owed. “As an alternative,” the affidavit continued, “we…have found a suitable building in Manhattan.”
On March 27, Judge Judy Kim denied the school’s request for a stay of eviction, according to court records.
Six days later, school officials announced they were halting classes and shuttering operations.
Out of Work After 21 Years
While many students are trying to get their tuition reimbursed and visa status secured, ALCC’s teachers say they’ve been slammed by the closure.
Jeff Serkin, 58, worked for the school for 21 years – and is now without a job, health insurance and two weeks worth of vacation days that ALCC never paid out, he told THE CITY Wednesday. But he said he’s trying to focus on the good.
“I try not to do anger,” he said, standing next to signs posted on ALCC’s doors announcing the school’s closing.
Serkin visited the school to try to catch up with the Pachters after he heard from a WhatsApp group of ALCC teachers that the brothers had been there earlier in the day. Many former students and teachers have come to the school looking for the brothers since the closure, building workers said.
According to the New York State Department of Education, ALCC is liable to pay refunds to all students enrolled in ALCC on the date of the school’s closure. If it does not, students will be paid back from the state’s Tuition Reimbursement Fund, which ALCC must in turn reimburse. If that doesn’t happen, the issue will be referred to the Attorney General’s Office, education department officials said.
As of Tuesday, 85 students had filed formal complaints regarding ALCC, the education department said.
ALCC students and staff: We’d like to talk to you. Email reporter Rachel Holliday Smith at email@example.com or text/WhatsApp 718-866-8674.
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