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December 12, 2018

EXCLUSIVE: Officials block sale of 100-year-old woman’s $1M Upper West Side co-op after learning of plans to live with home aide

September 30, 2018
The sale of 100-year-old Florence Lee’s Upper West Side co-op has been put on hold after the city grew suspicious over her apparent plans to buy a new home with the proceeds — for her caretaker. (Obtained by the Daily News)

Mi casa es su casa — unless the city has a problem with it.

Lawyers for the city’s Adult Protective Services have sued to block the sale of an elderly woman’s Manhattan co-op after learning she plans to take the proceeds and move in with her Brooklyn caretaker.




Florence Lee, who is 100 years old, grew so fond of her private home attendant that she was ready to sell her Upper West Side apartment and move in with Joy Ann Ross-Wood and her family, who are currently in Crown Heights.

The plan, according to Lee’s attorney, was for Lee to use the money from the expected $1 million sale and help Ross-Wood expand her own home. Court papers say Lee would continue paying her $1,300 weekly salary.

But the co-op sale came to a grinding halt after agency officials grew concerned that Lee was being scammed, and could be wiped out of her assets.

Authorities argued in court papers that Lee did not have the mental capacity to make decisions on her own. The agency is suing to appoint a guardian on Lee’s behalf.

Officials suggested Ross-Wood and Lee’s lawyer Samuel Weinbaum manipulated the elderly woman.

“Florence Lee has severe memory impairments and she is at imminent risk of financial exploitation,” a Human Resources Administration lawyer wrote.

An Adult Protective Services doctor who examined Lee said she has major neurocognitive disorder due to possible Alzheimer’s disease.

But Weinbaum said she just has a need to be part of a loving family.

“She wanted to go live with her aide,” Weinbaum said. “The aide has a family that she likes to be around. She spends a lot of time at the aide’s apartment.”

Ross-Wood, 50, a mother of five from Guyana, said she became Lee’s round-the-clock aide after the elderly woman took a dislike to a nursing home.

When Ross-Wood would take breaks to visit with her family, Lee, who grew close to the brood during visits and gatherings, would get upset, Ross-Wood said. Lee told her she should “let your family come and live with me in this house,” according to Ross-Wood.

“I said, `Well, my family’s big. We can’t live here,’ ” said the aide, who said Lee was “like family” to her husband and children.

Ross-Wood also told Lee she did not think the co-op board at the W. 66th St. building`would allow such a move.

“And then she said, ‘Well, then let’s sell the place and buy a big house. Everybody could live under one roof,’” Ross-Wood recalled. “And that’s how everything came about.”




Home care aide, Joy Ann Ross-Wood, and Florence Lee.
Home care aide, Joy Ann Ross-Wood, and Florence Lee. (Obtained by the NY Daily News)

But an agency psychiatrist who examined Lee said the patient could barely articulate how she knew Ross-Wood, and “believed she was an old friend,” according to court papers.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment on whether the matter was under investigation.

A married couple was already in contract for Lee’s home — originally offering to pay $999,999 and later agreeing to an extra $40,000 when the board rejected the lower sum for the 1,000-square-foot apartment with a terrace and views of the Hudson River.

In an Aug. 9 letter to Justice Laura Visitacion-Lewis, their attorney Ryan Miller said their inability to close the deal was costing them their locked-in mortgage rate and creating other headaches.

He wrote that Adam and Jennifer Wallach, who are buying the apartment, “are absolutely innocent bystanders” who “believe Ms. Lee was of sound mind when she signed the contract of sale.”

“Obviously, we were a little frustrated,” Adam Wallach told the Daily News. “At this point we’re kind of in a waiting pattern.”

Ross-Wood admitted Lee, a former lawyer, does have cognitive difficulties on occasion but said she has “good days” during which she is of sound mind.

Lee was taken from Ross-Wood’s home in an ambulance earlier this month after protesting that she was not ill and did not need to go, according to Wood and Lee’s cousin Yvonne Adams, who she was on the phone with when authorities arrived.

Weinbaum now believes she is at a nursing home. Ross-Wood and Weinbaum have not been able to speak to her.

Ross-Wood, who choked up talking about her elderly employer, said Lee needs to be surrounded by people who care.

“I swear (with) the house and all this confusion — it doesn’t matter to me anymore. That wasn’t my decision, that was Florence’s,” she said.

“I just want her to be well taken care of and be happy.”

With Elizabeth Keogh




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