Some two months after the owner closed the Ridgewood Retirement Community rather than address a number of health department and city building code violations, residents have relocated and the owner has put the decaying facility up for sale.
The Examiner published the first of a series of articles in May 2013 detailing sub-par conditions inside the assisted living home. Numerous residents interviewed by The Examiner complained about food quality, the conditions of their rooms and retaliation from staff when complaints were made. But it wasn’t until a health department inspection was conducted by the city that the full extent of Ridgewood’s problems became known.
According to city health inspectors, Ridgewood’s kitchen and refrigeration equipment were completely unsanitary and unusable. Later, reports from city building code inspectors revealed a host of roofing, air conditioning and electrical problems that, until remedied, would keep the city coming back time and again.
After a few months of attempting to fix the problems, it seems Ridgewood’s maintenance needs became too much for the owner, Samuel Pinter of New York, to handle. The closure was announced in October.
“Everything is closed down,” said Faye Bowman, Pinter’s corporate manager in Texas, in a late December interview with The Examiner. Bowman said all of Ridgewood’s residents were relocated to facilities around Southeast Texas, adding none of the residents chose another of Pinter’s facilities in other Texas cities.
“We furnished a U-haul and moved everybody like we said we would,” Bowman said.
In the past, former Houston Mayor Bill White has called Pinter a “slum landlord,” and Pinter had to pay $44.8 million for federal mortgage fraud in July 2010 in a U.S. District Court in New York.
The Examiner caught up with Pinter’s son, Charles Pinter, who said Ridgewood’s problems were a direct result of hurricane damage.
“We were losing $10,000 a month for the last two years,” Pinter said. “We spent a quarter million dollars putting in good money after bad money and it got to the point where we had issues with the roof. We tried many different ways to do as much as we could with the means that we had, and we were losing money. To put more money into a bad investment at that point after the hurricane, we didn’t find it feasible.”
Charles Pinter also blamed a disgruntled employee, Phillip Copeland, who was interviewed by The Examiner and who Charles Pinter said was fired for lying to the city about the true nature of Ridgewood’s problems.
He was fired less than three months after Copeland said he was hired to make repairs at the facility. Copeland even took out a permit and became bonded with the city’s building codes department, only to be fired a few weeks later.
“When you have a disgruntled person or someone has different agenda to do what he wants to do and cause all kinds of false accusations, it’s like fighting city hall and fighting false accusations,” Charles Pinter said. “Unfortunately, sometimes people succeed and that’s exactly what happened.”
Charles Pinter said the facility needed at least 30 to keep the doors open, compared to the 15 or so who lived at Ridgewood when it closed. Pinter has lowered Ridgewood’s price to a little more than $500,000 due to the likely cost of fixing problems created by what lead city building code inspector Boyd Mier called “a lack of routine maintenance.”
Charles Pinter said it could cost as much as $1 million to completely fix Ridgewood’s ails.
“The standards of what it is to bring it up to par, up to code, as well as bringing it up to today’s standards compared to what patients were looking for 20 years ago, it’s very likely,” he said. “A lot of people have been living there for 20 years, so when they moved in 20 years ago, 15 years ago, there were different standards than there are today.”
It seems the assisted living business isn’t an easy one, as Pinter said most elderly Southeast Texans simply don’t have enough money.
“Once they move out, very often they don’t come back,” Charles Pinter said. “So once you lose that revenue, it doesn’t come back. People just won’t move in tomorrow because there aren’t that many elderly people who can afford assisted living.”