NEW YORK -- He might have survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but World War II veteran Rev. James Blakely isn’t so sure he’ll win his latest battle when he heads to Brooklyn Housing Court.
His landlord, Black Veterans for Social Justice, is trying to evict the 98-year-old man, saying he owes six years back rent for his studio apartment..
“One thing I am stunned by is, the Black Veterans for Social Justice gifted this apartment to Rev. Blakely,” Bonita Blakely, the man's wife, told WPIX.
Six years ago, Blakely, who is also an ordained minister, was living in a trailer with no running water in a junkyard when columnist Denis Hamill wrote an article in the New York Daily News about his living conditions.
That’s when, according to Hamill, a representative from the Black Veterans for Social Justice offered Blakely the studio apartment rent-free for the rest of his life.
“The City’s Department of Aging called me up and said they had an apartment through the Black Veterans for Social Justice,” Hamill said.
“I went there and there was a representative of Black Veterans for Social Justice who said he could have the apartment rent free for the rest of his life."
Two groups have set up GoFundMe pages for the $30,000 the Blakelys might be forced to pay in back rent.
More than $3,000 has been raised so far.
They are also so touched by the letters from supporters, including schoolchildren who write “you are my family’s hero."
“Cut to six years later, he’s still alive and he’s 98,” Hamill said. “They’re evicting him because they are selling the building, that’s my reckoning because it’s being sold to developers to make condos in a gentrification scam.”
A spokeswoman for the Black Veterans for Social Justice said it is “complicated," but that Blakely was given only a one-year lease.