A financially troubled retirement community in Port Washington has filed for bankruptcy protection from its creditors for the third time in nine years, citing difficulty in paying its bills because of reduced occupancy.

The Harborside, formerly called the Amsterdam at Harborside, listed assets of $100 million to $500 million against liabilities in the same range. The largest unsecured creditors are the families of 30 deceased residents who, as a group, are owed $29 million in entrance-fee refunds, according to documents filed in federal court in Central Islip on Wednesday.

The nonprofit retirement community, opened in 2010, has negotiated an agreement for a loan of up $9 million to continue operating. The money would go toward paying the salaries of 98 employees and providing meals, health care and other services to residents, many of whom are in their 80s, the documents state.

The Harborside also has been in talks to sell itself to another nonprofit: New England Life Plan Communities Corp., the documents state. New England Life was founded in fall 2021 and is based in Lincoln, Massachusetts, west of Boston, based on incorporation records.

What to know

  • The Harborside retirement community in Port Washington has filed for bankruptcy for the third time in nine years because its low occupancy rate is making it difficult to pay the bills.
  • The nonprofit, with 329 units, is seeking a $9 million loan to continue operating and pay 98 employees and provide health care, meals and other services to its residents.
  • New England Life Plan Communities Corp., in Massachusetts, is interested in purchasing the Harborside, according to documents filed in federal bankruptcy court in Central Islip on Wednesday.

New England Life officials couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday.

Any sale of the Harborside would likely be the result of an auction supervised by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, according to officials.

The Harborside “board has unanimously determined that it is in the interests of the Harborside and its creditors, residents and other interested parties that a petition be filed with the [bankruptcy court] by the Harborside seeking relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code,” states a resolution adopted by the nonprofit’s board on Tuesday.

Brooke Navarre, CEO and president of the Harborside, did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment on Thursday.

The nonprofit, with 329 units, offers different levels of care as residents age, from independent- and assisted-living apartments to a nursing home and dementia care.  The "continuing care retirement community" at 300 East Overlook is the only one of its kind in Nassau County but there are competitors in Suffolk County.

Prospective residents often sell their homes to pay the Harborside's entrance fee, which was between $527,250 and $2.2 million under one type of sales contract offered in 2021, depending on the size of the apartment. That contract also called for a monthly service fee of between $2,600 and $8,100 for meals and amenities, such as a heated indoor pool and underground parking.

A portion of the entrance fee is refunded after the resident dies, according to documents from the Harborside’s second bankruptcy case in 2021.

Since then, a second type of sales contract was introduced with lower entrance and monthly service fees in return for limited nursing home services. That contract was designed to increase the number of people living at the Harborside, Navarre told a meeting of the Nassau IDA two years ago. 

The second contract, plus a marketing campaign, apparently didn't attract a sufficient number of new residents, based on an Oct. 27, 2022, letter from Navarre to the IDA that was obtained by Newsday under the Freedom of Information Law. 

The Nassau IDA issued bonds for the construction of the Harborside in 2007 and then additional bonds to help it emerge from bankruptcy twice.

In the second bankruptcy case, in 2021, the IDA board vowed not to provide additional assistance if the Harborside filed for bankruptcy a third time. The board, in a 5-1 vote with one abstention, approved the issuance of up to $169 million in taxable and tax-exempt bonds and up to $1.3 million off the mortgage recording tax.

The Harborside stopped making payments on the bonds sometime last year or earlier this year, according to a Jan. 27 letter obtained by Newsday under the FOIL.

Nassau “was the conduit for these bonds but it’s not on the hook for the bond payments,” said Thad Calabrese, associate professor of public and nonprofit financial management at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. “[The Harborside] is on the hook for the payments, which are owed to the individuals and institutions that purchased the bonds.”

He said, "This isn’t falling on the government or the taxpayers.”

IDA chairman Richard Kessel agreed, adding that the agency’s board "will continue to monitor the situation very, very closely. We want to make sure the residents, as well as the employees, are completely protected,” he said on Thursday.  

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