Shortly before his 2nd birthday this past spring, doctors diagnosed James with rhabdomyosarcoma, a form of cancer often found in children. He has been undergoing intensive chemo and radiation therapy, and while the results are encouraging, a long course of treatment remains ahead of him. The related medical expenses have been overwhelming for his family.
James' father Damian Panitz, a longtime East Village resident who is a teacher and technician at NYU, said that while the event was a success and raised funds to help with medical expenses, the family now faces a new challenge.
Damian and his wife Kate Perry recently learned that their landlord, Steve Croman of Croman Realty/Croman 9300, is nearly doubling their rent on East First Street from $2,100 to $4,100 a month.
"We absolutely cannot afford this price bump," Damian told me. "And to move in the middle of my son's treatment could be disastrous to his health."
So, when paying the October rent in person at the Croman office on Broadway, Damian's wife Kate outlined the situation to a Croman rep, explaining that they needed one more year until James is healthier.
She explained that we could not possibly sign a lease for $4,100 but pleaded that if our rent were to raise would he be so nice to consider a 10 percent raise? His attitude was snarky. He said they are running a business and not a charity and he could possibly find something cheaper for us somewhere else.
She explained again that moving out in January could be detrimental to his condition, not to mention we work nearby and the ability to check on our son during our breaks is essential. He then said "so you want me to do you a favor?" She said no, do a favor for a 2 year old boy with cancer. It's just one more year.
Damian says they were planning on moving after Croman bought the building 18 months ago. However, James' illness has complicated any move.
"We figured we would wait out the lease and go. However, since our son has been ill, it is suggested we keep him where he is until he hopefully regains his health."
The family hopes to continue to plead their case to Croman. As a backup, they'll try to quickly find another affordable apartment in the neighborhood, where Damian and Kate want to stay.
"My mother's family emigrated to St. Mark's Place in the early 1920s from Bratislava, Slovakia," Damian said. "My uncle has lived in the East Village for 45 years," he said. "And now I would like to raise my son here."