The White-haired woman in the red print dress shook her head, "no," when several other elderly residents of the Massachusetts Avenue apartment house asked her to join them in a show of solidarity yesterday morning.
"No, no," the 74-year old woman repeated in a whisper, glancing toward the entrance to the building. "I am going to move out as fast as I can, as far away as I can. You don't live on the 7th floor with them."
The Woman, who asked not to be identified, was referring to members of the Synanon Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization that rehabilitates drug addicts and alcoholics. Synanon has entered into a contract with the owner of Boston House at 1711 Massachusetts Ave. NW to buy the building by the end of the year, according to the present building manager. The seventh and eigth floors of the building have become the organization's East Coast headquarters and living quarters for some Synanon members.
Members of the group of more than 25 residents, all members of the Boston House tenants organization, protested what they said was harassment by Synanon members since their organization was notified in May that residents living on the seventh and eighth floors would have to move by July.
Residents complained that Synanon members hold 6:30 p.m. group meetings in the lobby that usurp its use by residents, that building security is not maintained because Synanon members refuse to lock doors at night, that elevators are intermittently turned off, and that Synanon members, in their periodic group sessions, make excessive noise and knock on residents' doors offering them assistance to leave immediately despite a 90-day period they've been allowed in which to relocate.
Synanon spokesman Howard Garfield refused to respond to those charges or to any questions from the media yesterday. The buildings' owner of record, Stuart A. Bernstein, would not return a reporter's phone calls.
Residents who gathered in the building's lobby yesterday to talk to an NBC television reporter doing a documentary on Synanon said they were afraid, and that they didn't want to be forced to move. They said they believed that Synanon was trying to make their lives so uncomfortable they would all have to move.
One woman who also asked not to be indentified, said "They don't even own the building yet, don't have a certificate of occupancy to have offices in here and they are taking over the place."
Boston House tenants met with members of the District's Zoning Commission last week to challenge Synanon's right to have offices in the building, which is partly zoned special purpose, a designation allowing offices in a predominantly residential neighborhood.
The meeting resulted in the commission's passing a 120-day emergency regulation suspending the routine granting of certificates of occupancy for offices at Boston House.
Gleason Wilson, chief of zoning inspection branch whose inspectors were denied entrance to Synanon offices this week, said he would send a letter to the organization stating they were in violation of the law.