Berean Institute is evicted, ordered out by Friday

Posted: September 10, 2012

The Berean Institute has been evicted from its landmark building in North Philadelphia.

The historic school, which was founded in 1899 to provide job training to African-Americans, has been ordered to "quit, vacate and remove all belongings" from the state-owned building at 19th Street and Girard Avenue by Friday, according to a letter dated Sept. 6, 2012 from the state Office of the General Counsel.

The letter was addressed to Dr. Lorraine Poole-Naranjo, president of the Berean Institute, who said Monday afternoon that the school will move to a new location.

"This is just bricks and mortar," Poole-Naranjo said outside the building on Girard Avenue, near 19th Street. "The Berean legacy will continue."

Sources said a lawyer for Berean has asked the state to give the school 30 days to move out. The lawyer, Vivienne Crawford, said she had no comment.

Last week, the Daily News reported that both electricity and gas at the building had been turned off.

Spokesmen for the Philadelphia Gas Works and Philadelphia Electric Company said the utilities were investigating how services had been provided there for years when there was no record of an account.

The Sept. 6 letter from the state said "  . . . [T]he sublease that Berean held from the state "expired on November 30, 2010 and has never been extended. . . . "

"It is expected that Berean will  . . . immediately surrender quiet and peaceful possession of the premises to the Department of Education and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." The letter was signed by David L. Narkiewicz, assistant chief counsel.

A spokesman for the Department of General Services, which manages most real estate owned by the state, did not return a call seeking comment Monday.

In addition to stating that Berean's lease expired in 2010. The letter also said:

"Berean has failed to make any lease payments to the Commonwealth since 2006

In 2008, when the state was given a notice of default, "Berean  . . . was to pay yearly rent [to the Department of Education] and that it owed a total of $310,778.08"

"Berean has been holding itself out as the owner of the premises and entering into subleases with without written consent of the Commonwealth to approve all subleases

"Berean has failed to pay water bills incurred at the premises in excess of $40,000 to the Philadelphia Water Authority

Former Common Pleas Judge John Braxton, who served as Berean's chairman of the board of trustees when the state was planning to shut down the school in 2008, said Monday: "That was so long ago, I don't know what the status of [Berean] is now."

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