An 85-year-old Italian grandmother could soon be evicted from the Manhattan apartment she's called home for more than 50 years. After losing a five-year battle to keep her rent from spiking from $820 to $3,500 per month, Adele Sarno's Little Italy home will likely be taken over by her landlord: the Italian American Museum, which, according to its website, is "dedicated to the struggles of Italian-Americans and their achievements and contributions to American culture and society," the New York Times reports. The irony isn't lost on Sarno. "I was here all my life," she tells CBS New York. Of museum founder Joseph Scelsa, she notes, "I'm more the Italian one than he is." The situation is "absolute hypocrisy," adds the director of an affordable housing group. "You're fighting a museum that purports to exhibit Italian-American culture and then proceeds to evict a living artifact."
Sarno, who has a monthly income of $750 and gets assistance from Social Security and relatives, says she believed her apartment was rent-controlled, but a judge ruled otherwise. She can't afford a rent hike. The museum, which plans to sell Sarno's building, said she would need to be out by April 6. Sarno managed to delay the eviction and is to appear in court on April 2. If she's forced to leave, she says she and her 19-year-old cat, Tosha, will likely be forced to move in with her daughter in Wisconsin. It's a "beautiful place, but not for me," Sarno tells DNAinfo. "I'm a New Yorker." Sarno isn't the museum's only casualty: The nearby Il Palazzo restaurant was handed an eviction notice last week after a late rent payment in February. It closed its doors yesterday, DNAinfo reports. Says the eatery's 71-year-old owner: "It feels like my heart's ripped out."