Deal or No Deal: New World Academy fights YMCA in court over sale of preschool property

Two wonderful organizations devoted to helping the people of South Florida are locked in a court battle. Actually, two battles, because both sides disagree on what a document they signed says. The Nightteam’s Patrick Fraser has his special assignment report: Deal or No Deal.

New World Academy is a remarkable pre-school in Liberty City.

Malory Roger: “Oh, it’s amazing. Children don’t even want to go home sometimes. Parents come to pick them up and they’re like I want to go back.”

From newborns to 3-year-olds, Malory Roger and Wyller Jason’s non-profit educates and cares for dozens of children from the neighborhood.

Malory Roger: “Everything that needs to be done for when they go to kindergarten for them to be advanced up and running.”

Another incredible organization serving all of South Florida is called the YMCA.

Alvin Lodish: “We serve from the youngest of kids and to the elderly in terms of care and in terms of wellness.”

Whether it’s educating children or feeding seniors, The Y is there for everyone.

Sheryl Woods, CEO: “It’s hard to tell our story because we do so much for so many.”

Two wonderful groups are now in a court battle after they made a deal in 2018.

Alvin Lodish: “We leased them the property. They wanted an option to buy the property at some point in time, which we didn’t have a problem with.”

The property is the Martin Luther King Center owned by The Y, according to this document called a term sheet.

New World would pay The Y $5,000 a month for rent. The option to buy set the price at $350,000.

But while both sides signed it, they disagree on what they signed.

Malory Roger: “Yes, the contract was very specific. They wanted $350,000 for the building.”

Alvin Lodish: “We really didn’t list It for $350,000. What we did was put a price out there that we thought might be reasonable, but it was always an understanding that the board of The Y would always approve whatever the purchase price was.”

The agreement was renewed a couple of times. Then in 2020, New World Academy said let’s close the deal.

Malory Roger: “We are ready to buy. We’ve been ready to buy, our bank is ready.”

The Y said not at $350,000 since the value of the property had soared to $750,000 by 2021.

Alvin Lodish: “For them to expect us to sell the property for so much less than the fair market value was completely unreasonable. We were happy to sell it to them for fair market value.”

And so Malory and Wyller sued in court to force The Y to sell the property to them at $350,000.
The judge ruled in favor of The Y, saying there was no contract.

Sheryl Woods, CEO: “It’s a term sheet, which is a… it’s not a legally binding contract.”

New World appealed the court ruling. The lawyers for The Y then sued to evict them from the property, making neither side happy.

Malory Roger: “And now they want to evict us because we went to court for them to honor the contract they wrote.”

Sheryl Woods, CEO: “We never wanted to go down this road. All we’ve done, Patrick, is defend ourselves.”

Woods said The Y would love for the two sides to quit battling in court.

Sheryl Woods: “I sent them a letter that said, ‘Hey, you are welcome to stay and renew your lease or purchase this facility at its fair market value.'”

After we spoke to both sides, we asked them to talk again without the lawyers involved. They did. The eviction hearing was canceled, and they’re talking about a new lease. But after listening to Malory and Wyller again, no deal seems more likely than a deal.

Malory Roger: “It’s unfair. It makes me really sad. I’m panicking.”

If New World has to close, The Y says they will help find places for the kids.

Sheryl Woods: “They are, within a probably three or four-mile radius of that site, there are multiple multiple child care operations. That’s one thing, so these kids won’t be displaced.”

Maybe two great groups can work it out and be able to do what they love: Focus on the kids and get out of court.

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