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91-year-old sings for judge, gets to leave nursing home

Published: May 4, 2015

Publication: NY Post

By Julia Marsh

91-year-old sings for judge, gets to leave nursing home

Ruth Berk is back in her Greenwich Village apartment thanks to an impromptu courtroom singing performance.  Photo: Stefan Jeremiah

A 91-year-old former Broadway singer who was declared incompetent and tossed into a nursing home was returned to her Greenwich Village apartment — after wowing a Manhattan judge with her vocal talents.

Elderly songstress Ruth Berk sang the show tunes “Summertime” and “My Funny Valentine” to help convince Justice Tanya Kennedy that she was still fit to live there.

At her hearing, “although the justice refused to allow her to speak, [Berk] interrupted the court and told the court that she wanted to go home. She then began to sing for Justice Kennedy,” her lawyer, Arthur Schwartz, recounted in court papers.

Berk’s daughter, Jessica, said the judge was stunned at the impromptu performance last summer by her mom, whom she called “a cross between Bea Arthur and Elizabeth Taylor” in her younger years.

“[The judge] stepped off the bench, took [her] robe off and shook her hand and said, ‘Mrs. Berk, that was wonderful. Thank you very much for honoring me with that,’ ” Jessica, 55, told The Post.

Ruth was finally returned to her home, where she has lived since 1960, earlier this year.

But she may still have to update her repertoire with a selection from “Rent,’’ her camp said.

Landlord and real estate developer Lloyd Goldman has filed an eviction notice to try to boot Berk and her daughter from their rent-stabilized, $700-a-month penthouse.

Goldman’s lawyer, Lawrence Wolf, told The Post that Ruth and Jessica — who also resides in the two-bedroom pad at 95 Christopher St. — owe $27,000 in back rent.

Ruth’s lawyer and guardian, Arthur Schwartz, said the pair aren’t current on their payments because the rent-stabilized unit — in a building where apartments go for $7,000 a month — is like a “slum” with multiple violations. He added that the building owner has brought 21 unsuccessful landlord-tenant actions over the past 20 years.

Jessica Berk said she believes that their landlord made the anonymous complaint to Adult Protective Services that landed her mom in a nursing home as part of his push to get them out of the cheap pad.

“Who else would have a motive to get rid of my mother?” Jessica reasoned.

The landlord’s lawyer said his client did not make the 2012 call but acknowledged providing Kennedy with information for the case.

Berk will be back in front of Kennedy in June for the eviction trial.

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