But while those running the shelter showed their anxiety through sweat and hurried voices, inside they must have been feeling hints of relief.Two days after announcing that overdue debts of nearly $18,000 could force them to close shop and abandon more than 50 homeless dogs and cats, Robert DeFranco and Jill Morgenstern were witnessing a community respond.On Friday New York City Marshal Martin Bienstock's office issued the shelter a two-week notice to pay the Verizon Yellow Pages Co. $17,777.20 in accumulated charges from Yellow Pages ads purchased over a year ago. Failing to do so, the notice said, "will compel me to physically levy upon your personal property ..."DeFranco and Morgenstern, who said they did not learn that such a court order was in progress until they received the judgment, insisted they were not going to let it happen. "We're prepared to stand in the lobby and hold them off," said DeFranco, who founded the shelter 13 years ago. "It's that important." More battle-like, Executive Director Morgenstern added, "I'll lie down on the ground kicking and screaming."By the busy sight of the shelter's lobby on Tuesday, many others shared the same sentiments. And those people, Morgenstern said, were who they were depending on for donations. People like Patsy and Carol Grimaldi of Rego Park, who at 11 a.m. handed over a $1,000 check to DeFranco. "We take care of 12 stray cats ourselves, eight in the house and four outside," Carol Grimaldi said. "You can see how we would care about these."Indeed, before the Grimaldis arrived, Boris Niyazov, who has volunteered as head trainer for the past seven years, said at least six dogs have been adopted already and countless calls have promised to send money.The question remains, however, if enough will come before the marshal comes knocking on Aug. 18. Morgenstern said their meager $240,000-a-year budget could not afford what Verizon was demanding. And she wondered if an alternative deal might be arranged."Verizon salespeople oversold us advertising years ago," she said in a release on Monday, referring to a $1,000-per-month yearlong contract. "For that we are at fault. However, they refused to forgive any of the monies or even to negotiate a payout plan that we could afford."However, Verizon was in contact with the shelter later on Tuesday to stamp out a deal that would satisfy both organizations, according to Verizon spokesman Dan Diaz, who assured, "We will not be party to closing the shelter." Diaz went on to predict some sort of payment plan to emerge that the shelter could afford.If the shelter were to close, Morgenstern said most of the 50 animals would be euthanized since city shelters were too full.Perhaps not. Ed Boks, executive director of Animal Care and Control for the city, said he was "fairly confident that room would be found for them" in city shelters. Citing a 193 percent increase in animal adoptions for this July compared to last, Boks said, "We are committed to transitioning into a no-kill city, and we'll do everything we can to help." Boks added that he attempted to call DeFranco recently to discuss options for the animals but has not yet heard back.For more information on adopting or donating, Morgenstern and DeFranco can be reached at 718-205-0200, Ext. 11.Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.
©2004 Community News Group
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