By Kate Briquelet and Stephanie Pagones
They’re kicking them like a bad habit.
The nuns running St. Joseph’s Immigrant Home in Hell’s Kitchen are boosting the rent on young female residents and trying to boot women who have lived there for decades.
Now tenants at the West 44th Street building are raising hell — claiming the nonprofit is blowing funds on luxury frills and refusing to provide accounting.
“You can really tell they do not want us in the building,” said Rachel Wunder, 21, a ballet dancer whose monthly rent is now $800, up from $600. “They’re trying to suck everybody dry here.”
“It’s very abrupt, and we’re not prepared for this,” said one longtime resident whose rent jumped from $385 monthly for a tiny room to $535. “They’re closing the door on people.”
St. Joseph’s is part of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York and run by the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception in New Britain, Conn.
The five-story facility, established in the 1920s, has about 80 single-room-occupancy units and initially served immigrant women. Today it houses students and young professionals, as well as older, working-class immigrants who have lived in the small furnished rooms for years.
Tenants share a kitchen and bathroom and must pay electricity fees for their dorm refrigerators and AC units.
Earlier this year, the home’s administrator, Nancy Clifford, announced hefty rent hikes — in some cases by nearly 50 percent.
But nearly half the 70 residents are refusing to pay the new rate and putting funds in escrow after being slapped with legal documents demanding that they vacate the building by July 31.
“It’s a hostile relationship right now,” said JoJo Monsanto, who moved from the Philippines to St. Joseph’s in 2001. “Right now, they are not budging. They are very adamant that they want the money.”
Mother Mary Jennifer Carroll, superior general of the congregation, said the hike covers “recent unavoidable expenditures for the building repairs” but would not elaborate.
St. Joseph’s will “work appropriately with each to address individual situations,” Carroll told The Post in a statement.
Residents say Clifford wasted funds on unnecessary renovations and furnishings, including mirrors and tables in common hallways and new carpeting, and hired private security.
They say Clifford told tenants she had to borrow $300,000 to pay for repairs to the building, which is owned by the sisters.
“It’s a difficult situation,” said Wunder, who has been at St. Joseph’s since 2011. “There are many of us who can pay an increase. The issue is that there is absolutely no accountability.”
The nonprofit’s expenses soared in 2012, when it had revenues of $322,233 and operated at a $223,250 deficit, tax forms reveal. The previous year, it faced a $4,282 deficit.
From 2011 to 2012, expenses for “occupancy” jumped from $92,570 to $316,544, documents show.
In a meeting last week, residents again were told this cost was for “repairs.”
They wrote to Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities, asking for financial help, to no avail.
Housing advocates and residents say the nuns haven’t been receptive to suggestions or alternative funding, including a grant from an elected official.
“The mission of Catholic Charities stresses upholding the dignity of each person and serving the needs of the poor,” said Marti Weithman, director of the Goddard Riverside SRO Law Project. “We don’t believe the way the tenants are being treated is in line with that mission.”
The Archdiocese of New York did not respond to questions.
This article was originally published in the New York Post.