MANHATTAN (CN) – The man credited with making New York’s world-famous 92nd Street Y into what it is today killed himself after being fired because of his depression, his wife claims in court.
Sol Adler spent 40 years with the 92nd Street Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association and the last 25 years of his life as its executive director. The Y is renowned for its concerts, lectures and cultural events.
His wife, Deborah Adler, claims she received a call in July 2013 from the Y’s Deputy Executive Director Henry Timms and board member Fred Poses, who told her that Sol was no longer allowed to work there, and that “he had two choices: resign or be fired.”
When she told them he had been hospitalized for depression, they responded “in the most heinous way possible: ‘Well, in that case he is fired,” she claims in New York County Supreme Court.
The “heartless decision” exacerbated her husband’s depression, she says, leading to multiple suicide attempts.
“As Mr. Adler became more depressed, he also became more reclusive,” his widow says. “He began spending more and more time inside, hardly leaving the house and spending as many as 18 hours per day in bed.”
In August 2013, he slit his wrists. In March 2014, he tried again by cutting his throat. He killed himself on May 9 this year by hanging himself in his home, leaving behind his wife and three children.
A phone call and e-mail to the Y Friday morning was not immediately returned.
Adler is credited with increasing the programs and events offered at the Y, which led to its international recognition as a cultural institution.
Mrs. Adler says the decision to fire him was a “blatant breach” of his employment contract, which called for termination only “for cause” and only after 30 days notice.
After receiving a call from The New York Daily News about her husband’s hospitalization. Adler says, she called the Y and urged them to make her husband a “poster child” for depression. She says the Y’s public relations team urged to keep his health issues a secret.
In an attempt to create “cause” for his termination, an email was sent to the staff claiming Sol Adler had “engaged in a long term personal relationship” with the Y’s liaison to the board and donor relations, his widow says.
She claims board member Poses threatened to leak that to the media, and that while her husband and the liaison did have a relationship “for a time,” it ended before he was fired.
He was fired three days after the board learned of his depression, Mrs. Adler says.
She says he was not paid his guaranteed benefits of $2.8 million upon termination.
She seeks damages for disability discrimination and breach of contract.
She is represented by Douglas Wigdor.
The only defendant is the 92nd Street Y itself, not any of its officers.
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