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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Monday, September 25, 2017

Borough Park’s oldest synagogue, Chevra Anshei Lubawitz, will not be demolished now, by order of a Brooklyn judge. Last Thursday, Judge Marshal Steinhardt issued a temporary restraining order, which will last until Oct. 16. At least for now, it specifically allows the synagogue leadership to proceed with the permitting process required before the demolition. The next court date is set for September 7. 

The synagogue was opened in 1914, at 4050 12th Avenue on 41st street. The synagogue’s building has been purchased with plans to tear it down and build a six-story apartment building. Developer Moses Karpen bought the building on June 14, for $3.1 million. As reported by The NY Daily News, 17 members of the synagogue have said that they did not hear about the sale until days after, and that the building was not even on the market.  According to them, the building was sold below market value, by at least one million dollars, to Karpen who is a friend of one of the board members.

Supporters of the deal note that the congregation will be given a new space under the arrangement, after the building is built. They insist that the developer is highly respected, and that the board first spoke to a few other developers and had the property appraised by an expert.  “The congregation completely denies that there was a lack of notice and proper approval by the membership,” said Scott Mollen, the lawyer representing the synagogue’s leadership supporting the sale. Records show that the deal has been in the making for the past 18 months, with critics trying to block the deal in court. The board then filed a petition with the state’s attorney general requesting legal signoff to make the deal. That petition argued that the synagogue is “old, dilapidated, in need of extensive renovation and is no longer able to house” services. Mollen says the roof is decrepit, the bathroom is a mess, the stairs are damaged and there is mold. “There are major structural issues,” Mollen said. “Given the small size of the congregation it is not practical to raise sufficient money.” He says the synagogue has only 18 members. 

Members disagree saying the synagogue has no violations, beautiful stained glass windows, chandeliers and pews in good condition, providing a photograph as evidence. They say the synagogue has close to 50 members, even making up two Friday night services during the winter months.

“We are very pleased that the court saw the need to issue a TRO, which will prevent this historic structure from facing the wrecking ball,” said David Shor, who has prayed at the synagogue for the past 10 years. “We are confident that the court will see the merits of our case, and prevent the destruction of Borough Park’s oldest synagogue.” 

By Ilana Siyance