Back in April of last year, I suggested we start a Haredi Hall of Shame after learning a Brooklyn yeshiva had…
…purchased a rent controlled apartment building and was forcing out its primarily poor, sick, elderly tenants to make way for dorm space.
I let the suggestion drop.
I was assured by several readers the rabbi is really a 'good guy' who would 'never' evict these people and cast them out on the street. He was making plans, I was assured, he will take care of them. He is 'compassionate.'
Now, I think it's time to bring the Haredi Hall of Shame back to the table.
The yeshiva is back to its old tricks and all those earlier promises were B.S., as the NY Post's David Seifman reports:
IN a classic case of government agencies working at odds, the Department of Finance awarded a property-tax exemption to a Brooklyn building that the Department of Buildings wants to fine as an illegal conversion.
Records show that the Mesivta and Yeshiva Gedolah of Manhattan Beach won a 75 percent property-tax reduction in 2004 after it bought an apartment house at 59 West End Ave. and converted part for religious and educational purposes.
The exemption lowered the yeshiva's most recent annual tax bill from $15,020 to $3,755.
The only problem - as building inspectors discovered on March 28 - is that the conversion was illegal. The owner did extensive construction work, even installing plumbing, to create a synagogue, office, classrooms and dorms in four of the eight apartments - all without permits.
After residents complained, it took DOB eight visits to gain entry, when they wrote two summonses returnable May 19 for work without permits.
Yeshiva principal Rabbi Joshua Zelikovitz did not return calls.
One city official said that ironically the yeshiva's troubles at Buildings wouldn't affect its tax exemption under the law.
In fact, tax assessors listed the building as a "House of Worship" after a site visit in 2004, even though DOB has classified it as an apartment house for four years.
Zelikovitz is now trying to empty a second apartment building, at 35-45 West End Ave.
A loophole in the rent law allows community facilities such as a yeshiva to evict rent-stabilized tenants.
Some of the nine tenants the rabbi is trying to force out are elderly Holocaust survivors.
"They're wreaking a wide path of destruction with the goals they're pursuing," said Jonathan Twersky of Legal Services NYC, the tenants' lawyer.
"One man called me today. He's elderly. He has no options. He was hysterical."
Many of the tenants Rabbi Zeilkovitz is trying to evict are elderly Russians. Many of them are sick and disabled. And some of them are Holocaust survivors.
More than a year after the original story on Rabbi Joshua Zelikovitz broke, there is still no evidence the rabbi has done anything to ease the suffering of these elderly people, as Walter Ruby in the Jewish Week reports:
…Zelikovitz reassured the building’s most vulnerable residents — Patskina and seven other elderly Russian immigrants with Section 8 subsidized units for which they pay an average of $100-200 a month — that he would help them locate alternative affordable housing in the neighborhood.
Yet over a year later no such apartments have been found. Residents charge that the rabbi and his real estate agents have offered them only a handful of possible apartments, all of which were either filthy and decrepit or could be attained only by paying prospective landlords a bribe of some $10,000-$20,000, which landlords in the area customarily demand before accepting Section 8 tenants, according to city housing advocates.
Meanwhile, Zelikovitz has filed eviction notices against most of the tenants of the 16 apartments that are still occupied while refusing to accept the rent payments they have sent him.
“The rabbi promised at the beginning he wouldn’t evict me, but now I have received an eviction notice,” said Patskina, who said she is unable to sleep these days out of fear of imminent eviction. She added, “I am Jewish and assumed all my life that rabbis were kind and compassionate. Never could I have imagined that a rabbi would deny me the right to live out my last years in dignity.”…
And then, we have a real estate flipping scheme that allows "nonprofits" to buy rent controlled buildings, evict the tenants and then, soon after, flip the building for significant profit gained because rent stabilized tenants are no longer there:
…Yet [the yeshiva's attorney, David Berger of the Brooklyn-based law firm of Tenenbaum and Berger] contended that Zelkovitz does have the right to sell 59 West End to developers despite the same stipulation because “the former residents of 59 West End left willingly after the Mesivta took it over. So he is free to sell the building to Donald Trump if he desires.”
Michelle Brunelle, 55, a longtime resident of 35-45 and the principal organizer within the building of resistance to Zelkovitz, has contacted several local politicians about the situation but has received little response. She attributes the lack of response to the political power of the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center (MBJC), where [Rabbi Zelkovitz is rabbi and] an influential real estate developer, Rubin Margules, is president.…
Margules sees the situation differently. “No matter what the tenants seem to think, the building belongs to the Mesivta and not to them,” Margules said. “It looks like the tenants are playing tough. They won’t take [alternative apartments] that don’t please their fancy tastes.” Margules added that Zelikovitz is “a very honorable person who has behaved toward the tenants in a menschy manner.” …
He evicts elderly, frail, sick Holocaust survivors in the name of "Torah."
No doubt about it, the Haredi Hall of Shame is now open, and Rabbi Joshua Zelikovitz is its first member.
[Hat Tip: Dr. Rofeh-Filosof.]