The Real Deal New York

Sale of LES synagogue to Peter Fine faces opposition

Developer plans to turn the site into housing

April 10, 2015 02:10PM

25 Bialystoker Place on the Lower East Side (inset: Peter Fine)

25 Bialystoker Place on the Lower East Side (inset: Peter Fine)

UPDATED, April 13, 1:01 p.m.: Peter Fine’s $13 million purchase of a Lower East Side synagogue and nursing home will go before a judge next week, amid opposition from congregants who believe the synagogue president has ulterior motives.

Fine has plans to develop the Home of the Sages at 25 Bialystoker Place, along with two adjoining lots, into housing, according to the New York Observer.

Because of the synagogue’s nonprofit status, a judge must approve its sale. But congregants say that Samuel Aschkenazi, the trustee and president of Home of the Sages, obtained approval for the sale through a shadow board, none of whom attend the synagogue. Also strange is that Ashkenazi only plans to keep $3 million of the proceeds, and send the remaining $10 million to a separate group that plans to build a synagogue in Jerusalem.

Attorney David Jaroslawicz, who represents the congregants, said that transferring the funds to a separate charity raises a legal issue and violates the spirit of charitable donation laws.

The newspaper also asserts that Fine was a close friend of William Rapfogel, who is now in prison for insurance kickbacks but formerly sat on a panel that advised the Attorney General’s office on best practices for charitable institutions. [NYO] — Tess Hofmann

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Fine and Rapfogel were once co-workers. While both men once worked at the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, they did not work there at the same time.