In a scuffle over the sale of a Lower East Side synagogue to developer Peter Fine, landlord Baruch Singer has joined a chorus of congregants crying foul over the synagogue president’s motives.
Congregants are challenging the $13 million sale of Home of the Sages, saying that president Samuel Aschkenazi has ulterior motives aside from raising money for their community, the New York Times reported. Singer, whose father was a rabbi at the Bialystoker Synagogue two doors down from the Home of the Sages, successfully convinced the Attorney General’s office to block the sale of air rights to Fine in January. Now, he has joined the congregants who are fighting the sale.
Singer told the newspaper that he is interested in protecting one of the last institutions of Judaism on the Lower East Side. “I’m involved because my father was the rabbi next door,” he said.
Aschkenazi claims that Singer is angling to acquire the land himself. “The challenges to the charity’s request to sell its nursing home building have been orchestrated by Baruch Singer, a real estate investor motivated by his own personal and commercial interests,” he said.
Aschkenazi plans to send the bulk of the sale profit to a religious sect overseas that has no affiliation with the Lower East Side community, and direct the displaced congregants to a synagogue in Queens that they could not realistically travel to on the Sabbath when they are forbidden to operate or ride in vehicles.
At a New York State Supreme Court hearing on April 16, the Attorney General’s office withdrew its “no objection” to the deal. The next hearing is scheduled for May 5.
On Friday, Fine offered to build a new synagogue with his residential development. [NYT] — Tess Hofmann