How Many Near Misses in Lakewood Before Disaster Strikes?

Lakewood dvelopment
Construction continues on new units on the east side of the West Gate development in Lakewood on August 6, 2015. Photo courtesy of USA Today



May 11, 2016

We have received a litany of tips regarding Lakewood. These include but certainly are not limited to the low property tax payment rate due to houses being listed as schools and obtaining tax-exempt status, zoning issues, construction issues, a possible largely unreported murder with a man’s naked body turning up in a lake, dangerous housing conditions, sexual abuse, blockbusting, need we go on?

The most recent was the evacuation of more than 100 young children attending a “playgroup” in a Yeshiva. Apparently these “playgroups” are not uncommon in and around Lakewood but look all too much like unregistered and unregulated daycare centers. In this instance, the children were evacuated for a potential carbon monoxide problem. The important point, however, is that without registration and credentials, children of this number who attend these “playgroups” are quite simply not safe.

Please take a look at our TIPS page for more information. We apologize for the delay in getting this posted.


Lakewood, NJ: In another outrageous example of what can go wrong when regulations are purposefully undermined, a mass casualty incident occurred in Lakewood, NJ. A “playgroup” that was using space in a Yeshiva (religious school) on Somerset Avenue was evacuated when a carbon monoxide alarm sounded. A full emergency response took place, involving hundreds of firefighters, EMS, police and volunteers. One adult was reported injured and several children are being evaluated as a precaution.
The Ultra-Orthodox participate in organized playgroups of 100+ children that use space throughout the township. The State of NJ and its counties and municipalities have oversight and regulatory authority over child development centers, pre-schools, and corporate learning facilities, but if a group of families wants to get together, hire a few babysitters, and rent space, there is no regulatory oversight whatsoever. While there are few public records of these “playgroups”, many find them using Orthodox publications like or word of mouth on websites like this:… Many of these “playgroups” are simply unlicensed day care centers run by a few individuals for cash. A mother will find one that fits her needs, pay the money, and drop off the kids. This arrangement is widely known in Lakewood, but is completely ignored by the authorities.
New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) is responsible for licensing childcare centers and enforcing the law. The DCF’s Office of Licensing (OOL) takes complaints and investigates illegal daycare centers. The public may make complaints anonymously to 877-667-9845 . If you are aware of, or have information about, any illegal childcare centers, please report them to the OOL immediately.

History of Trouble

The playgroup involved in today’s disaster was utilizing a building at 911 Somerset Avenue that houses the Yeshiva Gedola Na’os Yaakov, which is the same school that had students living in an illegal dorm which caught fire a few months ago. Yeshiva Naos Yaakov is also the same school that is suing to build a dormitory in Ocean, NJ. The Yeshiva is run by Rabbi Shlomo Lessin. According to reports, construction was taking place in the part of the building occupied by Yeshiva Gedola Na’os Yaakov, taking advantage of the current break in Talmudic studies.

911 Somerset Avenue Lakewood, NJ
This is not the first serious incident to have occurred at this building. In 2010, the building suffered a catastrophic floor collapse while occupied by the Chavrei Hakolell, a defunct religious teen center for Orthodox children. Prior to 2013, the building was built and owned by the Teen Center for Education. It is currently owned by HTR Somerset, LLC, which purchased the building in March of 2015 from 911 Somerset LLC for $1. Both companies list a business address of 418 Clifton Ave, Suite 200 in Lakewood.

Questions to be answered:

  • Who rented space or permitted use of the building by the playgroup?
  • Did the renters have a certificate of occupancy from Lakewood Township?
  • Exactly who is responsible for the playgroup and safeguarding the children?
  • Are fire marshals aware of and have they approved the current use of the building?
  • Was the ongoing construction approved and permitted?
  • Who are the owners of HTR Somerset LLC?
Link to this post on Reddit:




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