Marc Kasowitz and a Maelstrom over Collusion with Russia – The Leviev Connection and The old NY Times Building

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Trump’s Russia lawyer faces conflict-of-interest questions over $296m Kushner deal

The lawyer privately advising Donald Trump on the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election is head of a law firm that was involved in the sale of a prestigious piece of New York real estate to Jared Kushner, the US president’s son-in-law, in a deal that could fall under the spotlight of the same inquiry.

Marc Kasowitz, a member of the New York bar who has represented Trump in his business dealings for 15 years, was brought on board by the president last month to provide personal legal advice relating to the Russian inquiry now being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. The appointment has placed Kasowitz at the center of the legal maelstrom over the investigation into potential collusion between Russia and elements of Trump’s presidential campaign.

An investigation by the Guardian has found that Kasowitz’s law firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres, legally represented the owners of the former New York Times building in Times Square, Manhattan, in a 2015 deal in which part of the property was sold to Kushner for $296m.

The Washington Post has reported that a subsequent loan of $285m from Deutsche Bank to Kushner Companies, relating to the purchase of the building, could fall under the remit of the Mueller investigation given Deutsche Bank’s scandal-riven reputation. The involvement of Kasowitz’s firm as a key legal player in the initial sale adds a further possible twist as the special counsel’s inquiry gathers momentum.

Questions have already been raised about possible conflicts of interest between the lawyer’s role as Trump’s private attorney in the Russian inquiry and his work for various other clients, among them Russia’s largest bank OJSC Sberbank, which he represents in a corporate dispute lodged in US federal court.

The Guardian asked Kasowitz, via his spokesman, to respond to the potential conflict of interest relating to his firm’s role as attorney on the sale of the Times Square building to Kushner but he did not respond before publication. After publication, the spokesman send in a statement: “There are no conflicts under any standard or by any definition.”

Trump’s connections with Kasowitz’s law firm go much further than just his personal attorney, raising other potential conflict of interest issues. Another of its partners, David Friedman, was appointed by the president as ambassador to Israel; its senior counsel, Joe Lieberman, was considered by Trump as replacement director of the FBI after the president fired James Comey but pulled out of the running, citing potential conflicts of interest with Kasowitz as the president’s private legal counsel; and yet another partner, Edward McNally, is reportedly in the running to replace Preet Bharara as US attorney for the southern district of New York, following a similar Trump sacking.

ProPublica has alleged that Kasowitz himself bragged to friends that he played a role in having Bharara fired, by telling Trump: “This guy is going to get you.” One of the major investigations conducted by the southern district of New York under Bharara was allegedly to look into Deutsche Bank’s involvement in alleged Russian money-laundering.

The Guardian invited Kasowitz to confirm or deny the ProPublica account, but he did not respond.

The old New York Times building is a neo-gothic styled building fronting Times Square, which had been a home to printing presses since the first year of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. Located at 229 West 43rd Street in Manhattan, the building was declared a New York City designated landmark in 2000.

At the time of the sale to Kushner, the building was owned by Lev Leviev, an Israeli citizen born in the former Soviet Union in what is now Uzbekistan. His company, Africa Israel Investments, bought the Times Square property in 2007 for $525m.

State records show that Africa Israel’s Delaware LLCs, including its subsidiary that bought the former New York Times building, are registered at 40 Wall Street, Trump’s property over the road from the New York Stock Exchange. The office block has “The Trump Building” emblazoned over its entrance in gold capital letters, and was also the home of the now defunct Trump University.

Leviev is one of Israel’s richest businessmen, having made a fortune partly in diamond mining in Africa. He has claimed that he is a “true friend” of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

In a statement to the Guardian, the Leviev Group of Companies said that Leviev had indeed met Putin a few times though only in his capacity as president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Commonwealth of Independent States (the former Soviet Union). Leviev “does not have a personal relationship with the Russian premier” and the comment that he was a “true friend” referred to Putin’s help to the “Jewish community in Russia”.

Leviev’s company has had a number of contacts with the Trump family circle that go further than Kushner. Rich Marin, a former chairman and CEO of Africa Israel USA, has told the Guardian that he had a meeting with Trump himself as well as his daughter Ivanka about the possibility of creating a Trump hotel inside the Times Square property.

That deal never materialized, and it was several years later that Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, stepped into the breach. Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) show that the sale of the retail portion of 229 West 43rd Street to Kushner was made in an off-market transaction of the sort normally used by owners desiring a quick sale, where speed is more important than price.

Given the lack of competition inherent in such trades, they often give an advantage to the purchaser seeking to acquire property at a bargain.

Kushner acquired the building for $296m from Africa Israel USA and its partner in the deal Five Mile Capital, with Kasowitz’s law firm representing the sellers. The transaction included four storeys of retail space and two sub-basement floors.

The upper 12 floors of the old New York Times building, which are used for offices, were sold to Blackstone in 2011 for $160m. When both sales are put together, Leviev let go of the entire building after owning it for eight years and committing millions of dollars in renovations for a total price that was beneath the $525m he had originally paid for it.

The Guardian contacted Kushner Companies and Five Mile Capital about the sale, but neither commented.

In a statement to the Guardian, the Leviev Group of Companies said: “The Kushner Companies’ offer for the retail space was the most attractive offer ever submitted, and was higher than the building’s appraisal.”

Kushner sealed the refinancing deal with Deutsche Bank and SL Green over his half of the former New York Times building last October, in the dying days of the presidential campaign. The package, reported by Kushner’s own news magazine, Commercial Observer, amounted to $370m – $74m more than Kushner had paid for it.

The president of Kushner Companies, Laurent Morali, told the Washington Post that the discrepancy in price was a result of the “dramatic turnaround” that they had effected in filling up vacant rental units with high-profile outlets. “We had a vision for the property when we purchased it that no one else had, and are proud to say that we executed on it,” he said.

Deutsche Bank is the biggest lender to Trump, having provided $364m in loans. The German bank has been hit by a series of scandals including Russian money laundering, and was ordered earlier this year to pay more than $600m in fines for failing to prevent the secret and improper transfer of more than $10bn out of Russia.

The Guardian revealed in February that Deutsche Bank had itself conducted an investigation of Trump’s personal account to see whether there were any suspicious links to Russian entities.

Senior Democrats in Congress have raised concerns about possible conflicts of interest relating to the Trump administration and the president’s own financial debts to Deutsche Bank. In March, a group of Democrats on the House financial services committee wrote a joint letter saying that such links “raise serious concerns about whether the president and his inner circle will direct the Department [of Justice] to steer clear of issues that could implicate those who benefited from Deutsche Bank’s trading scheme.”

On Tuesday the Guardian reported that a different Trump lawyer, Jay Sekulow, had approved plans to push poor and jobless people to donate money to his Christian nonprofit, which since 2000 has steered more than $60m to Sekulow, his family and their businesses.

To read the article in its original format please click here.

 

 

The Kushner Chronicles – Litigious Slumlord Evicting Single Mothers – The Kamiia Warren Eviction – part II

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Tenants allege Trump’s son-in-law is a Baltimore “slumlord,” and that’s not even the worst of it

http://www.citypaper.com/blogs/the-news-hole/bcpnews-trump-s-son-in-law-is-a-baltimore-slumlord-and-that-s-not-even-the-worst-of-it-20170523-story.html

Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law, sues his Baltimore tenants for thousands of dollars in bogus debts, on which he also gets judgments allowing him to garnish their wages and drain their bank accounts.

This according to Pro Publica’s Alec MacGillis, who reports in a story for this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine that Kushner quietly bought-up thousands of modest and run-down apartment units in Essex and other Baltimore suburbs, whose tenants complain of poor maintenance, harsh rent collection techniques, and relentless pursuit of old and sometimes dubious debts generated after tenants moved out.

MacGillis leads off with Kamiia Warren, who moved out of Cove Village in Essex years ago to get away from a crazy neighbor. She had permission to do so from the apartment’s managers, yet Kushner’s company sued her years later for breaking the lease, winning more than $3,000 plus fees and expenses: almost $5,000 total by 2014.

At one point in the story, a private investigator looking into Westminster Management, Kusher’s property management company says, “they’re nothing but slumlords.” MacGillis notes the P.I. is a Trump supporter and had no idea of the connection between Trump’s son-in-law and Westminster.

MacGillis finds hundreds of cases, and the story profiles several other tenants with similar experiences. A spokesperson for Kushner’s company tells MacGillis that it owes a fiduciary duty to its investors to try to collect all outstanding debts. The story does not explain how or why it’s legal for the landlord to effectively generate the debts out of thin air, or why the District Court judges routinely uphold them. He tries to talk to Kushner’s collection lawyer, Jeffrey Tapper.

“In the cases that Tapper has brought to court on behalf of JK2 Westminster and individual Kushner-controlled companies, there is a clear pattern of Kushner Companies’ pursuing tenants over virtually any unpaid rent or broken lease—even in the numerous cases where the facts appear to be on the tenants’ side,” MacGillis writes.

Tapper blows him off.

Aside from the presidential connection, the story reads much like Doug Donovan and Jean Marbella’s Baltimore Sun series a few weeks ago on Baltimore City’s rent court, where the deck is said to be stacked pretty high against tenants.


 http://www.citypaper.com/blogs/the-news-hole/bcpnews-trump-s-son-in-law-is-a-baltimore-slumlord-and-that-s-not-even-the-worst-of-it-20170523-story.html

 

 

SEE ALSO:

Jared Kushner’s Beleaguered Tenants

The idea of working with little pay and no fanfare to make people’s struggles less onerous is a sucker’s game for Mr. Trump and his cohort. When members of Team Trump play, they are never the sucker. They exploit foreclosures, promote legislation to benefit themselves, stiff workers and contractors and create multimillion-dollar scams.

For the past few years, Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, who is now in charge of vital parts of the president’s agenda, has been a landlord of often decrepit low-income housing. His subordinates aggressively sue tenants for the smallest infractions despite ignoring maintenance needs, and they pursue judgments even when the tenant seems to have been in the right. While landlord-tenant disputes are hardly new, tenants in Kushner complexes have complained that the company used legal action to hound them on thin or specious grounds.

Since 2011, subsidiaries of Kushner Companies, the family real estate business Mr. Kushner ran until January, bought 20,000 apartments in 34 complexes in Maryland, Ohio and New Jersey. An investigation for The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica, by Alec MacGillis, found that one major Kushner subsidiary, JK2 Westminster, had 548 cases on file against Maryland tenants. Hundreds of other cases have been filed there by individual Kushner apartment complexes.

Community organizers could have helped Kushner tenants like Kamiia Warren of suburban Baltimore, who was sued for moving out of her apartment without giving two months’ notice despite having done so. Mr. Kushner’s company won an almost $5,000 judgment anyway, and garnished her wages as a home health worker, and her bank account.

The Times investigation quotes the Kushner Companies’ chief financial officer, Jennifer McLean, as saying that the company has a “fiduciary obligation” to collect as much revenue as possible. Mr. MacGillis adds: “One way to make sure that tenants are paying their rent and to keep them from breaking leases early … is to instill a sense of fear about violating a lease.”

Tricky Government Contracts and the Kushner Empire – Ethicists Welcome News…

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https://therealdeal.com/2017/05/10/kushner-companies-scraps-planned-orthodox-jewish-community-in-jersey-city/

Kushner Companies scraps planned Orthodox Jewish community in Jersey City

Had it been granted the $150M bid, the company could have built 8,100 homes at formerly contaminated Bayfront site

UPDATED, May 10, 12:30 p.m.: Kushner Companies was the leading bidder on an industrial site called Bayfront in Jersey City that would become home to a planned Jewish community geared toward members of Orthodox sects who are being priced out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

But when Bloomberg reporters asked company spokesperson James Yolles about the bid on Tuesday, Yolles said that the company already dropped any intentions it had to buy the site from Honeywell and Jersey City for $150 million. An unnamed Kushner employee also told the news site that these plans were dropped late last year, but the office of Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said it was unaware of this and has yet to receive any word of Kushner’s withdrawal from consideration.

It’s unclear if the Kushners decided to abandon the project for ethics reasons, but Honeywell, a Fortune 100 list conglomerate, has billions in government contracts that could prove tricky in any dealmaking tied to the Kushners. The development would likely also require federal subsidies to improve the infrastructure within and surrounding the site. “It’s a good sign that they are pulling out,” Larry Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, told Bloomberg. “Though the question is whether or not it’s just because of the publicity or because they actually see there is a potential conflict of interest in these situations.”

In a statement to The Real Deal, Yolles said “a decision was made late last year not to pursue the project because the company was not persuaded by the economics of the deal.”

Last weekend, the company made front page news when White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s sister Nicole promoted a Jersey City project at One Journal Square to Chinese investors. The sales pitch made mention of Kushner Companies’ ties to the White House and Nicole told the audience the project was “important” to her entire family. It was later reported that the project in question is going through a rough spot, losing an anchor tenant in WeWork and at risk of losing a key 30-year tax abatement.  [Bloomberg]  — Will Parker

 

To read the article in TheRealDeal click here.

 

See Also:

National Real Estate Investor: http://www.nreionline.com/investment/kushners-abandon-property-bid-pressures-mount-over-conflicts

Coincidence? Or, are they at it Again… Mr. Stark? – NO CofO!!

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The Gothamist:

New Brooklyn Luxury Building Welcomes Tenants Despite Lacking Certificate Of Occupancy

http://gothamist.com/2016/09/08/rent_with_an_option_to_bye.php

Joseph Brunner, described by The Real Deal along with his partner Abe Mandel as one of the “heavyweights” of Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish developers, with more than 100 buildings to his name (well, LLCs), bought the former Colonial Laundry building for $6.175 million in 2012.

The process of demolishing the factory and building the sleek residential building in its place was fraught with problems. Neighbors have complained to the city about construction 22 times since January 2015, and a contractor has paid out $12,400 for 12 serious building violations in that time. Infractions included working in hours outside of those allowed by permits, failing to enclose the construction site, failing to safeguard personnel, and failing to notify the DOB that excavation was beginning.

A neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said, “They’ve been such assholes every step of the way. It’s the shoddiest job I’ve ever seen.”

She complained that crews frequently worked late into the night and on weekends, and left debris on the sidewalk. During the final phase of construction, when workers were lining the facade with Styrofoam, her garden filled with balls of the stuff, “And I was picking it out of my five-month-old daughter’s hair.”

The neighbor added that a man from management once confronted her and, intimating that he knew she was calling 311, said, “Why do you care? Your street is already so dirty.” Later, she says he added, “I can deal with a lot of fines.”

The tenants we spoke to all shared stories that, though they diverged in some respects, were consistent on several key points. Specifically, they said that the leasing agents, operating out of an office marked “Bedford Lofts” at 105 Leonard Street in South Williamsburg, refused to give them copies of their leases (“Oh shit, I think we may not have gotten a copy,” one said when told about the others’ stories. His roommates confirmed it.); that management promised the building would be finished by September 1st; and when it wasn’t, that management offered them amounts ranging from $100 to $140 a night to stay in hotels until the inspectors sign off. No one we spoke to has been reimbursed yet.

Several tenants are also awaiting the construction of new walls in their apartments, to partition off an extra bedroom (a text message exchange between an agent and a tenant seems to confirm this arrangement). They say they have been told that the work will be done after inspectors come through and sign off on the building. Such new construction would, of course, only be legal with the applicable permits.

A man named George who answered at a number listed for a brokerage representing the building called Yuri Management told me there is an available “one bedroom-two bedroom flex. It comes as a one-bedroom, but could be flexed as a two-bedroom, meaning they could come in and cut out some of the cabin space.”

Asked why people are saying that there is no certificate of occupancy, George said, “What happened was, during the inspection, they didn’t get one of the signatures.” He said the move-in date has been delayed to September 15th. But three tenants told me that Mittelman, the property manager, informed them this week that the building has passed inspections and is okay to move into.

The tenants whose situations we reviewed—a mix of financiers, social services professionals, and students at nearby Pratt Institute—are stressed. One trio of students is staying with friends and hoping to pocket the money. They are angry about the alleged bait-and-switch, but question how much more they can do to hold Brunner accountable. “We’re all so busy with school already, and it’s so hard just getting ahold of management,” one said. “And besides, we don’t have our lease. Nothing is in writing.”

My guide around the building said the experience for him has been “Actually kind of fun,” given that he works in Downtown Brooklyn and has been sampling the neighborhood’s hotel offerings with his girlfriend. For his roommates, who have more far-flung professional jobs, “It’s definitely more disruptive.”

Another tenant is planning to withhold rent—all incoming tenants we spoke to got September “free”—and consulting lawyers.

The moving in of tenants to an un-permitted luxury development is eerily similar to the case of 120 South Fourth Street, which remains evacuated nearly a year after building inspectors forced residents out when inspectors conducting an audit—the department had previously signed off on the building—discovered 3,000 square feet of structural framing and concrete floor had been built without permits. That building is owned by Abraham Bernat, the brother-in-law of slain Williamsburg landlord Menachem Stark, and a principal of the firm The Bedford Lofts LLC.

It’s not clear that there is a connection, but when the tenant who is considering lawyering up first heard that 10 Lexington lacked a C of O and started to do some research, he encountered a story about Bernat’s foibles and realized his leasing agent was working for a company by a similar name. “I thought to myself, ‘Oh, no, not this guy,'” he said.

The tenant recalled having asked repeatedly for a copy of the lease, but being told by the agents that the owner needed to add a few provisions to the generic lease and would mail him a copy.

“In retrospect, I was probably a little too trusting,” he said. A text exchange seems to verify that he requested a copy of the lease and was told to wait by a leasing agent.

As for the predicament he’s now in, the tenant said, “It’s ridiculous. All of these people have nowhere to stay.”

The Buildings Department spokesman said it audited Brunner’s permits during construction and forced the builders to change certain things to comply with the building code. Now, the spokesman said, the agency is planning to send inspectors once more.

Joel Mittelman, the building manager, did not respond to an email seeking comment or a message left at his Google Voice number. Another number listed for him on a permit application rang to a voicemail that is not set up. The number of a lawyer for Joshua Brunner listed on the purchasing records for 10 Lexington has been disconnected. Abraham Bernat did not respond to a voicemail seeking comment.

Update 4:45 p.m.:

An unnamed representative of the building—it’s not clear if the person works for Bruman Realty, Bedford Lofts, or some other company—sent the following statement from a 10lexington.com email address:

As the leasing office we started signing leases in July with the understanding that our inspections for the certificate of occupancy would be complete in Mid-August. As such, the lease start dates were listed for September. The building did not receive the certificate of occupancy sign off yet as expected even though the building does have all other signoffs needed.

Landlord intends to fully comply with the term of all the leases. No tenant has received permission to occupy space in the building, However, landlord did allow as an accommodation for certain tenants that wanted to store their furniture and personal effects into the building for storage purposes only during the pendency of any ministerial delay.
Further more the Landlord has offered to pay the cost of hotels to every tenant that was not able to move in to his apartment to reduce any inconvenience on the new tenants side.

In terms of accessory spaces, it is correct that the roof deck is not yet built. It will be constructed in the coming months. With regard to the courtyard, since most tenants did not rent parking space it is the intention of the owners to make an application to BSA for a waiver of the parking requirements to include a courtyard area in the existing structure, since there is already enough parking spaces in the basement.

 

Blockbusting and Tom’s River, Hold on to Your Homes

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from an article in Micromedia Publications Inc.

LostMessiah, March 19, 2016

With No-Knock List Growing, Real Estate Solicitors Now Trying Texts

By Jennifer Peacock
As towns take a look at their no-knock registries, residents are reporting unwanted sales pitches are now coming in via text message.

No-knock registries prevent solicitors from going to your home and giving you a sales pitch there. In several towns, that also means real estate soliciting.

The issue stems from the neighborhoods in Jackson, Howell and Toms River that border Lakewood, seeing realtors come out in droves as part the population boom Lakewood is experiencing.

The online chatter of late has revolved around residents in both Jackson and Howell receiving text messages from real estate agents. In Howell, residents hear from “Joe Huffman,” identified as a real estate buyer in Howell, NJ, as reported by Howell NJ Strong on March 12. The text asks if the receiver is interested in selling their property, and is coming from 732-810-0149 and 732-751-4581.

Both numbers go to Huffman Properties, where the caller is asked to leave a name, phone number, and property they are calling about. An online search yielded no results for that company name, but did find one Joe Huffman in Howell. No phone number was available with that listing.

Both Jackson and Howell require that door-to-door solicitors apply for permits before canvassing. Both townships also have no-knock registries, which allow residents to opt out of receiving such solicitors. However, it’s beyond the jurisdiction of municipal governments to restrict phone calls or mail.

Using the no-knock registries is the main way a resident can prevent what they may feel are bothersome solicitors. The process often begins at town hall, with a form to fill out to get on the no-knock list.

Some residents have decided to take the paperwork to neighbors in Flair and Brookwood 1 and 2 in Jackson this past Saturday. The Facebook page Jackson NJ Strong announced that members of the group would in those neighborhoods with applications, which they in turn will deliver to town hall and return to residents’ homes with the no-knock decal.

Jackson NJ Strong responded to The Times and said their efforts were met with positive feedback.

And while applications for the Jackson registry are available for download online, residents must print the application, fill it out and either mail it or deliver it to town hall. Jackson NJ Strong wants to see the township provide an application that can be filled out online.

In Jackson, Council President Rob Nixon spoke at the March 8 council meeting on the topic, prefacing his comments with the fire in Lakewood that damaged what appears to have been an illegal dormitory.

“The improper tactics of Realtors, real estate speculators, panic peddlers and blockbusters hoping to prey on Jackson is an issue that concerns us all. Again I will say, if you see something, say something,” Nixon said. “There are resources available to address these concerns at the disposal of our residents today.”

All residents should sign up for the no-knock registry, he said.

“Don’t believe those who attempt to flippantly dismiss this tool. Our law is strong, it’s effective, and its penalties hit harder than those laws passed in towns nearby,” Nixon said.

He also told residents that they must report possible transgressions to the appropriate local, county, state and federal authorities.

“We are a wonderful and welcoming community, but we are bound to live by the same rules and the same laws. Respect for the law equals respect for each other,” Nixon said.

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Toms River, NJ and North Dover and “‘Highly Annoying, Suspicious and Creepy Tactics”

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BLOCKBUSTING AND MORE BLOCKBUSTING…

from an article on BloomburgBusiness, March 14, 2016

Orthodox Jews Set Sights on N.J. Town and Angry Residents Resist

Every home is big on glass in a Toms River, New Jersey, neighborhood called North Dover. Windows let in the sun, or show off chandeliers in multistory entrance halls.

These days, though, most homeowners draw the blinds, retreating from brushes with a fast-growing Orthodox Jewish community that’s trying to turn a swath of suburban luxury 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Atlantic beaches into an insular enclave. The rub, a township inquiry found, is “highly annoying, suspicious and creepy” tactics used by some real-estate agents.

They show up on doorsteps to tell owners that if they don’t sell, they’ll be the only non-Orthodox around. Strangers, sometimes several to a car, shoot photos and videos. When they started pulling over to ask children which house was theirs, parents put an end to street-hockey games.

“It’s like an invasion,” said Thomas Kelaher, Toms River’s three-term mayor, who’s fielded complaints from the North Dover section since mid-2015. “It’s the old throwback to the 1960s, when blockbusting happened in Philadelphia and Chicago with the African-American community — ‘I want to buy your house. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.’ It scares the hell out of people.”

Scholarly Community

The upset has its roots in adjacent Lakewood, home to yeshivas including Beth Medrash Govoha, among the world’s biggest centers for Talmudic study. Scholars typically marry young and start large families that maintain strict gender roles and limit interaction with secular society.

Rabbi Avi Schnall, state director of Agudath Israel of America, which represents Orthodox Jews on political, social and religious issues, said a few sales agents “are overly aggressive and making a bad name for the others.” He declined to say whether anti-Semitism is at work, but said the “extent of the anger” in Lakewood’s neighboring towns is deep, fueling opposition to a learning center, a boarding school, dormitories and other proposals.

 

In 2014, Toms River accused Rabbi Moshe Gourarie of running a house of worship and community center in a residential area, an issue that in December drew more than 1,200 residents to a zoning hearing to raise concerns about traffic and property values.

“The residents are in an uproar not about the chabad so much, but about the real-estate canvassing,” said Gourarie’s attorney, Christopher Costa. Gourarie and his nonprofit outreach group have nothing to do with people looking for homes, and continue to seek permission to operate, he said.

“He’s been a little shocked to have 1,250 people object to what he’s been doing for 12 years,” Costa said. “Nothing has changed except for he’s suddenly being prosecuted.”

Separate World

The friction reflects increasing insularity among the most religious Jews worldwide. In Israel, the Haredi inhabit a largely separate social world, according to a Pew Research Center survey this month. They share few connections even with their fellow Jews and there is scant intermarriage; 89 percent of the Haredim surveyed said all or most of their close friends belonged to their own community.

Though just 10 percent of America’s 5.3 million Jewish adults identify themselves as Orthodox, they have much larger families than others of their religion, and “their share of the Jewish population will grow,” according to a 2015 Pew survey. Their conservatism could “shift the profile of American Jews in several areas, including religious beliefs and practices, social and political views and demographic characteristics.”

Lakewood, once a rural destination for Rockefellers and other industry titans, is now a land of synagogues, religious schools, kosher groceries and residential neighborhoods in the grip of minivan gridlock. It’s also a place testing the limits of zoning enforcement for 95,000 people, at least half Orthodox, by Schnall’s estimate.

This month, after fire destroyed a single-family home, the Ocean County sheriff said that it was being used as an unauthorized dorm for as many as two dozen yeshiva students. Downtown, inspectors boarded up a commercial building four times, citing non-permitted use as a catering hall and Orthodox study center, only to see the plywood removed and the space reopened. The fifth board-up succeeded, backed by a planning-board ruling, said Steven Secare, the township attorney.

“The trend is going to continue into surrounding areas,” said David Holtz, 43, a Lakewood real-estate agent whose Orthodox clientele is drawn to low crime and sizable newer homes. Toms River residents who don’t want them, he said, are subscribing to “fear of the unknown,” and both Orthodox and secular communities need to abide one another.

Strong Campaign

For the rest of the article please click, here.

BLOCKBUSTING AND BLOOMINGBURG, NEW YORK

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Blockbusting, LAUNCHING an American Shtetl…

LostMessiah, March 11, 2016
Blockbusting has been an issue of concern in towns and counties up the Eastern seaboard, more recently focused on throughout the Tri-State region. It has been going on for years. Despite community and political efforts by towns, counties, legislators and Senators to curb its use, efforts seem to get lost in the abyss of corrupt politics.  Blockbusting is a process whereby real-estate agents badger sellers into selling their homes either through  intimidation or through lies and deceit, convincing sellers that failure to sell will result in a diminution of home values.

It has been a topic of discussion recently as towns and counties within the tri-state region fight the influx of Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox residents, who characteristically send their children to private Yeshivas, thereby taking money from public schools; and it would appear engage in shady zoning practices.

In an interesting article entitled, “How to build an American shtetl — See: Bloomingburg, N.Y.”  by Uriel Helman, dated May 22, 2015 published in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and on their website JTA.org, Helman outlines the Hasidic playbook:

“This is how you launch a Hasidic shtetl in 21st-century America.

  1. Step 1. Find a place within reasonable distance of Brooklyn where the land is cheap and underdeveloped.
  2. Step 2. Buy as much property as you can in your target area – if possible, without tipping off locals that you plan to turn it into a Hasidic enclave.
  3. Step 3. Ensure the zoning is suited to Hasidic living: densely clustered homes big enough for large families and within walking distance of the community’s vital infrastructure.
  4. Step 4. Build the infrastructure: Houses, a synagogue and beit midrash study hall, kosher establishments, a mikvah ritual bath. Lay the groundwork for a school. Launch a shuttle service so Hasidim who don’t drive or don’t own cars can get from the new shtetl to shopping outlets and other Hasidic communities in the region.
  5. Step 5. Market to the Hasidic community and turn on the lights.”

According the Helman, “That, essentially, is the playbook developer Shalom Lamm is following for what is shaping up to be America’s newest Hasidic shtetl — the town of Bloomingburg in upstate New York.”

Helman continues:

“Lamm didn’t stop there. He bought a group of farms on 200 acres of unincorporated land about half a mile from the stoplight and in 2006 got the village to annex it and rezone it for residential development in exchange for building a new $5 million sewage treatment plant for the area. He bought the airport in the nearby village of Wurtsboro. He bought 635 acres five miles away. He also bought a house for himself in Bloomingburg and moved in (Lamm also lives in West Hempstead, on Long Island).

Soon, changes started happening in the village.”

The article continues:

If Lamm’s vision comes to fruition, there soon will be hundreds more Hasidic families in Bloomingburg – maybe thousands.

At Chestnut Ridge, the newly built 2,800-square-foot attached townhomes look like they’re straight out of a brochure for the American dream, with identical facades, fresh white garages and bright green lawns. Inside, the décor is bright, modern and spacious, with 9-foot ceilings, an upstairs laundry room, and kitchens with granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances.

The houses also have all the accoutrements Hasidim, with their large families and Orthodox practices, might desire. The kitchens feature two stoves, sinks, ovens and microwaves – one each for dairy and meat. There’s an outdoor sukkah deck just off the dining room. Special sinks are located outside the bathrooms for ritual hand-washing, and a small room near the front is designed for a miniature library or study.

The five bedrooms upstairs have sleeping space for up to a dozen. The master bedroom easily fits two full-sized beds – Hasidic couples do not share beds during women’s menstrual periods and for a week afterward – and the walk-in closet in the master bedroom is big enough for a crib, which Lamm doesn’t doubt Hasidic parents will notice when their babies are born.

The homes are priced between $299,000 and $334,000. Once the remaining 350 or so houses are built, there will also be four playgrounds for the kids.

To read the article in the entirety click, here.

This process is playing out in communities up and down the 87 Corridor and we recommend you continue reading.
“Blockbusting” – Rockland County, Monroe Woodbury, Jackson Township, Lakewood …,  LostMessiah, March 11, 2016
“Cease and Desist” as a Means of Protecting Homeowners Against Blockbusting, LostMessiah, March 11, 2016
In Rockland County, non-Orthodox try to create alternative to Hasidic dominance, jta.org, February 19, 2015