Thursday, June 30, 2016
A pair of teens shouted anti-Semitic slurs at a 38-year-old Jewish woman before chucking a rock through the back window of her minivan in Brooklyn, police said Wednesday.
Cops released video surveillance images of one of the two teens involved in the 4:50 p.m. Tuesday clash on Nostrand Ave. and Ave. J in Midwood.
The woman, who was wearing an Orthodox head covering, told police that she was driving her children down Nostrand Ave. when the two teens started yelling out a slew of obscenities with the word "Jew" at the end, cops said. The woman admitted that she didn't hear all the words.
One of the teens — described as black, about 14, 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds with short black hair — hurled a rock at the minivan, which punched a hole through the rear driver's side window, cops said. The rock thrower was wearing blue jeans, a blue T-shirt and black sneakers.
The NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the attack, cops said.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.
In an unrelated case, the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is also investigating several threats made to the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous in Chelsea.
A 31-year-old worker at the Foundation said that someone called the foundation three times claiming he was going to kill her and "burn Jews," police sources said. The caller also said he planned to gas Jews.
"Can I order a heil Hitler?" the unhinged caller asked.
Cops are trying to track down the caller, who may be in Florida, officials said.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
An Albany law firm has submitted a request for all documentation relating to LEGOLAND as the amusement park seeks a zoning change for property it is looking to develop in the Town of Goshen.
The law firm, Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna, LLP, said in its Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request it represented the Village of Kiryas Joel and asked for records like "originals and drafts of all laws, regulations, ordinances, procedures, correspondence, memoranda, emails, decisions, handwritten or other notes, meeting minutes and/or agendas" of the proposed LEGOLAND project.
While Town Supervisor Doug Bloomfield said he does not know what to make of the request, it is not unprecedented.
The Village has sought to involve itself in zoning changes at the former Camp La Guardia property, owned by the Village and Town of Blooming Grove and the Village of Chester, and has sued the Town of Woodbury over its comprehensive zoning plan, arguing it did not have enough affordable housing in it.
The Village of Kiryas Joel is a predominantly Hasidic community in the Town of Monroe that has been trying to annex a portion of the town for its growing population. In the county's 2010 Comprehensive Plan, it calls Kiryas Joel "one of the fastest growing villages east of the Mississippi River."
It is also among the poorest villages in the county, according to the Comprehensive Plan, which could be why it is interested in affordable housing.
The village's high-density housing has been a source of conflict with its neighbors who complain it clashes with the bucolic, open landscape of the Town, and Hasidic developers have faced opposition over housing developments in other parts of the county and in neighboring counties over this issue.
Goshen Town Attorney Richard Golden said there is no law that requires a municipality to have a certain amount of affordable housing, but there is a precedent set in the courts, called common law, which they could use in a lawsuit.
Because there is no set criteria on how much affordable housing a municipality has to have, the Town is using the county's Regional Housing Needs Assessment Plan, which gives affordable housing benchmarks for each municipality, to gauge its progress in that area.
Golden said last time they looked at the Comprehensive Plan, the Town was meeting its goals.
A 23-year-old Hasidic man was hit with a cup of iced coffee thrown from a moving car Tuesday morning, police said.
The victim said five men in a car stopped in front of him at approximately 10:25 a.m., and one of the men threw the coffee while the others yelled at him. The event occurred at the intersection of Rupert Avenue and Washington Avenue, police said.
The website JP Updates reported that the event was being investigated as a hate crime, but the NYPD could not confirm that report.
The website also reported that the perpetrators were "possibly Arabic," and that it was "possible they yelled something in Arabic."
The NYPD did not confirm these reports either.
After two meetings, the Mamakating Planning Board has yet to have any meaningful public discussion about the possibility of rescinding permit approvals for the controversial Hasidic housing development Chestnut Ridge.
The board called its first due process hearing on June 16, but promptly adjourned that meeting because attorneys for the Chestnut Ridge developers submitted a 19-page letter only hours before the hearing. They scheduled a new hearing for June 28, to have time to review the letter and to give the developers' attorneys another chance to appear and make their case.
Tuesday night's meeting unfolded much like the previous one. The board received more letters, chairman Stosh Zamonsky and town attorney Ben Gailey said. Two letters were sent on behalf of Chestnut Ridge unit owners, one who owns multiple units, and one more letter was sent from an attorney for the developers. The board also gained access to a letter that was sent from the state to the Village of Bloomingburg, citing fire code violations in Chestnut Ridge, and a letter from the previous village attorney agreeing with the state's assessment.
With new letters to consider, the board went into executive session for legal advice, and then scheduled another meeting at 7 p.m. July 13. Opportunity for oral response is closed, but more letters can be sent to the board.
There is a lot to review, and that is why the process is taking so long, Zamonsky said.
"We review in detail, and that's how we're doing this," Zamonsky said. "Just like any applicant that comes before us."
At the July 13 meeting, Zamonsky said the board will have a public discussion regarding their consideration of rescission. He could not say whether the board will vote that night.
When asked whether there would be more meetings following July 13 to continue discussing the possibility of rescission, Gailey said, "Anything's possible."
Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of a formerly haredi Orthodox Israeli woman who was found dead in what is believed to be a suicide.
Esti Weinstein, 50, was buried in Petach Tikvah on Tuesday, the Times of Israel reported.
Weinstein's body and a suicide note were discovered in her car at a beach in Ashdod on Sunday, a week after she went missing.
"In this city I gave birth to my daughters, in this city I die because of my daughters," Weinstein wrote.
Six of her seven daughters had refused contact with their mother after she left the Gur sect of Hasidic Judaism eight years ago.
Tami Montag, the daughter who stayed in touch with Weinstein and who also left the haredi Orthodox community, gave a eulogy at the funeral in which she said, "You were everything to me, a friend and mother."
According to Haaretz, Weinstein wrote a short memoir titled "Doing His Will" about life in the Gur community, her decision to leave it and the pain she felt after her daughters severed their relationships with her.
Weinstein, who married at 17, also wrote about her unhappy marriage in which she was required to follow numerous strict marital guidelines that are unique to the Gur sect. According to her memoir, the guidelines restrict couples to having sexual relations only twice a month.
In the book, Weinstein wrote of her ongoing pain at being cut off from her daughters.
"I thought it was a temporary matter, but the years are passing and time isn't healing, and the pain doesn't stop," she wrote.
Estranged family members also attended and spoke at the funeral, according to the Times of Israel.
"It's hard for me to speak about you. For me, you will always be like your first 43 years, when you were pure," said her father, Rabbi Menachem Orenstein, according to Ynet.
Weinstein's boyfriend also spoke at the funeral, The Times of Israel reported, but did not identify him.
"At the heart of every religion is a kernel of unity, and that's the source of life. But unfortunately it's turned into ideology," he said. "Don't let any rabbi lead you to hatred and to alienation. The pain from being cut off by your kids is massive."
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Below are download links for the book that Esty Weinstein - the former Gerrer woman who committed suicide - wrote to her daughter.
Esty Weinstein, a formerly ultra-Orthodox woman who committed suicide and left behind a manuscript telling the story of her life, will be buried Tuesday in Tel Aviv's Yarkon Cemetery.
In the suicide note that accompanied the manuscript, Weinstein said she killed herself mainly because she missed her daughters. She left the ultra-Orthodox world eight years ago, and only one of her seven daughters, Tami Montag, remained in contact with her.
Weinstein's parents – who, unlike her daughters, remained in touch with her throughout those eight years – wanted to organize the funeral and hold it in Jerusalem, but the Tel Aviv Family Court ruled Monday that it should be held in Tel Aviv. Nevertheless, the court added, both her ultra-Orthodox relatives and her secular daughter and friends should be able to participate. It will therefore be held in two stages, with the first part secular and the second religious. Her parents will attend only the second half.
In her suicide note, Weinstein requested a "modest" funeral with "lots of flowers, as I like it, and perhaps a moving song." Montag, who came to court to fight her grandparents' request for control over the funeral, said after the hearing that her mother's wishes would be honored.
"We'll honor her last request," Montag said. "Both religious and secular people will be at the funeral. I asked each to respect the other."
She added that she was sure her mother would approve the half-secular, half-religious ceremony, because "her parents were important to her."
In her note, Weinstein apologized to her parents "for the grief I caused you," and told her mother that despite some difficult years in their relationship, "in recent years, you proved yourself ... I love you very much."
Weinstein's body was found in her car on an Ashdod beach on Sunday, six days after she disappeared. Police finished identifying her Monday.
A group of 257 rabbinical school graduates gathered at the Chabad movement's Rabbinical College of America outside of Morristown, New Jersey.
The rabbis, who received their rabbinic ordinations between 2012 and this year, took part in the celebratory ceremony on Sunday.
This year's cohort is slightly smaller than its largest ever group of 280, which gathered in 2012.
Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, former chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel and current chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, spoke on a panel to the Chabad graduates.
Thanks to the outreach efforts of its last rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, during the latter half of the twentieth century, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement has grown into one of the largest in Hasidic Judaism. According to Chabad, there are now over 4,400 Chabad-affiliated rabbis stationed in 90 countries around the world. Known for their outreach activities to secular and un-affiliated Jews, the Chabad rabbis and their wives often work as emissaries in far-flung communities with marginal Jewish infrastructure.
This year's group includes rabbis who speak Portuguese, Russian, French, German, Italian and Swedish.
The Fallsburg Town Board on Monday evening unanimously approved a one-year building moratorium on all residential developments larger than five units.
In nearly 10 minutes of prepared comments before the vote, Supervisor Steve Vegliante said the moratorium was necessary for the town to ensure reasonable and sustainable growth.
Town officials have cited the strain on water and sewer services as a key reason for proposing the moratorium, which the board may extend for six months after the initial one-year period.
The town also is updating its comprehensive plan, a process that prompts moratoria in many towns, said Bonnie Franson of Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, the town's environmental planning consulting firm.
Since its founding 190 years ago, the town has grown to 5,264 homes, Vegliante said – a number that "includes everything but apartment houses and dormitories," he said.
"We now have pending before our Planning Board almost half the amount of houses that were built in our entire existence."
Shedding further context on the town's growth, he said, "In 2014, we issued 165 new home permits; in 2015, which was our busiest (year), we issued 224. If this rate continues, there are in the pipeline about five years' worth of buildings to continue to do, even with the moratorium in place."
The moratorium does not apply to nearly 1,200 homes that have already received conditional or final approval from the Planning Board.
Reactions were mixed following the vote.
Laura Marichal and her sister Lakin Castillo, whose family owns L.C. Construction & Sons, called the moratorium a form of discrimination aimed at the town's summer Hasidic Jewish population.
"We wouldn't be able to have any economic development without these summer residents," Marichal said.
Castillo said her company would shoulder the overwhelming burden of the moratorium, since it was the only local contractor working on multifamily homes in the town.
"Thirty-five hundred people will now be out of work," Castillo said.
But Martine Swerdling, who's lived in Fallsburg for 35 years, said the Town Board had done the right thing.
"I don't pull religion," said Swerdling, a Jew who spent her childhood summers at her grandmother's "kuchalein" bungalow colony.
Development in the town "has got to slow down," she said. "Our town needs to slow down until we can address the water supply and the sewer. There's too many housing units being developed all at the same time."
A gay black man who was brutally beaten in 2013 by a group of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men blames the attack on the ongoing NYPD corruption scandal, a new lawsuit filed Monday says.
Taj Patterson accuses the city and police officials of being in bed with members of the Shomrim — saying the Satmar watchdog patrol group has for years been given "favorable and preferential treatment," the Brooklyn federal court complaint says.
Patterson, who is openly gay, was left permanently blind in the left eye from the beat-down in Williamsburg, allegedly by the group of Hasidic patrolmen.
Five were ultimately arrested — but Patterson says in his suit that the investigation was bungled and prematurely closed after Shomrim members made calls to the 90th Precinct.
The now 25-year-old says the city is responsible for his serious injuries because it's allowed the close-knit relationship between the two groups to continue for years.
"Taj Patterson's brutal beating, and his lack of access to adequate justice, was the inevitable result of the city's refusal to address these issues," the suit says.
One of the attackers, Pinchas Braver, received "special treatment and rewards from the NYPD," including getting a tour of the 19th precinct — which was then run by ex-Deputy Inspector James Grant.
Grant was recently arrested with other NYPD officials on charges they took bribes from Jewish businessmen.
At the time of Patterson's attack, the 90th Precinct was led by Commander Mark DiPaolo, who allegedly took a trip to Israel with former Chief of Department Phillip Banks that was paid for by
politically connected Jewish businessmen, the lawsuit notes.
In May, Abraham Winkler and Braver pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the attack in exchange for three years' probation.
A third attacker, Mayer Herskovic, is headed to trial and charges against two others were dismissed.
A city Law Department spokesman said that the complaint will be reviewed.
"I love coming to this house!" Democratic Party of Brooklyn Chair Frank Seddio told the assembly of Brooklyn Independent Democrats as they gathered in Alice and Lowell Rubin's classic Prospect Park South living room to bestow awards on party notables that included City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Navy Yard Executive Vice President Jocelynne Rainey, City Planning Commissioner Joseph Douek and past Brooklyn Bar Association President Gregory Cerchione.
"This is good, old-fashioned Brooklyn politics!" past Brooklyn Bar Association President Andy Fisher said.
Mingling with party heavyweights, such as City Councilmembers Mathieu Eugene, Vincent Gentile and Chaim Deutsch, were freshman judicial candidates Susan Quirk and Rachel Freier. Quirk had already sought and won endorsement of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, while Freier, a Hasidic attorney and founder of the all-female Ezras Nashim volunteer EMT corps, drew upon the biblical Devorah as an inspiration for her candidacy.
But inspiration and endorsements don't pay rent or keep the lights on. There is work to be done, people to meet, networks to build.
"Fundraising is the most important part of the process," Seddio reminded everyone.
"I sign the checks," Comptroller Stringer quipped after receiving his award from 44th District Leader Lori Knipel and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. He went on to recount his mother's relief upon learning that a broken thumb, incurred while playing with his daughter, didn't impede him signing his name.
Rainey, of the Navy Yard, alluded to the dark side of money in politics — as an impediment to what many believe is vital reform — when she praised the congressional Democrats who took the chamber floor, literally, compelling votes on several gun control bills in light of the recent Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.
"I'm a Democrat," she said. "Because I'm raising two boys in Brooklyn and I know how important gun control is!" This prompted applause throughout.
While on a national level the Party of Jefferson maintains its resistance to unification between progressive and centrist elements, the people gathered here on a quiet Brooklyn street, far from the sound and fury of the global stage, continued the unsexy — and nearly always unremunerated — work vital to maintaining the party's foundation.
As the evening drew to a close, Andy Fisher summed it up in simple terms: "Think Democrat; live Democrat; vote Democrat!"
A four-story building packed with apartments and with reported safety violations caught fire Monday afternoon, leaving one unit in the building uninhabitable, authorities said.
The fire apparently ignited inside a large closet in the finished attic, which had two bedrooms and a bathroom, Hillcrest firefighter Chris Kear said.
Kear and Building Inspector Manny Carmona, also a firefighter, climbed several flights of smoke-filled stairs, opening doors of several rooms before finding the flames. Kear said the closet measured 8 by 12 feet and had a light.
"We searched a couple of bedrooms and a bathroom before we found the flames," Kear said. "We had the fire under control within 15 to 20 minutes."
Kear said the fire's cause remains under investigation by Sheriff's Office fire unit detective Douglas Lerner.
Kear estimated the building has eight to 10 apartments.
The scale led Hillcrest Assistant Fire Chief Frank Youngman to call for mutual aid from Spring Valley Fire Department.
The building is located in the older section of the village where houses were built without adherence to fire and safety regulations when the community formed in the 1950s, Rockland Fire and Emergency Services Coordinator Gordon Wren Jr. said.
The owner of the commercial building has been in court for lacking a certificate of occupancy and for other violations, Wren said.
Wren said the building is "one of the worse" in the village, as it lacks a sprinkler system and working smoke detectors, among other violations.
Kear and Wren said Carmona issued additional violation notices Monday to the owner, listed as Congregation Merkaz Ginas Verodim on the Ramapo Tax Assessor's website. The congregation has an address of 29 Roosevelt Ave. in the Skver Hasidic Jewish village.
No one from the congregation could be reached for comment.
Monday, June 27, 2016
"In this city I gave birth to my daughters, and in this city I died because of my daughters" – this, among other things, was written in the suicide note left next to the body of Esty Weinstein, which was found on Sunday in a car near the Ashdod beach.
Weinstein, 50, a resident of Azor, a town located southeast of Tel Aviv, had disappeared six days previously.
Weinstein had for some time made comments related to suicide, verbally and in writing, centering on the profound personal crisis she underwent a few years ago, after she was forced to cut herself off from six of her seven children and her grandchildren. She also left behind a short book, a manuscript of 183 pages, which describes her life in detail and is dedicated to her third daughter, Tami, the only child who maintained contact with her.
Weinstein had left the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, world seven years ago, but the community was up in arms when she disappeared last week, not only because she came from a very well-known, prestigious family but because her story is rattling social skeletons in the closets of Gur, the country's largest Hasidic sect, as well as in other closets.
Indeed, among those hit hard by Weinstein's saga are individuals who have also left the Haredi fold and are shaken periodically when one of their group takes his or her own life – in many cases, because being cut off from their families, including their own offspring, is just too hard to bear.
Weinstein volunteered as an employment counselor at Hallel, an organization that helps individuals make the transition from the sheltered Haredi world to mainstream society. She was known there as "a strong woman, a role model. We didn't know how deeply in crisis she was," said Yair Hess, the group's director.
Weinstein's story is personal, delicate and complex, and evolved over many years. There is, therefore, no point in rushing to conclusions about why she committed suicide and to point accusing figures, as has been happening on social media, where there have been allegations that she may have been killed by someone in the Haredi community.
But by apparently taking her own life, Weinstein chose to put an issue on the table that affects thousands of families, often in a painful way: the "regulations" of the Gur Hasidim, which are enforced by "counselors" whose aim is to impose strict supervision over relationships between couples, including their intimate sexual ties, particularly during the first years of marriage.
This supervision over marital and sexual conduct by rabbis and counselors acting in the name of the leader of the sect, the Admor of Gur, is a subject that keeps coming up for discussion on blogs and in Facebook groups; at least three such groups are actively publicizing online testimonies from Hasidim.
In 2012, an investigative piece by Haaretz revealed the wide use in Hasidic circles of psychiatric drugs, sometimes dispensed by leading physicians, to suppress sexual desire among teenagers in the community.
"Doing his Will," is the name of the manuscript Weinstein left in the form of a computer file that is now being passed around via email among ultra-Orthodox, past and present. The book tells the story of her marriage and her past attempts at suicide ("I will offer myself up for the benefit of my entire respected and important family, so as to not cause any unnecessary emotional and damage to the surroundings"). It also testifies to the existence of rigid norms familiar to some 10,000 Gur households. This Hasidic court is a central element of Haredi society and to some extent of Israeli society as well, with one of its members serving as a government minister.
Weinstein wrote about the sole meeting she had when she was 19, with the young man who would be her husband:
"'You know that in Gur there are "regulations,"' he said, and his voice trembled. Oh, now comes the speech that they told me about – about how hard it is to observe the regulations and how important it is and blah, blah, blah. I thought to myself, and felt bad for the skinny boy in front of me, slouched over, his hands clasped in front of his body and squirming slightly in discomfort …
"His general appearance was far from perfect, but his embarrassment was touching and made me feel comfortable near him. I would agree to the match, of course. I knew at that moment for sure. 'I hope that you're aware of all the difficulties there are in observing all the stringencies of the Gur Hasidim' – the well-known speech began."
After their marriage, Weinstein's husband would address her by saying, "come here a second," or "tell me," but would never use her first name. "At that time," she wrote, "I had no idea what romance meant, but I felt with all my heart that I wanted to hear him say my name. Sometimes I would follow him around at home like a shadow and imagine him suddenly turning around to say that magic word."
Weinstein ends her book by describing how her life was divided into two: the life of the independent woman she had ultimately chosen, and "the life of motherhood, which hurts, which has been smashed to smithereens, which is bruised and wounded." She also describes the alienation vis-a-vis her children and their unwillingness to renew their relationship with her.
"I thought it would be a temporary thing," she wrote, "but the years pass and time doesn't heal and the pain doesn't let up."
Sunday, June 26, 2016
A former board member of the Borough Park Y was indicted for sexually abusing a little girl over a span of seven years, prosecutors said Friday.
Samuel “Mendy” Israel was charged in March for molesting the child when she was between 10 and 17 years old from 2000 until November 2007, according to the criminal complaint.
Israel, 44, was listed as a member of the board until earlier this month.
Israel was charged with four counts of sexual conduct against a child and endangering the welfare of a child.
Prosecutors offered Israel a five-year plea bargain at an earlier court appearance that he declined, a source said.
The alleged molestation happened inside a residence on 60th St. near Franklin D. Roosevelt High School and at an undisclosed location, according to court documents.
Israel, who is out on $100,000 bail, refused to answer questions outside of Brooklyn Supreme Court on Friday, where he had a brief court appearance.
A representative of the Boro Park Y confirmed Israel was no longer a board member.
Israel also claims to work as a member of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer AmbulanceCorp.
“He's a fraud and a fake. He's not one of my guys but fraudulently made placards and falsely received a VAS license plate," said James Rocky Robinson, 77, the captain of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corp.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
They went from porking to kosher.
The Orthodox Jewish businessman who allegedly ordered up a wild, sex-fueled plane ride to Las Vegas as a bribe for NYPD favors demanded rabbi-certified food for the return trip, The Post has learned.
Real-estate investor Jona Rechnitz — who shelled out $59,000 for the round-trip travel — requested kosher deli sandwiches and a fruit platter for the group’s flight to Teterboro, NJ.
But airline manifests show the same six passengers got “standard stock” meals for the outbound flight, where call girl Gabi Grecko said she had group sex with the men, including now-disgraced Deputy Inspector James Grant.
E-mails obtained by The Post also show Rechnitz, who sources have said is cooperating with the feds in a bid for leniency, griped about having to pay the government its share for the shady getaway.
“Tax is 2k each way???” he wrote on Jan. 31, 2013, two days before the trip to Sin City.
“Tax is 7.5 %,” replied Keli McCabe-LaCrete of the Apollo Jets charter company.
The Post revealed the details of the cross-country trip on Friday after speaking exclusively with Grecko, who is identified in court papers as “Prostitute-1.”
Hours later, prosecutors demanded Grecko, 27, turn over the “sexy stewardess” outfit she wore aboard the eight-seat Bombardier Challenger 300 jet, sources said.
The feds also want Grecko’s photos from the Super Bowl-weekend excursion — two of which were published by The Post — and any related communications, sources said.
Grecko has said Rechnitz’s pal, Jeremy Reichberg, directed the kinky action on the plane.
“He’d call me a dirty slut while smacking my a- -,” she recalled.
She also said she was paid a paltry $1,500 for the trip, because the men placed a big bet on the San Francisco 49ers, who lost Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens, 34-31.
She spoke briefly to reporters before a Friday meeting with her lawyer, saying her role in the alleged gifts-for-favors scheme was “very embarrassing.”
“It was a dark time in my life. I had to support myself, and I had no other way to pay rent,” she said. “It’s not something I’m proud of, and I definitely don’t want it to define me or my career.”
“I am a designer and a reality-TV star, etc.,” she added.
But Grecko didn’t let shame keep her from posting her Post Page 1 coverage on Instagram, where she also uploaded a video message following her confab with lawyer Robert Baum of the Federal Defenders of New York.
“Hey, everyone, it’s me, your favorite girl — just kidding,” she says. “I can definitely say today has been an incredibly scandalous day, but we all have a past and you know all of us who never give up on our dreams have done everything to hustle in order to get the things we want in life.”
“And you should never be ashamed of that. Everyone has a past. What’s your past?”
Grecko’s ex-husband — Australian medical entrepreneur Dr. Geoffrey Edelsten — declined to comment in an e-mail to The Post.
“Not interested in your press enquiry. It would require substantial fee,” wrote Edelsten, 73, who was briefly married to Grecko last year.
According to a criminal complaint unsealed on Monday, Grecko confirmed to the feds that she “was engaged to accompany the persons on the trip and that Grant and others took advantage of her services during the trip.”
Lawyers for Rechnitz and since-fired Detective Michael Milici, who isn’t charged, have called Grecko’s claims “unfounded,” while the fifth man on the plane, Marco Franco, denied that either he or Rechnitz had sex with her.
Grant’s lawyer, John Meringolo, said Friday: “We hope the government investigates the inconsistent statements against my client over the last few days.”
Friday, June 24, 2016
Many formerly ultra-Orthodox and Modern Orthodox Jews who no longer hold the beliefs of their communities feel "pushed off the derech," yet still retain their sense of Jewish identity, a groundbreaking new study of the group has revealed.
A third of those surveyed have yet to physically leave their communities, and may maintain outward displays of religious observance while having "left" the community in their beliefs and private lives. When they do leave, over half the respondents reported feeling disconnected to any Jewish community, and nearly a quarter have trouble with dating, holding relationships, or finding a job.
The report surveyed 855 people who once identified (or currently reside in) Chasidic, Chabad, Yishivish, Modern Orthodox, or other Orthodox communities. Many of these individuals now identify as Off The Derech, or OTD, and go to organized OTD Meetups or are members of OTD social media groups.
Other important factors cited by respondents included the treatment of women within ultra-religious communities and the widespread perception of contradictions, double standards, and hypocrisy. Contrary to widely held assumptions about those who leave Orthodox Judaism, only 2% of respondents cited the influence of the Internet or weak secular education as significant spurs to leaving.
The report was released by Nishma Research, a marketing firm that specializes in Jewish demographics.
A huge majority — 95% of all respondents — still view themselves as Jewish. Two-thirds now identify as either "traditional," culturally or humanist Jewish, or, simply, "just Jewish." Only 21% identify now with a mainstream denomination such as Reform, Conservative, or Chasidic. The Pew Research Center's "Portrait of American Jews," by contrast, reported that 70% of American Jews identify with a mainstream denomination.
Mark Trencher, the director of Nishma Research, noted that there was an inverse relationship between level of observance while still a part of Orthodox Judaism and level of observance after leaving.
"It seems that those who started out most stringently to the right — Chasidic Jews, Yidishists — after leaving the community, they retained less of their beliefs and practices than other groups," he said.
Acceptance by the respondents' families, Trencher said, also started out lower in the most religious groups.
"But it does grow over time. The understanding and acceptance of the families goes up to about half after ten years. That's in pretty much every group, too."
Thursday, June 23, 2016
The Whippany-based JMF Properties got the nod to develop roughly 16 acres of Bayonne's Harbor Station South last night, angering at least one resident who wanted to see ACG Equities bring a $57 million Hasidic Jewish development to the former Military Ocean Terminal property.
JMF Properties got the go ahead to develop townhouses and some retail establishments after the council unanimously approved the measure last night (4-0, 1st Ward Councilman Tommy Cotter was absent).
However, one resident, Paul DeAngelo, an advocate for the New York-based ACG Equities $57 million plan that would've brought a Hasidic Jewish community to about 40 acres of Harbor Station South, wanted to know more about JMF Properties prior to the vote.
Business Administrator Joe DeMarco added that the only number discussed so far with the developer is $30,000 per residential unit, which will be dependent upon the type and design of the buildings, but DeAngelo wasn't satisfied with that answer.
DeAngelo also stressed that the ACG Equities plan would stabilize taxes and also continue to diversify the population of Bayonne.
Council President Sharon Nadrowski responded that JMF Properties is only developing "a very small portion" of Harbor Station South and the ACG Equities project could still potentially happen.
In response to DeAngelo claiming the council was being discriminatory, fellow resident Mike Morris said "Bayonne is not an anti-Semitic town in any way."
Back in April, the city announced that developer Kate Howard LTD had backed out of their Harbor Station South project, ultimately leaving a $15 million hole in the $135 million budget – which has not been approved yet.
In a Hudson County View exclusive earlier the month, Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31) and the Davis administration said they are planning to bring a ferry terminal to the former MOT.
Chiaravalloti, an attorney for Weiner Lesniak LLP, confirmed the firm served as counsel for the defunct Kate Howard LTD plan.
An Israeli billionaire known as the "King of Diamonds" is the bigshot businessman who allegedly got a police escort through the Lincoln Tunnel in a lane that was closed to other drivers, The Post has learned.
Lev Leviev, who is also chairman of the international real-estate firm Africa Israel, received the extraordinary favor that's part of the feds' corruption case against two high-ranking cops, sources said Tuesday.
Gov. Cuomo ordered that the inspectors general of the state and the Port Authority launch a probe into the allegations, saying: "If this is true, it is deeply troubling."
"The NYPD has no jurisdiction within the tunnels boundaries," Cuomo said.
"If members of the Port Authority or PAPD [Port Authority Police Department] participated in any fashion – through purpose or neglect – the state will deliver immediate and severe consequences."
Details of the incident came from a cooperating witness who's been identified by sources as Jona Rechnitz, a real-estate developer who once worked for Africa Israel.
Rechnitz told the feds that the escort was arranged by his pal Jeremy Reichberg, "using his connections in local law enforcement agencies," court papers say.
The complaint doesn't say when the lane closure occurred.
Law-enforcement sources said Reichberg's request did not go through official channels and there was no documentation about the incident.
But pulling it off would be an exceedingly easy maneuver that could be accomplished by a single cop on foot working with in concert with the cops in the car or cars, a source said.
"All you'd need to do, would be to move two or three traffic plastic cones for a few minutes, let the person through and then move back the traffic cones a few minutes later after you wanted to re-open the lane," the source said.
Reichberg was arrested Monday, along with NYPD Deputy Chief Michael Harrington and Deputy Inspector James Grant.
Another cop, Sgt. David Villaneuva, was busted separately, and the feds also revealed that a fourth cop — Officer Richard Ochetal — had secretly pleaded guilty and was cooperating with authorities.
Leviev, 59, is a renowned investor in precious stones whose direct competitor is international diamond powerbroker The De Beers Group.
Born in Uzbekistan to a prominent Jewish family, Leviev moved to Israel when he was 15 and got his start as an apprentice at a diamond polishing business.
After a stint in the Israeli military, Leviev went into the diamond business and is credited with breaking the De Beers Group's stranglehold on the mining industry.
He currently owns mines in Africa and Russia and operates pricey jewelry boutiques in New York, London, Dubai and Singapore.
He's also been involved in New York City real estate, including developing a condo building across from the New York Stock Exchange that spurred a fraud investigation by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
A lawyer for one of Leviev's daughters denied that Leviev had received the police escort.
"Lev does not know Jeremy Reichberg," lawyer Charles Michael said.
The Port Authority declined to comment.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
A Hasidic school targeted in a youth protection raid earlier this month has entered into an agreement with the English Montreal School Board to ensure it meets the Education Ministry's requirements.
Some 70 students from the ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Rosemont–La-Petite-Patrie have signed home-schooling contracts with the EMSB, school board spokesman Mike Cohen confirmed on Wednesday.
The agreement comes three weeks after Montreal police and officials from Batshaw Youth and Family Centres descended on the school to question students and staff, in a move one community member described as "overkill."
The school doesn't follow the province's curriculum and isn't recognized by Quebec's Education Ministry.
On Wednesday, youth protection officials returned to the school, a nondescript building on the corner of Beaubien Street and Parc Avenue, to meet again with students and staff.
Hershber Hirsch, a board member at the school, which has no official name, said the community has always been willing to co-operate with the province.
"When they contacted us at the beginning of April we told them they could come in," Hirsch said.
This isn't the first school to sign such an agreement.
Last fall, the EMSB also signed home-schooling contracts with each of 236 parents from the Yeshivas Toras Moshe community in Outremont last fall.
Outremont's Beth Esther Academy also struck a deal with Montreal's largest French-language school board, the Commission scolaire de Montréal.
New York, like most places of human habitation, has a long history of bribery, but until now the literature did not reveal any documented episodes in which the graft was packaged as Christmas presents and delivered by two Orthodox Jewish businessmen dressed up as elves.
But now we know there were at least two such instances, if a criminal complaint filed in federal court this week can be trusted. It charged three New York police commanders with serving as errand boys for the businessmen.
Mayor Bill de Blasio had absolutely nothing to do with the Christmas presents, but it is his unique fate to have taken political contributions from the two businessmen. The federal complaint lays out a dynamic in which gifts and bribes were provided by the men to the police commanders in direct exchange for favors they sought.
The two men have ties to a neighborhood where the ambitions of police commanders depend on their ability to maintain cordial relationships with elements of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.
Generations of Brooklyn commanders, particularly in the precincts serving Borough Park and Crown Heights, have made or broken their careers by doing the right favors.
One night in December 1978, hundreds of Hasidic protesters swarmed into the 66th Precinct station house in Borough Park, destroyed a Teletype machine, flung thousands of files onto the floor and got into a pitched battle with police reinforcements summoned by the four officers who were overwhelmed by the mob.
In the end, 60 police officers were injured. No one was arrested.
A T-shirt was created by patrol officers with a new nickname for the precinct: Fort Surrender.
In the same neighborhood two decades later, on an evening in June 1997, thousands of Hasidim chased off deputy sheriffs who had gotten into a scuffle with a scofflaw whose car they were trying to tow. However, the two-star police chief in charge of Brooklyn South, George Brown, refused to immediately release the young man from custody, despite the demands of community leaders and politicians.
Whether principled or stubborn, this was not the tactic of a clever careerist: Chief Brown was transferred two weeks later to Police Headquarters to a job doing nothing. And for good measure, in keeping with the Fort Surrender tradition, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's administration suspended the towing program in Borough Park for months, resuming it only when the suspension was publicly reported. First, though, the mayor announced that the sheriffs would be sent out for "sensitivity training," a precaution apparently unnecessary elsewhere in the city.
The authority of precinct commanders over private Jewish security patrols is openly questioned. Community members say the patrols have long been necessary to keep the Jewish community from being preyed upon, especially during the decades when the city was afflicted with high crime rates.
However essential, compromised or straightforward the relationships were between police commanders and community leaders, the kind of gross bribery charged in the complaint was never part of the picture. Police commanders responded to political leaders, who in turn saw reliable voting blocs that did not need to be wooed with costly advertisements or get-out-the-vote campaigns.
If the criminal complaint is to be believed, the two men at the center of the case, Jeremiah Reichberg, 42, of Borough Park, and Jona S. Rechnitz, 33, sought favors like police escorts through traffic, harassment of rivals, help with arrests, intervention in business disputes and placards for parking privileges.
In exchange, they delivered gifts like video game systems as Christmas presents to the homes of senior commanders, or flew them on trips to Las Vegas, or treated them to family vacations. One episode of currying favor is said to have involved hiring a security firm owned by the family of a police executive at One Police Plaza.
The charges are sordid. The two businessmen were involved in these relationships, according to the indictment, well before Mr. de Blasio took office. With the departure of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who used his personal fortune to fund his political ambitions, the businessmen turned their attention to Mr. de Blasio. Mr. Rechnitz served as a member of his inaugural committee and later gave $102,300 to a political action group allied with the mayor.
Mr. de Blasio has said he raised money to advance a liberal agenda in the State Legislature.
What the two men sought or received from his administration, if anything, is not known.
"Look," Mr. de Blasio told reporters last week of Mr. Rechnitz, "I wish I never met the guy."
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
A Brooklyn-based developer has aired a proposal for a development catered toward a Hasidic Jewish community on the city's former Military Ocean Terminal, but Bayonne officials don't seem keen on the idea.
Developer ACG Equities said its plan for the 40-acre, southwestern portion of the MOT known as Harbor Station South would bring in a "self-contained, residential community" to the city without adding any children to public schools, since the community would have its own private schools.
The developer -- whose proposal was obtained by The Jersey Journal -- said the plan would also call for community facilities, modern office space, shopping centers, parks, a hotel and convention facilities. ACG Equities didn't provide comment in response to follow-up inquiries.
Asked about a report saying the city has already rejected the plan, city Business Administrator Joe DeMarco said ACG Equities hasn't filed a formal application to the city for officials to begin considering the plan.
He added, however, that such a plan wouldn't be in line with what the city is looking for.
"What I will say is what they presented is not necessarily compatible with the buildings that are already planned there," DeMarco said.
The business administrator has told The Bayonne Community News that the city wants the MOT to be a destination for everyone and isn't looking for an "isolated" community, regardless of whether that's a gated community or a Hasidic Jewish community.
Preliminary plans for the MOT call for more than 2,500 residential units, a hotel, corporate offices, an outdoor retail center, a park, an extension of the Hudson River walkway, a pedestrian bridge going over Route 440, another pedestrian bridge linking the MOT to South Cove Commons, and a ferry service to New York City, DeMarco has said.
Though the idea of a Hasidic Jewish development is still being floated, city officials are apparently moving on. The City Council is slated to vote this week on designating a Whippany-based developer for a roughly 16-acre portion of Harbor Station South.
City Council President Sharon Nadrowski last week echoed DeMarco's concerns about the Hasidic Jewish community being isolated, adding that she doesn't believe such a group would be "looking to assimilate."
"That's what's attractive to them, that they can be isolated," she said.
Nadrowski added that the plan's initial figure of bringing in over 3,000 Hasidic Jewish families -- which would likely include more children per household than the average U.S. household -- would still come at a cost to city services.
City resident Paul DeAngelo -- who does not work for ACG Equities but who has aggressively petitioned the city in recent months to accept the Hasidic Jewish development -- has said the plan can be revised to accommodate only 1,500 families.
DeAnglo has also said that the community would not be secluded.
In response to DeAngelo saying the city in 2014 accepted a $30 million deal from developer Kate Howard LTD for Harbor Station South over a $57 million deal from ACG Equities, DeMarco said Kate Howard LTD's offer amounted to "about $50 million" as well.
The business administrator said the focus should not only be on the dollar amount of offers but also on other factors, such as whether a developer will commit to infrastructure improvements and whether the developer will follow through on a plan.
The city's deal with Kate Howard LTD failed in March, unexpectedly opening up a $15 million revenue hole in this year's city budget. As of last week, city officials said they were still working on filling the hole by the end of this month.
Lipa Schmeltzer, hasidic pop star and glasses fashionista, can now add another line to his resume: Israeli Pepsi Max endorser.
Lipa, who has broken with his Brooklyn haredi Orthodox community in supporting the State of Israel, recorded a minute-long Pepsi Max commercial blending Israeli culture with his own Yiddish roots, that was published online Monday.
He quickly announced the launch of the "grandiose campaign" on Facebook.
In the spot, Lipa enters a classic Israeli eatery filled with haredi men. The cashier, with a knowing smile, offers Lipa trademark Israeli foods like schnitzel, shawarma and a mixed meat dish. Lipa rejects them all, leaving the cashier dumbfounded.
Lipa then sees a Pepsi Max cooler in the back of the restaurant. He procures an ice-cold bottle and drinks. Suddenly, a dance party breaks out. Lipa says, "Pepsi Max: That's what I'm looking for," and the commercial cuts to a slogan, "Top Heymish Food," written in English. Heymish is Yiddish for "comfortably familiar."
The commercial ends with Hebrew text inviting viewers to take a poll about their opinions on the most heymish restaurant.
This is far from Lipa's first foray into pop culture. He's been called the "hasidic Lady Gaga," and has deviated from his traditionalist community in founding a synagogue called "The Airmont Shul" in upstate New York, where he welcomes all comers regardless of religious observance. He is also studying for a degree at Columbia University.
A few weeks ago, he sang with a lesbian Israeli composer. In April, he appeared in the season finale of the Comedy Central TV show "Broad City."
Lipa's dress can also at times be unorthodox. He's known for his vast collection of glasses, and often wears colorful shirts and vests. In the ad, of course, he wears a kippa embroidered with the Pepsi Max logo.
For the first time in many years, the Sullivan County Human Rights Commission and the Sullivan County Legislature held an open forum to discuss community and Orthodox/Hasidic relations.
The purpose of the session, held Monday at the county government center in Monticello, was to prepare the greater Sullivan community for the 250,000 plus, Orthodox and Hasidic visitors who will come to the county for the summer, as they always do. The forum created an atmosphere where residents, representatives of the Jewish communities and elected officials, could put their concerns out in the open for discussion.
Bill Liblick, a Sullivan County human rights commissioner, said after former County Legislator Jodi Goodman introduced a committee for better relations between the Jewish and greater community years ago, no such committee, or forum, has existed.
"It died out and what I wanted to do, as a Human Rights commissioner, is to try to bring everyone together, to bring people together and to discuss issues," said Liblick. "Some people don't understand the Hasidic/Orthodox community because they look different, or they dress different. They have different customs and what we wanted to do on the Human Rights Commission is to show that everyone is a human being, and to address certain issues, and to try to bring people together."
Issues discussed Monday centered on public health, community cleanliness, public safety, traffic safety, unilateral tax exemption misconceptions and noise issues. Each topic was discussed very briefly due to there being no voiced disagreements. Each issue was met amicably to both the members of the greater Sullivan community who attended and the representatives from the Jewish communities.
Rabbi Bernard Freilich, a senior representative for the Jewish community and liaison to the superintendent of the New York State Police, said the seasonal Jewish visitors, as well as the yearlong Jewish residents, wish only to get along with their neighbors and to be acknowledged for the benefits they bring to the community, rather than being acknowledged for their differences.
"Again, our community is here, and we understand that we are guests here, but we do put in a lot of money into the communities building a lot of houses, hopefully it'll be year round, especially in the Town of Fallsburg and some other towns," said Freilich. "Whatever we do, we definitely want to do it together and with an understanding of our neighbors, an understanding of government and with law enforcement."
There are still some issues regarding whether or not the current infrastructure in the Town of Fallsburg can handle the development the Jewish community wishes to embark upon there; but, those issues were not discussed at the forum.
Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Schiff said the public should be aware of the visitors and when driving, to do so defensively, just as would be recommended for any known population increase to the area. As far as issues that may arise between the Jewish and surrounding Sullivan communities, Schiff said the place to start when trying to prevent those issues is with a dialogue, like the one that was rekindled at the forum.
"I have found that we've done that in different groups, when you open up a dialogue, most of the problems go away. It's just a matter of sitting down and talking, getting rid of the misconceptions, and asking for help on both sides," he said. "When different communities can work with us, they can take of problems on their end to make them go away, and where we can, we work with them to make things safer for them. So, just starting the dialogue, I think they've done a very good thing."
Schiff also asks Sullivan residents to try and resolve any issues that may arise between themselves and the Jewish community with their Jewish neighbors first, before escalating a situation to the point of police involvement because in his own experience, the Jewish community has always been very cooperative when it comes to compromising with the members of surrounding communities.