NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It has been there for decades, but on Wednesday members of a Chelsea synagogue were up in arms. They are facing eviction. The owner of their building wants them out.
After nearly 68 years New York City’s 16th Street Synagogue could soon lose its home. The building’s owner wants the Shul evicted.
“This is my home, my religious home. It is the only synagogue I have ever known and it’s like someone trying to murder a family member,” synagogue president Richard McBee told CBS 2′s Drew Levinson.
McBee said his 120-member Modern Orthodox congregation is caught in the middle of a legal battle over what it considered a good faith agreement.
McBee said it all started in 1999 when the building was owned by the National Council of Young Israel, which decided to sell it. It told the members of congregation they would have to leave.
But the synagogue was saved for the time being when a friend of the congregation brought in an investor — real estate developer Jack Braha. A deal called for the top floors to become condominiums and the synagogue would remain on the bottom floors. McBee said the synagogue has always considered itself a co-owner but never got anything in writing.
“Well, I will tell you, in retrospect we felt we have every right to be here. It was articulated we were a co-owner, but these are legal arguments; I am running a synagogue,” McBee said.
CBS 2 reached out to Braha and was told he was out of the country. His attorney did not return CBS 2′s calls.
The state Supreme Court sided with Braha and earlier this month the Sheriffs Department tacked an eviction notice to the front door. However, on Dec. 24 a state Supreme Court judge stayed the order until a Jan. 8 hearing.
When asked what he would do if the court says the congregation must vacate the building, McBee said he had no problem whatsoever staying and facing the consequences.
“I am willing to be arrested,” he said.
Come Jan. 8 it could be up a judge to decide whether the 16th Street Synagogue remains on 16th Street.
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