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|SUPREME COURT OF THE
STATE OF NEW YORK
COUNTY OF NEW YORK
|Index number 108322/1996
AFFIRMATION IN OPPOSITION
PATTERSON, am one of the defendants in this action and I
submit this affirmation in opposition to plaintiff's
order to show cause of May 10, 1996. This affirmation
based on my personal knowledge.
Hidtory of the 8th Street Shul
Ralph Feldman owns the building next to the synagogue, they virtually lean on each other, so after the synagogue was abandoned some ten years ago, he went through the property periodically to put out fires, chase out junkies and prostitutes, and to keep the doors and windows locked. The building declined naturally. The roof leaked for years, then began to cave in windows were broken, the mortar in the walls began to wash out, heat and cold took their toll. Feldman had respect for origins and saved as much of the original Shul as he could, reverently preserving everything that the former congregation lefr behind. The original congregation did nothing to take care of the building, did nothing to insure the safety of the property or the safety of the comnmunity. They walked away from all responsihility. In 1989, 318 East 8th Street directly across the street and 319 East 8th Street, which was buttressed next to the synagogue on the East, were torn down in Emergency Demolitions, removed to the last brick in record time. This sudden removal fuirthered the structural instability of the Synagogue. Feldman essentially stiid next to 319 East 8th Street during the demolition to see that the synagogue was not damaged, After that time the abutting wall was unstable, in spite of his care. At about the time when Feldman's older brother was murdered in 1995, his restoration of the synagogue escalated: His way of performing a mitzvah. General structural repairs included re-roofing, replacing roof beams, re-pointing exterior brick walls, re-plastering interior walls, new plumbing, making wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, window repairs, insulation and new sewer lines. The synagogue was restored by using building methods similar to the original workmanship. Feldman hired professionals to plaster the ceiling rather than to use cheaper sheet rock. Feldman wishes the Synagogue to remain a Shul or some Jewish function: a Yeshiva, an overnight residence for people visiting walking distance hospitals during holy days, or whatever, as long as it is religious and follosws Jewish law he will put in his will that everything is a gift and he would give up the lien or any question of ownership.
Feldman was given violations during the course of his repairs. However, the violations were corrected (EXHIBIT A). The Vice President of the Congregation, Moishe Fogel, knew about Feldman's repairs; we have that documentation in writing (EXHIBIT B).
THE SYNAGOGUE lIBRARY
Along the east wall of the synagogue, there is a walled passageway, 4 ft. wide and 80 ft. long, that has been used by Milton Fechter as a library to store his books. This arrangement was made 2- or more years ago with the approval of Moishe Fogel.
Fechter also acted as caretaker and repairman until Feldman assumed that position about 10 years ago. Fechter has always had, and continues to have access to the synagogue. Fechter has never bgeen given any notice to vacate the premises or to remove his books.
The role of the Plaintiffs
The plaintiffs want to sell the synagogue for cash and give the proceeds to charity, with allegedly no profit for themselves. So what's in it for them? The synagogue represents a visual history of the former congregation members (the plaintiffs), their family history is carved on the marble plaques that Feldman protected, they made no attempt to preserve the original benches, books, early accounting records, Torah covers or other religious artifacts. About 10 years ago the diminishyed congregation walked aweay from the property lock, stock and barrel, and have never clained any religious affiliation with the Shul, only real estate rights. They still are not asking for, or about, the museum quality spiritual and artist artifacts in the Shul. Why is the seller so intent on selling off their history to get a little money to give away? If Feldman had not repaired the uilding, it would not have been worth the $350,000 that Plaintiffs claim to have ben offered. In fact, plaintiff's intent to sell escalated after Feldman had made the major repairs. An identical sister Shul on E 7th Street, zoned for non-profit, was in the same condition as was thius Shul before repairs, and sold for $50,000 to a local church. They are now rebuilding. So where was the former congregation when the best interest of the surrounding community was at stake? I spoke to a potential "buyer" who intended to turn the synagogue into a nightclub/bar. This would greatly diminish the quality of life in our community. Plaintiffs are totally removed from the workings of the Shul and the neighborhood. But why the desperatiuon if they plan to sell the Synagogue and give proceeds to charity? To sell off more of the community for just profit and gentrification is not a just goal, especially since a neighbor was willing to spend his own money to provide a community house of worship and a community resouce.
The plaintiffs have made no effort to resolve the matter with Feldman.
My Role in this Case
In February 1996, Ralph Feldman asked me for assistance with the synagogue, and I believed then and still believe that his motives were honoble. I brought the original problem to public attention, "Synagogue Under Siege". I used the three words Siege, Occupiewd, Squat, got the press involved, squatted the building during the five days of the Siege, and made a 1/2-hour TV special about the Siege. All this light and energy is what put the breath back in the Shul. Like a bright light, people were attracted and the synagogue is now functioning.
I originally got involved because of a curiosity factor: Why was the 7th precinct in the 9th precinct cutting the Synagogue locks and why were officers from the 7th and 9th precincts cutting locks at all? Thst was a Marshall's job. I spoke to a neighgborhood person who saw officers with bolt cutters struggling to cu5t through the American locks. This should be investigated by Internal Affairs.
I attempted to negotiate a settlement between Plaintiffs and Feldman in March but plaintiffs have responded only with cops, real estate agents and law suits. Perhaps a solution would be to rent the Synagogue to us for a set period, a grace period to see if we can make the Synagogue flourish. I originally pushed for the case to go to Ragbinical Court, Bres Din, a date was to be arranged. The Plaintiffs have obviously taken us to Secular court.
Orthodoxy as prescribed by the Plaintiffs will not work in this community. Youth of today have turned away from ultra-rigid traditional religions. If you are Jewish and live in this part of the East Village, there is no place to worship. There is lots of access to magic: black and white, witchcraft, vampire movements, and paganism. This place offers an alternative.
I got involved in this struggle because I have documented the Lower East Side for a number of years, and as a documentarian I have come across many varied situations and people. While videotapping or taking pictures, I have documented people who were shot or stabbed , riots , artists, poets, musicians, magicians, art esoteric thinkers, tattoos, piercins, witches, pagans, Santeros, Priests, Rabbis, Swamis, all kinds of religious ceremonies, speeches, commiunity meetings, squats, homelessness, prostitutes, drag queens, criminals, gangs, posses, crews, cops, graffitti, shuls, churchdes, temples, drugs and their uses, parades, and so on. I have a serious historical archives that includes hundreds of thousands of photographs, and hundreds of video tapes. Many have been used in court cases, both criminal and civil, had descriptions of "incidents" changed to "riots", een used on every TV news station in New York City as well as all over the world. many subgjects, topics and usages.
Rabbi Isaac Fried
Why is the Rabbi included in this suit? Are Plaintiffs trying to jeopardize his career? The Rabggbi has only gbeen a positive force. He has shown no interest or inclination in the material side of this fight. For someone who is practicing Orthodoxy and is as religious as he, it amazes me how compatible he is with this eccentric neighorhood. The Lower East Side is a mystical community and Ragbi Isaac Fried, who is Chasidic, and a long time serious student of the Kabbala, has been giving a lecture series on the suject at the Shul. Every time he has officiated, there has been a minyan.
Privatization of the Grand Street Co-ops
I introduce this subject because some of the people involved in this sale are also involved in selling the Shul. The timing and desperation are the same. This may prove to be the biggest Real Estate deal in the history of New york, certainly in the Lower Eaast Side, involving thousands of apartments and people. In the past two months, Co-oprenters have been sent a flyer urging them to buy their apartment. The flyer said that a follow-up package would be arriving within the month. Nobgody in the co-ops to whom I have spoken knows exactly what isgoing on with this. The Grand Street Co-ops, established in the early part of this century was meant as a reward for working class people to live in comfort and security in a somewhat socialist-minded collective I know that the Ladies Garment Workers initiated part of this collective and represented some of the idealism of the union movement. Now their children, some professionalk and very successful, continue to live there at substantially subsidizewd rents. This is the same group who is trying to sell the Shul. The press should look into the Grand Street Co-op situation as should the Community Board, the City Council and the rest of the Lower East Side.
The Synagogue Now
The Synagogue is functioning as a shul now. There have beeen numerous ebents to date: a woman teacher instructing women on Jewish law and procedure, Purim, Kagbala lectures, Hegbrew classes and Torah classes. the Synagoigue has a Kosher Torah. The 8th Street Shul is the last surviving , functioning synagogue in Alphaet City. The museum aquality building should be landmarked; it is now cedrtainly eqaual in stature, importance and original conditrion as the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Since the beginning of the resurrection of this synagogue, individuals have lived there to protect the property.
The Unanimous Vote
Some members of the original congregation were upset by the letter instructing them to vote about the sale of the synagogue. Nothing in this community is ever unanimous, especially about something as major as real estate deals. I heasrd Moishe Fogel, the Vice President, state that he did not want the Shul sold. Nussin Fogel's father, Agbrahm, also stated he wanted the building to remain a shul. This is unanimous? As for libelous statements attributedf to defendants: We always kept the names of the parties silent.
Heshy Jacobs, who is not a member of the Shul, and who the United Jewish Council voted "Man of the Year", called this house of worship "The Alamo". "Close it Down" he wrote in the New York Times. His job is to protect Jewish interests? This area is where the Jewish American Dream began.
For plaintiffs to suggest that defendeant Feldman's repairs and reconstruction of the suynagogue devalued the worth of the property is nonsensical.
There may be some personal motives in this case. But it has been my experience that when one party moves to achieve something, other parties either move in the same direction or in opposition.
Neither I nor Rabbi Fried stand to gain anything by way of ownership or control of the property, now or in the future, and Ralph Feldman will relinquish his claim if the property remains as a religious (Jewish) organization.
As further illustration of the nature of the plaintiffs in this case. real estate taxes have not been paid on the property since 1983, and as of April 1996, $33,371.66 is owed to the city in back taxes, and Block 412 Lot 72 is in REM, which should mean that technically the City of New York owns the property.
THEREFORE, plaintiff CLAYTON PATTERSON respectfully requests taht this Court for all and any relief as this Court may deem just and proper.
________________________ /ss/ June 5, 1996.