Brooklyn court attorney whose brother loaned judge campaign money is fired
BY NANCIE L. KATZ DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER Thursday, July 31st 2008, 5:20 PM
A Brooklyn court attorney for a judge who got an $80,000 loan from his family has been fired, the Daily News has learned.Brooklyn Civil Court Judge Lila Gold hired Mitchell Shpelfogel in January 2006 for the competitive $63,000-a-year state post - only weeks after the 22-year-old graduated from law school. He passed the bar a month later. Five months after The News spotlighted the appointment, the court's inspector general ordered him out. He was terminated July 18, a court spokeswoman said, declining further comment. In February, Shpelfogel - whose family's Brighton Beach buildings have had hundreds of violations - said his hiring had nothing to do with his brother, Rafael, 27, lending Gold the money for her uncontested 2003 bid. The loan was quickly repaid. Mitchell Shpelfogel called himself a "qualified" family friend. "There was no quid pro quo. I'm a capable, talented person," he said in February, adding that even judges came to him for advice. Few state judges hire assistants right out of law school because the job requires drafting complex legal opinions. Experienced lawyers often seek the positions as a path to the bench. Mitchell Shpelfogel, a father of two, said he took the job to be with his family. But sources said Shpelfogel got in trouble for allegedly doing outside legal work and being off-site at family construction projects during court hours. Charges were referred by Administrative Judge Ellen Spodek to court inspectors, a source said. The report is confidential. Shpelfogel, now 24, did not return calls this week nor did Gold. Spodek declined comment. "I do not have time to talk to you," said patriarch Sam Shpelfogel, who still owes the city $8,200 for emergency repairs on his buildings. The Shpelfogels own at least nine Brooklyn buildings, including a multimillion-dollar Manhattan Beach house and two apartment houses cited for multiple violations. "The News is the district attorney of Brooklyn," said Zev Yourman, a community activist who charged that the family used profits from tenants' suffering to get ahead politically. He has sued Shpelfogel for defamation. The city sued Sam Shpelfogel twice since 2004 for more than 1,000 violations and settled after he fixed them. firstname.lastname@example.org
ZEV'S TESTIMONY BEFORE THE NYS LEGISLATURE
To the Editor:
Joe Maniscalco did an excellent job exposing Community Board 15 member Mitchell Shpelfogel firing for his Civil Court Job by the Inspector General for alleged improprieties ("Fallout From Shpelfogel Axing" 8/7 issue of your paper). It is now up to Michael Nelson, who appointed him to CB15 to do the ethical thing and demand that Shpelfogel resign from the Board. - Zev Yourman Brighton Beach.
Judge borrows 8OG from real estate family, then hires lender's brother
Tuesday, February 12th 2008, 4:00 AM
A Brooklyn judge who took an $80,000 loan from a prominent real estate family hired one of the sons for her coveted court attorney job - even before he passed the bar exam. Brooklyn Civil Court Judge Lila Gold appointed Mitchell Shpelfogel, then 22, in January 2006 for the competitive $63,000-a-year state post - only weeks after he graduated from law school. He passed the bar a month later.
Shpelfogel - whose family's Brighton Beach buildings have had hundreds of violations - said hiring him had nothing to do with his brother, Rafael, 27, lending Gold the money for her uncontested 2003 bid. The loan was quickly repaid."There was no quid pro quo. I'm a capable, talented person. We've been family friends for many years," he said. "Why shouldn't she take a family friend, if he's qualified?" Few state judges hire assistants right out of law school, because the job requires drafting legal opinions. Experienced lawyers often seek the positions as a path to the bench. Shpelfogel said he doesn't want a judgeship or any other court post when Gold retires. "I took this job because I'm able to be home and be with my family," said Shpelfogel, a father of two. Gold did not return calls. The Shpelfogels own at least nine Brooklyn buildings, including a multimillion-dollar Manhattan Beach house and two apartment houses cited for multiple violations. "They are using the money of their long-suffering tenants to get ahead politically," charged Zev Yourman, a community activist who sued Shpelfogel for defamation. Tenants at 2822 Brighton Eighth St., owned by patriarch Sam Shpelfogel, showed the DAILY NEWS leaks in walls, malfunctioning stoves, uneven floors, mold, broken cabinets and complained of mice. The city sued Shpelfogel twice since 2004 for more than 1,000 violations settled after he fixed them. Shpelfogel still owes $9,000 for emergency repairs. Former tenant Yustus Kotz said she moved from 15 Brighton Eighth - where Sam Shpelfogel owes the city $1,468 for emergency repairs and 275 housing violations are listed - after Mitchell Shpelfogel threatened her when she complained about terrible conditions. "He kicked my door, demanded rent in cash and called me an illegal immigrant and a prostitute," she said. "You are not impartial," Sam Shpelfogel told a reporter. Rafael Shpelfogel could not be reached.
THE PEOPLE OF BROOKLYN v PAT SINGER (NEE MURPHY) DESTROYER OF JEWISH INSTITUTIONS IN BRIGHTON BEACH AND CONEY ISLAND
Brighton Neighborhood Association Not So Innocent
BROOKLYN DAILY EAGLE July 25, 2007 p5
In reference to Sarah Tobol's article, "Oft-Neglected Brighton Beach Looks Toward a Better Future" (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 17), there are some additional things your readers should know about Brighton's overdevelopment problem:
Pat Singer, president of the Brighton Neighborhood Association (BNA) and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz are both quoted as being against overdevelopment in Brighton Beach when, in fact, the opposite is true. Both Singer, who is a taxpayerfunded tenant advocate, and Cymbrowitz have supported overdevelopment in Brighton over the years to the extent of actually demanding that. land use be rezoned to allow high-rise luxury condos and office buildings. The most famous incident involved the former Brighton Beach Baths Beach Club.
Singer and Cyrnbrowitz (then with the New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal), went to the City Planning Commission demanding that the Baths' recreation use zoning be negated in order to allow Muss Developers to build ten 20-story luxury towers on the baths' site. Newspapers called the constant opposition by neighborhood residents to the Baths' destruction by Singer and her cronies "The Battle of Brighton." The City Planning Commission report of May 1992 notes Singer's support as one of the major reasons for the change. in zoning. In recent years, Singer has supported developer Sergei Guberman in building an out-of-character luxury tower in the middle of a block of lowrise houses despite neighborhood residents' angry protests. Singer has also appeared before the Board of Standards and Appeals in support of former BNA Vice President, developer Sam Shpelfogel, in his destruction of several locat Jewish institutions so he could build luxury condos and an office building in their place. Cymbrowitz' statement in support of Shpelfogpl's development, that the synagogues have "outlasted" their usefulness, didn't go over well with the actively protesting citizenry.,
Singer's and Cymbrowitz' support for developers has been well rewarded. Cymbrowitz' financial statements show that most of his contributions come from out-of-district developers such as Muss. Cymbrowitz sees that Singer's BNA is well-financed by the taxpayers for "tenant advocacy," a program which, in Brighton Beach, proves to be bogus.
Zev Yourman Brighton Beach
CONDOS EDGE OUT CLASSES
BAY NEWS APRIL 5, 2007 page 16To The Editor of BAY NEWS:
In reference to the "Yeshiva Threatens..." article by Stephen Witt (3-1 issue), it is ironic that Pat Singer, leader of the Brighton Neighborhood Association (BNA) has pushed her nose into this fray versus the yeshiva, as she has created the climate in which the yeshiva had to expand.
There is a severe shortage of Jewish classroom space south of the Belt Parkway, which is directly attributed to Pat Singer, personally, having signed for the destruction of Jewish institution after Jewish institution in this area, so her developer/friends could build offices and condominiums in their place. Singer's crony, former BNA Vice President (and still controlling interest) Sam Shpelfogel, used bullying tactics to destroy the Hebrew schools Beth Am, Beth Shifra, and the property rights to the Seabreeze Jewish Center, thus eradicating dozens of Jewish classrooms. Singer led the charge to destroy the Brighton Beach Baths, the seat of Yiddish culture for one hundred years so her friend, the Muss developers, could build an ugly pre-fab development for speculators. Although Singer claims to have not known about the legal loophole that enables non-profit organizations to use apartment buildings for educational purposes, this has been a, major publicized issue amongst tenant activists for years.
As a "tenant advocate," she has been paid millions of our tax dollars over the years to know just such facts as this! It is interesting that Singer goes running off to Manhattan Beach to aid tenants there, while ignoring hundreds of tenants of former BNA executive, the said Sam Shpelfogel; these tenants live in squalid conditions right here in Brighton Beach!
In the same issue of your paper, Singer insists that Corbin Place remain,named after notorious anti-Semite, Austin Corbin. Back in the days when Singer's last name was Murphy, she admittedly,attended a Lutheran religious school. It seems she learned her lessons well; Martin Luther was an anti-Semite and so is Pat Singer!
Zev Yourman Brighton Beach
Editor's Note: This is in response to a recent letter submitted by Zev Yourman entitled HOW DARE YOU SIR. BAY NEWS April 19, 2007 page 16
To The Editor of BAY NEWS:
There is a Jewish proverb, "a coin in an empty barrel makes a lot of noise." My mother, Pat Singer, has been stalked and harassed by Zev Yourman for over 10 years because she had the courage to stand up and go to court against him for non-payment of rent. How dare he call Mom an "antiSemite" she has done nothing but instill in my brother and I a sense of our proud Jewish heritage. My mother's mother was Jewish, making my mother Jewish, if Mr. Yourman knew anything about Jewish culture. As her daughter this makes me Jewish and proud. She struggled with putting my brother and I through Manhattan Beach Jewish Center with the charity of our beloved late Rabbi Joseph Singer, who was not related to us but with whom we had the honor to share in a surname. We were both Bar and Bas Mitzvahed, respectively, in accordance with Jewish tradition, out of an honor and pride in our culture. We carry on that respect of our heritage by celebrating in Jewish traditions and holidays throughout the year.
When my father died suddenly, close to 30 years ago, leaving us with nothing, she dug her heels in, and stayed in Brighton Beach in her beloved Jewish community, and worked tirelessly to help make it remain the safe viable haven, which it still remains today. Unfortunately, places do change and many of the Jewish delicatessens and centers throughout our beloved Brighton and New York City landscape have disappeared in significant numbers, but not because of the reasons he falsely tries to vilify my mother for. He's insane to say she abolished the Jewish , culture in Brighton. The vast Jewish culture I grew up with left Brighton for better homes in Long Island, New Jersey and Staten Island. . I remember Watching my Jewish friends and their families leave in droves ,in the '70's for better homes and the backyards of suburbia. These institutions he menti oned stood dormant and abandoned and were naturally sold to the highest bidders. You can't tell an owner they can't sell their property. Blame the people that owned these places for selling out. The millions he refers to, that she has accepted, is a temble lie which God does know. Mom still lives in the humble apartment we have always lived in and worked hard and struggled to keep. Mom doesn't do her job for the money, because let's face it, non-profit is just that. She stays and fights in this community for the love and compassion she feels for those who work and reside in it.
My mother is out countless evenings, attending meetings and trying to help countless people of all races, ethnicities and economic stature because she doesn't see them as anything but people who are in desperate need of help and are seeking an advocate, a voice, to help them in their need. So in answer to Zev Yourman's heinous, unjust comments about my mother, who instilled in me a healthy sense of the values and belief of our ancestors and the good moral fiber to do the right thing by people: Shame on you.
It is obvious his parents failed him. I am proud of my mother and we are proud to be Jewish.
Laura Singer Brighton Beach
(KEN BROWN, EDITOR OF BAY NEWS WAS TOO COWARDLY TO PRINT THE FOLLOWING RESPONSE TO LAURA SINGER'S LETTER)
Letters to the Editor of BAY NEWS
Att: Ken Brown, Editor April 27, 2007
To the Editor:
It is obvious that Pat Singer, President, Founder, and Grand Poobah of the Brighton Neighborhood Association (BNA), is a coward as she hides behind her daughter, Laura Singer, who responded on her behalf to my letter of 4/5/07. Laura begins by libeling me: "Pat Singer has been stalked and harassed by Zev Yourman ... because she [went] to court against him for non-payment of rent." Pat Singer has never been a plaintiff in a court action against me. Pat did, however, appear in court on the arm of my landlord, who did file a case against me. The judge threw her, and the case, out. Laura,, read the court record.
Pat Singer, a publicly-funded "tenant advocate," was rewarded $500 in campaign contributions, courtesy of the same landlord. Laura, read your mother's campaign finance report. If Pat believes that outspoken opposition to her policies of supporting developers and slumlords with one hand while throwing crumbs to tenants with the other constitutes "stalking and harassment," let her take the issue to court! But, unless the judge is paid off by her cronies, the Shpelfogels (NY Post, July 21, 2003), she will be told that freedom of speech and assembly are protected rights in this country.
To counter my accusations of anti-Semitism, Laura goes on a long tirade concerning her upbringing. Laura, let's examine your mother Pat's upbringing, not yours! Pat Singer's autobiography (BAY NEWS, June 30, 1986) describes her childhood. The then Valda Murphy (Pat Singer's maiden name) was raised in a Queens German-Protestant neighborhood where she was thrilled by her large Christmas tree surrounded by wonderful gifts and carried with her a glow-in-the-dark cross. She enjoyed her education in a Dutch Reform church school. Typical activities of a young Jewish girl? Laura, read the BAY NEWS archives.
But the real issue is that Pat Singer has done everything possible to destroy the Jewish infrastructure of Brighton.
1. Singer was one of the main influences in destroying the Brighton Beach Baths, the seat of Jewish culture for 100 years (City Planning Commission, May 22,1992).
2. Singer demanded that the Board of Standards and Appeals rezone the Beth Shifra Jewish institution, which had been in use since the 1930's, to allow commercial use (BSA, October 31, 2002).
3. Singer hid the fact from the public until the last moment, that the Beth Am Jewish Institution, in use since 1905, was going to be destroyed by her pal, developer and BNA Vice President, Sam Shpelfogel (BAY NEWS, June 20, 2005, July 11, 2005, July 18, 2005).
4. During the controversy that ensued during the destruction of Beth Am, Singer changed her meeting to a Friday evening so that observant Jews would find it hard to attend (BAY NEWS, July 11, 2005).
5. Singer walked nightclub owners through the zoning process (CB 13, May 4, 1998), thus pushing out the Kosher establishments. No family-oriented business wants to remain open next to a nightclub.
6. Singer had a Sabbath-observant vocal critic arrested on phony charges while on his way to Friday services (NYPD Legal Bureau report, March 13, 2003).
7. Singer insisted that Corbin Place remain named for noted anti-Semite Austin Corbin.
8. Singer is now attacking a Yeshiva in Manhattan Beach, which is not even in her district, while allowing Shpelfogel's and other slumlords' tenants to rot in Brighton.
These are a few examples of Singer's "love" for Brighton's Jewish community. There are 70,000 Jews living in Brighton. Beth Shifra had a packed house due to its free lunch program until it was padlocked a few years ago, and Pat, herself, used Beth Am for her meetings until it was closed in 2005. These were hardly "dormant and abandoned," as Laura claims. Laura states "The millions he refers to, that she has accepted, is a terrible lie which God does know." I can't claim to know what God knows,, but I do know what the Attorney General knows, as I've accessed his BNA files under the Freedom of Information Law. In a typical year, Pat Singer and the BNA receive approximately $195,000 from the taxpayers for "tenant advocacy" projects (many of which prove to be bogus). They also receive pork from various politicians, income from the annual Brighton Jubilee, etc. Considering all the years these shenanigans have been going on, this adds up to a nice chunk of change, courtesy of John Q. Public.
Laura claims that her "mother helps people of all races," yet Brighton's businesses won't hire African-Americans, and Brighton's landlords won't rent to African-Americans. Is this tenant advocacy? Laura closes her letter by attacking my parents whom she has never met, nor knows anything about: "It is obvious his parents failed him." My parents taught me to pursue justice. If they were alive today, they would do everything possible to crush Pat Singer's corrupt BNA.
ZEV YOURMAN Brighton Beach
BNA DESTROYS RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL TREASURES OF BRIGHTON BEACH
BETH SHIFRA - 3044 Coney Island Avenue (corner Neptune--Ave Rabbi Prussman's famous charity, soup kitchen, religious school, and prayer hall. DESTROYED by BNA (Brighton Neighborhood Association) Vice President slumlord Sam Shpelfogel who replaced it with an office building
BETH AM - 1180 Brighton Beach Avenue (corner Brighton 15 Street) Originally chartered as Zionist Institute - featured prayer services, Jewish childrens school, community activities. RAZED to the ground by BNA Officer - Sam Shpelfogel - who wants to build a nine story building in its place - boxing in windows of adjacent 200 Corbin place.
BRIGHTON BATHS - Brighton Beach Avenue (between Coney Island Ave. and Brighton 13th Street) Featured recreational and cultural activities - DESTROYED by BNA Director Pat Murphy-Singer who led effort to cancel the Baths recreational, shore support zoning to enable her friend Muss to build thousands of luxury condos in its place
OCEANA THEATER 1029 Brighton Beach Avenue.(corner Brighton 11 Street) Brighton Beach's only movie theater easily accessible to Brightons many senior citizens - DESTROYED by BNA Director Pat Murphy-Singer who walked Moscow backed financiers thru licensing process to build Atlantic-Oceana Nightclub in its' place Now a watering hole for drunken Eastern European thug types
2822 Brighton 8 Street, 2872 Brighton 4 Street, 8 Brighton 15 Street etc. Slum buildings with hundreds of violations owned by slumlord Shpelfogel with complacency by Pat Murphy-Singer.
DAILY NEWS Wednesday, November 16, 2005
ADVOCATE OF TENANTS IS IN LANDLORD FLAP
BY RIVKA BUKOWSKY AND MELISSA GRACE DAILY NEWS WRITERS
A BOARD MEMBER of a city-funded Brighton Beach group that advocates for tenants' rights is in hot water for failing to fix hundreds of violations in a building he owns.
Landlord Sam Shpelfogel is on the board of the Brighton Neighborhood Association, a group that offers tenants help with problems ranging from leaky faucets to rent subsidies.
The group received $22,000 in City Council funds this year - money that is administered through the Housing Preservation and Development Department. That very city agency is taking Shpelfogel to court - for a second time in less than two years - for failing to correct 402 maintenance violations at 2822 Brighton Eighth St., officials said.
HPD spokeswoman Carol Abrams said, "2822 Brighton Eighth is pending for comprehensive litigation. A landlord needs to be providing services to his or her tenants and in this case that is not being done." Shpelfogel vehemently denied he does not fix violations promptly. "I don't have 400 violations," he said. "Any tenant that calls me today and says there is something wrong ... within 24 hours I will be there."
Shpelfogel has been sued by HPD before and in September 2004 agreed to fix 715 outstanding violations, Abrams said. The agency has spent $6,200 in taxpayer money doing 'emergency repair work on the building, she said. Tenants say their problems are rarely addressed. "The landlord is never around," said Rhavid Ahmad, 44. "What I do itmyself." - He's got everything under control because if they [tenants] go for help who are they going to see? Sam Shpelfogel," said Zev Yourman, a Brighton Beach activist who has clashed repeatedly with the association.
Violations listed at the building range from defective smoke detectors to a failure to install child guards. HPD and City Council members defended the Community Preservation Contract fund's that go to the group. "HPD's role is to verify that the not-forprofit groups with these contracts provide the services that the City Council has funded," Abrams said, adding there isho evidence the group is not providing the services. City Councilman Michael Nelson (DBrighton Beach) said he was unaware of Shpelfogel's problems.
"That would surprise me- I know Sam," Nelson said. But, "If he was found to be a slumlord then [the association] would have problems with that,"'Nelson said. The group also gets a $68,000 annual grant from the state Housing and Community Renewal Division. Officials there said they were unaware of the potential conflict of interest on the group's board. Pat Singer, head of the Brighton group, said she was unaware of the violations at Shpelfogel's building, or of the past legal action against her board member. But, "If he was doing anything wrong with his buildings," she said, "I would nail him." With Jego Armstrong email@example.com
IF YOU ARE BEING VICTIMIZED BY PAT SINGER OR THE BNA EMAIL STOP THE BNA
20 UNIT CONDO FOR BRIGHTON 4th ST?
BAY NEWS November 6, 2000
By Helen Klein
Boon or blight? That is the question, with respect to a proposed 20-unit condominium development on Brighton 4th Street. At the October meeting of the Brighton Neighborhood Association'(BNA), which took place at Public School 253, Oceanview Avenue and Brighton 6 both points of view were voiced as developer Sergey Guberman, himself a resident of Brighton Beach, described prefirminary plans for the residential building he wants to erect at the location, as of right.
Guberman contended that the buidding would be designed in such, a way that it would, "Keep the face of the neighborhood. We will keep the size of the front of the building, equal to the size of the bungalow, which means 29 feet. If you stand on Brighton 4th Street, the building will be almost the same size. We will gradually go higer," he added.
The total height of the structure said Guberman, will be close to five stories." This, he explained will be determined by the zoning in effect at the location, which is R-6 (a resiential zone allowing a maximum height of 60 feet).
However, area resident Audrey Gardner who fired off question after question about the development, disagreed. "I don't care if it's within the zoning," Gardner asserted. "It doesn't fit in with the character of the neighborhood."
Eliciting the response from Guberman that the adjacent buildings were three-stories and one-story, she contended, "You have to provide light and air to the buildings next to it. There is nothing like it there." Gardner also expressed concern that people chose the condominiums not to live in but to, rent out. "We have a situation in the neighborhood where people are buying houses and rentinig them as furnished rooms. We don't want a hotel on Brighton 4th Street," she declared.
Pat Singer, BNA's executive dfiedtor, was extremely enthusiastic about the development. "This is exciting" she asserted. "Here is somebody who believes in, us. It's a begining. "This is a positive thing," Singer reiterated "a gamble on us, folks. I'm just thrilled that $3 million is planned for this area."
Letters To The Editor
HOW COULD YOU?
BAY NEWS DECEMEBER 4, 2006 PAGE 36
To The Editor:
Re: 20-unit condo in historic bungalow area in Brighton Beach (11/6 issue). The inappropriate support of the Brighton neighborhood Association (BNA) for the construction of out-of-scale, five-story, 20 unit, $260,000 luxury condos right in the midst of an historic, modest, small home enclave, exposes the BNA for what they are - shills for developers bent on the destructive consequences of their actions on a unique neighborhood. The support of this same BNA for Oceana, the $250,000 to $1 million condo now under construction on the former Brighton Bath site, reinforces this conclusion, especially in light of J. Muss (the builder) reneging on his pledges to, build moderate-income, and housing for the elderly, and his failure to reconstruct the landmarked "Carousel" structure. (I would not be surprised if it suddenly burnt up!) For BNA's edification and education, the 20-unit condo proposed sale is in a remaining enclave of the housing used by the Sheepshead Racetrack workers, way back. Many of these small homes have been fixed up and offer a family an opportunity to realize their dreams of owning a home of their own.
Irwin Fruchtman Coney Island
JULY 18, 2005 BAY NEWS Page 2
CRITICS BLAST BNA IN WAKE OF SHUL'S DEMISE
By Matt Zeidel
No matter where it goes the Brighton Neighborhood Association (BNA) can't seem to rid itself of its most ardent - if not vocal - detractors. A silent protest marred the BNA's latest meeting, held at the Brighton Beach branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. The protesters, members of a loose alliance known as "Tenants against the BNA," were quiet during the meeting but held aloft cloth banners saying "BNA shul killers" and "Stop funding BNA." The signs were adomed with dollar signs and Stars of David.
Many of the demonstrators also applied a ceremonial piece of black electric tape over their mouths, symbolic of their silent objections to the actions of the neighborhood group. Pat Singer and Cliff Harris, the head of the BNA and her deputy, carried on the meeting as though the dissidents were invisible as well, as inaudible. They discussed, among other issues, how a construction site on Brighton 4th Street is affecting its neighbors.
It was after the meeting officially adjourned, that things heated up. Many of the demonstrators, largely Russian-speaking, clustered in one comer of the crowded library auditorium. They argued amongst themselves about how to proceed. Others, though, went right to Singer, and began to question her on her own and the BNA!s involvement with developers. Its, opponents say that the BNA is supposed to be 'a tenant advocacy group, but it often passes a blind eye on over-development when it sees fit. people who will help support Brighton residents, not developers.
It's worse than Manhattan here," said Inna Slobodova, the group's defacto leader and a resident of 200 Corbin Place. The lot next to her building was once a Jewish community center, now to be replaced by a highrise condo tower.
Slobodova and Zev Yourman, a self-proclaimed freelance tenant advocate, say that instead of fighting against the destruction of that and another Jewish community center and their subsequent replacement, with high rise reosidential towers, Singer and the. board merely stayed silent..
"The people here are from Europe and Russia, a lot of them are old. They saw how the Nazis destroyed synagogues and churches,",' Slobodoya said. "Twenty-five years ago I escaped here for freedom. Now, a rich developer buys the property, and that's it. No more shul. No more community center."
A large part of the controversy is also likely due to the fact that the developer in question, Samuel Shpelfogel, sits on the BNA as one of its board members.
Singer and Shpelfogel maintain that both construction projects - one at the former congregation Beth Shifra, at 3044 Coney- Island-Ave and the other Beth Am, 1180 Brightbn'geacb Ave were done "by rights," meaning that there was neither zoning nor any other law standing in the way of knocking down the existing structures and replacing, them with high-rises.
Singer said that the issue is simple: if someone buys a property and the property is zoned correctly, there's nothing anyone can do about it. cqt belongs to the developer. It doesn't belong to the public. We can beg and plead all we want,' she said, "but the fact of the matter is that it doesn't belong to the community."
But to the protestors, this isn't really about the law: it's about the BNA ostensibly ignoring its pledged duty to the community. "It's a matter of responsibility," said Isaac Schonfeld, a Borough Park resident who came to the BNA meeting at Yourman's behest. The destruction of Jewish community centers was something that he and his compatriot, Berel Berko were upset to hear about.
"The question is, Whose interests are being served? Has Ms. Singer abdicated advocating for her consituency "that she is for what reason? The most sinister curse, is somehow -in cahoots with the developer himself," he said. "She is not doing everything that a politician should be doing," Schonfeld said. "Within the confines of the law, everything may be. But that should not be the end all of avenues to be pursued." Singer, though, contends that, all wishes aside, the same rules that make America great also make it nearly impossible to control. what people do with the land they -own if it falls within legal bounds. "Somebody owns it, and it's their right to do with it what they please," she said. The clash falls under the larger context of overdevelopment in Brighton Beach.
Pat Singer and Sam Shpelfogel
Pat Singer purports to be supporting the tenants in this matter, but over the years, she has assisted her buddy, slumlord-developer Sam Shpelfogel, in the destruction and conversion of two synagogue/yeshivahs and the taking of the air rights over a third. She was also a supporter of the destruction and rezoning of the former Brighton Beach Baths, which was a hub of Jewish culture for more than a century. She has rescheduled meetings of interest to her Jewish constituents for Friday evenings and had one vocal critic improperly arrested while on the way to Friday services. She has supported local slumlords and developers who have harassed, and even evicted, their largely Jewish tenants, and supported the status quo in the recent controversy over renaming a local street, Corbin Place, that had been inadvertently named for a notorious anti-Semite.
In short, Pat Singer (nee Murphy), who receives public funds for tenant advocacy, is no friend of tenants, or Brighton's predominantly Jewish community, and is using this issue to rebuild her tarnished credibility so she can continue to burn the candle at both ends. Comment by Zev 04.26 07 @ 5:05 am
To amplify my last post, the destruction of the two synagogues, Beth Am and Beth Shifra, and the eroding of property rights over the Seabreeze Jewish Center, added to the already severe shortage of Jewish classroom space in the area, leading to an inevitable incursion into residential housing by Jewish educational institutions desperate to serve their expanding student population. Pat Singer should have considered this when she supported the takeover and commercial rezoning of these viable historic Jewish institutions. Comment by Zev 04.26 07 @ 5:30 am
Jewish Institutions Destroyed
Pat Murphy-Singer, leader of the Brighton Neighborhood Association (BNA), is responsible for the destruction of numerous Jewish institutions in Brighton Beach, including Beth Shifra, Beth Am, and the Brighton Beach Baths. Singer is now attacking a respected Rabbi and a Yeshiva on West End Avenue in Manhattan Beach, which is not even in her district. Singer's BNA is financed by taxpayers' funds, courtesy of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz. Contact Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, and demand that the BNA's funding be stopped now, before they destroy more Jewish institutions.
Contact: Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz
1800 Sheepshead Bay Road Brooklyn, NY 11235
Phone: (718) 743-4078 Email: Cymbros@assembly.state.ny.us
BAY NEWS July 11, 2005 BACKLASH OVER LOSS OF JEWISH CENTER RESIDENTS BLAST BNA
By Charles Hack
Wearing a black scarf over her head, Inna Slobodova stands along side a row of seated protesters, outside Assembly member Steven Cymbrowitz's Sheepshead Bay office on a wet Monday morning, demanding that money stopped being used to support a local neighbor association. Slobodova a tenant in a 120-unit apartment building at 200 Corbin Place,, says that on March 10, without warning, a developer started to demolish a former synagogue that had been acting as a Jewish center. The development is being done as of right. The Beth Am building at 1180 Brighton Beach Ave, provided recreational and cultural activities to local residents, now has been razed for high-end condominiums, accordng to Slobodova. "Before when we looked out of the windows it was a peaceful picture, children were playing and seniors were sitting. Instead,we are now suffering,and what we are going to see is a condo," said Slobodova, who leads a group she calls the "Tenants Against Brighton Neigborhood Association. They are ruining our lives."
Some 60 of the units in her apartment face the construction site at 1180 Brighton Beach Avenue, she says. Locals have lost a kindergarten,- she said. The center was also used to provide seniors and children with a place to learn to dance.
At the center of the storm is the Brighton Neighborhood Association (BNA). The protesters say the BNA is supporting this and other developments, which they say are destroying I cultural and religious landmarks in, Brighton Beach for profit. This area has one problem, development is first," said Slobodova. "We protest and nobody listens to what we do, they say done deal." The development was done as-of-right, said Pat Murphy Singer, the director of the BNA.
She said she visited the residents of 200 Corbin Place to explain their rights. She also said she represented them at the Community Board 13 meeting, and invited the city's Department of Buildings to inspect the site. "I made phone calls," said Singer. "I went.to the community board and the Buildings Department, but there was nothing I could do because it was legal."
According to New York City Department of Finance records, two non-profits were named on deeds since 2004 Na'Amat USA, 550 5 Ave and the Labor Zionist Alliance Inc. at 275 5 Ave, Haifiet Green, national vice president in charge of funds with Na'Amat, said that their attorneys advised them to sell the building because it required extensive renovations, and it was not cost effective to continue operating the building.
Singer said the non-profit that owned the building decided to sell after accepting an offer they considered fair. "It's shame, but what could I do?" she said.
The Department of Finance registrar shows that Samuel Shpelfogel transferred his interest of the property at 1180-1184. Brighton Beach Ave. to a company, 1184 Brighton, LLC on April 2, 2004. A transfer of ownership was made to a new name, 1184 Brighton Development, LLC, at 343, Sand Lane, Staten Island on May 3,2005. The owner of that company, and Igor Fleyshmakher, the owner of DYA Construction, which filed for construction permits and was based at the same address did not return phone calls in time for publication.
The protesters listed four recent demolitions that BNA members have had a role in, in some form or another. They are afraid that the value of apartments, will go down," said Shpelfogel. "But whenever you have a nice building next to you, the value of your property will go up.
Beth Shifra,at 3044 Coney Island Ave.,,which was formerly a religious, school with homeless services, was redeveloped as offices by Shpelfogel, one of the BNA board members.
"The developer just destroyed a Jewish institution, he built condos there," said Zev Yourman, a Community activist. Shpelfogel said that the property had been condemned by New York City, prior to him purchasing it. "It was closed - a long time,before," said Shpelfogel "This building was condemned by the city. There were rats the size of dogs running out of it."
"Look at it now, isn't it beautiful?" he said.
The protesters say that BNA members supported the redevelopment of Brighton Beach Baths on Brighton Beach Avenue as condos and the Oceana Theater at 1029 Brighton Beach Ave. as a nightclub.
"The BNA is an organization of developers," alleged Yourman. Singer said that the, management board reflects the community and includes for example, a dentist, a banker and a teacher. There is just one real estate developer.
The idea that the BNA had.: anything to do with the Brighton Baths going under is ludicrous, and it's the same thing vith the theater," said Cymbrowitz.
He also said that the Beth em was no longer usedas a synagogue, outlasting its usefulness as that particular building use. "The BNA does a terrific job and I am proud to be associated with them," said, Cymbrowitz, who helped the association receive more than $65,000 in grants.
Singer says she gave up a career in public relations and TV production to preserve Brighton Beach, helping to found the BNA in 1977. The area was going down the tubes," said Singer, with high crime rates, drugs and many vacant apartments and businesses. Even McDonald's had to leave, she said.-
The BNA lobbies, on a number of levels including sanitation, lights, potholes, and has b~een pushing for a parking lot to heIp aliviate the area's parking shortage, Singer said. They have also provided services such as issuing Housing Investment Program loans and running, the annual Brighton Jubilee festival, she said.
But she says she does not have the kind of influence over development decisions that the protesters attribute to her. It's not my doing, people are blaming the wrong person," Singer said. According to! Shpelfogel, -opposition to developmentin Brighton Beach is misguided, because it helps drive the economy, provides more tax revenue for the city.
PAT SINGER'S "SATISFIED CUSTOMERS"
(names have been withheld to prevent retaliation from Pat Singer and her thugs)
In April of 2001 I received a letter from DHCR notifying me of an application for a major capital improvement on behalf of my landlord. My landlord has a habit of making repairs, applying for major capital improvement status and then raising the rent in the middle of the current lease. Most of the people in my building are either senior citizens, on section 8, or people whose native language is not English therefore these applications have not been protested. I went to PAT SINGER of the Brighton Neighborhood Association to ask her help in protesting this application. She laughed at me and told me "You better be quiet because you live in a basement apartment which is probably illegal and the landlord can throw you out!" Even though I have a lease and have lived in this apartment for 14 years I asked her how I could find out the legal status of my apartment. She then laughed some more and told me to "forget about it".
Because PAT SINGER refused to help me I missed the deadline to challenge land lords application to DHCR.
My Nephew who is one and a half years of age stays in my apartment five days a week.
I asked PAT SINGER the head of the Brighton Neighborhood Association if the landlord is resonsible for installing window guards in my apartment: so the child won't fall out. I live on the fourth floor of a 46 unit building. Pat Singer replied landlord is not responsible for installing window guards because child is not registered as full time resident." I called Bureau of Inspections - Window Falls Prevention NYC Department of Health. The Bureau informed me ( and sent an information packet) that the landlord is responsible for installing window guards and if the work passes specifications I would have to pay ten dollars per window guard. It is sad that Pat Singer's support for my landlord goes so far as to give deliberate misinformation which could effect the life and safety of a child!
I live in a 46 unit apartment building with over 100-building department violations; many of them quite serious. This building has also been cited with numerous health department and sanitation violations, DHCR has enacted a building wide denial of rent increase due to these violations.
On June 21, 2002 at approximately four o'clock in the afternoon I called Pat Singer at the Brighton Neighborhood Association to inform her of the lack of sanitary conditions in my building, there is garbage strewn through out the public areas of my building - hallways, stairwells, front yard, back alley etc ... and a general state of neglect. I expected Pat Singer,who receives state and municipal funds for tenant activism purposes, to help me with these problems.
Instead, Singer started yelling at me about a fellow tenant who has been with holding his rent. She then slammed the phone down - in my ear.
BAY NEWS December 20, 2007
It is clear that Pat Singer and Ida Sanoff, long time community board members, have an incorrect understanding of the process of rezoning in attempting to blame me, as a council member, for the delay in down-zoning Brighton Beach. The New York City Department of City Planning (DCP), an agency of the mayor, is the only agency in city government having the responsibility for the preparation and presentation of a proposed rezoning of a community along with the resources to carry out same.
This is the most elementary fact about rezoning which should have been obvious to Ms. Singer and Ms. Sanoff.
While Pat Singer, who heads Brighton Neighborhood Association (BNA), the community group supposedly advocating for Brighton Beach, makes a vague reference to some kind of meeting several years ago, I know nothing that she had done to mobilize the community and advocate for down-zoning.
In fact, there is conclusive evidence to the contrary. This lapse of memory by Ms. Singer is understandable by referring to an article in your newspaper (July 18, 2005), which describes a meeting attended by a large group of Brighton Beach residents, who, in the words of reporter Matt Zeidel, on page 3, say that the BNA is supposed to be a tenant advocacy group, but it often passes a blind eye on over-development when it sees fit.
Later, in the same article, Pat Singer defended, at length, the principle of as-of-right development instead of in any way advocating for a change in zoning which would stop as-of-right development, the primary source of the uglification of Brighton Beach.
She now attempts to shift the blame to me as council member when the law and procedure is absolutely clear that the City Councils involvement is only at the end of a long and complicated process beginning with a study and preparation of a plan rezoning by DCP. When that plan reaches the Council, I will make the expeditious passage of a down-zoning plan for Brighton Beach a priority, as I have in Community Boards 14 and 15.
As for Ida Sanoff, it is obvious from her recent remarks that she, too, does not understand the process of rezoning. Additionally, she apparently first became aware of the problem of overbuilding when a multi-story building was constructed in the vicinity of her residence.
After learning that the construction was as-of-right, she called my office to complain about my supposed inaction, thereby demonstrating her lack of understanding of the process of rezoning.
First, a community board has to exhibit a desire to down-zone, then a council member can (and does) involve him/herself in the process but without the community boards interest, City Planning is hard-pressed to move forward.
Ms. Sanoff, who was a member of Community Board 13 until I replaced her, should know this! (A possible motive for bashing me, ya think?)
I also think that it is important to note that DCP was, perhaps, understandably unable to act expeditiously. Extremely concerned with development in Coney Island, DCP was probably short-staffed to promptly assume the issue in Brighton Beach.
Having supposedly started working on a study and plan for Brighton Beach over a year and one half ago, there has been no presentation, or announcement, to the community of even preliminary results.
Since I was able to down-zone areas of Community Boards 14 and 15 in the same period of time, I can only conclude that Brighton Beach was not a DCP priority. DCP has said informally that the delay is also due to the highly unusual and irregular layout of the public and privately-owned land in Brighton Beach.
Nevertheless, DCP should have at least advised the community board at a public meeting of the status and conclusions to date. Considering the terrific job DCP did with the Community Boards 14 and 15 areas, I have every reason to believe they will do the same in Community Board 13.
I do want to commend the members of Community Board 13 (except for Pat Singer on this issue) for their hard work and wise decisions that have helped to improve the quality of life and make our community a better place to live.
I also want to especially commend Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal and Chair Marion Cleaver for their dedicated service and many accomplishments.
Councilman Michael Nelson
FOR MANY BRIGHTON TENANTS ITS NOT A DAY AT THE BEACH - AND THEIR LANDLORD IS VP OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION
By DAVID J. GLENN BAY CURRENTS November 8, 2005
Imagine for a moment. You're an immigrant from Pakistan, Russia, or other land, and have lived in Brooklyn for about 10 years. You're in a one-bedroom apartment in an aging building in Brighton Beach, struggling to pay $940 a month rent which includes only water. The exterminator who was supposed to attack the infestation of roaches hasn't shown up for months you say. There are bigtoe size holes in the floor board, which slants inward and feels like it's about to cave in. There is mold spreading on the walls in the bathroom,and your children play near exposed electrical outlets and fixtures. You've repeatedly complained to the landlord - for months, even years - and most of the problems remain uncorrected. The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) has listed 212 such violations in your building. Then, you discover that your landlord is vice president of the local tenants' advocacy organization which is funded by the city and state to, among other things, deal with these problems. Dozens of financially struggling tenants of buildings on Oceanview and Brighton 4th, 8th, and 15th streets tell BAY CURRENTS that this is what life is like for them in Brighton. The five buildings, 2072 Brighton 4th, 2822 Brighton 8th, 8 Brighton 15th, 520 Oceanview, and 522 Oceanview - are all owned and managed by Sam Shpelfogel through his corporation headquartered at 139 Corbin Place in Manhattan Beach, a few blocks away from his spacious home on Hampton Avenue. He's the vice-president of the Brighton Neighborhood Association, which in the current fiscal year received $65,000 from the state Division of Housing and $22,000 from the HPD for tenant advocacy work. Out of this $87,000 total, the BNA's president, Pat "Singer, is paid $50,000 according to budget filings, and "Russian liaison Raisa Ross is paid $20,000. Shpelfogel is not paid as vice president.
But many tenants in his buildings believe he gets a better benefit than salary by being a controlling official in an organization designed to fight for tenants against landlords such as he.
BAY CURRENTS visited apartments in the Brighton 8th Street and Brighton 15th Street buildings. Some of the tenants were on Section 8 housing assistance, others were working full-time and were paying the roughly $900 monthly rent themselves. All complained that they had asked for months, or years for repairs to the floors, ceiling, walls, and electrical connections to be made, and that for the' most part, the repairs were not done.
Singer said she has known Shpelfogel for many years, and that he cared about his buildings and the tenants. She said he has taken in Section 8 tenants while most other landlords don't want to bother with all the government paperwork, and that he is responsive to tenants' complaints. "If he were a lousy landlord, he would be off my board," she said. Shpelfogel told BAY CURRENTS in a lengthy interview that he feels insulted if anyone characterizes him as a slumlord. He contended that most of the 44 violations listed b HPD for 2822 Brighton 8th St. and the 212 for 8 Brighton 15th St. have been or are being corrected; he said that those that remain have not been repaired because workers were not allowed access to the apartments. "If you try a total of three times to be let in the apartment, and you're not, the HPD just keeps the violation on the list," he said.
He also contended that several tenants purposely neglect inappropriate or hazardous conditions "so they can get out of paying rent." He cited as an example one tenant who, he said, bought a new refrigerator and withheld one month's rent to cover the purchase. "Most refrigerators are $300 or $400 I asked him to give me the receipt, and I would just charge him the difference in rent... He never showed me a receipt, and never paid that month's rent, he said. Many tenants battling roaches complained of never seeing the exterminator. Shpelfogel said the exterminator for High Tech Exterminators - comes regularly, but only a fraction of the tenants ever let him in.
Another tenant showed BAY CURRENTS the empty space in her kitchen where a cabinet had been - she said it fell off three days before. "It's a good thing none of my kids were in the kitchen then," said the mother of five children ranging from 1 to 117 years old. Shpelfogel told BAY CURRENTS that the cabinet had been replaced a few hours before the interview. He said the tenant may have weighed down the cabinet with too many items.
The HPD, Shpelfogel contended, makes violations appear worse on paper than in reality. "You could get three or four violations for the same one room that needs painting," he said. "They could write down 'South wall needs painting' and 'East wall needs painting' as separate violations." HPD officials did not return calls from BAY CURRENTS by press time. Some of the violations cited for 2822 Brighton 8th St. for a 12-month period ending Oct. 10, were: water leaks from ceilings, floors, and-walls defective smoke detectors failure to provide carbon monoxide detectors broken or defective plastered surfaces obstructions on fire escapes
A tenant in the Brighton 15th Street building told BAY CURRENTS that she had corrected problems in her apartment with her own money, adding that several other tenants, particularly Russian inunigrants, fear that if they complain about anything, Shpelfogel would not renew their leases. "They're afraid," she said. "It's like living in a ghetto."
Shpelfogel steadfastly denied that he has given tenants any reason to, think their leases would not be renewed if they complained. "It would be illegal do to that. I don't throw people out. I havesome tenants who haven't paid rent for eight months, and they're still living in the building. "I do the best I can."
BAY CURRENTS NOVEMBER 8, 2005 PAGE 14 / PUBLISHER'S NOTEBOOK
by David J. Glenn
WHO'S WATCHING THE FOX?
In an era of tangled red tape, corporations filing under different names, and public-relations flacks, it's not always easy to find thefox watching the henhouse, particularly in local government. But as our cover story shows, the case of the Brighton Neighborhood Association and landlord Sam Shpelfogel. is a nobrainer. If there's a clearer conflict ,of interest than having the owner of buildings laden with violations as vice president of the tenants' advocacy group, we can't think of one.
The state and city, which provide the funding for the BNA with our tax money, most of it going to salaries for director Pat Singer and a Russian liaison, obviously should demand that Shpelfogel, or any other landlord or developer, be denied any position of power at the BNA.
Wednesday, November 30th 2005, 7:17AM
A BOARD MEMBER of a Brighton Beach group that advocates for tenants' rights has resigned his post after revelations he ignored hundreds of violations in a building he owns, the DAILY NEWS has learned.
Landlord Sam Shpelfogel, a 15-year member of the Brighton Neighborhood Association's board of directors, stepped down last week.
His resignation came after The News detailed charges by the city Housing Preservation and Development that Shpelfogel has failed to fix more than 400 maintenance violations at 2822 Brighton Eighth St., a 38-unit building.
"Sam has since resigned from my board of directors," said Pat Singer, association director.
Singer said she asked Shpelfogel to step aside temporarily while she looks into the charges against him but that he insisted on permanently cutting ties.
"I don't want to speak to you," Shpelfogel told a reporter who called him for comment.
Lawyers for the city agency are evaluating a new housing court case against Shpelfogel - the second in two years - because of the massive number of violations at his building.
In a case that settled last fall, Shpelfogel agreed to fix 715 violations there, officials said.
"His cover is gone and he's got to go," a tenant said yesterday of Shpelfogel's resignation. "I've been robbed here three times and it's a result of that front door [lock] - he doesn't want to fix it.
Another tenant called 311 so frequently about leaks, mold and roaches in her apartment that after The News' Nov. 16 article, a city operator called her.
"311 called me and said, 'You made the paper,' " said mother of five Dionna Hodges.
Shpelfogel previously said that some tenants, including Hodges, have refused to allow city inspectors in to see that repairs have been made. Hodges said she refused to allow Shpelfogel in because he harasses her.
City officials stood behind the Brighton association's work - and the $22,000 the group gets from the City Council each year. The state's Division of Housing and Community Renewal gives the group $65,000 a year.
Because Shpelfogel stepped down, the city's money will continue to flow to the group, said City Councilman Lewis Fidler (D-Marine Park).
"You got the best result," said Fidler, a member of the Council's Housing and Buildings Committee, of Shpelfogel's resignation.
Of the 410 outstanding violations at the building, 43 are considered dangerous - class C - violations according to city records.
BAY CURRENTS VOLUME 2 No. 23 DECEMBER 20, 2005 to January 5, 2006 page 15
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Excellent job in exposing the scandal of having this man [buildings owner Sam Shpelfogel] on the Brighton Neighborhood Association. Now it's time for the 60th Precinct to remove him as treasurer of the precinct's Community Council and for the BNA to remove Pat Singer for ignorance, incompetence and/or collusion. Keep up the good work!
Thank you for showing what the Brighton Neighborhood Association really is, that Pat Singer gets $50,000 of our tax money for doing nothing. As a tenant in Brighton, I've gone to her for help with problems in my building several times, and her answer has always been, "I can't help you."
(Name withheld) Brighton Beach
Bravo to BAY CURRENTS for its proactive reporting on Sam Shpelfogel's possible conflicts of interest as vice president of the Brighton Neighborhood Association. What a refreshing and gratifying journalistic delight! Unlike the BAY NEWS which publishes thousands of laudatory photos of [City Councilman] Mike Nelson, [Assemblyman] Steven Cymbrowitz, [BNA President]Pat Singer and other local luminaries constantly feted at awards dinners - BAY CURRENTS has the guts to challenge them with direct questions. Almost everyone I know is disgusted with political corruption, chicanery, cronyism, favoritism, special interests, influence-peddling, and arrogant disdain for the interests and well-being of ordinary, non-connected citizens. This certainly applies to everything the Bush administration has done at the federal level. Appallingly, it is increasingly defining Brooklyn Democrats. Assemblyman Cymbrowitz'formulaic, propagandist statement about the BNA without even addressing the issues clearly presented to him by BAY CURRENTS, was a direct insult to taxpayers whose money he funnels into the coffers of the BNA. Councilman Nelson's deputy chief of staff stated, "We're going to take a long, hard look at refunding the BNA." Really, Mike? How long, exactly? Long enough so that the public's attention is redirected to other issues? Pat Singer, Shpelfogel's building at 2822 Brighton 8th St. is a few minutes walk from your office. Don't you think you owe it to all us taxpayers to assess, firsthand the living conditions exposed by the article and photos in BAY CURRENTS Vol. 2 No. 20? And, what kind of statement should we expect from the 60th Precinct Community Council, of which Sam Shpelfogel is still treasurer, amid tenant Doris Fook's filing of a police report with the 60th Precinct about his alleged assault on her husband? I hope that BAY CURRENTS does not suddenly disappear into the cosmic void the way that former BAY NEWS columnist Erik Engquist did. For years, Mr. Engquist provided readers with intensive information on the Brooklyn political scene. In his last column several months ago he promised further investigation into allegations of irregularities in Borough President Marty Markowitz' political past. Then he disappeared with nary a word of explanation from the BAY NEWS for his thousands of loyal readers. Does a similar fate await any journalist who refuses to toady (are toads vertebrates?) up to the entrenched establishment? The letter writer, from Sheepshead Bay asked that his name be withheld because, he said, he feared retaliation from Shpelfogel. Editor's note: We have no intention of disappearing into any void. Instead, we were able to force Sam Shpelfogel to disappear (at least officially) from the BNA. And, Erik Engquist is welcome to write for us. P.S. Yes, toads are vertebrates they, unlike the other local papers and too many of our local politicians, do --have a backbone.
BAY CURRENTS VOLUME 2 No. 21 November 23 - December 5, 2006 Page 14
WHERE'S THE BACKBONE?
By David J. Glenn - BAY CURRENTS Publisher
We thought it appropriate to use this edition of Publisher's Notebook to continue with our animal metaphors from last issue. You may recall that we described landlord Sam Shpelfogel - who has the personal advantage of being vice president of the purported tenants' advocacy group, the Brighton Neighborhood Association - as a fox watching the henhouse.
We'd like to add "jellyfish" to our menagerie - in the person of BNA President Pat Singer, Assemblyman Steven Cytmbrowitz, and, to a lesser extent, City Councilman Michael Nelson. Singer fell all over herself to BAY CURRENTS, and later to the Daily News, in claiming she had absolutely no idea about the buildings that Shpelfogel keeps in tenementlike conditions. "If he were a lousy landlord, he would be off my board," she told us. "If he was doing any thing wrong with his buildings, I would nail him," she told the DAILY NEWS.
Pat, haven't you been listening to the tenants who have turned to the BNA for help, which you're getting state and city money to provide? Haven't you bothered to even look at the literally hundreds of building violations filed by tenants against Shpelfogel? Have you even been to any of his buildings?
Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who allocates about $2,000 in city tax money to the BNA, was similarly spineless. Amid all the revelations about Shpelfogel. and his large control of the BNA, Cymbrowitz' response was to give a statement to BAY CURRENTS: "For the past 30 years the Brighton Neighborhood Association has been an effective organization that has worked to improve Brighton Beach and the lives of the people who live there. It's important that the Brighton Neighborhood Association continues its work for the benefit of the community."
Councilman Nelson, who allocates $7,500 to the BNA, at least said he would investigate the situation. But his aide told us that Nelson, like Singer, had not known dbout all the violations. We would think that that if you're going to allocate tax money to a tenants' organization, you should know if the vice president of that organization is very likely a slumlord.
Pat, Steve, and Mike, if you don't think Shpelfogel being vice president of the BNA isn't enough of a conflict of interest, maybe him being treasurer of the community& police liaison group will convince you. Or maybe his illegal running of a,plumbing supply business from the cellaf'of one of his buildings - while his tenants have to live with broken pipes - will enlighten you.
We hope it will. And, unless Singer really does "nail him" (which we don't have much confidence will happen), we hope that Cymbrowitz and Nelson will not only deny their portion of city funding to the BNA next year,but will also encourage their colleagues on:the city council and their fellow legislators on the state level to deny their funding as well. That way, we can readmit them into the family of vertebrates.
BAY CURRENTS VOLUME 2 No. 21 November 23 - December 5, 2006 Page 12
By David J. Glenn - BAY CURRENTS Publisher
As his tenants complain of leaking pipes and inoperable bathrooms, landlord Sam Shpelfogel conducts a large-scale plumbing supply business from the dingy cellar of one of his apartment buildings, BAY CURRENTS has learned. Hundreds of shiny new pipes, kitchen sinks, and even radiators are stacked in boxes on dozens of shelves taking up nearly all the space in the half block area of the cellar in his violation-laden building at 2822 Brighton 8th St.
Several tenants told BAY CURRENTS that buyers regularly come to the cellar - which is not advertised in any way - to purchase supplies. A young man who was in the dark cellar when BAY CURRENTS visited last week, said he was an employee of the "plumbing store" and is there from 9 a.m. to 6 P.M., six days a week.
A staffer at the city Department of Buildings, who would only give her name as "Ms. Cutchin," said ,that selling or storing such a large amount of commercial materials in the cellar of a residential apartment building is "not legal."
When BAY CURRENTS called Shpelfogel for comment, he said that last issue's story on the building violations and his being Vice president of the Brighton Neighborhood Association tenants advocacy group, was "full of inaccuracies." Without specifying any, he said, "Have a-good day," and hung up the phone.
When told of the plumbing supplies, a staffer with the Fire Department's Bureau of Fire Prevention said the bureau would investigate whether cramming boxes and supplies into a dingy cellar 'constituted a fire hazard.
As reported earlier, Shpelfogellis vice president of the Brighton Neighborhood Association, which receives state and city funding primarily for tenants advocacy work. BNA President Pat Singer told BAY CURRENTS, "if he were a lousy landlord, he would be off my board." She told the DAILY NEWS, which followed the BAY CURRENTS story with its own article on Nov. 16: "If he was doing anything wrong with his buildings, I would nail him."
BAY CURRENTS discovered that there is no "if" about it., Apartments at 2822 have everything from holes in the floors, mold in the bathrooms, incessantly leaking pipes and fixtures, inadequate window guards, and many more violations.
Shpelfogel says that he's often denied access to the apartments to make repairs, but many tenants say that simply is not the case. One of them, Doris Fooks, told BAY CURRENTS that Stipelfogel did come to her apartment in mid-October in response to her complaints - but instead of fixing anything, grabbed her husband who is Pakistani by the neck and directed a racial epithet at him. "He told us that if we didn't stop complaining, we would get our facesbashed" Fooks said. She also said that at another time Shpelfogel came to her apartment with another man who he said was a plainclothes policeman and that the man proceeded to search her apartment. "He didn't have a warrant or anything," Fooks said. She filed a police report with the 60th Precinct, against Shpelfogel for the alleged assault on her husband and for harassment for the alleged search.
She's worried, though, about any influence that Shpelfogel may have with the precinct - he's also treasurer of the 60th Police Precinct Community Council, a subgroup of Community Board 13 that works closely with the 601h Precinct on neighborhood issues. Of the $22,000 that the city provided this fiscal year to the Brighton Neighborhood Association, City Councilman Michael Nelson was responsible for $7,500. "We're going to take a long, hard look" at refunding the BNA in June, said Robert Varley, Nelson's deputy chief of staff. He said Nelson "is investigating" whether Shpelfogel is really making an effort to correct violations. He said that Nelson hadn't known about all the building violations filed against Shpelfogel.
Neither did Nelson or Varley,know about the plumbing supplies in the cellar, Varley said, adding that the councilman would investigate that too.
YOU HELP PAY RENT FOR RICH LANDLORD'S MOTHER
Sam Shpelfogel's mother is on taxpayers assistance - and his realty firm gets the checks
BAY CURRENTS May 30 - June 15, 2006 Page 13By DAVID J. GLENN BAY CURRENTS Publisher
The mother of wealthy Brighton Beach landlord Sam Shpelfogel has been on government-subsidized rent since 1981 - and since early 1987, the money has gone to a realty company of which he is the head officer.
BAY CURRENTS. has learned that Ella Shpelfogel lives in a house'at 606 Oceanview Avenue that was divided into several apartment units.- Until a few weeks ago,it was owned by her son. Her rent there has been subsidized by the Section 8 Department of the New York City Housing Authority ---_the most recent check discovered by BAY CURRENTS was dated Dec. 1, 2005 and was made but for $507.34 to "Lensarn Realty Corp, c/o L. Vaisman, 606 Ocean View [sic] Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11235."
There is no listing for "Lensarn Realty Corp." in the current Verizon telephone book or Verizon Directory Assistance. Leny Vwism an is listed in Housing Authority documents as an officer in Lensarn Realty. Shpelfogel is listed as "Head Officer," with an address at 139-Corbin Place in Manhattan Beach - the location of his realty company office, located a few blocks from his spacious home on Hampton Avenue.
Shpelfogel owns several, aging apartment buildings, and houses that have been divided into rental units, mainly in Brighton. BAY CURRENTS has reported on the hundreds of violations at several of his properties, and the accusations from several tenants that he has harassed and initimidated them if they complain of the conditions BAY CURRENTS tried to ask Shpelfogel about "Lensam Realty" --is it a combination of Vaisman's and Shpelfogel's first names? - and about the realty company with him He's head officer taking tax-funded subsidies for his mother, but he only said, "Have a good day," and hung up the phone.
When a BAY CURRENTS reporter visited the house recently; he was stopped by a man who asked, "Why are you taking pictures of my house?" The man,,who did not want his name printed, said that he had bought the house from Shpelfogel, and was planning to tear it down to make way for new rental property. He said that Shpelfogel's mother would be moving soon - to another building owned by her son.
Asked what type of housing he planned to build at the site, the man said he hadn't decided yet. He pointed out that portions of the house were deteriorating, and that whatever new property he erects at the site will be an improvement. Asked what will happen to the current, low-income tenants, he first said, "It's not my problem," but said later in the conversation that he was working with the Housing Authority to find other places for them to live.
City property records show that the deed was transferred April 10 from Lensam Realty to Mikhlin Holdings, a company that the Housing Authority said was based in New Jersey. Lensam Realty profited signifi cantly from the sale - it had bought the property in 1987 for $125,000, and sold it to Mikhlin Holdings for $650,000.
Howard Marder, a spokesman for the Housing Authority, told BAY CURRENTS that normally it would be a conflict of interest for a landlord to collect Section 8 rent checks from a close relative.
David J. Glenn
BAY CURRENTS May 30 - June 15, 2006 page 9
"The Shpelfogels have enjoyed their greatest success in real estate. Sam and Galifla are very proud of their. work over the past three decades. Currently, the couple owns, manages, and develops multiple properties in the New York area." This is an excerpt from the praises heaped upon landlord Sam Shpelfogel in the glossypaged program of the 27th annual Community Legislative Breakfast of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush held on March 26. It seems that "Mr. And Mrs. Sam Shpelfogel," described as "active community leaders," received COJO's Kesser Shem Tov - Crown of a Good Name - Award. We have shown over the past several months how Shpelfogel's "multiple properties in the New York area" - mainly in Brighton Beach are run-down, poorly maintained near-tenements; how he has been accused of harassing and intimidating tenants who complain about any conditions; how he maintains a massive plumbing-supply business in the cramped basement of one of his buildings (while many tenants there must cope with broken pipes in their apartments); how he has taken down synagogues that were an integral part of the community to erect multi-story apartment buildings; how he had a controlling interest in the Brighton Neighborhood Association formed, purportedly, to fight landlords like him; and, in this issue, how he has relegated his own mother to one of his dumps and taken in her tax-funded Section 8 checks to boot.
We Wondered how on Earth this man could be honored - with the Crown of a Good Name no -less - by such an esteemed entity as the Council of Jewish Organizations. And how he could be lauded by Borough President Marty Markowitz. Was it because Shpelfogel gave a fat donation to COJO?
No one's saying. Shpelfogel reflexively hangs up on BAY CURRENTS, and when we tried contacting either Asher Klein, president of COJO of Flatbush, or Rabbi Yechezkel Pikus, the executive, director, a woman who answered the phone at COJO put us on endless, hold; when we dialed back, we received a voice mail, left a message, and never heard from anyone at the organization.
Besides the afflictions Shpelfogel has brought upon his tenants and on the community, there are additional, unfortunaie repercussions from his "active community leadership" - he is fueling the millennia-old stereotype of Jews chasing money by all means without regard to ethics or consequences.
In fact, Judaism stresses just the opposite. Rabbi Yitzchok Breitowitz, in an essay, Jewish Business Ethics.: An Introductory Perspective, writes, "The Talmud, discusses what types of questions people are asked by God after their deaths. They come up to heaven, God asks them a variety of questions. The very first question that we are held accountable -or after our deaths is, "Nasata Vnetata Be'emunah,' which means 'Did you conduct your business affairs with honesty and with probity?" The very first question. I wonder: How will Shpelfogell answer it? For that matter, how will officials of The Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush answer?
COMMUNITY BOARD 15 MEMBER SERVED SUMMONS AT MEETING
Community Board 15 member Mitchell Shpelfogel (seated) is served a summons during the Sept. 25 meeting at Kingsborough Community College. Brighton Beach neighborhood activist Zev Yourman filed a $10 million defamation of character lawsuit against Shpelfogel, who works with his father, Sam Shpelfogel, the owner of several Brighton Beach apartment buildings cited by the city with an array of violations.
Yourman said that Mitch Shpelfogel -- who had been appointed to CB 15 by City Councilman Michael Nelson -- slandered him by making "false oral statements to the NYPD in order to have [Yourman's] civil rights violated" on June 30, 2006, accusing him of trespassing on private property and peering into Shpelfogel's window while his wife was undressing.
Yourman was distributing copies of the Bay Currents issue which reported on the substandard conditions at the elder Shpelfogel's buildings. Yourman denied looking through Mitch Shpelfogel's window, and he was never charged with any offense. Shpelfogel couldn't be reached for comment by press time.
LANDLORD AS COURT ATTORNEY BAD NEWS FOR TENANTSBAY CURRENTS December 3, 2007
A landlord who with his father owns several violations-strewn buildings in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn holds a key position in Civil Court -- which handles many landlord-tenant cases.
By DAVID J. GLENN
BAY CURRENTS Publisher
Suppose for a minute that you are in a dispute with your landlord over, say, the rent receipts, or his refusal to renew your lease on reasonable terms.
The dispute winds up in Civil Court, where you expect a judge to objectively decide the case.
Now suppose that the court attorney -- the right-hand agent of the judge who does most of the research and writing of the judge's decisions for him or her to sign off on -- is a landlord himself, working with his father in managing several violations-strewn buildings in your neighborhood. Would you be confident that your case will be handled impartially?
The scenario doesn't take much imagination. It's the situation in Judge Lila Gold's courtroom.
Her court attorney is Mitchell Shpelfogel, who works with his father, Sam Shpelfogel, in owning and managing several older buildings in Brighton Beach -- residences which the city Buildings Department has cited with literally hundreds of violations ranging from broken staircases to faulty plumbing. Many of the Shpelfogels' tenants -- primarily low-income recent immigrants -- have complained of harassment by both father and son toward them.
A series of articles last year by BAY CURRENTS lead to Sam Shpelfogel stepping down, at least officially, as vice president of the Brighton Neighborhood Association, an entity which receives city and state funding for tenants. advocacy.
A woman who lived in one of the Shpelfogels' buildings with her daughter and her elderly uncle in early 2005 recently told BAY CURRENTS:
"Heat was never on and at night it would get very cold. At that time when I was there landlord started to attach to the door a red note [demanding] disposition for unpaid $300 of the rent difference that was supposed to be frozen and would be paid to the landlord by the city.
"My uncle was really upset and was tired of the disrepair in the apartment -- bad windows, bad heating, and other [violations].. He moved to another apartment but didn't get his security deposit back from the landlord who was angry at him for complaining to 311.
"I stayed there with my daughter, looking for a new apartment. All rent was paid but the disposition threat continued. I complained to 311 numerous times about the heating problem. A city inspector came only to say that he had come to this building for years and the situation never changed.
"After my complaints, Mitchell Shpelfogel came in person to threaten me.
"A landlord can't come to a resident's door like that and make open threats! I said this to Mitchell, who was condescending and acted openly aggressive. He said; 'Get out of here, you filly illegal immigrants!'
"I and my daughter are American citizens. The insults that this young man made were absolutely inappropriate and unbelievable."
Mitchell Shpelfogel also was appointed by City Councilman Michael Nelson to serve on Community Board 15.
Having him as a court attorney "is troubling," said Marty Needleman, chief counsel for Brooklyn Legal Services, which represents Brooklynites who can't afford a lawyer. Many of the agency's cases involve landlord-tenant issues.
"The court attorney should be far above any concerns about impartiality in landlord-tenant cases."
BAY CURRENTS called Judge Gold's chambers to get comments from Shpelfogel and from the judge. A man answered the phone, but did not identify himself and said, "Mr. Shpelfogel would not appreciate you calling him at work." He then hung up.
A staffer in the office of the chief clerk of the court said the only one answering the phone in Gold's chambers would be the court attorney. She said the only way to leave a message for the judge was through her court attorney in her chambers. The judge "might be sitting right next to him, but you have to go through him," the staffer said.
BAY CURRENTS called back the chambers and left the message; the judge did not return the call by press time.
Needleman said the state Office of Court Administration should "investigate the propriety" of having a landlord serve as a court attorney.
Story Submitted By firstname.lastname@example.org
BAY CURRENTS December 6 -19 2005 BRIGHTON LANDLORD LEAVES TENANTS ADVOCACY GROUP OWNER OF VIOLATION LADEN BUILDINGS OUT OF BNA AFTER BAY CURRENTS INVESTIGATION
By DAVID J. GLENN Bay Cufrents Publisher
Landlord Sam Shpelfogel has left his post as vice president of the Brighton Neighborhood Association after Bay Currents revealed the hundreds of violations in buildings that he owns, his alleged threatening of tenants, and his operation of a plumbing supply business from the cellar of one of his buildings. Many of his tenants, particularly those at 2822 Brighton 8th St, have complained for years of holes in the floors and ceilings, exposed electrical wires and outlets, and dysfunctional bathrooms. Bay Currents printed photos of some of the conditions, and in its Nov. 23 Issue disclosed that Spelfogel conducts a large-scale plumbing supply business, complete with a 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. employee, from the dingy basement of 2822 Brighton 8th. A staffer with the city Department of Buildings described such a business as "not legal." Seven tenants had told Bay Currents that Shpelfogel threatened them with eviction if they made any trouble. One tenant said she filed a police report with the 60th Police Precinct after Shpelfdgel, she said, grabbed her Pakistani husband by the neck and called him a racial name after the couple complained about conditions in their apartment. Brighton Beach tenant activist Zev Yorman told Bay Currents he was pleased that Shpelfogel is no longer vice president of the BNA, but added, "It's just treating the symptoms!" He said the BNA, which receives tax money primarily to fight for tenants' rights, remains too closely tied to developers and other landlords besides Shpelfogel. BNA President Pat Singer earlier had professed to not knowing about all the building violations and tenants' complaints. When Bay Currents asked her why Shpelfogel left the BNA board, she said, "You know the answer to that," and hung up the phone. Shpelfogel also hung up when asked for comment, as he did when Bay Currents had tried to get his comments on the plumbing-supply business and his alleged treatment of the tenant's husband. In the current fiscal year, the BNA received $65,000 from the state Division of Housing Preservation and Development. Out of this $87,000 Singer received $50,000 in salary and Russian Liaison Raisa Ross was paid $20,000.
City Councilman Michael Nelson had allocated $7,500 of the city's share of the BNA budget. Earlier-- before Shpelfogel left the BNA - Robert Varley, Nelson's deputy chief of staff, told Bay Currents, "We're going to take's long, hard look at refunding the BNA rest fiscal year. Varley did not return a later call for comment by press time.
Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who allodated about $2,000 to the BNA from the state portion, released this statement "My concern is as it has always been that the Brighton Neighborhood Association be able to`continue its vital work that benefits every segment of our community. Whether its an after school prograrn, weatherization workshop, the Brighton Jubilee, tenant organization, small business workshop or serving as an ombudsman for community residents, the Brighton Neighborhood Association has beenn effectively serving the residents of Brighton Beach for almost 30 years. That work must continue, the community deserves nothing less. Shpelfogel remains treasurer of the 60th Police Precinct Council, a division of Community Board 13 that serves as a liaison between residents and the police department.
BAY CURRENTS VOLUME 2 NO. 22 DECEMBER 6 - 19, 2005 PUBLISHERS NOTEBOOK
JUST THE BEGINNING
Its good that landlord Sam Shpelfogel is no longer Vice President of the Brighton Neighborhood Association. It was laughable that a proported slumlord was an officer in a group receiving tax money for tenant advocacy work. But there are many questions that remain unanswered. Why did it take Bay Currents articles to get Shpelfogel of the BNA, when he has been slapped with violations and tenants have been complaining for years. And how could BNA President Pat Singer have professed to not knowing about Shpelfogel's violations? Isn't she getting a $50,000 salary from our tax dollars to know just that?
Another question. Isn't it just a little ridiculous that Shpelfogel is treasurer of the 60th Precinct Community Council liaison group when he is operating a business from one of his buildings that a Department of Buildings staffer called "not legal." And while at least one tenant said she filed a police report against him for allegedly grabbing her husband's neck - with the very same 60th Precint?
We hope Shpelfogel's flee from the BNA marks the beginning, not the end, of a serious investigation by local and state officials of him as well as the Brighton Beach Neighborhood Association.
PUBLISHER'S NOTEBOOK - DAVID GLENN - January 21 - February 6, 2006
Comforting the Afflicted
The 19th century columnist Finley Peter Dunne famously said that the goal of a newspaper should be to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." It seems of late that news organizations, particularly right-wing cheerleaders like Fox News and the New York Post, are doing the opposite. But we at Bay Currents try to hold true to Dunne's advice. It's why we revealed how landlord Sam Shpelfogel became comfortable by afflicting his financially struggling tenants while he enjoyed a powerful position on the Brighton Neighborhood Association, and still is treasurer of the 60th Precinct Community Council. It's why we warned in a recent issue how lenders could seize your home. And it's why we're warning in this issue how tax preparers can get their hands on a big chunk of your tax refund. It's also why we call on our state legislators to push Assembly bill No. 1971 and Senate bill No. 3618-A out of committee and vote them into law. The bills would rein in the unseemly practice of refund anticipation loans, which, like "payday loans," afflict the afflicted. It would give them a little comfort instead.
FROM THE VILLAGE VOICE BLOG OCTOBER 2011
Tonight marks the two-year anniversary of the night that NYPD brass dragged Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft from his apartment and forced him into the Jamaica Hospital Psychiatric Ward.--an episode which was the subject of the award-winning Village Voice series, "The NYPD Tapes." Schoolcraft alleged that commanders in the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn were downgrading complaints to keep the crime statistics low. Three weeks after he reported these allegations to department investigators, police dragged him from his home on Halloween, 2009 and forced him into the Jamaica Hospital Psychiatric Ward for six days. (His precinct commander, by the way, was subsequently charged with tampering with crime reports and transferred--vindicating Schoolcraft's allegations.) So, as we were recalling that appalling episode today, who should walk through the doors of the Voice, but yet another New Yorker who tried to report a felony and saw police downgrade his complaint to a misdemeanor. Zev Yourman, a Brighton Beach community activist, tells the Voice he was grabbed from behind and punched by an unknown assailant on July 25, 2010. The attack left marks and bruising on his arm. The assailant also threatened to kill him, before he was scared off by a passerby.
But when Yourman went to the 60th Precinct stationhouse in Coney Island later that day to report it, he says police treated his complaint like an annoyance. First, he says, 60th Precinct officers made him wait for two hours before sending a cop to take his complaint. "There were cops there just hanging out, but no one would come talk to me," he says. Finally, an Officer Richard Santora brought him into an interview room to speak with him. Santora initially tried to dissuade him from taking the complaint. "I was in pain, and I showed him the marks on my arm," he says. "He says something to the effect of 'why are you bothering me with this. This is a nothing thing.'" Yourman says he pointed to the marks on his arm, and Santora said, "That's just harassment," not assault or attempted robbery. Finally, Santora took down the report, and Yourman left the precinct. On Aug. 3, 2010, he traveled by subway to police headquarters where he obtained a copy of the complaint. He was shocked by what Santora had written. Not only had Santora listed Yourman as a female, he had classified the attack as harassment, a misdemeanor, instead of assault and attempted robbery. Even though he had seen the marks on Yourman's arm, the officer wrote there were "no injuries." Perhaps more troublingly, two supervising sergeants in the precinct, Zahid and Sitro, had signed off on the Santora's work.
Yourman filed a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board. The CCRB referred him back to the precinct. Eventually, Yourman got a call that October from a Sgt. Cohen. Their conversation was brief. "He just said 'we're not going to change it," Yourman says. There's no indication from documents that the 60th Precinct lifted a finger to investigate Yourman's complaint. The NYPD Patrol Guide states: "Proper complaint reporting is essential...Every member of the service involved in this process has a responsibility and obligation to ensure the integrity of this vital strategic resource." So, why would Santora misclassify the complaint, when it's a violation of the patrol guide? "Their motivation is downgrading the crime statistics so the precinct commander can get promoted," Yourman says. "Look, if what I'm saying is false, they can arrest me for filing a false complaint. That's their remedy." Even though he had been rebuffed, Yourman didn't let the matter drop. Instead, acting as his own lawyer, he filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn court to compel the NYPD to change the complaint report. He attached a copy of one of the articles in the Voice series to bolster his claim that downgrading happens in the NYPD. Rather than just change the report, the city decided to fight the lawsuit. Assistant Corporation Counsel Margot Miller took the curious position that the NYPD can classify incidents any way they want to, and there's nothing in the laws and rules of the city that requires them to change their minds. So what she's saying basically is that if you get beat up, the police can call it harassment, not investigate it and that's okay. Miller goes on to parse the penal law and argue that despite what Yourman says, he was "harassed," not the victim of an assault and attempted robbery.
Does Mayor Bloomberg really want that to be the message from City Hall? Molloy College criminologist John Eterno, a former NYPD captain, says complaints have to be classified accurately to develop the information needed to fight crime. "Clearly, they are violating their own rules, and they aren't serving the public by downgrading these things," he says. "This is another example of what is a citywide problem. Moreover, filing a false report is a crime, even for a police officer. This might even rise to that level." A judge is currently considering Yourman's motion to compel. But his story echoes that of dozens of other New Yorkers who have had similar problems with police taking their complaints. In January, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly appointed three former federal prosecutors to examine these complaints. He declared they would be finished with their work in June. To date, all we have is the sound of crickets. Schoolcraft's lawsuit, meanwhile, has been dragging its way through the courts. He claims police violated his civil rights. You can listen to the excellent This American Life segment on his ordeal here.
Doctor Subramanian Swamy President Janata Party and a former cabinet minister, chats with New York activist Zev Yourman at a conference on the Impact of Hinduism on the Economy, held at Fordham University, New York City, in June, 2011.