My Synagogue Donation

Here’s the donation my wife and I made — which they happily deposited — before they decided I was an evil anti-Semite for trying to apply Luna Park’s rules to them. Think there’s any chance I’ll get it back?

Synagogue vs. Luna Park’s Board

In 2001, a member of the board at that time by the name of Sam Roytblat helped establish a new synagogue in Luna Park’s senior center. The synagogue arranged for itself three of our commercial spaces to be combined into one and given rent-free with no utilities or a/c fees to be paid. There was no lease or other documentation, it simply happened and has remained that way ever since. Their only obligation was to carry insurance which they’ve let expire and have so far refused to renew.

Recently, the video store adjacent to the synagogue announced it would be closing. Officers from the synagogue sent the board what could only be called a demand laying claim to the space saying it was promised to them and we would be bad people in denying it. We recognize the importance of religion to some of our residents and the food distribution they provide to our residents from City Harvest and NYC Food Bank. Most of the current directors are Jewish but we recognize our primary responsibility as running the Luna Park business to the benefit of all residents, not a particular religion. Our view is that Luna Park needs to earn money from all its assets wherever reasonable. From that perspective, we came up with what we felt was a generous response despite the way they approached us. We didn’t ask them how they had money to pay for new space but no money to pay for what they already get. No. We told the synagogue they could keep their existing space for free but they’d have to pay what the outgoing tenant paid for the new space…even though we could get nearly double from a new tenant. They made a much lower offer which we rejected.

They took offense at all this and let us know they are now collecting signatures to remove John Shkolnik. It’s because he was the one negotiating the video store rent and trying to get them to comply with Luna Park’s rules. They’ve called him an anti-Semite. We’re not sure how it makes sense to call a Jew who serves on the board of a private Jewish school an anti-Semite — especially when his family are well-known contributors to Sea Breeze Temple — but this is how the synagogue’s officers bully people to get their way. Unfortunately, this insult didn’t arrive along with the generous personal check John gave them just a few weeks ago to help feed people. They apparently had no problem keeping that. Why give them his own money if he didn’t like them?

The synagogue has not been a good or gracious guest of Luna Park. When given a space in building #2 for a pantry they left it so dirty it was overrun by rats and had to be taken away. They refuse to follow rules regarding postings and treat the staff disrespectfully when they don’t get their way. They demand money and time be spent on their behalf and any attempt to get them to comply has resulted in accusations of oppression and anti-Semitism. We would like to again point out that seven of nine directors are Jewish, our general manager is half-Jewish, and many of the staff are Jewish. We’re simply trying to fulfill our duties to everyone without the kind of favoritism and behavior that has helped damage the board’s credibility over the years.

They are circulating a petition saying we want to close the synagogue. That’s their idea of negotiation. They get residents angry and then hope we’ll back off so they can keep doing whatever they want. This is not honorable behavior and has to stop. We simply want them to comply with the same rules everyone else does. They should get the required insurance, pay the same a/c fees others pay, and respect our property and staff. No tenant should get to decide which rules apply to them. If they believe we’re being unreasonable then we can put the entire topic to general shareholder vote. If a majority of shareholders say you want one set of rules for the synagogue and another set of rules for everyone else then we will comply.

Sincerely,
Luna Park’s Board of Directors

Optional Window Soundproofing Upgrades

Someone asked whether residents could choose to pay extra out of their own pockets for higher soundproofing in the new windows. It sounded like an interesting idea. Today I discussed it with our architect, Lawless & Mangione, but they shot it down. As they explained, in theory it’s possible to ask residents to order and pay in advance so that the window manufacturer can fabricate two batches of windows — the ones we ordered for Luna Park and the special upgrades. In practice, unfortunately, there are problems with that.

First, the fewer windows we order of the normal batch, the more each of those normal windows costs. That means the price we already agreed on would go up.

Second, when it comes time to install, having two separate batches complicate the logistics tremendously. With only one set of windows, they only have to group them by where they go per wing like “living room window #1” or “bedroom window #2” because everything is measured precisely. They then start at the top floor and work their way down which also includes skipping some apartments that aren’t ready or home when they’re supposed to be. With two sets of windows, they have to group them per wing by type but then do the same for specific apartments that paid. Although this is possible, it again adds to our base installation cost because it’s more work for them.

Third, we’re expected to have available replacement window panes if they break. Although it will cost a resident to repair if they break it, the cost is lower because we get them to make a bunch for storage against the inevitable. We will not do that for special upgrade windows which will make it much more expensive to repair which means they will also take longer to fix.

It was a good suggestion if all it meant was some residents could pay extra money and get more soundproofing in their windows but the added complexity and cost to Luna Park and the entire task means it’s not feasible for us. The windows we’re getting will be good ones. Between the new windows and bricks, external sounds will be much more muffled than they are now.

Board Meeting – 7/21

Some highlights from tonight’s meeting:

We know we’re behind on minutes. Two will be published in the next day or so and then two more by the next meeting in two weeks.

We’re aware the condition of many building hallway tiles is abysmal. Keith organized a survey and now we’re going to get bids on the asbestos tile removal and the new tile installation.

We went over what we have for the gym project and determined what we need to make a decision. We should hopefully have all that by our next meeting at which point we decide how we want to do it and begin looking for the money to pay for it. If all goes well we’ll have a gym this fall.

We’ve applied for a bunch of free trees from the NY Restoration Project. They did a tour of our property and will deliver a planting proposal to us. We’ll use that to decide the actual implementation and go from there. The main motivation was to create tree shade for all the picnic tables in the coming years.