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.

Luna Park’s Board of Directors