Members of the Sixteenth Street Synagogue in Manhattan’s Flatiron District have won a temporary stay of an eviction order that would have had them vacating the premises by Jan. 7th.
The congregation said it will now seek to be recognized as a co-owner of the building.
The parties will appear in court the following day to argue before a state Supreme Court judge whether the stay will be continued or denied.
In the latest development in a long property dispute, Judge Debra James last week upheld the motion to evict.
The congregation president, Richard McBee, said he was given notice that members have five days to move out all of its Torahs, books and other property. Because of a holiday-season grace period, the congregation’s last day to occupy the premises was to be Jan. 7.
“We are very pleased about this,” McBee told The Jewish Week Monday. “Our claim is for equitable one-third co-ownership of the building.”
If the court on Jan. 8 grants the right to hear that argument, McBee said his lawyers will assert that since National Council of Young Israel, which owned the building from 1946 to 2002, used the presence of the congregation to gain tax-exempt status, its presence in the building is more than just a tenancy.
The Congregation has launched a social media campaign calling call on supporters to patronize the synagogue and help publicize its plight.
The six-story building previously housed the main office of National Council of Young Israel as well as the congregation, then known as the Young Israel of Fifth Avenue. It also later hosted a Sephardic congregation, Magen David of Union Square, in an upstairs space at until it moved to its own quarters.
When the National Council of Young Israel decided to sell the property a decade ago, two Jewish businessmen bought it with the intention of building condos on the upper floors and keep the synagogue open downstairs, but the deal went sour and the parties have been in court ever since.
The Real Deal, a real estate website, said the current owner, Jack Braha, paid $6 million for the property and is building apartments on floors three through six to be completed in the late winter or early spring, with the current synagogue level to be converted to a lobby, storage and retail space.
The Real Deal said an agreement between Braha and the other investor, Steven Ancona, to keep the congregation in the building was never put in writing. Braha told the publication the deal was contingent on Ancona finding a paying tenant at market rent for the building.
The lawyer for Braha, Edward White, told The Jewish Week he had “no comment on pending litigation.”