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A New York City has begun the process of using eminent domain to seize two plots of land recently acquired by a Jewish community organization, in an action that faces a legal challenge from an organization to nonprofit for religious freedom.
The Village of Atlantic Beach in Long Beach, New York, is considering 2025 Park Street, a vacant building that once housed a Capital One bank, and 2035 Park Street, another vacant lot, after Chabad of the Beaches purchased the two properties last November for $950,000. of MA Salazar Inc., a real estate company. The properties sat vacant for years before the Chabad bought them.
“We were shocked when we learned that Atlantic Beach wanted to take our property,” Chabad leader Rabbi Eli Goodman told Fox News Digital in a statement Monday. “The property had been vacant for years and for sale for a long time. But it was only after we bought it that the Village announced that they were going to take it from us.”
The village goes to court on July 14 to acquire the two properties. According to his petition, the village plans to build a community center and recreation facility, which would house beach lifeguard operations, at Park 2025, and a community park at Park 2035. Both properties are adjacent to a village recreation center which includes tennis and pickleball courts, as well as a basketball court. Chabad, meanwhile, intends to build a community center for all residents, not just the Jewish community, Goodman said.
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“They have other locations for a lifeguard command center; where are we going to provide our religious services in Atlantic Beach now?” Goodman asked.
Jeremy Dys, senior attorney at First Liberty Institute, the law firm representing Chabad, told Fox News Digital that the prominent domain push amounts to religious discrimination and threatened to sue the village if it continued its efforts. .
“The government must have a very compelling reason to seize the assets of a religious organization,” Dys said in a statement Monday. “Taking ownership of a religious organization to use as an operations center for rescuers is not a compelling reason.”
“If the village persists and tries to take ownership, we stand ready to represent Beach Chabad in asserting defenses under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. (RLUIPA),” he added. In a separate statement, he said emphatically, “This is discrimination, religious discrimination.”
The village did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment before press time.
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Atlantic Beach Mayor George Pappas referred Long Island Herald questions to outside attorney Joshua Rikon, a partner at Manhattan-based firm Goldstein, Rikon, Rikon & Levi. The law firm did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment before press time.
MA Salazar, the real estate company, previously owned the property at 2035 Park Street since 1938, owner Richard Libbey told the Long Island Herald. Libbey said the village’s reasons for acquiring the properties “are not 100% legitimate”. He argued that there are other more attractive sites for a community center.
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Goodman told the Herald that Chabad was “frightened” by the legal action. “It was not done in a friendly way, and there is more to it than a land grab.” The rabbi has previously claimed he sensed anti-Semitism and discrimination in the eminent domain of action.
Atlantic Beach residents voiced their opposition to the village’s move at a public hearing Jan. 10. The public comment period ended on January 24, and the village filed an eminent domain petition on June 14.