Ohr Natan, the Jewish community outreach center in Rego Park, has become an epicenter of rallies and debate after Rabbi Nahum Kaziev, the director, announced that his group was being asked to leave by new developers.
“They are making us leave,” Kaziev said last week.
After the story, originally reported by the Queens Chronicle, broke, elected officials, members and concerned residents made calls to city agencies, including the Mayor’s Office, but a representative of Trylon LLC, the new owner, says everything Kaziev has said is false.
“We bought the property to develop it long-term,” company official Meir Babaev said. “There have been no eviction notices given to any of the tenants.”
Babaev explained that the development company met with Kaziev three times since acquiring the property. The company said it proposed relocating the community center temporarily while construction is done.
“They have four years left on the lease, so we were going to let the lease go through and then when it’s done, we will help him relocate,” Babaev said. “Once we develop the building, we would bring them back to their original location and let them continue to run as a community center.”
Though the property, known as the Trylon Triangle was only recently acquired, Babaev said the company is already working on designs for the space.
“We’re thinking retail on the ground floor, a community center on the second floor and residential from three to eight,” he said. “We want to restore the front entrance of the building to resemble what it looked like in 1939 when it opened. We want to bring back the essence of the building’s history and keep all of the tenants.”
But Kaziev was insistent that things are not as they seem.
“No, we did not get an eviction notice,” he said in a follow-up interview. “But we did have a few meetings and they told me that even though we have a little bit longer in our lease, if we don’t leave now, we won’t be offered space. They said if we leave now, we can offer you space. We don’t want to start wars here.”
Again, Babaev denied Kaziev’s claims.
“Would it be easier if they moved out now? Sure,” he said in response. “But we didn’t tell him they have to leave. We want to have them stay here, but the more he attacks us and makes all of these claims, the less we’re inclined to invite him back.”
The nearby Tower Diner, which also comprises the Trylon Triangle, sided with developers. The eatery has been told they can stay until their lease is up and will be invited back to their original location once construction is completed.
“The men from the company were gentlemen,” a representative of the diner said. “They were very nice and explained everything to us so that we understand and there were no problems. We’re not going anywhere.”
Babaev said the company even went so far as to place an ad in a Bukharian newspaper informing residents that it has no intention of closing Ohr Natan.
Still, Kaziev warns that Trylon LLC is not to be trusted.
“These are not straightforward people,” he said. “They paid for the property in cash. How come they brought suitcases with $9 million in cash in it? They think that money can do anything but they are greatly underestimating the community.”
“Who in the hell has $9 million in cash?” Babaev said. “When you put cash in a contract, that just means we’re not paying with a mortgage contingency. If we came in with cash, we would immediately be arrested. It’s illegal.”
Babaev went on to say that no matter what happens, the community will not be negatively affected.
“Either way, there will be a community center there,” he said. “We designed the building to have a community center, we want to have a community center, and if he is going to be difficult, we’ll work with someone else. We want him to stay, and as long as the defamation goes away, we could give him the new lease today for the new building.”