A letter written by Rabbi Shalom Ber Levin, the longtime dedicated chief libarian of the central Chabad library, known as Ohel Yosef Yitzchak Library or the “Rebbe’s Library,” exposes what is holding back the purchase -by Agudas Chasidei Chabad, the Chabad-Lubavitch Umbrella Organization, – of the home of the late Reb Meir Itkin, for the purpose of a much needed expansion of the Library.
The letter tells of demands for an astronomical price of $3 Million for the building and tells of of the involvement of Mendy Hendel, a Mishechist linchpin, who is involved in many activities of Sinas Chinam in the Crown Heights community.
According to the letter, dated Monday the 25th of Sivan, Rabbi Levin explain that it has been over a year that Agudas Chasidei Chabad, which are the official owners of the library and its building, have been negotiating, and have reached an agreement with the family of Reb Meir Itkin.
The agreement reached was for double the amount ($1,500,000) of the market value, and it took quite some time to find a donor willing to facilitate the purchase. But once that donor was found the family balked and demanded double that offer ($3,000,000!) since they claim that another buyer came forward and is willing to pay more, writes Levin.
To read the complete letter in Hebrew, click here.
Involvement of Mendy Hendel
Rabbi Levin writes that Sunday he bumped into Mendy Hendel who attempted to glean from him a quote stating that the library does not need to expand. He went on to detail the short conversation, of Hendel trying to dupe him into mistakenly saying something about there problems with purchasing the property.
Furthermore, CrownHeights.info sent a photographer to take photos of 760 Eastern Parkway. While there our photographer noted that Yankel Chazan passed by and took note of his work.
Chazan is known to write and disseminate Hendels propaganda articles under various pen names and is editor of Hendel’s publication – the Beis Moshiach.
It was not even two hours when an article appeared on Hendel’s mouthpiece website, listing a series of forged and misquoted letters from the Rebbe–, claiming that the Rebbe instructed not to expand the library into the Itkin home. Presumably this was done to preempt any articles that may appear and open the possibility of public support for him to purchase the property for his own nefarious needs.
What is the realistic value for 760 Eastern Parkway? Levin writes that it is $800,000, but a quick search through properly records revels that 736 Eastern Parkway was sold in 2006 for $1,120,000 just before the housing bubble popped and the market crashed.
One real estate expert told CrownHeights.info that both houses are comparable in size, the only difference being is its proximity to 770 and its obvious value to Merkos and the Library. He said that in today’s market $1,200,000 would be a fair offer and $1,500,000 would be very generous.
According to the expert, if a bidding war ensues, then the realtor stands to be the only one to benefit, since the sale of this property would benefit inheritors, any capital gains are subject to an approximate %50 estate tax.
Negotiations Spanning Three Years
On Motzai Shabbos, January 8th 2011, Rabbi Yehuda Krisnky sat down with Mrs. Shaina Teichtel, who is the daughter of Reb Meir Itkin, in her home where they negotiated the terms of the sale to Merkos for the sole use of expanding the Library.
In this meeting they did not discuss prices since the family was not ready to make the sale, but they did discuss keeping a room dedicated in their father’s memory, which Minyanim can be held on his Yahrtziet, as well as regular Farbrengens, which Reb Meir cherished. Merkos agreed, and put all of it in writing which both sides agreed to.
Rabbi Chaim Shaul Bruk told CrownHeights.info that a number of months later, the Itkin family hired attorney David Yeroshalmi to act as their agent to handle the sale of the house. Rabbi Krinsky had attempted to reach him and after playing embarrassing phone tag for nearly a year the matter fell off the table.
Over a year ago Merkos had managed to secure a donation to facilitate the purchase of the Itkin home, on condition that the money go specifically for the expansion of the library, and it would be available if he was successful in a specific business deal. That happened six weeks ago and Merkos once again attempted to contact the Itkin family to go forward with the sale.
Enter Real Estate Brokers
The Teichtel family informed Merkos that all matters relating to the house should be referred to a local brokerage firm named B.H. Tal, which is owned by Shoshana Tal and Yehuda Segal, two local Crown Heights residents.
Uninterested in paying massive brokerage fees, especially since all negotiations were done directly, Merkos was not sure how to proceed. After a board meeting it was decided that Merkos needs to hire its own representative to protect their own interest.
Merkos hired Crown Heightser Yerachmiel Jacobson. After reaching out and contacting Mrs. Tal he received a response that “there is nothing to talk about until an offer is submitted in writing.” Jacobson then submitted Merkos’s offer of $1,500,000 – a number which was mentioned a number of times in the last three years – which Tal ignored.
After reaching out multiple times asking for a response, a source told CrownHeights.info that, finally Tal responded by saying “these things don’t happen fast, it takes time.” However, when pressed further the bombshell dropped with Tal passing on a message from the family saying “the family is not willing to lose millions” and did not even propose a counter offer.
‘World’ Media Jumps In
After practically ignoring Merkos’s purchase offer Tal began listing the house for sale in advertisements on the web and on ‘Chabad’ news websites.
Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot ‘picked up’ on the pending sale and published an article sensationalizing the possibility of living so close to 770. Other much smaller sites ran similar stories in an attempt to drum up interest in the sale of the home and create a wider appeal.
CrownHeights.info attempted to reach out to the Itkin family, but our calls were not returned. Shoshana Tal responded to an email seeking comment with the following statement from the family; “The Itkin family is committed to uphold their parents legacy of commitment to the Rebbes [sic] ideals. And that the house was bought by Rabbi Itkin with the Rebbes blessings.”