Deadly Fire Factory's Prominent Owners

Phila. Landlords Related to Rabbi and Hamodia Publisher

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published April 27, 2012, issue of May 04, 2012.

The father-and-son owners of a derelict Philadelphia factory that went up in flames and killed two firefighters in April are members of a prominent Brooklyn Hasidic Jewish family.

Nahman and Michael Lichtenstein, who face a grand jury probe in connection with the deadly blaze, are related to a prominent Hasidic rabbi as well as to the publisher of the Orthodox newspaper Hamodia.

They reportedly own about 30 other properties throughout Philadelphia, many of them vacant and otherwise troubled. Michael Lichtenstein is also developing a multimillion-dollar luxury rental building in one of Brooklyn’s most fashionable neighborhoods.

The former Buck Hosiery Co. building in Philadelphia’s Kensington section had reportedly received numerous citations by local authorities, as well as complaints from neighbors, in the months before the inferno erupted on April 9.

Fifty-nine-year-old Philadelphia fire Lt. Robert Neary and firefighter Daniel Sweeney, 25, both died when an adjacent building collapsed. Three other firefighters were injured.

According to Philadelphia press accounts, Nahman and Michael Lichtenstein are subjects of a grand jury investigation that will determine whether criminal charges will be filed over the blaze in the factory they owned. Since the fire, inspections of the other Philadelphia properties owned by the family have unearthed violations and hundreds of thousands in unpaid taxes.

One abandoned row house owned by the men has been used as a headquarters by drug dealers. And a condominium development owned by the men in Center City Philadelphia is in foreclosure proceedings following a default on an $11.5 million bank loan, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer report.

The Lichtensteins could not be reached for comment. Their attorney also did not respond to a request for comment.

Though Philadelphia press accounts have referred to a third Lichtenstein family member, Yechiel Lichtenstein, as an owner of the Philadelphia properties, documents show that Michael and Yechiel are names alternately used by the same person.

Michael is the son of Nahman Lichtenstein and his wife, Ruth Lichtenstein, founder and publisher of the Brooklyn-based, English-language, ultra-Orthodox, daily newspaper Hamodia.



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