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.
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Hamodia, which is widely read in Orthodox communities around the United States, has a policy against running photographs of women in deference to Orthodox modesty standards. During Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential run the paper said it would not publish images of her.

Ruth Lichtenstein is a granddaughter of a former leader of the Ger Hasidic dynasty, one of the largest Hasidic sects in the world. She is a cousin of Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter, the sect’s current Israel-based leader.

A person who answered the telephone at Ruth Lichtenstein’s office referred questions about the fire to her attorney, who did not respond to requests for comment.

Judy Brown, author of “Hush,” a controversial novel about sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s Boro Park neighborhood, is Ruth Lichtenstein’s daughter.

Despite business troubles in Philadelphia, Michael Lichtenstein has invested in a major new residential development in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, a once-industrial neighborhood now booming with high-end condominiums.

The planned rental apartments are on North 6th Street, around the corner from a subway stop and near an active nightlife strip. The $13.7 million property was purchased last December from the local Catholic parish and consists of a former church, a shuttered parochial school, a rectory and a parking lot.

“It’s almost as prime as you can get… in Williamsburg,” said Williamsburg real estate broker David J. Maundrell III, president of aptsandlofts.com.

Once complete, the property could draw rental rates as high as $3,200 per month for a 700-square-foot apartment, Maundrell said.

In April 2011, Michael Lichtenstein and two partners formed a company called North Flats LLC to buy, develop and operate the plush Williamsburg property. The bishop of Brooklyn had issued a decree in March permitting the sale of the church.

Construction at the site has drawn a handful of ultimately unsubstantiated complaints in recent weeks, according to records from New York City’s Department of Buildings. On two occasions in April, a complainant reported that items had fallen from the construction site to the sidewalk: in one case, a two-by-four plank; in another, shards of glass. Inspectors dispatched to the site on both occasions found that no violation citation was warranted, according to records.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or on Twitter @joshnathankazis


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