Seventeen years ago, Rabbi Eli Goodman, and his wife Beila, founded Chabad Lubavitch of the Beaches to serve the Jewish population of Long Beach Barrier Island, a 10-mile-wide island off the southern coast of Long Island comprising the communities of Atlantic Beach, Long Beach, and Lido Beach.  Chabad currently operates a center for Jewish life in Long Beach, consisting of a synagogue as well as a broad range of educational, social, and religious programming for children, teenagers, young professionals, and other adults.

In November 2021, Chabad purchased property in Atlantic Beach to open a Chabad House—a center offering religious services, education, and programming to the broader Jewish community. At the time of this purchase, the property had been for sale for nearly two years and vacant for at least three years, during which time the Village of Atlantic Beach never once attempted to buy the property.

Yet within less than a month of Chabad’s arrival—and less than two weeks after Chabad first used the property to publicly celebrate a Jewish holiday—Atlantic Beach decided to seize the property through eminent domain, purportedly to build a community center and lifeguard operations facility.  Atlantic Beach has never publicly explained its sudden interest in the property.  In fact, its attorney admitted the Village considered no alternative sites, even though the Village already already owns at least two undeveloped properties better suited for its purported plans to build a lifeguard station.

At a town meeting earlier this year, several residents raised concerns that the Village has no way to pay for the property and that it’s not suited for the project it envisions.  The Village, however, moved forward with seizing the property.

That’s when the Chabad reached out to First Liberty Institute.

In July 2022, First Liberty, along with the law firm Sidley Austin LLP and the Harvard Law School Religious Freedom Clinic filed a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction against the Village, seeking to halt its effort to seize the property.  The next day, the United States District Court for the District of New York issued a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) preventing the Village from moving further and set a hearing date.

“The government must have a very compelling reason to seize a religious organization’s property.  Taking a religious organization’s property to use it as the operations center for lifeguards is not a compelling reason,” said Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel at First Liberty Institute.  “This is not a neutral act by an indifferent city council but seems to be the type of religious hostility that has no place in our country.”

 

 

News Release
For Immediate Release: 7.18.22
Contact: Peyton Luke, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

Long Island City Threatens to Seize Property from Jewish Group to Build Lifeguard Center Blocks from Beach
Lawsuit filed by Chabad of the Beaches against the Village of Atlantic Beach to stop the village from unlawfully taking property by eminent domain; Judge issues restraining order

New York, NY—Late last week, First Liberty Institute, Sidley Austin LLP, and the Harvard Law School Religious Freedom Clinic filed a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction against the Village of Atlantic Beach, New York, seeking to halt the Village’s effort to seize property owned by a small Jewish group, Chabad of the Beaches, through eminent domain.  On Friday, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) preventing the Village from moving further and set a hearing date.

You can read the motion here and the TRO here.

“The government must have a very compelling reason to seize a religious organization’s property.  Taking a religious organization’s property to use it as the operations center for lifeguards is not a compelling reason,” said Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel at First Liberty Institute.  “This is not a neutral act by an indifferent city council but seems to be the type of religious hostility that has no place in our country.”

Chabad of the Beaches purchased a property in Atlantic Beach, on Long Island, to build a Jewish community center.  The property was vacant and for sale for several years, but within weeks of buying the property, and just two weeks after the Chabad used the property to celebrate Hannukah, Village officials announced plans to take the property through eminent domain.  The Village made no effort to purchase the property during the time it was available.  Multiple alternative properties better suited to a community center and lifeguard operations facility, some already owned by the Village, were never considered.

The motion filed by Chabad attorneys states, “The Village’s violation of Chabad’s constitutional rights is irreparably harming the organization and, unless enjoined, will continue to do so.  Furthermore, the public interest favors an injunction, given that the Village has no legitimate interest in pursuing so plainly an unlawful course of conduct and that there is no true urgency to the Village’s plans, as demonstrated by the Village’s year-plus of inaction and, indeed, the decades it has gone without a community center or lifeguard operations facility.  Accordingly, Chabad respectfully asks that the Court temporarily restrain and preliminarily enjoin Atlantic Beach and its officials from proceeding with taking Chabad’s property.”

A hearing on the preliminary injunction will take place on Friday, July 29th at 9:30 am at the United States Courthouse, 100 Federal Plaza, Islip, New York.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Peyton Luke at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

 

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