A Manhattan synagogue, Chabad Lubavitch of Midtown, is suing the man who helped them obtain the 509 Fifth Ave. location over signage at the property.
SL Green Realty, a frequent business partner of Jeff Sutton, gave Chabad a $16 million loan to help the synagogue move into the fifth avenue location, but now Sutton is being slapped with a lawsuit for his generosity.
The ownership of the building’s retail section is a partnership between Sutton, Bobby Cayre and the Adjmi family, who said they were “shocked” by the synagogue’s allegations, which it says are without merit, according to The Real Deal.
The synagogue, led by Rabbi Joshua Metzger, claims in a lawsuit that the Skechers’ “billboard” at the property blocks the synagogue’s new signage and prevents it from advertising or bringing in donations.
In addition, they allege that the construction “set off fire alarms, broke pipes in the building and filled the stairways with dust and debris,” disturbing its daily prayers and Sabbath services.
The shul’s attorney, David Abrahamson said, “The lawsuit seeks to uphold the property rights of a Synagogue beloved by thousands. We categorically deny and reject the assertion that Jeff Sutton entered into a retail arrangement with Chabad for any reason other than pure business motives. We are disappointed that our dispute with Jeff Sutton and Skechers has resulted in litigation. We have tried in good faith to resolve our differences.”
“As Chabad asserts in its complaint, Jeff Sutton pledged to respect the dignity and sanctity of our Synagogue. Instead, the Synagogue has been desecrated with inappropriate signage and banners for months. Sabbath, holiday and daily prayer services have been disrupted with incessant construction, noise and dust. We seek to protect the property rights, dignity and sanctity of a beloved community institution,” the attorney added.
A spokesperson for the retail partners said in a statement to The Real Deal that “we have the utmost love and respect for the Chabad organization and the dignity and sanctity of the synagogue located at 509 Fifth Avenue.”
“Evidencing our love and support,” the statement continued, “we arranged financing for the closing on the acquisition of Chabad’s portion of the building, and provided this Chabad chapter with a loan, so that Chabad did not default under its contract to purchase. That is why we are both shocked and extremely disturbed by the allegations in this complaint which are totally without merit.”
In 2012, Chabad and 509 Fifth Avenue Retail LLC paid $39.8 million to purchase the 60,000-square-foot building from Murray Hill Properties. In January, Skechers signed a 15-year lease for the 3,500-square-foot retail unit.
In May, Chabad was permitted to place a sign on the building. One week later, Sketchers also put up their sign, which the synagogue also claimed damaged a shofar on their sign.
Chabad is suing for $500,000 in damages and is looking to file a temporary restraining order that would prevent Skechers from installing the sign until the court makes a decision on whether it is appropriate.
Despite claims that the Sketchers sign blocks the synagogue’s sign, sources said that Chabad sign is still easily visible from the street level.