Atlantic Beach village has agreed to pay Chabad of the Beaches $400,000 over four years to settle a 2022 federal lawsuit.
Long Beach-based Chabad of the Beaches bought the former CapitalOne building at the foot of the Atlantic Beach Bridge in November 2021 for $950,000, planning to build a synagogue and a community center.
Soon after Chabad’s acquisition became known, the village moved to seize the site through eminent domain.
Both parties were in court in July 2022, when the Chabad sued the village, seeking to prevent its acquisition of the property. US District Court Judge Joanna Seybert issued a preliminary injunction against the village’s claim of eminent domain in September 2022.
Chabad Rabbi Eli Goodman said antisemitism was a factor in the village’s attempt to take the property. Mayor George Pappas dismissed the claim.
In addition to the payments, the village agreed to also drop an eminent domain proceeding pending in state Supreme Court, and refrain from taking action that would interfere with the Chabad’s ownership and use of 2025 Park St.
The Jewish Center of Atlantic Beach sided with the village, with its board president, Jonathan Heller, saying that when Rabbi Goodman began accusing the village of discrimination, it “struck a chord” — in this case, one of disagreement.
“We do not believe there’s any discrimination or antisemitism that has occurred here. This was really a commercial dispute, and we have a pretty sharp guy,” Heller added of Rabbi Goodman, “who turned it into a way to extract some value for himself.”
At a public meeting prior to the settlement vote, former Mayor Stephen Mahler was critical of the village’s attempt to take over the property, and the nearly $320,000 in legal fees that followed.
“You paid for a worthless lawsuit,” Mahler told the board, “that never should have happened for a negligent mayor and board who did this.”
Reporting by Hernesto Galdamez, LI Herald