April 16, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
City Council Member Rory Lancman blasted a group of Queens residents for gathering outside the synagogue of a Glendale landlord to protest the rumored 200-men homeless shelter planned for the landlord’s Cooper Avenue property.
Lancman, who represents areas in central Queens, called the protest an act of anti-semitism for targeting Michael Wilner, the property owner, at his house of worship.
“Protesting outside a person’s synagogue on the Sabbath because they might not develop their private property the way you want is a grotesque act of antisemitism and fully deserves our unqualified condemnation,” Lancman wrote in a statement. “The so-called ‘Glendale Middle Village Coalition’ members should be ashamed of themselves, and should apologize for their repugnant conduct.”
Protestors gathered early in the morning on April 13 at 78-16 Cooper Ave., the site of the rumored shelter, before boarding two coach buses to drive Wilner’s home in Long Island. Once there, they also made their way to Temple Or Elohim, the synagogue where Wilner is president.
Protestors demanded that Wilner agree to turn the defunct factory site into a school—something that the community and Council Member Robert Holden have long advocated for.
Holden, who initially supported the protest, joined his colleague in rebuking the decision to go to Wilner’s synagogue.
“While I did support my constituents in their effort to make their voices heard and call for the construction of a new District 75 school, I do not agree with the decision of the organizers to rally at a synagogue,” Holden wrote in a statement on Facebook. “It’s enough to send the message directly to Michael Wilner at his home. Disrupting a congregation at a place of worship is wrong. I share the protesters’ desire to bring a school to 78-16 Cooper Avenue and that is what I continue to work for.”
One of the protestors, Lee Rottenberg, responded to Holden’s statement, saying that no services were being held at the synagogue at the time of the protest.
“We were told to be very quiet,” Rottenberg wrote. “No bull horns or whistles or talking loud. All we did was march around the parking lot with our signs for about 10 minutes then we left.”
Rottenberg later added that “The only reason we went there was because that slimeball happens to be President of that Synagogue. We thought that his congregation should be aware of his greed and his ‘dark side’.”
The Cooper Avenue property is currently under construction, with a permit to convert the factory building into office space. Rumors of a shelter began after Wilner later filed updated plans for a transient housing facility. The plans, however, have not been approved.
According to Holden’s office, Wilner does not have a contract with the city for a shelter. His office is continuing to work with various city agencies to get approval for a school on the property, and are awaiting a final confirmation from City Hall as to whether Wilner will agree to the deal.