five towns

Atlantic Beach goes to court to bar Chabad of Long Beach


Atlantic Beach is going to court on July 14 in a bid to kill plans by Long Beach-based Chabad of the Beaches to expand in its community. The village hopes to do this by seizing Chabad-owned properties through eminent domain.

Chabad bought the two properties, on Park Street in Atlantic  Beach — a site that had been vacant for over two years — last November for $950,000 from the MA Salzaar real estate company.

One parcel, at 2025 Park St., includes a vacant building that most recently housed a Capital One bank. The village says it wants to build a community center and a recreational facility and house beach lifeguard operations there. 

The village said it would use the second parcel, at 2035 Park St., as a community park, with open space, seating and landscaping.

The two properties total 18,500 square feet, and are adjacent to an existing village recreational facility that includes tennis and pickleball courts and a basketball court. 

“We were startled by [the court action], said Chabad’s leader, Rabbi Eli Goodman. “It was not done in a friendly way, and there is more behind it than a land grab.”

Rabbi Goodman has previously said that he sensed anti-Semitism and discrimination in the eminent domain action. He noted that no offer had been made by the village to buy the land. 

Many Atlantic Beach residents voiced their adamant opposition to the village’s action at a Jan. 10 public hearing. The public comment period ended on Jan. 24. Since then the village prepared its eminent domain petition and filed it on June 14. 

Lifelong Atlantic Beach resident Richard Libbey’s family business MS Salazar owned the property at 2035 Park Street from 1938, including a building that was demolished by the village in 2011. Until the land title officially passes to a new owner, the parcel remains under the ownership of the previous owner.

“Their reasons are not 100 percent legitimate,” Libbey said of the village’s eminent domain action, adding that there are other, better sites for a community center. 

Libbey, whose family business is real estate, said an Atlantic Beach property measuring 10,000 square feet recently sold for $1.9 million. The plots Chabad bought are nearly twice that size. He reasoned, therefore, that the fair market value of the land could be at least double what the Long Beach congregation paid for it eight months ago. 

Atlantic Beach Mayor George Pappas referred all questions on the matter to external counsel Joshua Rikon representing Atlantic Beach, who did not return multiple calls seeking comment on the pending court proceeding. 

At the January public hearing, Rikon said that his Manhattan-based firm, Goldstein, Rikon, Rikon & Levi, was hired by Atlantic Beach in 2020, and that the firm was involved in “assisting the village in passing the resolution to prepare appraisal accords for the two properties” in February 2021.