Thursday, May 26, 2005

Torah Tots day care shut down by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene


At 3:46 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...


Illegal Day Care Center Abruptly Shut Down
80 Children Found In Three Buidings

Fire officials say the owner, Rabbi Katzman, was surprised by the shut down. Hoevever, the place had been cited last January for not having sufficient exits.

May 26, 2005 5:32 pm US/Eastern
STATEN ISLAND (CBS) Potential danger for dozens of young children today, after an illegal daycare center is busted up.

Earlier Thursday, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found an illegal day care operation at an Orthodox Jewish day-care center 289 Harold Street on Staten Island. The daycare center and school, called Torah Tots, encompasses three buildings.

In one of them, with an empty tent in front, there were 28 children inside. The pink home on the corner had 27 children, and a trailer set-up in the back had 25 children, making 80 in all.

They closed it immediately, and started working with the facility operator to contact parents so they can pick their children up.

Fire officials say the owner, Rabbi Katzman, was surprised by the shut down. However, the place had been cited last January for not having sufficient exits.

Parents showed up to take their children home, some of them unaware of the vacate order until they got here.

They're also working with parents to inform them about other day care options while a full inspection of this facility is conducted with other appropriate agencies.


Chabad Lubavitch to celebrate opening of new building
Party on Thursday will thank families that made major contributions to the synagogue and school
Friday, May 20, 2005
Chabad Lubavitch of Staten Island on Thursday will celebrate the grand opening of its new Willowbrook building that houses both a synagogue and yeshiva.

The building, a single family home that has been extensively renovated to accommodate Chabad's needs, was purchased for $667,500 in December 2004.

It now houses morning and Shabbos services and is the home of Yeshiva Mesivta Menachem, a residential high school program for 30 boys that had been renting space for classes in a nearby synagogue. Chabad continues to rent two neighborhood homes as dormitories for the students, who come from as far away as Israel and Canada.

The Harold Avenue building is next door to Chabad's existing Bradley Avenue edifice, where the Torah Tots Academy educates 100 pre-school children and where Rabbi Moshe Katzman, director of Chabad, has his office.

One class from the popular Torah Tots program has settled in the basement of the new building, and another is located in a trailer located between the two buildings.

Plans call for the eventual expansion of the Bradley Avenue building and the addition of a covered walkway or some other structure to join the two buildings.

"Architects are playing with it now," Rabbi Katzman said. "Fund-raising never ends."

Five families will be honored at Thursday's celebration for major contributions that made the expansion possible. The festivities will begin at 7 p.m. in the new building, at 289 Harold Ave.

The honorees include Avi and Irit Matuszewicz and Arie and Hana Matuszewicz, owners of M&M Control Wiring and Electrical; Moshe and Rachel Guttman of Deck Master; Ronnie and Elana Abramove and Boaz and Felice Sussman of Evan Auto.

Tickets are $100 per person or $180 per couple. For information or reservations, call (718) 370-8953.

Leslie Palma-Simoncek is the religion editor for the Advance. She may be reached at



At 6:49 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...,0,6082177.story?coll=nyc-manheadlines-queens

Day care closed over fire violations
May 27, 2005

City fire and health officials shut down a day care center in Staten Island Thursday that lacked a permit, a sprinkler system and proper fire exits.

Fire officials said the Torah Tots center, which was caring for 89 children in two adjoining buildings and a trailer, did not notify the department that it were about to open the center.

"The Fire Department did what we had to do," said Fire Capt. James Koeth of Engine Co. 163. "If you want to open up a child day care center you have got to send a notification to the FDNY. The rabbi never filed for the permits."

The violations were uncovered after a Fire Department inspector read a May 20 newspaper article about the opening of the day care facility at 289 Harold St. and visited it yesterday, said Fire Chief Dominick deRubbi of Battalion 22.

A complaint about an illegal conversion and noise emanating from the Harold Street home was filed with the buildings department in December, records show.

The center was also cited for overcrowding, with 45 kids in two classrooms, as well given a building code violation, de Rubbi said. There were 25 children in the trailer and 28 in the Harold Street building.

The shutdown comes at a time when state and city officials are tightening the regulation of the thousands of day care centers across the city. The crackdown began after a 2-year-old suffocated last year in a Queens center.

The center is attached to a yeshiva and a temple operated by Chabad Lubavitch. Reached by phone yesterday, a center official said, "I have no idea what you're talking about," and hung up.

Later, Rabbi Moshe Katzman told reporters: "We are running a great program here. The kids are loved and cared for. ... As soon as those violations are worked out, we will resume our programs."

Katz did not take questions.

Parents did not speak with the press. A congregant, Sam Steinberg, 56, who is a special education teacher said the incident was puzzling. "I'm sure our rabbi is law-abiding and I'm sure he's done everything he's needed to do."

Buildings Department spokeswoman Jennifer Givner said the building was given two violations in 1998 for a building at 389 Bradley St. The center put in a sprinkler system and a fire alarm system in the Bradley building, but never called the department back to officially approve the permits. The yeshiva and the temple can continue to operate, she said.

In a written statement, city health officials said the center was "operating without a permit," and said I full inspection will take place.

Jerome Burdi is a freelance writer. Graham Rayman is a staff writer.

At 7:57 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Fire Inspection Leads to Shutdown of an Unlicensed Day Care Center on Staten Island

Published: May 27, 2005
An unlicensed Hasidic day care center in Staten Island serving at least 89 children was shut down yesterday after a Fire Department inspection, officials said.

The inspection took place at a building at 289 Harold Street, in the Willowbrook section, used for day care and owned by Chabad Lubavitch of Staten Island, a Hasidic organization. The building, bought in December, is next to a separate day care center called the Torah Tots Academy at 389 Bradley Avenue, which is also owned by the group. Children were also cared for in a trailer behind the buildings, the department said.

In all, 98 children between about 2 and 5 were in the two buildings and the trailer yesterday morning, said Battalion Chief Dominick Derubbio. The City Health Department, however, put the number at 89.

The Harold Street building includes a synagogue on the first floor and a basement day care center. The Fire Department said the basement, occupied by about 30 children, lacked sprinklers and sufficient exits.

Rabbi Moshe Katzman, director of Chabad Lubavitch of Staten Island, said the violations concerned only paperwork, and nothing that could have endangered the children. "We are running a great program here," he said. "The kids are loved, cared for and safe." He said the group had contacted an architect to study the violations and planned to reopen as soon as possible. None of the citations issued yesterday alleged that the children were endangered or inadequately supervised. The Department of Buildings and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene also took part in the inspection, and more inspections were pending at the Bradley Avenue address and at the trailer.

The inspections and closing drew reporters from several news organizations and created a minor spectacle.

"Traumatized a lot of children and parents," said a woman on the telephone in Rabbi Katzman's office who would not give her name. "We're feeling discriminated against big time. By everybody."

According to the Fire Department, the inspection was scheduled after a lieutenant read an article in The Staten Island Advance last Friday in which Rabbi Katzman announced that the Harold Street building had been bought and that a celebration was planned. "Fund-raising never ends," Rabbi Katzman was quoted as saying.

The children were held yesterday until their parents came to pick them up, many arriving at the usual time, around 3 p.m., with no inkling that anything was wrong. The Health Department is helping parents find other day care options while the center is closed, according to a department statement.

One mother, Rivka Denker, 32, whose 6-year-old son has attended the center for three years, said: "I don't know what the problem is. They're beautiful. Everybody there is beautiful. It's clean. They take very good care of our children."

The Buildings Department cited Rabbi Katzman for using the Harold Street address for purposes other than those described on its certificate of occupancy, which describes it simply as a two-family home, said Jennifer Givner, a department spokeswoman. "When our inspectors arrived, we determined the first floor was a synagogue and the cellar was a school," she said.

The building also lacked a sprinkler system and a second exit from the basement, city officials said.

"They're not the most imminently hazardous violations, but they are violations, and they could be dangerous," Deputy Fire Chief Theodore Goldfarb said.

While praised by parents who spoke to reporters yesterday, the center has its detractors. One man said it was difficult to park in the afternoons when parents arrive to pick up their children, and another man, Allen Braswell, complained of the noise the children make.

"They're loud, obnoxious and screaming," he said. "There are a zillion kids going back and forth. It disturbs very many neighbors."

At 6:15 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...



May 27, 2005 -- A Staten Island day-care center was shut down yesterday when firefighters — after reading about its grand-opening celebrations in a local paper — paid a surprise inspection and found it was unlicensed.
The Torah Tots Academy, which was run by the Jewish sect Chabad Lubavitch, had about 80 kids from 2 to 5 years old enrolled, authorities said.

The site of the day-care center — which was run out of two neighboring houses, at 289 Harold St. and 389 Bradley Ave., and a trailer — was also home to Yeshiva Mesivta Menachem and a synagogue.

FDNY brass had initially inspected the site weeks ago.

The program's coordinators had said then that they didn't have the license on them because it was Passover, fire officials said.

Then, a fire lieutenant read a newspaper story about a party to celebrate the opening of the Harold Street house, a two-family home that was purchased by the Chabad in December.

"This was brought to my attention when the lieutenant showed me the article last night," said Fire Capt. James Koeth, of Engine Co. 163. "So we came to do an inspection."

Once the authorities revisited the place, they quickly learned there was no Health Department license to run a day-care center at Harold Street.

Inspectors also found that at the Harold Street building there was no sprinkler system and insufficient fire exits.

Officials at the Department of Buildings said the basement of the Bradley Avenue building — which was being used as a classroom — was operating without enough exits.

"That's a serious safety condition," said a DOB spokeswoman.

Chabad Director Rabbi Moshe Katzman defended his curriculum to reporters.

"We are running a great program here," he said. "The kids are loved and cared for here. It's a safe and very warm environment."

He added: "We were informed today that we have violations. We're working to work out these violations, and as soon as these violations are worked out, we will resume our programs."

At 8:20 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Staten Islanders Defend and Celebrate Chabad Preschool
STATEN ISLAND, NY — Monday, May 30, 2005

After city officials forced children out of their preschool at Chabad of Staten Island, NY, on May 25, the synagogue’s long-planned inauguration of its new building scheduled for that very evening turned into a massive show of support for Chabad’s activities.

“The school has been the foundation of my kids’ love of Yiddishkeit,” said Jessica Landa, whose twin sons attend Chabad of Staten Island’s Torah Tots Academy preschool. “It amazes me that at age four my children have such an appreciation of the holidays and Shabbos.”

Landa joined more than 200 community members to salute those who made Staten Island Chabad’s new building, a home adjacent to the original Chabad House, a reality. She came despite the fact that her sons’ normal naptime at the preschool had been disturbed by an intrusive contingent of firefighters and city officials who came prodding and poking their way into classrooms in search of building and code violations. Turns out all that was missing was a Certificate of Occupancy, which is now being processed.

As Rabbi Moshe Katzman, spiritual leader of Chabad of Staten Island, addressed the crowd, he expressed optimism. “G-d will help us that the pain we have now will be rewarded with greater success,” he said.

Earlier that day, as five year olds sang “G-d Bless America,” practicing for their upcoming preschool graduation, four fully uniformed firefighters entered the classrooms. Without asking permission of the teachers, city building inspectors strode into the five-year-olds’ room to snap pictures of the classroom layout.

ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, New York Channel One, among other news media, swarmed the school, blocking traffic with their satellite news vans, to get the scoop on what turned out to be a slow news day. The fire chief’s trucks and several police cars parked around the school added to the drama. Reporters hounded parents as they picked up their children at the 3:00 p.m. dismissal. Meital Kalev, whose daughter, Darin, 5, is a student, told reporters, “This is a very good school.”

Rivka Denker, whose son Shmuel, 5, attends Torah Tots, was similarly stalwart in her defense of the school. “If they are in any violation, I am sure it will be solved soon,” said Denker to TV journalists. “My son loves it here. The teachers are very nice to him. They are so self-confident, they are beautiful. They take very good care of the children.”

While local news broadcasts carried melodramatic reports about the shut down, smartly attired Staten Islanders dined on a smorgasbord of puff pastries, Israeli food, and carving board meats to inaugurate Chabad’s new building. The building, once an Indian restaurateur’s home redolent of curry and cumin, is now an attractive mocha-colored prayer space. The renovation was brought about by the hard work of several community members, said Rabbi Moshe Katzman, Chabad’s representative on Staten Island.

Rabbi Katzman spelled out the role that each honoree played in the building’s transformation. Avi and Irit Matuszewicz and Aryeh and Chana Matuszewicz, electricity contractors, were hailed for their donation of electrical work. Moishe and Rachel Guttman of Deck Masters, Inc., were honored for their services as contractors. Ronny and Ilana Abramove and Boaz and Felice Sussman were lauded for their support of Chabad.

With a straightforwardness that is a hallmark of Staten Islanders, Irit Matuszewicz spoke about her attachment to Chabad. “From Rabbi Katzman I learned that rabbis can be cool,” said Matuszewicz. “Not only do they have great personalities, they sure know how to run a school.” Matuszewicz continued, “The Katzmans have created a haven for many of us who would otherwise have been disenfranchised from Judaism.”

In a touching ceremony, community members who gave of their own time to paint, trim bushes, and fix plumbing for the new building were called up. Sam Steinberg, Alex Steinberg, Hershey Papier, Michael Papier, Sam Papier, and Abe Maltz lit candles before the entire assemblage.

Rabbi Shimon Lawrence of Congregation Bais Yehuda, Staten Island, which is not affiliated with Chabad, said, “The rabbinate of Staten Island owes a debt to Rabbi and Rebbetzin Katzman for the change they have brought to our community. Torah Tots is unparalleled, and their yeshiva’s level of learning is among the best I’ve ever seen. One trait I see there that is lacking elsewhere is the derech eretz, the genuine care and concern the students show for one another. It is exemplary.”

The night’s standing ovation came when the work of Chani Katzman, director of Torah Tots Academy and wife of Rabbi Katzman, was mentioned. The sustained applause was a potent, moving show of support for Chani Katzman, whose day had gone from the stress of the city officials’ intrusion to the spotlight on a glorious night of celebration.
Reported by Rivka Chaya Berman


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