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April 28, 2013 11:36 am

Jewish Couple Sued by Housing Board for Charging for Shabbat Parties

avatar by Zach Pontz

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The Olmsted. Photo:

A New York Jewish couple are being sued by the housing board of the apartment complex in which they own two living units after it was discovered that they were charging people to attend Shabbat dinner parties and were renting the spaces out to tourists.

The board at the Olmsted at 97th and Central Park West say that Jodi and Gavin  Samuels violated the building’s bylaws — and they want the couple to pay $500 for each documented rental.

It  also says the Samuels “hosted frequent — at least one a month — Shabbat dinners, for approximately 40 people, within their apartment units for which they charge an admission fee” of $25 to $30, and “hosted other special events — including a cooking class — for which they charge admission.”

Gavin Samuels told the New York Daily News that they were surprised by the lawsuit. “It’s very disappointing of the board,” he said.

Samuels also asserted that the Shabbat meals were in no way a profitable venture, “We don’t get any money,” he said, “In fact, we donate.”

The filing says the Samuels aren’t allowed to use their apartments for “commercial purposes” and the parties are “a burden on the condominium’s staff and elevators.”

The board gathered much of their evidence from the Samuels’ online activity. Jodi Samuel blogged about the apartment rentals and the couple advertised their apartments on numerous websites and Jodi’s own Facebook page.

“Last year we spent 110 days away from home,” Jodi Samuels wrote in a blog post last year.

“Best of all, we rent our apartment out while we travel and, New York being New York, we make good money.”

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  • SammyB

    Having personally attended several of these Shabbat dinners and parties, I’d like to thank this couple for their selfless, tireless, charitable efforts around the clock and around the year to create a home for internationals in New York. The money goes to funding the costs of this fantastic volunteer effort; and their home is a constant open house for people needing a place to crash – they are incredible people. They are the best New York has to offer; I am so thankful to have such class acts in my city. Sad that the “news” got the true story all wrong here. Thank you Jodi and Gavin!

  • Simcha

    I live in a condo and I am not all surprised with the board reaction. They like militants in there enforcement of the rules, which would definitely include renting etc. defendants need a condo lawyer

    • jerry hersch

      So Simcha-You feel that enforcement of an agreed upon condition is a militant reaction.Perhaps other tenants live there because they enjoy the sense of a known environment that all have agreed to.

    • Integrity382

      How would you like a new neighbor every week and to not recognize who lives next to you each week? What is most owners did this? It creates an unsafe situation.

  • DJ

    Jewish Witch Hunt…ask the board about the large and noisy parties thrown by the Hispanics who live in the building.

    • jerry hersch

      Parties or commercial doings ??

    • Integrity382

      That is bull. I have lived here a long time and that statement is false and racist. In fact, there are very few Hispanics in this building. Further, our Board is primarily Jewish, as is a good many of the residents.

      The Samuels have made a lot of money by jeopardizing the security of the building. We want to know who our neighbors are. This is not a hotel. I know some by- laws are dumb, but the one re our sublets is not one of them.

  • jerry hersch

    And the fact that they are Jewish has what do do with this ???
    Are they expecting the Jewish community to rush to their assistance or to to abet these violations.