Nightmare in Chelsea: Squatter Takes Over Manhattan Apt of 90-Year Old Rabbi - The Jewish Voice
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Nightmare in Chelsea: Squatter Takes Over Manhattan Apt of 90-Year Old Rabbi

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Nightmare in Chelsea: Squatter Takes Over Manhattan Apt of 90-Year Old Rabbi

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It would appear that the old adage of “no good deed goes unpunished” has rand true in the case of a 90-year-old rabbi in New York City. According to a report in the New York Post, life has been turned upside down for the rabbi and his family by a brazen squatter who moved into his living room two years ago and shows no signs of making her exodus at any time soon.

The sad saga began in the early part of 2020 when the Covid pandemic emerged. When Roselee Moskowitz, 67, needed a place to stay during that time, through a mutual acquaintance, Rabbi Meyer Leifer’s daughter Daniella, was told of Moskowitz and her plight.

It was then that the 90 year old rabbi offered Moskowitz a place to stay on a temporary basis in his two bedroom apartment on West 28th Street in Manhattan, according to testimony provided by Daniella and court records, according to the New York Post.

The rabbi’s family had moved him out of town with relatives while the pandemic was ravaging the city. He moved back in June 2020 but Moskowitz refused to leave. She had lived there on her own for several months.

Daniella paid for Moskowitz to rent a room elsewhere — but it didn’t last, the Post reported. The report also indicated that Moskowitz showed up on the rabbi’s doorstep again in February 2021, needing a place to stay.

The Manhattan Housing Court records that aim to have Moskowitz vacate the premises show that she barely pays anything in rent and spends the day essentially doing nothing, the Post reported.

Speaking to the Post, Daniella said of Moskowitz: “She’s just weird. … She just sits there and reads or sits there quietly staring off into space. I don’t really understand what’s going on.”

For her part, Moskowitz is fighting a legal battle to stay in Leifer’s apartment and she has the 30-day squatter’s rights law in New York City behind her. This essentially translates into anyone staying in a domicile that they do not rent or own for more than 30 days has “rights” to stay there and cannot be evicted or compelled to vacate the premises.

The Post reported that somehow Moskowitz obtained a letter of support from Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine for her court battle to stay in the apartment.

The rabbi’s daughter, Daniella, told the Post that Moskowitz has “commandeered the rabbi’s television; leaves the windows in the tiny apartment open, even when it’s cold — and once barricaded herself in the bathroom and called the cops during an argument with one of Leifer’s kids.”

Daniella also told the Post that her father suffers from dementia and what Moskowitz has done has hurt her father’s condition. She added that, “Her (Moskowitz) being there is so insulting. For months he (her father) was just angry about it and helpless. It just riles him up emotionally. Let an old man who can barely walk — let him go watch the news and the TV in his living room. He might not outlive this.”

The Post reported that they visited the apartment in which Moskowitz was squatting and saw her in a disheveled and masked state. She called 911 when the paper was there.

“My dad didn’t know who she was. He’s a little bit forgetful,” said Daniella Leifer of the father of five, grandfather of seven.

The rabbi fell in his bedroom in October 2021 and was sprawled alone on the floor for hours with a head injury while Moskowitz sat in the apartment, the family contends, the Post reported. The injured Leifer was discovered by a visiting friend. He now has a full-time, live-in aide.

Rabbi Leifer, who spent 42 years as head of the Congregation Emunath Israel, or The Chelsea Shul on West 23rd Street sued in May to evict Moskowitz. The Post reported that she sought emergency rental assistance from the state in a bid to stave off the court action, Leifer contends in the litigation.

In her legal response, Moskowitz said that the eviction attempt should be paused because she’s a senior citizen and hadn’t been able to obtain a lawyer. The court denied Moskowitz’ bid for rental help, because she was never a rent-paying tenant, the Post reported.




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