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Lakewood developer Menachem Gutfreund has just entered into a contract to purchase the property located at 42-50 East 8th Street, FAA News has learned.

The property has been involved in numerous disputes, including at the Lakewood Planning Board, Bais Din Maysharim, and the New Jersey Superior Court.

Back in June 2021, Joseph Bitton presented an application to the Planning Board for approval to build 6 duplex houses on this site.

The application did not include provisions for any turn-around at the East 8th Street terminus.

Many neighbors on the narrow and long block took to the podium to demand that the Planning Board not grant approval for these duplexes unless Mr. Bitton provides a full-size cul-de-sac bulb, noting that there were 2 fires on the block over the past few years and it was practically impossible for emergency vehicles to get in and out of the block safely.

Due to intense pressure from the neighbors, the Planning Board denied the application, instead sending the developers back to the drawing board to provide for a proper cul-de-sac bulb.

As this application sought variances, Mr. Bitton had no legal recourse against the Board.

In September 2021, Mr. Bitton returned to the Board seeking for a "reconsideration" of his previous denial, on the basis that he could have proposed another Site Plan which was "fully conforming" but he felt that the plan (with its variances) which was previously denied was a "better planning alternative."

The "fully conforming" plan included only an undersized hammerhead turnaround.

The Board denied Mr. Bitton's request for reconsideration, reiterating that they needed to see a full-sized cul-de-sac bulb.

Eventually, in April 2022, Mr. Bitton returned to the Board with an application for the same 6 duplex units, but with a plan to provide either a hammer-head turn-around or an undersized cul-de-sac bulb.

His engineer Graham MacFarlane testified that this was finally a variance - free application and therefore it should be approved by-right.

Due to continued urging of the neighbors, however, the Planning Board again stood their ground, and denied the application, demanding that they need to see a full-sized cul-de-sac bulb.

As first reported here on FAA News, on July 8, 2022, following the Planning Board's denial of his application, Mr. Bitton filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Board's denial.

The Complaint in Lieu of Prerogative Writs filed by Attorney Adam Pfeffer Esq. in New Jersey Superior Court in Ocean County, argued that the Board's denial of the application was arbitrary, unreasonable, and capricious because the application was a permitted use in the zone and variance-free.

As previously reported here on FAA News, Judge Hodgson agreed and overturned the Board's denial.

At the time of the Planning Board application, the property was still owned by Catering by Greenwald, Inc, which is owned by Yitzchok Greenwald.

At some point in 2022, Mr. Bitton entered into negotiations to purchase the property from Mr. Greenwald. 

The Parties agreed upon a final purchase price for the property in the amount of $1,850,000; with a deposit of $419,000 to be paid up front prior to executing a final written agreement for the sale of the Property, and with certain amounts to be paid prior to the closing of title on the Property, other amounts to be due at the closing of title on the Property, and the remaining balance to be paid at a later date.

The parties formally entered into a written contract for the sale on July 18, 2022, after Mr. Bitton already paid the $419,000 deposit.

The contract includes a clause wherein the seller represented that he had not made any other contract related to the sale of the Property to anyone else.

The Contract for Sale was not contingent upon Mr. Bitton's ability to obtain mortgage financing, as Mr. Greenwald was aware that Mr. Bitton would be obtaining the balance of the purchase price for the property from private lenders.

On August 15, 2022, the parties agreed that the closing of title would be done 7 days later on August 25, 2022.

Suddenly, just 7 days later, on August 22, 2022, Mr. Greenwald notified Mr. Bitton that he would not be closing on the sale. Mr. Greenwald refused to give any explanation for this sudden change of heart. He also did not return the $419,000 deposit he already received despite failing to move forward with the closing of title on the property.

Pursuant to the Contract Agreement, any disputes in the matter were to be adjudicated before Bais Din Maysharim. Accordingly, Mr. Bitton sent Mr. Greenwald a hazmanah to adjudicate the matter before Bais Din Maysharim. 

On December 2, 2022, after Mr. Greenwald continued to refuse to appear before Bais Din to adjudicate the dispute, Mr. Bitton, represented by Iselin Attorneys Gary S. Snitow and Brian M. Jeffers, Esq. filed a civil lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court in Ocean County.

Specifically, the lawsuit asserted that "Plaintiff identified the Property as an ideal location for housing for students of the Kollel, an institute for advanced Talmudic studies."

The 5-count Complaint alleged that:

On October 7, 2022, Mr. Greenwald in his capacity as member/manager of Catering by Greenwald, Inc. transferred title to the Property to an entity known as 40-52 Eighth Street, LLC, a corporation that he formed on September 22, 2022.

Mr. Greenwald facilitated the creation of 40-52 Eighth Street, LLC, and the transfer of title to the Property in an effort to deny Mr. Bitton the benefit of the bargain of the Contract for Sale.

Mr. Greenwald concealed the transfer of title from Mr. Bitton. Furthermore, he transferred title to the Property with knowledge that Mr. Greenwald was the equitable owner of the Property.

In doing this transfer, Mr. Greenwald violated the terms of the Contract for Sale which prohibits making any other contract related to the sale of the Property to anyone else.

Mr. Greenwald's conduct demonstrates evidence that he executed the Contract for Sale with knowledge that they never intended to transfer title for the Property to Mr. Bitton. At the same time, Mr. Greenwald has retained the $419,000 deposit.

Mr. Greenwald was represented in this litigation by Attorney Jerry Dasti Esq.

Subsequently, in March 2023, the parties agreed to adjudicate their claims in Bais Din.

As previously reported here on FAA News, back in August 2023, the matter settled and the parties closed on the $1,176,000 sale.

Mr. Bitton has just now entered into a contract to sell the parcel to Menachem Gutfreund.

The contract price will only be disclosed after the sale closes.

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