Brooklyn, NY – Activist Sister Wins Bitter ‘Yerusha’ Battle over Older Brother

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     Amy Neustein, an author and women’s rights activist, scoring a judicial knockout over her wealthy landlord brother, Joshua. Brooklyn, NY – It’s been the ultimate sibling rivalry – a bitter eight-year battle between a brother and sister over the ownership of their late rabbi father’s $1 million-plus home in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, where they were raised.

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    And now, much like the biblical fight between David and Goliath, this donnybrook has been won by the undisputed underdog, with Amy Neustein, an author and women’s rights activist, scoring a judicial knockout over her wealthy landlord brother, Joshua.

    Brooklyn Surrogate Judge Diana Johnson granted Amy full ownership of the disputed home and in a subsequent Sept. 15 legal decision, she has awarded her an additional $534,000 in lost rental income and penalties while socking her brother with an estimated $200,000 more in back interest.

    “This is a victory for Orthodox Jewish women who refuse to be enslaved and subjugated by patriarchal traditions,” insisted Amy Neustein, 53.

    “My brother thought that because he was the oldest son and first born I would just simply go away, but I didn’t.”

    “We’ve been up against every type of legal obstruction that you could have faced, but our persistence appears to have paid off and I think we’re finally seeing justice,” added her attorney, Michael Lesher.

    The siblings grew up in 235 Dover St., a now dilapidated white Cape Cod stucco, on a quiet well-kept street just a block from the ocean, the children of Rabbi Abraham Neustein, a renowned scholar, educator and lawyer.

    A former yeshiva high school principal and estate law professor, the elder Neustein served as chief rabbi for what was once the largest congregation in Brooklyn, the Jewish Center of Brighton Beach.

    He passed away at age 89 on June 23, 2002 — and although neither sibling lived with him when he died, they began bickering about who owned the home where they both once lived.

    Amy claimed that after her father’s funeral, Josh, 66, kicked her out of the house, changed the locks and told her the house was his – not hers, according to court records.

    “During the shiva,” she told The Post, recalling the Jewish ceremony for the dead, “he changed the locks and said, ‘The house is mine!’”

    Joshua Neustein could not be reached for comment and his attorney, Israel Goldberg, did not return phone calls.

    She claims her brother’s hostility towards her was fueled by her campaign against pedophilia within the Orthodox Jewish clergy — a position that she says has roiled the insular religious community in which they were both raised and left her brother feeling unnerved.

    Her brother has been a formidable adversary, she adds, because he is a self-made real estate mogul, the owner of scores of apartment buildings in Upper Manhattan and The Bronx, who is worth an estimated at $30 to $40 million.

    Cited as a slumlord in several media reports, he has tallied more than 1,800 HPD violations on 11 residential buildings, according to a “New York City Worst Landlord” web site for New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

    The first legal salvo between the siblings came when Joshua submitted a June 6, 2002 deed he claimed had transferred half of the home’s ownership to him and another sister, Frima Burger, 54, according to court papers.

    His sister, Amy, challenged that deed as fraudulent and an affidavit from Richard T. Picciochi, a noted handwriting and document examiner, asserted that it was a likely forgery.

    Judge Johnson ruled that the forgery allegation was moot, as the deed Joshua submitted was not recorded by the court clerk until July 12 — 19 days after the elder Neustein had died.

    New York real estate law requires deed changes to be recorded before the prior property owner dies – so Joshua’s claim was not valid, the judge concluded.

    The deed Amy relied upon – one dated May 9, 2001 — was binding and her brother’s actions in booting her were therefore illegal, the judge ruled.

    Judge Johnson cited how Amy had paid the liability insurance, fire insurance, water and sewage bills and property taxes, but was denied an estimated $3,000-a-month in rental income for 89 month — and with a portion of that sum subject to triple damages, she awarded her $534,000.

    The judge also assessed an additional nine percent annual interest, worth an estimated $200,000 more, according to Amy’s lawyer.

    Joshua Neustein has 30 days to file an appeal, although it is unclear if he plans to do so.


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    22 Comments
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    SinasChinamIsWhy
    SinasChinamIsWhy
    13 years ago

    And we wonder why we’re in golus. What a horrifying Chilul Hashem.

    LiberalismIsADisease
    LiberalismIsADisease
    13 years ago

    She may have won on Olam HaZeh but ich bin nisht m’kaneh her Olam Ha’bah!

    Honorabledude reply to 2
    Honorabledude reply to 2
    13 years ago

    …..its not a chillul hashem to do the right thing..

    13 years ago

    Torah is clear daughters get nothing.

    Paskunyak
    Paskunyak
    13 years ago

    If the facts of the article are correct, he seems like a real chazer and she deserved to win. But don’t take the $200,000.00 in interest, that’s ribis and is ossur midioyraso.

    rabbiyisroel
    rabbiyisroel
    13 years ago

    To #2
    Doing the right thing, is mekaneh Olam Habah as well.

    13 years ago

    Reply to #5 :

    This is not land in Eretz Yisrael. If the father (who was a Rabbi and certainly knew Jewish law) had deeded the property to her, then the brother should have honored the father’s wishes instead of forging a piece of paper.

    I’m sure that that if your wife had inherited property, you wouldn’t say, “Honey, give up the property and give it to your brother.”

    Michael_Lesher
    Michael_Lesher
    13 years ago

    A few things are worth remembering:

    1) This case, strictly speaking, did not involve an inheritance. Amy Neustein was made a joint tenant (with a right of survivorship) during her parents’ lifetime. That means that, when they died, the house was hers irrespective of any legacy. Jews who object to this would have to object equally to a widow owning (and selling) a house bought by her husband after the latter’s death — something else the Torah does not provide.

    2) The inheritance rights of male children under Jewish law presupposes that they support their sisters after their parents’ death. That certainly never occurred in this case.

    3) I agree that Joshua Neustein’s conduct — publicly expelling his younger sister from her house, proffering an apparently forged deed, and trying to defame her in court into the bargain — constitutes a “desecration of the Name” (to say nothing of his flagrant slumlording). I am not aware of any halachah that makes this his victim’s fault.

    Full disclosure: I’ve done legal work for Amy Neustein throughout this case.
    Michael Lesher, Esq.

    13 years ago

    There was a will that stipulated that the estate should be equally divided between the siblings. Problem is that the house was originally in her parents name and when Amy lost custody of her daughter and lived at home she slowly got them to include her as beneficiary to all their assets, circumventing the will.
    Before the Rabbi passed away it dawned on him that nothing was left to his other two children so he modified the deed of the house so that his share will be divided 50-50 with his other son and daughter. So as things stood Amy was to get 50% and her brother and sister divide the other 50%.
    Follow this link
    http://a836-acris.nyc.gov/Scripts/DocSearch.dll
    Choose “Party Name”
    Put “Neustein” in last name
    Put “Abraham” in first name
    Choose “Brooklyn” for “Borough”
    Click on “Search”
    You will see a list of deeds
    Click on “IMG” button associated with 7/31/2001
    This is where Amy got her hooks into the house, this while the Rebitzen was in the hospital.
    Click on the first line “IMG” button associated with 7/12/2002
    This is where the father includes his other two children into the deed.
    If these two modifications weren’t done it would have been a clean 33% split.

    13 years ago

    1 and 2, the women today are not what they were. while she may be the opposite extreme, every case is differant

    13 years ago

    That is an interesting point. When Amy got her parents to replace her mothers name on the deed with her own while she lays ill in the hospital is the sin here. At that moment she effective stole the yerusha from her brother and sister. The father later wanted to right the situation with giving his share to his two other children. It does not completely restore the 33% per child situation that was written in the will but it was the best that he could do at that point in time.

    cowfy
    cowfy
    13 years ago

    the adherence to the involved laws of yerusha are voluntary at this point in our history.those who want to apply them must have both parties agree.i’ve seen enough shenanagens by the frie and the frum community on these matters where some shaina yiddin hold torah is torah and bussiness iis bussiness.kesef m’tahair ha momzere.

    Michael_Lesher
    Michael_Lesher
    13 years ago

    I can’t help wondering who “Susan Green” is and where she got her law degree. One thing for sure: whoever is supplying her “information” is doing her no favors.

    Fact: Amy Neustein was not living with her parents when the deed in her favor was executed. And BOTH of her parents were of sound mind and body at the time.

    Fact: her siblings were well provided for. If Ms. Green could read, she would know from the Post’s article that Joshua Neustein is worth an estimated $30-$40 million. Her sister is married and also very affluent. This is doubtless why the Neusteins chose to leave the house to Amy.

    Fact: a handwriting expert (who used to head the NYPD’s Questioned Documents department) says the deed under which Joshua tried to claim the house was forged. (Again, someone less literacy-challenged than Ms. Green would have known that from the article.)

    Fact: the claim that Amy somehow manipulated her parents into giving her more than they really wanted was fully litigated and rejected by Surrogate’s Court. Anyone wanting to see the court’s recent decision can find it here:
    http://www.courts.state.ny.us/Reporter/3dseries/2010/2010_51612.htm

    That’s all she wrote.

    13 years ago

    I don’t know who is right or wrong here, but having read about Amy’s antics for years (she’s a loose cannon) it sounds like the two are cut from the same cloth. What nachas they must have given to their parents…NOT.

    13 years ago

    The issue of the “forgery” of the deed has not been brought up in court yet. The “expert” is the one that Amy hired and I am sure that the other side will bring their own to challenge it. If they wanted to leave everything to Amy why not draw up a will to that effect? Something is not kosher here and I guess the courts will have to clear it up.

    Jimmy37
    Jimmy37
    13 years ago

    This argument has nothing to do with religion. The brother is goniff and the woman is a feminazi. Religion seems to be the last refuge of all scoundrels.

    Smokey
    Smokey
    13 years ago

    It is to Joshua’s credit that he has sought to avoid making a family disagreement so public. As a young man, he was always arranging singles affairs and making it easy for frum Yidden to find their basherts. Who can count how many matches he was responsible for with these get-togethers, lectures, hotel weekends?. When Amy was going through her divorce, her older brother, Josh, was her staunchest defender. That business about being a slumlord can be interpreted in two ways. Josh provided housing for very poor people in situations where other landlords would just give up on their properties and let the city take over. Josh was able to rise to the challenge and provide these tenants with a roof over their heads and heat and hot water. How many other landlords could deal with a lower class culture in the Bronx that sees nothing improper in watching a tenant throw out the garbage by placing the garbage in a paper bag and extending his arm out of a 5th floor window and letting it drop to the sidewalk, the tenant, meanwhile, not even looking out the window to see if anyone were standing directly underneath the “air mail express”? Josh is good folks and don’t let anyone tell you different.

    13 years ago

    Reply to #18 :

    Exactly what did this woman do so that you feel compelled to use such a hateful and ignorant slur? Not only does it demean any woman who doesn’t conform to your narrow definition of what she is “permitted” to do, but it also insults all of the Kedoshim who were murdered by the actual Nazis y”s.

    13 years ago

    Her father Z”L was a real class act who made everyone who came into his Shul feel welcomed and appreciated.

    13 years ago

    To Susan Green Number 17, the courts have already cleared it up. Sorry to dissapoint you.