Abraham Buxbaum broke down in tears at a press conference earlier today. Buxbaum is the brother-in-law of murdered Hasidic landlord Menachem “Max” Stark. The press conference, which was held outside a three-story Williamsburg residence in the intermittent rain, had been called by the family to announce that the reward for information pertaining to the murder had been increased from $11,000 to $25,000.
Rabbi David Niederman, the head of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, took over for Buxbaum: “We beg you, anyone who knows anything or thinks he knows anything, please, for your own sake, for the sake of your brothers and sisters, citizens of New York City, the human race, come forward and make sure that the police department can do what he has to do to apprehend the perpetrators to make sure that this community and all communities are safe.”
Stark was the subject of a controversial article published in the New York Post Sunday. The article, titled, “Who Didn’t Want Him Killed?” contained interviews with disgruntled tenants and unidentified investigators and was seen by some as justifying Stark’s death. It referred to him as a “millionaire Hasidic slumlord” who was “up to his tuchus in debt”.
The article also contained misleading information from a sealed report, leaked by the unnamed investigator, regarding a 2011 arrest.
“He was involved in shady business deals, was known to carry around a lot of money and had a sealed arrest for forcible touching” in his past, one law-enforcement source told The Post.
The alleged victim was a young teen girl, said the source, declining to give further details.”
The New York Daily News reported today that the leak was incorrect.
“Stark was charged with forcible touching in 2011 when undercover cops arrested him on the subway in Midtown, accusing him of rubbing against a woman.
But the alleged victim said Stark was innocent and refused to sign a supporting affidavit, his lawyers told The News. Manhattan prosecutors later dropped the charge, and Stark filed to sue the city, lawyers George and Michael Farkas said. He settled the case for a payout in 2012, they added.”
The Post article drew a strong backlash from Brooklyn politicians in their new roles at a Borough Hall press conference yesterday. Public Advocate Letitia James called for a boycott of the Post, and Eric Adams, Borough President, called it “hateful coverage.”
Bluster aside, the article did seem to luxuriate in stereotypes of Hasidim. “‘He’s a Hasidic Jew from Williamsburg, and we think he’s a scammer,’ another investigator said of Stark,” the Post reported, as though these things were naturally connected. The article also quoted a comment from the blog Failed Messiah, which suggested that “his slanted shtreimel on his head gives his crookedness away.”
When asked how he felt reading such things about his brother-in-law, Buxbaum said, “Shattered. Broken … Very, very disgusting, and difficult to hear it.” He said Stark was a wonderful man, husband, and friend. He also said he was “a very charitable person, on a personal level, to individuals, and to the community.”
Also in attendance at today’s press conference were Williamsburg Councilman Stephen Levin and Assemblyman Joe Lentol, eager to join the ranks of politicians standing behind the family and against the Post. “I know that there’s been a lot of negative press about the victim of this crime,” said Lentol, “and we’re hoping that because of that negative press, you understand that this was a good and generous man that ought not to be reviled in the press.”
“I think the family should take comfort in the fact that we have a new police commissioner,” Lentol added, referring to Bill Bratton, the newly-appointed police commissioner who succeeded Ray Kelly.
A spokesperson for the NYPD wouldn’t say how many people have called the Crime Stoppers Unit, which is handling the reward, but he did say “We’ve got a lot of people working on this. We’re always hopeful. It’s our job to solve these crimes.”