Category: Law News

Lawsuit Filed Against Modern Orthodox Jewish School SAR Academy Under New York Child Victims Act

(Bronx, New York) – A survivor, sexually abused when he was approximately 13 to 14 years old, has sued the private Modern Orthodox Jewish school of Salanter Akiba Riverdale (SAR) Academy under New York’s Child Victims Act (CVA). The CVA is a new law that gives survivors of child sexual abuse until August 13, 2020 to bring lawsuits that were previously time-barred by the statute of limitations, no matter when the abuse occurred. Robert Eckmann was sexually abused as an 8th grader during the 1976 – 1977 school year by the Assistant Principal for General Studies at SAR Academy, Stanley Rosenfeld. The suit is being brought by Jeff Anderson & Associates in collaboration with Abend & Silber, a New York litigation firm. The complaint can be found at www.andersonadvocates.com (News & Events section) and at www.abendsilber.com.

“We have long been aware that there is a serious problem in this culture and at this school,” said Anderson. “The leaders at SAR Academy have hidden the peril at this school for decades and it’s time to address it.” Rosenfeld has admitted to molesting hundreds of boys on and off SAR campus. When asked if anyone at SAR knew he was abusing children, Rosenfeld stated to investigators, “I don’t know if they knew or not. Sometimes it was very possible to see me do that because I wasn’t hiding [the behavior].” Rosenfeld also stated that at some point, SAR Principal Rabbi Sheldon Chwat spoke to him about “doing something wrong” that he characterized as “always faulty touching.”

On August 8, 2000, Rosenfeld was arrested and charged with four counts of Second-Degree Child Molestation for the sexual abuse of a 12-year-old boy. On May 21, 2001, in Rhode Island Superior Court, Rosenfeld pled no contest to Second Degree Child Molestation, received a 10-year suspended sentence and was placed on probation, the terms of which included no contact with children. After violating his probation on September 13, 2002, Rosenfeld was resentenced to 18 months of incarceration. Rosenfeld was required to register as a Level III Sex Offender in Rhode Island upon his release from prison and was placed on probation supervision until May 20, 2011.
In 2018, an investigative firm looked into allegations of sexual abuse committed by Rosenfeld at SAR as a result of Eckmann’s report to the school. The investigation revealed that between 1974 and 1987 Rosenfeld engaged in acts of sexual abuse or other sexually inappropriate behavior with minor students. Among other places, the abuse occurred at Rosenfeld’s home during SAR-sanctioned Shabbat dinners as well as on-campus in the classroom, the office, and hallways. The findings were based on firsthand reports from twelve former SAR students, eleven boys and one girl, as well as one non-SAR student.

This investigation also revealed that Rosenfeld’s sexual misconduct became known to Rabbi Sheldon Schwartz, an SAR Judaic Studies teacher, when two former students separately disclosed to him that Rosenfeld had touched them inappropriately. Moreover, Rabbi Schwartz was present on multiple occasions at Rosenfeld’s home when abuse of the boys occurred. The evidence presented during the investigation further demonstrates that Rosenfeld’s sexual misconduct also became known to former SAR Principal Rabbi Chwat when a former faculty member reported to him that she observed Rosenfeld touch a boy’s groin area in an office at the school. Moreover, the investigation revealed that a “senior member” of SAR recalled Chwat saying that Rosenfeld left SAR in 1977 because he was “the kind of person that has a proclivity or interest in students” and “not the person who should be with kids full time.” Despite this proclivity, Rosenfeld was rehired in 1986 by SAR to teach sixth grade language arts part-time for one year. SAR’s assistant principal at the time, Rabbi Joel Cohn, asked the principal at the time, Rabbi Yonah Fuld, if there were any concerns regarding Rosenfeld. Cohn, recalling that Fuld had been an associate principal while Rosenfeld was employed at SAR, responded, “For a short amount of time, I think it’s okay.”

Throughout the years, SAR placed other employees in positions of power where they were able to sexually abuse minors. According to the investigative firm, Rabbi Sheldon Schwartz was found to have sexually abused at least four students. In September 2019, SAR’s assistant principal, Jonathan Skolnick, was arrested and charged with possession and production of child pornography and the sexual exploitation of a young boy.

“A school’s primary mission is the safety of the children placed in its care,” said Josh Silber of Abend & Silber. “SAR completely ignored this sacred responsibility.”

Contacts – Jeff Anderson & Associates
Jeff Anderson: 646.499.3364 (c), 646.759.2551 (o)
Trusha Goffe: 646.995.0616 (c), 646.759.2551 (o)
Nahid Shaikh: 516.395.3429 (c), 646.759.2551 (o)

Contacts – Abend & Silber
Richard H. Abend: 212.532.5656 (o)
Josh Silber: 212.532.7676 (o)

nyc-crane-accident

Recent Efforts to Reduce Crane Accidents in New York City

In February 2016, a crane being lowered flipped over when struck by 20 mph winds, sending its 565-foot-long arm plummeting to the ground on Worth Street and West Broadway, killing one Wall Street employee and injuring three other people. In response to the incident, the city secured 43 tower cranes and 376 crawler cranes pending investigation.

Over the past decade, the Department of Buildings (DOB) has issued several reforms regarding crane project regulation; however, a 2014 audit revealed that only 12 percent of the safety recommendations had been implemented.

Since 2009, construction in New York City has increased 300 percent. Most crane accidents occur at building with fewer than ten stories. In 2015 alone, 70 percent of crane accidents occurred at projects of fewer than ten stories.

To address the  problem of crane accidents in NYC, the mayor and DOB have created a comprehensive plan to improve safety at construction sites.

History of Crane Accidents in New York City

  • October 2007—Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park
  • December 2007—Battery Park City building
  • March 2008—Midtown East, seven fatalities and 24 injuries; the rigging contractor was subsequently acquitted of manslaughter
  • May 2008—Upper East side, two fatalities; the crane company owner was acquitted but was later sued in civil court.
  • April 2012—one fatality due to a falling crane at a subway construction site
  • January 2013—seven workers were injured when a crane collapsed in Queens
  • April 2013—one worker died due to a malfunctioning hydraulics on a boom truck that caused the crane to collapse
  • May 2015—a mobile crane dropped a 13-ton air conditioner in Manhattan, injuring ten people

In addition to these incidents where people were hurt or killed, there have also been several close calls, most notably during Superstorm Sandy near Carnegie Hall.

Due to criticism waged against her office for failing to ensure construction site safety, former NYC Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster resigned in April 2008.

Current Efforts to Improve Crane Safety

Mayor Bill de Blasio and DOB Commissioner Rick Chandler announced enhanced penalties for serious construction safety lapses and increased enforcement sweeps, as well as mandating greater supervision at construction sites. These efforts are part of a $120 million modernization plan that also includes:

  • Raising penalties for serious safety lapses from $2,400 to $10,000
  • Increasing penalties for projects without an on-site construction superintendent from $5,000 to as much as $25,000
  • Conducting sweeps of contractors with poor safety records at projects of fewer than ten stories
  • Increasing oversight at projects of fewer than ten stories

Additionally, the DOB adopted greater safety measures including hiring more inspectors, expanding inspection checklists, requiring construction companies to file plans for crane erection/dismantling, and mandating crane operators to complete 30 hours of initial training and eight-hour refresher training every three years.

Of particular concern is that at any one time, at least 300 cranes are operating within New York City.

At Abend & Silber we know how construction accidents can cause serious injury and hardship for workers and their families. New York has strong Labor Laws to protect workers from injuries on the job and it is critical that these laws remain in effect so that property owners and contractors will prioritize worker safety in all NYC construction sites.

For more information about crane safety and new regulations, or for any other questions, please contact us.

nyc-vision-zero-deblasio-abend-silber-law

Vision Zero and Efforts to Reduce Injuries and Deaths on New York Streets

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in January 2014 the City’s adoption of Vision Zero to reduce fatal accidents on the City’s streets. Vision Zero recognizes that traffic injuries and deaths are not mere accidents but, instead, preventable incidents.

While traffic fatalities in New York have decreased by 34 percent since 2005, City legislators say more can and should be done.

Vision Zero Background

Vision Zero began in October 1997 in Sweden with the goal of creating a highway system with no serious injuries or fatalities due to road traffic. Vision Zero operates on several principles:

  • Ethics: human life and health take priority over every aspect of the road system
  • Responsibility: must be shared by users, providers, and regulators of the road system
  • Safety: traffic systems should seek to minimize the potential of human error and resulting harm
  • Mechanisms for change: cooperation among road users, providers, and regulators is critical to guarantee human safety
  • Traffic-related injuries and deaths are unacceptable and preventable
  • Traffic safety solutions should be holistic
  • Safety is the primary consideration in any road system

In New York

The statistics are staggering. In New York alone, approximately 4,000 individuals are seriously injured with over 250 killed each year as a result of traffic accidents. In fact, being hit by a vehicle is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 14, and the second leading cause for the elderly.

According to a report by the New York Police Department, in May 2016 alone there were 19,911 motor vehicle accidents, with 3,815 of them resulting in injury or death. The majority of vehicles involved were passenger and sports utility vehicles, and the most common reason for accidents was driver inattention/distraction which occurred in 5,699 collisions.

Of the boroughs, Brooklyn and Queens had the most accidents (over 5,600 each), and Staten Island had the fewest with 1,122. For a complete breakdown by precinct and borough, including the number of fatalities, injuries, reasons for accidents, and other data, the report can be accessed here.

Vision Zero and the Future

The City’s adoption of Vision Zero comes with it a host of new commitments and tools designed to improve street safety throughout the state. Among the issues to be addressed include:

  • Enhanced law enforcement against dangerous drivers
  • New street designs
  • Increased public outreach, communication, and collaboration
  • Sweeping legislation to increase penalties for dangerous drivers

Proponents of the Vision Zero system cite the success seat belt laws had in increasing seat belt use from 20 percent in 1985 to over 88 percent today.

Improving New York’s road system safety requires not only government and legislative action but also citizen participation in cultivating a mutually beneficial partnership toward the common goal of safer streets for everyone.

To view an interactive map of all New York traffic accidents, please visit the Vision Zero site.

At Abend & Silber we understand how serious injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents can cause pain and suffering for the victim and their family. We fully support efforts to reduce the number of accidents and injuries in New York.

For more information, please contact us.