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Zabar’s heir tries to stall homeless shelter: lawsuit

An heir to the Zabar’s gourmet empire is fighting a proposed Upper East Side homeless shelter lox, stock and barrel.

Appetizer maven Eli Zabar allegedly admitted he’s doing “everything possible” to stall the facility planned for 419 E 91st St., which is adjacent to his own building, by refusing access to his property for the construction, and demanding the shelter accommodate a “specific gender,” according to Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit.

Zabar is a big presence in the neighborhood: in addition to 420 E 91st St., records indicate he also owns 422, 426 and 429-433 East 91st St.

The project is now almost a year behind schedule, thanks to Zabar’s stalling, griped shelter owner 419 BR Partners LLC in court papers. The company, headed by David Blumenkrantz, has been battling Zabar in court for about a year.

Zabar has refused to give the construction workers access to his property.
Helayne Seidman

Zabar allegedly admitted during an April meeting with a 419 BR Partners rep that “he could not stop the project from taking place but would nonetheless do everything possible to delay” it, refusing to give shelter construction workers access to his property, according to court papers.

During the meeting, Zabar allegedly asked for “frivolous” things beyond the project owner’s control, including that the Department of Homeless Services “limit the use of the building … to a specific gender only,” the suit charges. It’s unclear what gender for shelter residents Zabar allegedly prefers, or why he made the request. Women’s shelters are generally perceived as less violent than men’s-only shelters.

Zabar’s attorney, Daniel Schneider, said he was “not aware” of the meeting.

Zabar also insisted that the shelter accommodate only one gender.
Zabar also insisted that the shelter accommodate only one gender.
Stefano Giovannini

The proposed new seven-story “safe haven” shelter would be the first of its kind on the Upper East Side, offering beds and support for 80 to 90 unhoused New Yorkers, a Department of Homeless Services spokesperson told The Post.

Unlike most shelters in the city, “safe havens” don’t require residents to leave during the day. 

The shelter has long faced backlash from the community — which has the lowest poverty and unemployment rates in the city — over concerns for its close proximity to schools and child centers. Zabar’s building next door houses a children’s gymnastics center. 

Zabar's building currently houses a children's gymnastics center.
Zabar’s building currently houses a children’s gymnastics center.
Helayne Seidman

Crime in the neighborhood has increased by nearly 50% between late July 2021 and 2022.

A change.org petition pushing for the shelter’s relocation to “keep our children safe” has drawn nearly 4,000 signatures.

Nanny Sonia Thorne, 47, whose three young charges attend the gymnastics center, said children’s safety should be top priority — but she didn’t like Zabar’s tactics.

Some neighbors are also frustrated by Zabar's antics.
Some neighbors are also frustrated by Zabar’s antics.
Helayne Seidman

“That’s selfish, that’s a form of being selfish and entitlement,” Thorne said of Zabar’s delays.

The latest legal salvo comes after a judge dismissed a similar effort by 419 BR Partners in January, knocking the developer for failing to submit plans addressing Zabar’s concerns about property damage from the construction.

“The issue in this case has nothing to do with what BR Partners is building,” Schneider said in an interview with The Post. “Rather, it has to do with BR Partners’ refusal to adequately protect its neighbors, specifically Eli Zabar’s building.”

Zabar did not respond to requests for comment. 

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