On Saturday morning, the burned body of Menachem Stark, the prominent Hasidic landlord who was kidnapped outside his office in Williamsburg during Thursday night's snowstorm, was found in a dumpster on Long Island. On Sunday, the New York Post speculated as to what might have motivated someone to kill Stark. As it turns out, the father of seven was involved in some shady business practices: Tenants had complained online and in-person about Stark's management of his buildings; a contractor told the Post that Stark refused to pay him; and an investigator told the Post that Stark "defaulted on more than $30 million in real-estate loans in recent years and owed tens of thousands in penalties for building violations." "He’s a Hasidic Jew from Williamsburg, and we think he’s a scammer," said one unnamed source. All of this information was contained in a cover story with the tasteful headline, "Who didn't want him dead?"
Almost immediately, the headline began attracting criticism online (the hashtag is #stopNYPostHate). In addition to the Orthodox Jewish community, local politicians, including city council members Stephen Levin, David Greenfield, Carlos Menchaca, Mark Treyger, and Mark Levine, chimed in:
This morning's New York Post cover is sickening, offensive, and reaches a new low http://t.co/PIPGwIzkyw— Stephen Levin (@StephenLevin33) January 5, 2014
Sickened by the @NYPost condoning the murder & kidnaping of chasidic businessman. I don't subscribe. If I did, I would cancel subscription.— David G. Greenfield (@NYCGreenfield) January 5, 2014
Heartfelt condolences go out to Menachem Stark family/friends.I condemn @nypost story-we should come together to mourn, not be divisive— Carlos Menchaca (@Carlos4Council) January 5, 2014
Disgusting NY Post cover today! The press should assist in finding the killer rather than disgrace the victim, his family, and community!— Mark Treyger (@MarkTreyger718) January 5, 2014
On Saturday afternoon, new Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams held a press conference to demand that the Post apologize. "Who did not want him dead? Who didn’t? His children did not want him dead," said Adams, who was joined by Orthodox Jewish leaders and a number of New York officials. Politicker reports that new Public Advocate Tish James "called on the city’s government to cease buying ads in the Post for public notices, causing the room to erupt into applause."
The paper has issued a response to the outrage, saying through a spokesman that, "The Post does not say Mr. Stark deserved to die but our reporting showed that he had many enemies, which may have led to the commission of this terrible crime. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time of loss." Those angry about the story are unlikely to get more than that out of the notoriously stubborn publication.