The Bukharian Jewish Center of Forest Hills is calling a series of fires throughout Forest Hills a hate crime and is offering $50,000 reward for tips after the latest suspected arson hit the home of a rabbi early Sunday morning.
A police spokeswoman said the investigation was ongoing and that the NYPD could not confirm whether the arsons are a hate crime yet.
The house burned in the most recent incident belongs to Rabbi Valman Zvulunov, the director of the Bukharian Jewish Center’s Yeshiva, who lives in Maspeth.
At an emergency meeting convened by an ad hoc committee of leaders from the Bukharian Jewish Center Sunday morning, Zvulunov received a call about his house being burned at about 2 a.m., he said, noting that in the last incident, someone set a small fire to a doorway and the Fire Department had put it out.
Rafael Nektalov, editor and publisher of the Bukharian Times, a weekly newspaper, said every victim is a member of the Bukharian community, noting that if the incident had occurred in Russia or France, “there would have been headlines about fires in the Jewish quarter.”
Aron Borukhov, a lawyer who spoke on behalf of the ad hoc committee, who is also part of the committee, suggested that cops put a patrol at every construction site and 360-degree-view cameras at every intersection.
He explained that because there is a permit posted at construction sites showing who the owner is, the arsonist knows who owns the houses.
“It (fires) has been only the Jewish community,” he said. “Nobody else. We can only make conclusions from what we have seen.”
These sites most likely are targets because they are unguarded at night. An arsonist is not going to light an occupied house on fire. A posted permit generally lists the name of the contractor that applied for it, not the owner of the house. And if you can afford to build a mansion, you should be able to afford a night watchman to protect it.
UPDATE: The biker has been ruled out as a suspect.