ENGLEWOOD, New Jersey – A rabbi who lives next door to the New Jersey mansion where Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi sought to stay during his first U.S. visit wants to buy the site and turn it into a Jewish learning center.
Libya has owned the 4-acre Englewood property since 1983, and Qaddafi wanted to stay there while visiting the United Nations last September.
But that plan was scrapped when it drew widespread outrage and legal challenges in New Jersey, which lost dozens of residents in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that was widely believed to have been the work of Libyan intelligence.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach told The Record of Bergen County that he wants to raise up to $6 million to buy the property. But there's no indication that Libya wants to sell, and a call to the Libyan mission was not immediately returned Saturday
Boteach also has a pending civil lawsuit against the mission, seeking compensation for part of his fence and some trees which he claims Libyan workers tore down without consulting him.
The estate in the upscale community, which is about 12 miles north of Manhattan, has been the center of controversy for decades, in part because Libya was exempted from local property taxes after winning a court battle in 1985.
Englewood officials estimate that the estate would have generated more than $1 million in property taxes by now, and they have formally requested that Libyan authorities issue a payment in lieu of property taxes.
Mohamed Shalgham, Libya's U.N. ambassador, recently moved into the mansion with his family, but they apparently only plan to live there temporarily while their Manhattan home is renovated.
"This is an affront to the New Jersey residents who died in Lockerbie, and the person living there now is Qaddafi's right-hand man," Boteach said.
The attack over Lockerbie, Scotland, killed all 259 people on board the flight. Among them were nearly three dozen New Jerseyans, including some whose families live near the Libyan mansion.