New York Post’s headline on landlord’s slaying angers family, friends

Controversial cover of NY Post photo from nypost.com

Controversial cover of NY Post photo from nypost.com

NEW YORK (CNN) — The headline on the New York Post’s cover Sunday about the kidnapping and killing of a Brooklyn man drew heavy criticism and left some calling for an apology from the newspaper known for being provocative.

The cover featured a photo of Menachem Stark, 39, accompanied by the words, “Who didn’t want him dead?”

Stark was found dead in a trash bin Friday with several injuries to his body, Sgt. Lee Jones of the New York Police Department told CNN.

Stark died of compression asphyxiation, which means someone or something pressed on his chest and lungs, suffocating him, a law enforcement source briefed on the investigation and autopsy told CNN Monday. There were also marks on his back consistent with him being tied up or otherwise restrained, the source said.

Stark and his business partner own a real estate company called South Side Associates. The Post alleges that Stark owed thousands of dollars in penalties from dozens of Department of Building violations. The article also describes awful living conditions that his tenants allegedly endured.

“He pretty much ripped off the whole building,” the post quoted Ryan Kuonen, a tenant organizer.

Titled “Slain slumlord found in trash has enemies list a mile long,” the Post’s article paints Stark, who was the landlord of dozens of buildings, as a shady character with questionable business dealings. Police are not commenting on these allegations.

Stark’s family, who is trying to make sense of the death, remembers the father of seven as a generous community man.

“It really hurts that such a heinous crime, instead of being condemned, is glorified,” said Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn.

Niederman told CNN he does not know anything about Stark owing money or having legal problems. People may fall on hard times, but they work it out, he said.

The Post is giving people a “license to kill,” Niederman added.

Abraham Buxbaum, Stark’s brother-in-law, calls the Post’s reporting character assassination.

The article included comments from anonymous law enforcement officials and tenants.

“I’ve had many conversations with him, and of course in many of those conversations, I wanted to kill him,” the Post quoted Greg Hanlon, who lived in a Stark-owned building, as saying.

Buxbaum, who is also a landlord, said it is impossible to keep all tenants happy.

“The question is what is the motive? The motive might be to sell as many copies as possible or it could be that he is Jewish and a lot of people don’t like Jews. It makes you wonder,” Buxbaum told CNN.

Stark’s family is offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.

New York state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who issued a statement on Sunday condemning the Post’s reporting, said he was in “absolute shock” when he first read the article. It “almost justifies his murder,” added Hikind.

“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,” said a Post spokeswoman in a statement.

“I think what everyone wants is a simple apology,” said Hikind.

The Brooklyn landlord was last seen on surveillance video on Thursday walking out of his office. He struggled with two individuals who forced him into a Dodge Caravan, according to a police statement. Stark was known to carry large amounts of money, the law enforcement source said. No motive has been established, and authorities are investigating possibilities, including his business dealings, the source said.

Stark’s body was found inside of a Long Island trash bin with burns to his torso and hands, and bruising to his head and neck, according to Jones. The case is under investigation.

CNN National Correspondent Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

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