In the Matter of Jewish Center of Forest Hills West, Inc., appellant,
Geoffrey Goldberg, respondent. Index No. 700753/15
Storzer & Associates, P.C., New York, NY (Robert L.
Greene, Jr., of counsel), for appellant.
P.C., Mineola, NY (Gary Sazer and John J. Leen of counsel),
D. SCHEINKMAN, P.J. JOHN M. LEVENTHAL ROBERT J. MILLER
VALERIE BRATHWAITE NELSON, JJ.
DECISION & ORDER
by the petitioner from a judgment of the Supreme Court,
Queens County (Robert L. Nahman, J.), entered August 26,
2015. The judgment denied the petition filed pursuant to CPLR
article 75, which sought a permanent stay of arbitration of a
claim alleging breach of contract, and dismissed the
that the judgment is affirmed, with costs.
petitioner, Jewish Center of Forest Hills West, Inc.
(hereinafter the Jewish Center), is a synagogue in Queens. On
August 1, 2011, the Jewish Center's board of directors
(hereinafter the board) entered into a contract with the
respondent, Geoffrey Goldberg, pursuant to which Goldberg was
to serve as rabbi of the synagogue for a two-year term ending
July 31, 2013. Pursuant to the terms of the contract, unless
either party notified the other in writing no later than
February 1, 2013, the agreement would continue in force for
another two-year period at the same terms and conditions, and
a salary adjustment would be negotiated between the parties.
The contract contained a clause requiring, in the event of a
dispute, the parties to use the alternative dispute
resolution procedures of the United Synagogue of Conservative
Judaism (hereinafter USCJ) and the Rabbinical Assembly,
including USCJ's arbitration procedures.
January 17, 2013, the president of the board delivered to
Goldberg a one-sentence letter reading, "Per
requirements, this is to notify you that your contract will
not be renewed as written." Thereafter, Goldberg and the
board entered into contract negotiations, but were unable to
reach an agreement. On July 22, 2013, the president of the
board delivered a second letter to Goldberg stating, in
relevant part, "this is to officially inform you that
the Board of Directors voted not to renew your contract at
its expiration July 30, 2013."
October 15, 2013, Goldberg filed a request for mediation
and/or arbitration with the USCJ alleging wrongful nonrenewal
of his contract and seeking reinstatement as rabbi of the
Jewish Center. The parties engaged in mediation and
arbitration. Although the Jewish Center objected to certain
issues raised by Goldberg being decided in arbitration, it
did not dispute the validity of the employment agreement and
the arbitration clause included therein. On January 8, 2015,
the chair of the USCJ arbitration panel issued a preliminary
ruling delineating, inter alia, the scope of the dispute
before the panel. The Jewish Center requested reconsideration
of this ruling. In a February 9, 2015, ruling, the panel
chair adhered to his previous ruling.
on February 6, 2015, the Jewish Center commenced this
proceeding in the Supreme Court pursuant to CPLR article 75
seeking a stay of arbitration, arguing, inter alia, that
there was no valid agreement to arbitrate and any challenge
to the action of the board was barred by the statute of
limitations. The court found that, by participating in the
arbitration process, the Jewish Center had waived its right
to seek a stay of arbitration, and denied the petition and
dismissed the proceeding on that basis. The Jewish Center
to CPLR 7503(b), "a party who has not participated
in the arbitration and who has not made or been served
with an application to compel arbitration, may apply to stay
arbitration on the ground that a valid agreement was not made
or has not been complied with or that the claim sought to be
arbitrated is barred by [the statute of] limitation[s]"
(emphasis added). The statute requires that a party raise
these threshold issues before participating in arbitration
(see Matter of United Fedn. of Teachers, Local 2, AFT,
AFL-CIO v Board of Educ. of City School Dist. of City of
N.Y.,1 N.Y.3d 72, 79; cf. CPLR 7502[b]).
Consequently, a party, such as the Jewish Center, which
participates in arbitration, waives the right to later object
to the arbitration on the grounds that a valid agreement to
arbitrate was not made or that the claim sought to be
arbitrated is barred by the statute of limitations (see
Matter of Silverman [Benmor Coats],61 N.Y.2d 299, 307;
Matter of Tri State Consumer Ins. Co. v High Point Prop.
& Cas. Co.,127 A.D.3d 980, 981; Matter of
Allstate Ins. Co. v New York Petroleum Assn. Compensation
Trust,104 A.D.3d 682; Matter of Utica Mut. Ins. Co.
v Incorporated Vil. of Floral Park,262 A.D.2d 565,
566). Inasmuch as the Jewish Center argues that the
arbitrator is exceeding the scope of its authority in the
course of a pending arbitation, these arguments are more
properly the ...