Colonel Gaddafi? He ruined my fence

By Paul Berger, September 3, 2009

Nothing can stop Colonel Gaddafi from visiting New York in a couple of weeks’ time to address the United Nations General Assembly.

But the Libyan leader is having one heck of a time trying to find somewhere to stay.

Mr Gaddafi often travels with an air-conditioned tent on foreign trips. His first reported request, to camp in Central Park, was turned down. Now, an apparent attempt to stay in the garden of a mansion owned by the Libyan government, in Englewood, New Jersey, has also been blocked.

Englewood has a large Jewish population. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who lives next door to the Libyan property, said construction workers had pulled out his fence and chopped down some of his trees in preparation for Mr Gaddafi’s visit.

Rabbi Boteach galvanised opposition to Mr Gaddafi’s stay. Not that residents needed much prompting. New Jersey lost 38 people in the Lockerbie bombing. Victims’ families were incensed by the recent release of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi.

Local leaders implored the US government to block Mr Gaddafi’s visit. Late last week, the US State Department sent out a diplomatic note reminding all missions that their properties are for the use of an ambassador and their family only.

Shortly afterwards, Libyan officials ruled out Gaddafi’s stay.

In Englewood, Rabbi Boteach and his supporters celebrated. But not for long. Rabbi Boteach is filing a lawsuit against the Libyan mission for damage to his fence and trees.

Last updated: 2:58pm, February 23 2011