Neighbours allege ‘threats’ from Kornhauser family

Nicole and Eliezer Kornhauser (left) at home and (right) the Springfield Avenue building at the heart of the conflict.Nicole and Eliezer Kornhauser (left) at home and (right) the Springfield Avenue building at the heart of the conflict. Photo: Ken Irwin

A property dispute in a sleepy corner of St Kilda East has spilled from the courts into the streets following allegations that members of one of the nation’s wealthiest families threatened their neighbours.

Police have received complaints about a death threat and abusive behaviour involving Nicole and Eliezer (Eric) Kornhauser, a scion of the Kornhauser business and property empire worth an estimated $430 million.

The couple have been locked in a protracted battle against more than a dozen neighbours and Glen Eira City Council over the future of the Orthodox Jewish school that operates out of a specially designed building attached to their mansion in Springfield Avenue.

Council and court records show complaints about noise, parking and traffic problems in the residential area associated with the ”education centre”, which provides gender-segregated religious instruction to more than 30 boys and young women.

The Kornhausers’ bid to receive retroactive planning permission for the growing ”home school” facility was denied by the council and rejected on appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last year.

But the stoush has now come to police attention amid claims of intimidation and threats of violence in the lead-up to a Supreme Court challenge to the VCAT ruling.

Springfield Avenue resident Jannine Gross has filed a complaint with police following an alleged confrontation with Ms Kornhauser after trying to visit a common neighbour.

”As we were walking through Max’s front gate, I noticed out of the corner of my eye one of Nicole’s young children who is five or six years old walking towards us. He saw us and turned around and ran back towards his house,” the statement said.

”All of a sudden Nicole [Kornhauser] rushed in the gate before we had even left. She put her face about one millimetre away from mine and was screaming into my face, ‘If you touch my children, I will kill you. I will kill you. I will kill you. I will kill you.”’

The complaint also described an incident a month earlier when Mr Kornhauser allegedly pushed Ms Gross’ husband and threatened to ”destroy him”.

Police have declined to comment because of the Supreme Court civil proceeding. But Fairfax Media understands no charges have been laid relating to the complaint.

A spokeswoman for the Kornhausers said: ”The Kornhausers continue to be committed to do what they can to bring about peaceful relations with their neighbours – an outcome recently encouraged among all the neighbours in that area by their ward councillors, at the conclusion of a planning matter involving the parties.”

But some residents are gearing up for a new fight after the council recently withdrew from the Supreme Court case and reversed its opposition to the school.

The council has now voted unanimously in favour of the project after the Kornhausers agreed to cap the number of students at 25, reduce its operating hours and incorporate a neighbouring property they own to provide off-street parking.

”We felt the second application was far better – especially relating to the car parking – and it allayed the concerns we had around the original proposal,” Glen Eira mayor Neil Pilling said.

Fairfax Media understands the council’s new decision will be contested by Springfield Avenue residents in VCAT.


Twitter: @chrisvedelago