Religious Group Allegedly Believes Moratorium Would Delay or Derail Proposed 2,000 Student School Project at 236 Cherry Lane
The Village of Airmont has now had not one but two routine public hearings postponed due to overcrowding. Threats were made to officials that should a third meeting be held, it too would be packed and disrupted.
The issue is simple; a proposed temporary moratorium on building in Airmont while building codes are revisited and updated, proposals already submitted would be exempt from the moratorium.
The codes haven’t been revisited in the past 6-10 years according to one source and NY State law is clear; where the codes are silent, the Village must rule in favor of the applicant. As a result for example, Airmont residents could choose to blacktop their entire lot allowing run-off to flood their neighbor’s property and it would be legal based on current codes.
Apparently the village started discussions on this issue early last year. According to one source, it wasn’t because of any particular project, it just needed to be done to ensure fairness for all Airmont property owners. In short, Airmont building and planning officials are apparently just doing their jobs.
A previous public hearing had to be postponed due to overcrowding. Tuesday evening’s Airmont Village Board meeting was moved from Village Hall into the meeting chamber at the Town of Ramapo in order to accommodate an anticipated larger crowd.
The room was so packed that the fire Marshall announced that approximately 20 people would need to step out before the meeting could proceed. Nobody moved. According to another source there were only about 15 Airmont residents in attendance at that time. Even if they all left there weren’t enough of them to allow the meeting to continue so they stayed. A poster on Facebook claimed that there were three dozen Airmont residents in attendance which would support a 9-10% number.
The Village board decided to go into executive session to discuss items on the agenda and asked everyone to leave. Instructions were given in Yiddish by organizers of the turnout instructing everyone in the Hasidic group to stay put and everyone complied.
The board decided to return to Airmont village hall to go into executive session thinking that when they returned the crowd would have thinned out and the public hearing could proceed. According to sources, by 10:00pm the Village board returned and the crowd had doubled to almost 400 people. Amazingly, of the almost 400 people in attendance just 12 people signed up to address the Village board and nobody bothered to pick up one of the 75 copies of the proposed moratorium that village officials had prepared for attendees. The meeting was once again disrupted and ultimately postponed.
When a village official suggested that they would look into renting the Crown Plaza for the next meeting he was told by one of the organizers “The Crown Plaza holds 600, we will show up with 800.”
School buses that are apparently from Central United Talmudical Academy of Monsey were seen and photographed parked outside Ramapo Town Hall while coach buses were seen parked in the Walmart parking lot that apparently dropped a stream of people off who then filed into Ramapo Town Hall.
So why the hullabaloo over a simple local law designed to protect all property owners and that also exempted those who had already submitted plans to the Village of Airmont? Why tweet to rally the masses in order to bus hundreds of people in from outside of Airmont to disrupt a meeting over such a minor, seemingly non-issue?
These were the questions we asked so we decided to take a closer look.
In August of 2016, Central United Talmudical Academy of Monsey purchased the almost 22 acre site located at 236 Cherry Lane that housed Camp Regesh. Based on plans that have been submitted to the Village of Airmont, UTA of Monsey plans to build two buildings on the site to accommodate 1,000 boys and 1,000 girls that would see a total of approximately 80 bus loads of children from Airmont, Monsey, Spring Valley and Chestnut Ridge dropped off and picked up at various times each day.
The plan is to get the first building built and ready for 1,000 boys by the start of the 2018 school year with the second building designed to accommodate 1,000 girls to be constructed in approximately five years.
According to UTA of Monsey’s attorney Steven Barshov of Sive, Paget & Riesel P.C., he was handed a letter from the Village of Airmont immediately prior to the start of Tuesday’s meeting informing him that UTA’s application would not be affected by the moratorium. The UTA of Monsey may have been under the incorrect assumption that the moratorium was being enacted to specifically prevent the school plans from moving forward hence the mustering of forces to prevent a public hearing from taking place. A representative from UTA of Monsey declined to speak with us and referred us to Mr. Barshov.
According to Barshov, he was unaware that there had been a rallying cry for members of the Satmar group to attend the meeting with the purpose of causing a disruption or preventing the moratorium from being put into place. He did state that public meetings are by definition open to the public and that interested parties did not have to actually reside in the Village of Airmont. According to very reliable sources within the Satmar community, this is exactly what took place; residents were urged to attend the meeting by their rabbis. A tweet seems to back up these claims and references a 6:50bus to Airmont. While not illegal, it is disruptive and Airmont residents will most likely have to foot the bill to rent a larger meeting space as a result.
The Village of Airmont is currently looking for an alternative location to hold the public hearing which may cost taxpayers. Renting the Crown Plaza reportedly will cost taxpayers about $2,000. In light of the fact that the proposed Yeshiva would be exempt from the moratorium, it remains to be seen if the religious community will continue to attempt to prevent the public hearing from taking place.