There were two distinct groups in attendance at Thursday evening’s Village of Airmont Planning Board Meeting. The first was a group of older residents concerned that the new owners of 222 Rte. 59 are being allowed to build an exit from their commercial property that will divert traffic onto North De Baun Avenue, a street where a lot of seniors who live in The Retreat at Airmont like to walk. According to legal documents, the owner of 222 Rte. 59 filed an Article 78 and the Planning Board has to comply with the court ruling unless an opposing Article 78 is filed and receives a favorable ruling. Some of those in attendance were heard discussing the possibility of challenging the ruling.
The second group, having found out about the proposed 2,000 student yeshiva planned for Cherry Lane via previous articles in The Rockland Star, quietly put the word out that people needed to show up to the meeting to effectively shut it down which caught the applicants off guard.
Previously, the religious community has shown up in greater numbers than could be accommodated in order to shut down the past two Village of Airmont Board meetings where a building moratorium was to be discussed and voted on. After it was suggested that the meeting be moved to The Crowne Plaza, organizers from the religious community publicly stated that the Crowne Plaza holds 600 people and they would show up with 800 people to shut the meeting down once again. The Village Airmont has been forced to hold a meeting at the Rockland Community College Field House on February 8th at 6:30pm. The Field House can accommodate 5,000 people. It remains to be seen if the religious community will attempt to bus in 5,000 people to disrupt the democratic process.
Long-time Airmont residents have watched the decline of the East Ramapo Central School District with some elected officials having been complicit while others have looked the other way apparently out of fear of losing support of the bloc vote. Parents within the East Ramapo Central School District allege a blatant disregard for the education of thousands of children has taken place and who can forget the disgraceful, profanity-laced tirade by attorney Christopher Kirby formally of the firm Minerva and D’Agostino. At the time Kirby was representing the school district.
Many claim that New York State waited until the damage had been done before taking any action. Based upon threats made publicly by a speaker for the Satmar community at a recent Ramapo Central School District meeting, if the religious community’s demands aren’t met, a similar fate is right around the corner for Ramapo Central.
Local organizers are clear on a few topics; they aren’t promoting hatred and they welcome good neighbors who are willing to follow the same rules that everyone else has to follow. They will actively stand up to and fight bullying and will also fight to maintain the quality of life in their neighborhoods and in the school district.
“If a neighborhood is zoned residential then we need to maintain that zoning” said a concerned resident, “Everyone should be following the same rules but we’ve seen this in East Ramapo, we’ve seen it in Monroe-Woodbury and we’ve seen it in New Jersey. It’s not going to happen here without a fight.”
One of the major issues regarding the yeshiva proposed for 236 Cherry Lane is the busing. Long-time residents are concerned about the bus schedule that has been included in the proposal. Once the project is approved the general consensus is that UTA will do whatever they want to do with impunity and the area could be flooded with buses arriving and departing at the same time because RCSD does not provide staggered busing. Many are concerned that the Village of Airmont may not have the resources to fight a prolonged battle without the support of area residents and that elected officials at the town, county and state level cannot be counted on because as residents have seen repeatedly, many have a history of doing little or nothing.
Another issue which has arisen in Monroe-Woodbury is gender discrimination toward bus drivers. The Hasidim have in the past demanded that male drivers be provided to drive male students. This has caused issues where female drivers who have seniority over male drivers have lost their routes because male students have refused to board buses driven by females. Residents are concerned about legal costs being passed through if the district and/or bus companies get sued.
Organizers at Thursday’s meeting took down names and contact information from those in attendance and are paying close attention to every item that makes its way onto the planning and zoning board agendas. The Battle of Airmont is just beginning.