MS. JAMES INVOLVEMENT IN DEVELOPMENT LAWSUITS IS MISGUIDED. THE ISSUE IS THE APPLICATION OF BUILDING CODES, NOT WHETHER OR NOT A POPULATION CAN OR CANNOT LIVE THERE.
The Forward in an article entitled “Is it Anti-Semitism, or NIMBYism? Lawsuits Multiply with Growing Orthodox Population” are quick to excoriate criticism of the law abiding population against over-development. The article is quick to ignore the the lax building code enforcement and building inspections in Monsey, New York, Ramapo, New York, Rockland County, New York, Lakewood, New Jersey, Jackson Township, New Jersey, people are breaking laws. This is not about anti-Semitisim. This is about accountability.
While people like our New York State Attorney General Tish James are jumping on the bandwagon of RLUIPA and claiming that any review of development in the above-referenced areas is actually anti-Semitism, few are out there defending the law abiding citizens of the respective counties. Ms. James, isn’t defending against lawlessness actually in your job description?
The lawsuits, as noted by the Forward are filed on claims that RLUIPA which one might think exempts developers from following the laws of the land where they are trying to build. Our elected officials seem to be buying into this argument. I wonder if those same elected officials would be taking an equally zealous position if the developers were black, Hispanic or Muslim and trying to build for black tenants, Hispanic tenants or Muslim tenants. We think not.
As quoted by the Forward:
The lawsuit the developers filed last year was among a spate of similar cases in which Orthodox groups claim cities and towns in the New York area are being anti-Semitic in thwarting their plans for housing, schools and synagogues large and small. The suits are based on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a law known as RLUIPA that since its enactment in 2000 has helped religious groups including small Buddhist temples and evangelical mega-churches combat opposition to development projects
On Thursday, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a motion to intervene in a long-running suit in which Hasidic developers have accused a town in Orange County of anti-Semitic intent in blocking their attempts to build hundreds of homes. The developers have filed suits at both a state court and in federal court.
“Blocking the construction of homes to prevent a religious group from living in a community is flat out discriminatory,” James said in a press release.
Housing intended solely for one particular community, while that community builds without obtaining permits and then greases the palms of code enforcers, is accepted as “protected by RLUIPA” but in reality, any building of any structures has certain codes that must be enforced. Law abiding citizens are saying, “The codes are not being enforced, corners are being cut and everyone is in danger and we want no part of it.”
Falling back on religious land use and the anti-Semitism moniker is an excuse to allow lawlessness. Ms. James, your comments above are a tacit approval of the brazen abuse of process that is occurring as those developers are trying to build. This is not about development, it is about planning, enforcement and responsibility. We hope you, Ms. James, will accept responsibility when 15 children are living in an illegal basement, rented by a second family and are killed in a fire because fire codes were not adhered to. Similar tragedies have happened in the past and will undoubtedly happen again, particularly when no planning is in place for fire hydrants, appropriately supplied fire departments and no one is properly inspecting the buildings.
1 Maple Avenue in Monsey, New York is one such example. At that location, a house was converted into a shul (synagogue) with no filing or approval of permits in an area zoned residential. Complaints to the building department went wholly unanswered. Calls to inspectors were not returned. And, when finally a stop order was placed on the location, the stop order was brazenly violated.
Ms. James, do you view this as acceptable?
To Ms. James, to Governor Cuomo, to Governor Phil Murphy we implore upon you to set aside the mantra that every effort at stopping lawless development by any community is anti-Semitism. There should be no one group that is above the law. And, the expectation of law-abiding citizens is that you will protect us all, from whatever the threat to the laws of our land.
As one commentator to this post observed: “If no one is following rules I’m afraid soon vigilantes will appear in that neighborhood.”
That is the great danger all citizens face in ANY community regardless of race or religion where the government refuses to enforce law and order and one group does not follow accepted norms of legal behavior. Anarchy will follow accompanied by vigilantism.
That is too terrible a danger to be cavalierly ignored!