Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Hempstead moves to close religious schoolNew Hempstead moves to close religious school 

After coming under fierce criticism from Hillcrest firefighters, the
mayor today will begin the legal process to shut down a Route 306
religious school that continues teaching children amid what firefighters consider unsafe conditions.

Mayor Lawrence Dessau instructed the village attorney last week to take steps to make sure the building is vacated.

The village's code enforcement officer did not work Friday, but the mayor said he would visit the school today.

Hillcrest Fire Chief Lloyd Hovelmann said the school is operating without any
village approvals for the construction of the building or an addition.

"It was unacceptable as far as the village letting this go on," said
Hovelmann, who was among the 10 volunteer firefighters to express
outrage about village inaction at a New Hempstead Board of Trustees
meeting on Thursday night.

While the lawyer for Ohr Torah and the New Hempstead mayor contend the school has installed adequate fire safety equipment since buying the
10-year-old property in March, the Hillcrest fire chief and other
officials countered that's not enough to ensure the safety of students.
All of the interested parties are expected to meet Wednesday.

"I am concerned about the violations, the lack of certificate of occupancy and no permits for construction," said Hovelmann, adding the school
should be closed until it gets proper inspections and approvals. "I am
concerned for the children."

Dessau had hoped to work out an agreement with school administrators to bring
it up to standards, but Trustee Michael Koplen said the village should
not make special exemptions because it risked traveling down a slippery

Koplen said the firefighters on Thursday "excoriated" the board, particularly the
mayor, for allowing the building to operate without a certificate of
"It was one of the more intense board meetings that I've attended, and I've been on the board for more than 10 years," he said.
Before the meeting, Dessau said he had given the congregation a "little slack" since "they are working on a site plan."


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