Sunday, July 06, 2014

Hasidic Jews seek to expand enclave 

Kiryas Joel is a fast-growing island of ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews in Orange County. Sidewalks are busy with mothers in head coverings pushing strollers, and kids' plastic tricycles seem to outnumber cars.
Now a petition to expand the densely settled village by annexing 507 acres of leafy lots nearby has heightened tensions with some suburban neighbors. While expansion could help a village bursting at the seams, there are fears it would lead to unwanted increases in apartment complexes, homes and traffic.
"The quality of life here will be completely destroyed," said John Allegro, standing on his family's wooded 1.5-acre lot, which he said would be semi-circled by annexed land. Allegro said he moved farther from New York City to escape that hubbub.
Kiryas Joel was founded within the town of Monroe in the mid-1970s by members of the Satmar sect seeking a tranquil setting. Men wear black suits with brimmed hats and women dress modestly. Marriages come early and families are large.
Multifamily apartment buildings, many three stories tall, are packed into the 1.1-square-mile village to keep up with the growing population. Village trustee Jacob Freund said that in one area, 180 families live on 3 acres, a density he worries is unsafe.
Some of the Satmar live just outside the village, where more restrictive zoning typically requires a single-family home to be on at least 1.5 acres. A number of these out-of-village residents signed a petition requesting that their land become part of the village. An environmental review must be conducted.
A group of residents called United Monroe, which includes Allegro and others, has been raising alarms about the landowners' annexation request. They argue looser village zoning could usher in a new wave of high-density development that will stress sewers, hurt air quality and create a "dramatic change in the rural landscape."


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