Saturday, July 18, 2015
A group of entities located in or tied to Kiryas Joel deposited $250,000 in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's campaign account on Monday and Tuesday, less than a week after the governor vetoed two bills spawned by the Kiryas Joel annexation controversy that leaders of that community strenuously opposed, according to the financial disclosure report Cuomo's campaign filed this week.
Cuomo's haul included eight $25,000 checks from four limited liability corporations that listed the same address in Brooklyn and that appear to be connected to Mayer Hirsch, a Kiryas Joel resident and former village trustee who oversees the land development arm of Kiryas Joel's main congregation. Three of the entities that made contributions listed Hirsch's home address in Kiryas Joel when they were incorporated in 2012 and 2013.
The remaining $50,000 came in a single check from a limited liability corporation that listed the home address in Kiryas Joel of Hirsch's son, Jacob.
The disclosure of the donations has further infuriated activists who supported the bills that Cuomo vetoed, one of which would have enabled Orange County planners to recommend approval or rejection of two pending proposals to annex 507 acres or 164 acres into Kiryas Joel from the Town of Monroe. Emily Convers, chairwoman of the United Monroe citizens group, called the sudden infusion of campaign cash an obvious payment for services rendered by the governor.
"For anyone to doubt for a second who Cuomo is working for and what motivated him to veto, look no further than this blatant purchase of an elected leader," Convers said on Friday. "When those opposed to an environmental oversight bill are screaming 'anti-Semitism' and paying off the governor, it's hard not to make that assumption. It's despicable."
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi responded on Friday that Cuomo "clearly laid out" his objections to the two bills in his veto messages. The governor had argued that the bill giving county planning departments a say in certain annexation requests violated a clause in the state constitution that stipulates counties may give consent to annexations only when it affects their borders. Assemblyman James Skoufis, the Woodbury Democrat who introduced the bill, has strongly disputed that reasoning, pointing out that his bill would have left the annexation decision in the hands of the two municipalities involved - in this case, the Kiryas Joel and Town of Monroe governing boards.
The second bill - which wouldn't have affected the current annexation clash but could have played a role in future ones - would have let state officials weigh the environmental records of municipalities vying to oversee an environmental review, as Kiryas Joel and the Town of Monroe did for the 507-acre annexation request. Cuomo argued in his veto message that state officials already had that ability, and that the bill could have penalized municipalities for the environmental missteps of previous administrations.
“As stated in the Governor’s veto messages, these bills were not approved because one was unconstitutional and the other would have resulted in undue burdens being placed on the municipalities it was intended to help," Azzopardi said in an email.
Reached on his cell phone Friday afternoon, Mayer Hirsch said he would have to look into the contributions and couldn't discuss them until Monday. Vaad Hakiryah, the landholding entity he oversees, owns almost a third of the 285 undeveloped acres included in the larger annexation request.
Supporters of the bills Cuomo vetoed on July 8 argued they would have strengthened outside oversight of major annexation attempts and corrected deficiencies in state law. Kiryas Joel leaders and their allies contend the measures were intended solely to block the expansion of the Satmar Hasidic community.http://www.recordonline.com/article/20150717/NEWS/150719420
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