Friday, January 24, 2020

Airmont: Federal judge refuses to dismiss Hasidic Jewish school's discrimination lawsuit 

A federal judge has found sufficient grounds for a trial on discrimination claims against the village concerning the expansion of a Hasidic Jewish school and the Suffern Central School District's denial of mandated busing to some of the private school's children.

U.S. District Court Judge Vincent Briccetti refused to dismiss Central UTA of Monsey's legal action on Wednesday, as requested by Airmont and the school district. The judge found sufficient evidence for a jury to hear a number of UTA's claims, including those under the U.S. Religious Land Use And Institutionalized Persons Act. Known as RLIUPA, the law in 2000 is designed to protect religious institutions from government discrimination in zoning.

The judge tossed several UTA claims under federal and state discrimination laws, and removed officials from personal responsibility. The former mayor, Philip Gigante, the building inspector and a code inspector remain in the lawsuit as individuals beyond their official roles in government.

Briccetti's opinion sets the stage for a trial on Central UTA's contentions that Airmont officials — using inspectors and land-use boards — illegally used zoning laws and building-inspection powers to block expansion of the school on Cherry Lane and clamp down on the village's growing religious community.

The legal action, filed in November 2018, also claims the Suffern Central School District denied students with disabilities transportation and educational services. The lawsuit argues school officials provided those services to the previous private school at the UTA campus on Cherry Lane.

The judge denied UTA's request to have Suffern Central provide additional busing, claiming UTA lacked sufficient evidence to be successful. UTA claims the district made changes to transportation policies that adversely affect private schools.


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