Saturday, December 01, 2018

Hasidic Jewish school sues Airmont for religious discrimination, seeking approvals, $25M 

For the third time since becoming a village, officials here face a federal lawsuit accusing them of discriminating against Orthodox Jews.

The most recent federal complaint filed by the Hasidic Jewish Central UTA school alleges that Airmont officials — using the government apparatus of inspectors and land-use boards — are illegally using zoning laws and building-inspection powers to clamp down on the religious community.

The legal action also claims the Suffern school district has 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.

Airmont Village Attorney Sean Mack denied the allegations leveled in the 75-page complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court by Central UTA, Congregation Yetev Lev of Monsey, and several dozen Orthodox Jewish parents and their children.

"The village does not discriminate against anyone," Mack wrote in an email statement. "The village is obligated to, and does, uphold and enforce the laws equally. The village will not be commenting on the pending lawsuit."

Suffern schools Superintendent Douglas Adams and Mayor Phillip Gigante didn't return requests for comment.

The complaint states that Airmont and the school district, "in a coordinated and concerted effort, are engaged in yet another conspiracy to prevent Hasidic Jews from operating a private religious school to serve the educational needs of the surrounding Hasidic Jewish community."

"Anti-Hasidic animus" has motivated Airmont officials to use the "village's zoning laws and ordinances to prevent and dissuade Hasidic Jews from joining their community and denying those families that have moved to the area their right to school services that are guaranteed under the law," it says.

The lawsuit comes after two years of village land-use board debate on Central UTA's plans to build two school buildings on 21 acres on Cherry Lane. The land is the former site of Camp Regesh and where UTA and other private schools have operated for years, across from Village Hall.

The lawsuit results from several years of animosity in the town of Ramapo and as Hasidic Jews are moving into predominantly upper-class, single-family communities like Airmont, Chestnut Ridge and Pomona.


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