Arrest made in Mahwah eruv vandalism

Arrest made in Mahwah eruv vandalism

Montvale seeks settlement as Upper Saddle River poised to appear in court

Not yet identified man damaging an eruv pipe in Mahwah. Photo courtesy of Mahwah Police Department.
Not yet identified man damaging an eruv pipe in Mahwah. Photo courtesy of Mahwah Police Department.

It was a good week for the Rockland County eruv’s expansion into North Jersey, which has been blocked by the towns of Upper Saddle River, Mahwah, and Montvale.

The town of Montvale reportedly is negotiating with the eruv’s organizers to settle the lawsuit it brought against the town for barring the eruv. Montvale’s Mayor Mike Ghassali told the Bergen Record that the town is seeking a “mutually acceptable plan.” The two sides filed in court to postpone Montvale’s response to the lawsuit for another month.

In Mahwah, the township council voted Thursday night to repeal an ordinance that barred out-of-state visitors from using its parks. That ordinance came in response to chasidic Jews apparently from nearby towns across the state line in Mahwah’s parks. Township police did not enforce the ordinance, declaring it to be unconstitutional discrimination, and it sparked a multimillion dollar lawsuit from the state attorney general.

Shortly before the council met, the Mahwah police department announced that it had arrested Marcello Allegra, 49, for vandalizing the eruv by removing a plastic pipe from a telephone pole on Airmont Avenue in September. Mr. Allegra owns a house on Airmont Avenue near the telephone pole. Someone driving by had taken a photograph of the vandal at work; the photo included a car, its license plate partially visible. “Through investigative work and a database search the registered owner of the vehicle was identified,” Police Chief James Batelli said in a statement.

The owner of the vehicle appeared to be the woman seen standing to the side in the photograph. That woman, whom the police did not identify, gave conflicting accounts to investigators.

Mr. Allegra was charged with one count of criminal mischief. There was insufficient evidence of biased motivation to charge him with a hate crime, Mr. Batelli said.

Mr. Allegra was released by police. His court date is Tuesday, January 9.

As it happens, on that same Tuesday, there will be another court hearing about the eruv, this one in the Newark courtroom of Judge John Michael Vazquez. That hearing will feature oral arguments about the eruv association’s request for an injunction barring Upper Saddle River from removing the eruv.

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