The Congregation of Echo Ridge (Bais Hamedrash Radashitz) in Airmont. The shul’s rabbi says the village has improperly denied permission for it to build a parking lot on an adjacent property. (JTA)
Bad news for Airmont: The federal government it in their sights again.
The Rockland village, situated between Monsey and Mahwah, was served a letter Monday from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. The letter threatened a costly lawsuit under the Federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) for using its zoning powers against Orthodox Jews.
The village already faces private suits alleging illegal discrimination from several rabbis and a Satmar yeshiva.
View of the Village of Airmont in Rockland County, N.Y. Photo by Faygie Holt.
The Village of Airmont is no stranger to allegations that it discriminates against Orthodox Jews.
In fact, shortly after Airmont was incorporated in 1991, the federal government sued it under the Fair Housing Act, claiming that the village had been “incorporated for the purpose of excluding Orthodox Jews through zoning restrictions on their places of worship.”
In this week’s letter, the government argues that Airmont is violating an existing judgment ordering it to “recognize the category of ‘residential place of worship,’ a category which has been removed from the Village’s zoning code.”
The letter threatens to file the suit no later than September 15, unless Airmont settles the matter before then.
Attorney Brian Sokoloff, partner and co-founder of Sokoloff Stern, LLP, which is representing the Village of Airmont, said that it doesn’t comment on pending or threatened litigation.
Sokoloff noted that the Village had won a previous lawsuit filed by the United Talmudical Academy in state court. He added that a federal court has dismissed “large portions” of the lawsuit.