The Town of Ramapo is again allowing the illegal conversion of a private home into a hasidic yeshiva, and it’s doing so without holding any public hearings or getting comment from the new school’s unhappy neighbors.
The Town of Ramapo Reportedly Allows Another Illegal Hasidic School To Open In Private Home
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The Town of Ramapo is reportedly again allowing the illegal conversion of a private home into a hasidic yeshiva, and it’s doing so without holding any public hearings or getting comment from the new school’s neighbors.
The converted home is in an area of Hillcrest that is zoned residential. The school would need a special permit to open there – a permit it does not have.
“We heard it through the grapevine and saw what they were doing. There’s been no environmental studies done, nothing. We deserve the right to know,” a neighbor told the Journal News.
Many other neighbors also complained and were very vocal in their opposition to the home’s conversion, with one even likening it to an invasion.
The new school building will be 35-feet-high. There will be 27 parking spots and a recreation area of 7,500 square feet, according to a letter the Journal News obtained from the project’s engineer. The school will teach 250 boys between 7- and 13-years-old. It will reportedly have a staff of 12, and the existing house will eventually be converted into offices and housing for a caretaker.
But before that happens, the school will use the house as a school building – even though Ramapo issued two stop work orders against it between August and December, along with a citation in December for construction without a permit.
Why is the school being allowed to open? Why is construction on the new building allowed?
Ramapo Chief Building Inspector Anthony Mallia says the reason is simple.
Despite the stop work orders that were violated and building without a permit, in the short term, all the school wants to do is use the house as a school building, and that, Mallia claims, is no worse than using a trailer as a temporary classroom. And since the law allows that for up to one year, why not allow this?
So the town’s advisory board — which includes Mallia, the town planning consultant and Town Attorney’s Office — approved the school’s application for temporary use of the home as a school.
Mallia also said that since schools are permitted in residential areas by special permit after site plans are approved and all fire and safety equipment is installed, he and the town had done nothing wrong by bypassing public comment and granting the school the right to temporarily occupy the house and use it as a school.
“They are retrofitting the house as a school. They could have used modular trailers for classrooms. What’s the difference? The congregation is taking a risk. If after a year, they don’t get final approval for a school, they might have to leave,” he told the Journal News.
It is extremely unlikely the school would be forced to vacate the property after constructing a massive building on it.
Ramapo’s Fire and Emergency Services Coordinator Gordon Wren Jr. attacked Mallia’s decision. A former Ramapo building inspector and Hillcrest firefighter, he pointed out that houses were not built to be used as school and said that he was worried about the safety of the children and of firefighters if a fire would break out.
“Everywhere else in America, applicants have to get site-plan approvals, variances, and neighbors get a chance to view plans and speak at public hearings. Firefighters have not seen any plans. Converting a house into a school is a lot different than using pre-manufactured trailers,” Wren insisted.
The administrator of the congregation building the school, Abraham Spitzer, said the building would comply with all required codes – even though the congregation had already violated two stop work orders and built without a permit.
“As for the neighborhood’s safety concerns, we would like to inform you that safety is our number one concern, all the concerns the neighbors brought up regarding safety and traffic are OUR concerns as well, and are being addressed accordingly,” Spitzer reportedly claimed.
Hasidic schools and the hasidic villages of New Square and Kiryas Joel have well-deserved reputations for violating building, fire and safety codes.
Firefighters have at various times threatened to refuse to answer calls in those villages because firefighters were often met by illegally constructed walls and illegally blocked exits, and the risk to their own safety was simply too high to continue fighting fires there.