A Sullivan County, New York judge ruled yesterday that the 2006 annexation of Town of Mamakating land by the tiny Village of Bloomingburg was illegal and violates the New York State Constitution because it was not properly put to a public vote. But that judge, Stephan Schick, refused to use that illegality to issue an injunction halting the construction of a 396-unit hasidic “shtetl” being built on it.
Land Used For Controversial Satmar Hasidic “Shtetl” Illegally Annexed But Construction Can Continue Anyway, Court Rules
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
A Sullivan County, New York judge ruled yesterday that the 2006 annexation of Town of Mamakating land by the tiny Village of Bloomingburg was illegal and violates the New York State Constitution because it was not properly put to a public vote, the Times Herald-Record reported.
But that judge, Stephan Schick, refused to use that illegality to issue an injunction halting the construction of a 396-unit hasidic “shtetl” being built on it.
The development was presented as a low density vacation and retirement community complete with a golf course. It later turned out that developer had been hired by Modern Orthodox developer Shalom Lamm as a front man to mask the true nature of the development – a high density, hasidic-only community that would, once completed, effectively own the tiny village of about 400 people.
Shick refused to issue the injunction because, even though the annexation was illegal, it took place eight years ago. Lamm deserved to be able to finish the development he had put so much work into, thinking the annexation was legal.
Schick’s ruling could not take into account Lamm’s alleged bribery of of at least one village official related to that annexation – the village’s former mayor, who is now allegedly under federal criminal investigation, as allegedly is Lamm, because a New York State Appellate Court had dismissed claims made by locals regarding this.
"Having expected that a full build out of their project had been appropriately approved, it would now be improper for this court to judicially deny the developer defendants of the right to complete that project. Therefore this court does not grant the town's request for a preliminary injunction and it remains for the town to decide what it now does with the territory under its jurisdiction, including refusing to enforce legislation it believes to be invalid,” Schick wrote.
Like the tiny Village of Bloomingburg that lies within it, the Town of Mamakating is opposed to the development and to Lamm, whose allegedly dishonest and deceptive behavior – including an attempt to have about 100 hasidim and family members improperly vote in Bloomingburg’s last election – anger many residents.
Lamm reportedly said he would appeal the part of the decision that ruled the annexation was illegal.
"While we're pleased that the court dismissed the majority of the plaintiff's claims, we believe that portion of the decision dealing with annexation is inconstant with the Appellate Court's prior determination. We're confident that the Appellate Court will correct the ruling on annexation on appeal. This decision will not serve justice but will cost the taxpayers of Mamakating even more in continued litigation,” Lamm said, referring to a New York State Appellate Court decision handed down in June that said the Rural Community Coalition, which strongly opposes Lamm’s development, and the Town of Mamakating failed to prove they could win their legal challenge to it.
That appellate court ruling dismissed conflict of interest charges against former Bloomingburg Mayor Mark Berentsen. Berentsen bought land from Lamm and then signing an agreement with Lamm giving that land access to the sewer system being built by Lamm as part of his development.
"It is patently clear that the developer secured his private interests…and certain municipal employees secured their private interests while the public's interest was left to wilt on the vine, but…plaintiff's actions do not effectively allege fraud…” the appellate court ruled.
However, the FBI raided Lamm’s properties in Bloomingburg, including his office, earlier this year, and Lamm is believed to be under federal criminal investigation.
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