Shalom Lamm-affiliated businesses, organizations and individuals have filed a $25 million federal lawsuit against the Village of Bloomingburg, the adjoining Town of Mamakating, Bloomingburg Mayor Frank Gerardi, Mamakating Supervisor Bill Herrmann, and Holly Roche of the Rural Community Coalition. The suit claims "pervasive government-sponsored religious discrimination" and an "anti Semitic animus" that is "unmistakable" – even though some of Lamm's opponents are themselves Jewish.
Bloomingburg: Modern Orthodox Developer’s Proxies File Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Tiny Village, Claiming Anti-Semitism
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Modern Orthodox developer Shalom Lamm has allegedly lied, cheated and some claim even bribed his way through a series of local reviews in order to build a high-density 396-unit townhouse development earmarked as a Satmar hasidic village.
Lamm’s several-years-long string of deception has been joined at the hip with repeated claims made by Lamm of anti-Semitism from Bloomingburg locals who oppose the high-density development that they say will ruin the character of their tiny 420-person village in upstate New York and effectively turn it into a copy of Kiryas Joel, a Satmar hasidic village that is, at least on paper, the poorest municipality in the entire US.
If Lamm’s development – which was originally pitched to the village as a low-density retirement and vacation home complex complete with a golf course – is completed and occupied, Satmar hasidim would suddenly outnumber local residents by something like four- or five-to-one.
To prevent that from happening, Bloomingburg has a scheduled September 30 referendum vote to dissolve itself into adjoining Mamakating. That would give the tiny village added help in dealing with code inspection and other issues related to Lamm’s development and would also stop an immediate Satmar takeover.
Now Lamm-affiliated businesses, organizations and individuals have filed a $25 million federal lawsuit against the Village of Bloomingburg, the adjoining Town of Mamakating, Bloomingburg Mayor Frank Gerardi, Mamakating Supervisor Bill Herrmann, and Holly Roche of the Rural Community Coalition. The suit claims "pervasive government-sponsored religious discrimination" and an "anti Semitic animus" that is "unmistakable," the Times Herald-Record reported today. The suit also wants the federal government to stop the September 30 dissolution referendum from taking place and to block the dissolution itself.
The suit also alleges that Supervisor Herrmann told a former village employee that he was elected "to stop the Jewish infiltration.”The purpose of the dissolution, Hermann allegedly said, is to "keep the Jews out of the area." Lamm’s legal team says it has affidavits to back up its claim, despite the fact that Herrmann adamantly denies making those statements.
"I never said that. It's a complete lie; words like that never left my lips," Herrmann said.
"This is pure public relations stuff. Everybody who's followed the story knows it started with a builder who deceived the public. He has made it a religious issue. I don't see where any action has been anti-Semitic. The planning board (which is currently reviewing the proposed school after the now-dissolved Bloomingburg planning board rejected it) is doing due process,” Herrmann added.
Michael Fragin – who is himself Orthodox – previously acted as a spokesman for Lamm and is now a spokesman for the newly-formed Bloomingburg Jewish Community Council. He insisted local the opposition is anti-Semitic.
"The village and town have repeatedly discriminated against the Hasidic community. They have blocked a religious school, a ritual bath and kosher stores. What do these actions have to do with density? And the 20-foot cross standing in front of Chestnut Ridge leaves no doubt that this is a case about religious discrimination," Fragin, a champion of previous Orthodox bad behavior on Long Island, said.
The cross stands on private property and was erected has it has been for years by the property owner before Christmas.
The stores and school were blocked because Lamm’s company and Satmar hasidim defied stop work orders, illegally occupied the buildings – often in ways they were never intended to be used, and generally ran roughshod over village attempts at enforcing local building and safety codes.
Holly Roche — a target of Lamm’s anti-semitism suit who is actually Jewish herself — says the suit is essentially nothing more than an attempt to intimidate locals into surrendering to Lamm and his Satmar allies.
"It's bold-faced, manufactured fables; bold-faced lies. From day one, religion has not come up. The whole lawsuit is subterfuge, intimidation (to intimidate voters in the dissolution vote). Our issue is criminal corruption. Mr. Lamm's goal is to bankrupt us. How is it possible he's rented to only one particular religious group? What does that make him?,” Roche said. All of Lamm’s many properties in the tiny village have been leased only to hasidim, and the townhome development’s advertising has been done in Satmar hasidic papers in Yiddish. The ads claim the development is a new Satmar-only hasidic village named Kiryas Yated Lev.
Lamm’s properties and his local office were raided by the FBI this spring and he is believed to be the target of an open criminal investigation.
In the local election in March, Lamm, his family and almost 100 Satmar hasidim tried to vote – even though they actually did not live in Bloomingburg. A Sullivan County judge lashed out at them for trying "to stuff the ballot box" and throw the election to politicians Lamm controls.
Lamm denies misrepresented the housing development and says is open to anyone – but like with much of what Lamm, the son of former Yeshiva University Chancellor Rabbi Norman Lamm, says, that is belied by the facts.
Former Bloomingburg Deputy Mayor Clifford Teich reportedly cast the deciding vote for Lamm’s development after he was mislead by Lamm’s group into thinking it would be made up of low-density vacation and retirement homes. He says he was "duped" and that he had no idea when he supported the development that it was really meant to be high-density housing occupied by "a homogenous group.”
"It's going to become Kiryas Joel north. I want it the way it was when I grew up; the way it's been all these years,” Teich – who is also Jewish – said.