The scandal-plagued haredi-controlled East Ramapo school district has completed the sale of Hillcrest Elementary School to a Skvere hasidic yeshiva, Avir Yakov. The sale price, $4.9 million, is significantly below what appears to be the fair market value for the building and the approximately 12 acres of land it sits on.
Scandal-Plagued Allegedly Corrupt Haredi-Controlled School Board Sells Unnecessarily Vacant School To Haredi Yeshiva In Second Sweetheart Deal, Despite Alleged Bribes
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The scandal-plagued haredi-controlled East Ramapo school district has completed the sale of Hillcrest Elementary School to a Skvere hasidic yeshiva, Avir Yakov, the Journal News reported. The sale price, $4.9 million, is significantly below what appears to be the fair market value for the building and the approximately 12 acres of land it sits on.
This is the second time in four years Avir Yakov has purchased the property for the same amount of money. The first sale was overturned by the state after parents challenged it.
The appraiser, Avi Vardi, who was hired by the haredi-controlled school board to appraise the building for that 2010 sale pleaded guilty earlier this year to fraud for his well-below market rate appraisal, which was made after accepting a $5,000 bribe from Skvere hasidim. But those hasidim have not been charged or prosecuted – a common occurrence in a county that is heavily haredi and where politicians, including the local district attorney, are dependent on the haredi bloc vote.
Vardi was prosecuted by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman – who has aspirations for higher office and who also failed to prosecute the members of a powerful hasidic bloc who allegedly bribed Vardi.
East Ramapo school board members and district officials were allegedly aware of the sweetheart appraisal and the scheme to sell the school to Skvere at below market rate. But they have not been charged or prosecuted, either.
Hundreds of East Ramapo parents and activists filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the district. The Hillcrest sale, and the sale of Colton, another school sold to an Orthodox Jewish entity for $5.1 million – well below market rate – are part of that lawsuit.
Despite the arrest and prosecution of Vardi, the alleged bribe from Skvere, and the fact that $4.9 million appears to be well below the real market rate value for the school and the land, the board’s spokesman Darren Dopp insisted school board members took pains to make sure the sale of Hillcrest School "was at or above fair market value.”