A haredi yeshiva dormitory in the upstate New York Village of Spring Valley was destroyed yesterday just before noon in a suspicious fire. The building did not have a certificate of occupancy, was unsafe, and had also been cited for code violations before the fire.
Above: file photo used for the purpose of illustratiom
Suspicious Fire Destroys Illegal Yeshiva Dorm In Spring Valley, NY
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
A haredi yeshiva dormitory in the upstate New York Village of Spring Valley was destroyed yesterday just before noon in a suspicious fire, the Journal News reported. The dormitory building, located at 2 East Funston Drive, did not have a certificate of occupancy, was unsafe, and had also been cited for code violations before the fire.
The building served as an illegal dormitory for the Yeshiva of Rockland (Yeshiva d’Rockland) and housed about 25 students.
The school itself operates out of trailers located on the same property as the illegal dorm.
The fire is thought to have started on the building’s back porch. It’s cause is still undetermined, Fire Inspector Frank Youngman told the paper.
Gordon Wren, Jr., the Rockland County's fire and emergency services coordinator, was very critical of the yeshiva and the village government. Wren, who is also a member of county task force on illegal and unsafe housing, told the Journal News the building was unsafe before the fire, noting that the property was originally a two-and-a-half story single family home that had been legally converted to group home use – a far different thing than a yeshiva dormitory.
Eventually, the group home moved out. A previous village administration then allowed the yeshiva to use the building as a dormitory.
"It's as unsafe as you can get. A dormitory and a group home are totally different uses,” Wren reportedly said, adding that the trailers on the property have been there for years – even though they were supposed to be there only temporarily – and an inspection of the dorm building before the fire found mattresses in the attic (which was apparently used for housing despite the fact that it was totally unsafe to do so).
Spring Valley Fire Chief Robert Johnson said the dormitory building had an automatic fire alarm system, but that system did not appear to be working when the fire broke out.
In February, the owners of the property, “Bais Midrash,” asked the the Spring Valley Planning Board for yet another in a long line of six-month extensions to allow the trailers on the property to remain in place. The extension was granted.
One firefighter was lightly injured fighting the fire, suffering burns on his neck.
No students were reported injured – likely because the fire took place during the school day, likely meaning most students were in the trailers when the fire broke out.
Local firefighters have repeatedly warned Rockland County, the town of Monsey and its villages that lack of code enforcement endangers not only the occupants of buildings but also neighbors and firefighters.
But politicians and judges, who often bow down before the powerful haredi bloc vote, have rarely acted against these illegal and unsafe buildings or their owners.