Two Jewish lawmakers – one Orthodox and the other Israeli-born, and both known for doing the bidding of the haredi community – have blocked legislative approval for Rockland County, New York’s new Codes Initiative meant to crack down on dangerous illegal housing, much of which is haredi-owned.
Above: Phil Soskin
Two Rockland County Lawmakers Tied To The Haredi Community Block Legislative Approval For Initiative To Crack Down On Dangerous Illegal Housing – Much Of It Owned By Haredim
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Two Jewish lawmakers – one Orthodox and the other Israeli-born, and both known for doing the bidding of the haredi community – have blocked legislative approval for Rockland County, New York’s new Codes Initiative, the Rockland County Times reported.
(It should be noted that other county legislators who are Jewish but who are not tied to the haredi community support the Codes Initiative and oppose the behavior of the two legislators who blocked its legislative approval.)
The Codes Initiative, proposed by County Executive Ed Day, was meant to protect firefighters and other first responders from being trapped and injured by illegal housing modifications made by unscrupulous property-owners – a significant number of whom happen to be haredim.
The Codes Initiative was “universally described as a critical, valid concern in the County Legislature,” the Rockland County Times reported.
Nonetheless, the County Legislature’s Multi-Services committee blocked it Tuesday.
That committee tried to pass a memorializing resolution to give legislative support to County Executive Ed Day’s plan to crack down on the dangerous illegal housing. The resolution was “broadly supported by attendant first-responders,” the Rockland County Times noted, and its “implications were debated at length.”
But the resolution failed to reach a vote, and angry firefighters, paramedics and other first responders reportedly stormed out of the committee meeting shouting “Shame!” at the two legislators who blocked the vote.
The Codes Initiative gives new power to the Department of Health to enforce building and housing codes and created an online reporting system so locals can report possibly illegal buildings. It also created a public database of the worst violators of those building and housing codes.
Independent of the legislature, the county Health Department has reportedly started to implement the Codes Initiative.
County Legislator Ilan Schoenberger, who was born in Israel but moved to the US as a child, claimed he would support a new law protecting first responders. But he insisted the proposed resolution was “premature” and lacked detailed legal explanation from the county executive’s office. He also complained that three-family homes were not listed on the public registry.
“I have not seen a proposed change to the sanitary code yet. I’d like to see the document that I’m being asked to support and endorse and approve and I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” Schoenberger, an attorney whose district includes the hasidic village of New Square, reportedly said. New Square’s code violations were once so pervasive and so severe that local firefighters threatened not to respond to fires there unless village officials enforced building, housing, fire and safety codes. Schoenberger’s election depends heavily on New Square’s bloc vote.
County Health Department Commissioner Patricia Schnabel Ruppert told the committee that no changes to the sanitary code were being pursued. She also testified that three-family homes are not currently included in the online registry, but are nonetheless subject to public reporting and enforcement.
Schoenberger claimed to be skeptical and demanded further clarification.
County Legislator Philip Soskin, the chairman of the committee and an Orthodox Jew who frequently does the bidding of the county’s large haredi community, also blocked the vote on the resolution. While insisting that he wanted to protect first responders, he claimed the amount of committee discussion over the resolution took him by surprise and said the county’s sanitary code was too complex and too nuanced to discuss in only one meeting.
“This is serious stuff, but the law is the law. This is not Obamacare. We would like to know what’s going on,” Soskin – who has done nothing of note to protect first responders over the past several years of their desperate pleading for code enforcement, said. He then ignored a motion from two county legislators to bring the resolution to a vote. Instead, he shelved it until the committee gets more feedback.
But as the meeting grew more heated, Soskin’s comments alluded to executive overreach and called reports of widespread danger given by firefighters “hearsay.” And then Soskin insisted that the risk of misenforcement and blackmail against property owners – many of whom are haredim – accused of illegal construction and codes violations was too great to move forward. “We’re talking about large fines for people earning money,” Soskin reportedly said after firefighters spoke about the danger to their own lives and the lives of these illegal buildings’ residents.
At that meeting, the chairman of the county’s Illegal Housing Task Force, firefighter John Krieger, spoke about losing three friends in the “Black Sunday” fires in 2005 and of and the near-loss of his brigade’s captain in a local illegal housing fire.
“I’ve been to too many funerals and seen too many people hurt. This is not a warning. This is not a threat. It’s gonna happen. [More people will be unnecessarily killed,]” Krieger said.
A local fire captain also lashed out at Schoenberger and Soskin.
“They don’t give a damn about the peoples’ lives. They’re pontificating on legalese. These legislators are fiddling while the county is burning,” Spring Valley Fire Department Captain Justin Swartz reportedly said.
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