New York State has ordered the Village of Spring Valley to immediately begin fire and safety inspections of buildings – many of them illegal haredi yeshivas – that have widespread fire and safety violations. If Spring Valley does not comply with the order, which was issued October 6, within 30 days it faces a possible takeover by the state.
NY State Orders Heavily Haredi Village To Comply With Building And Fire Inspection Requirements Or Face State Takeover
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
New York State has ordered the Village of Spring Valley to immediately begin fire and safety inspections of buildings – many of them illegal haredi yeshivas – that have widespread fire and safety violations, the Journal News reported. If Spring Valley does not comply with the order, which was issued October 6, within 30 days it faces a possible takeover by the state.
Last week’s order was issued by the state’s Division of Building Standards and Codes only after the state first completed an investigation of Spring Valley’s Building Department in January that was highly critical of both Spring Valley and neighboring Ramapo and only after the state reportedly spent months of unsuccessfully trying to get Spring Valley officials to comply the law.
The state reportedly found Spring Valley continuously failed to inspect these noncompliant buildings and schools. Spring Valley also failed to meet the minimum standards required by the state for issuing building permits, and those mandated for permit applications, conducting construction inspections, and issuing certificates of occupancy.
The state requires all structures to have a fire safety inspection at least once per year. The same is true for property maintenance safety inspections. But in Spring Valley, certain buildings – many but not all of them tied to the politically powerful haredi community – are never inspected or are inspected, but only at intervals that exceed – and far exceed – once per year.
The un-inspected noncompliant buildings endanger students and tenants on one hand and first responders like firefighters on the other.
The state’s involvement came after years of pressure from the Rockland [County] Illegal Housing Task Force and from pressure by State Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski and County Executive Ed Day.
John Kryger, the chairman of the Rockland [County] Illegal Housing Task Force, said the state has not acted fast enough to intercede in Spring Valley.
"It's taken the state more than a year [since it started investigating] to come to the conclusion that something's wrong in Spring Valley? The state can order whatever it wants but the fact is the Village of Spring Valley cannot, as currently staffed and funded, comply with these orders,” Kryger said, adding that the state’s demand for compliance is just a stalling tactic to postpone what it will actually have to do – take over the fire, building and code enforcement duties in Spring Valley and, likely soon after, in Ramapo.
"All of Rockland is sitting on a powder keg," Kryger continued, and noted Tuesday's fire in an illegal boarding house in neighboring Nayak that killed one person. "It's frightening when we measure the severity of a fatal fire by the number killed and not killed. It's time for all county municipal governments, not just the county Health Department, to take a long, hard look at what's happening and become proactive."
Spring Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme's tried to hire more inspectors but the village’s Board of Trustees refused to allow it. Delhomme also tried to fire Walter Booker, the village’s chief building inspector, but a court overturned Booker’s suspension and firing.
Booker has also repeatedly asked the Board of Trustees to allow the hiring of more inspectors as have fire inspectors themselves, but the board always refused, saying it needs proof existing inspectors and the village’s Building Departmentare actually doing their jobs.
New York State’s codes division also found dozens of private schools – almost all haredi yeshivas – have gone un-inspected for years. Many have added classroom trailers without proper permits and without showing documentation that they meet safety standards.
"The Department of State assumes that the Village will meet the deadlines set forth in the Secretary’s Order. It is far too early to say what will happen if the Village does not meet those deadlines,” Edison Alban, a spokesman for New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales, ’whose office oversees the codes division, told the Journal News in an email that also described the state’s review of Ramapo’s code enforcement problems as “ongoing.”