Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim’s $100M Discriminatory Suit Against Ramapo Villages Dismissed

The Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva and apartment complex in Wesley Hills. A federal judge ruled the yeshiva failed to prove allegations that many villages opposed a housing development based on anti-Hasidic Jewish sentiments when he dismissed their civil rights lawsuit Friday.

RAMAPO – A federal judge has ruled a yeshiva failed to prove allegations that numerous villages opposed a housing improvement based on anti-Hasidic Jewish sentiments when he dismissed a civil rights lawsuit looking for millions of dollars.

The decision — topic to appeal — involved a practically decade-lengthy legal action by Mosdos Chofetz Chaim against the villages of Pomona, Chestnut Ridge, Wesley Hills and Montebello.

The yeshiva accused the communities of incorporating as villages to curtail the expansion of Hasidic Jewish neighborhoods by means of restrictive zoning. The lawsuit also claimed the villages hid behind environmental laws to oppose the town’s adult student housing zone and singled out the yeshiva’s housing and study center on Grandview Avenue, just outside the village of New Hempstead.

Chofetz Chaim sought $100 million in damages in its legal action from 2008, attorneys for the villages stated. The yeshiva and Ramapo also have battled those villages in state court considering that 2004, with accusations of zoning and fire violations at the facility.

Rabbi Aryeh Zaks, his household and other Chofetz Chaim officials claimed the villages conspired to deprive the yeshiva of its civil, religious and equal protection clause rights under the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Fair Housing Act.

U.S. Justice Kenneth Karis wrote that when sympathetic to accusations of discrimination, he dismissed the lawsuit on Friday in a 76-web page decision for a lack of evidence.

Karas wrote that the yeshiva officials “have offered practically nothing much more than conclusory, unsubstantiated assertions in help” of civil rights violations and “threadbare allegations alone will not suffice to defeat” a request by the village’s lawyers to dismiss the legal action.

Karas also cited a decades-long contentious relationship among the Hasidic community and other town residents.

“The allegations, even though normally supported only by inference, are grounded in the context of fifty plus years of distrust, hostility and even bigotry inside the communities at concern right here,” Karas wrote. “Getting lived and worked with residents and officials from the villages in the course of these quite a few years, plaintiffs firmly believe that they have been targeted due to the fact of their religious beliefs, even if they cannot point to discriminatory statements by defendants.”

Pomona’s lawyer, Greg Saracino, mentioned Karas’ choice is rooted in the law and an appeal to the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals would prove futile.

“The $one hundred million case was created to bankrupt the villages,” Saracino stated. “I’m glad it really is history.”

The yeshiva’s lawyer and representatives of the facility could not be reached for comment.

Karas had dismissed the yeshiva’s initial legal action in 2010 but permitted the congregation to refile.

Chofetz Chaim bought the four.7 acres on Grandview Avenue in 1997, following the federal government declared the Nike military house surplus. A federal lawsuit settlement against New Hempstead for blocking improvement place the land back beneath Ramapo’s jurisdiction.

Along with a study center, the Mosdos’ project boasts 32 two-bedroom units and 28 four-bedroom units for students and their families.

A state judge upheld Ramapo’s adult student housing zone. The villages brought a state lawsuit against Ramapo, contending the development failed to comply with the New York State Environmental Quality Overview Act.

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