Local Government

Developer Wants to Build Hundreds of Homes for Hasidic Jews; Catskills Town Might Dissolve Itself to Stop Him

The strangest local-government story you'll read today.

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Bloomberg has published the strangest, most interesting local-government story you'll read today. (*) Here's how it opens:

L'shanah tovah from sunny Bloomingburg
Daniel Case

A plan to build 396 townhouses for ultra-orthodox Jews in a rural New York village is pitting residents and local officials against a developer who says he's a victim of an anti-Semitic plot.

Opposition to the project is so strong that Bloomingburg, the village in the Catskills, is considering dissolving its local government, which could allow the larger surrounding town to block the development. Voters will decide Sept. 30 whether to fold their municipal government into the Town of Mamakating, whose population is 30 times larger.

Shalom Lamm, the developer seeking to build townhouses and amenities meant to draw Hasidim, accused officials in a federal lawsuit of misusing building codes to keep Jews from moving to the area and violating the rights of the plaintiffs under the U.S. Constitution. Town officials say the issue is about preserving Bloomingburg's rural character, not about religion.

The article goes on to describe residents' fears that the new arrivals will "have all the power in electing the next mayor," among many other details. It reminds me a bit of those 19th-century efforts to disenfranchise Mormons on the theory that they'd otherwise vote en masse for Brigham Young's hand-picked puppets. Check out the whole thing here.

Via Tim Carney, who headlines his post "Village plans to immolate itself to prevent takeover by Hasidic Jews."

(* Unless you don't read it. Or already read it yesterday. Or have found a story that's even more fascinatingly bizarre, in which case please send it my way.)

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  1. If the things are built the people in the town will no longer have much of any say in their government. They will be outvoted and the new arrivals will run the place. Too bad for them I suppose, but you can understand why they wouldn’t like it.

    1. So the answer to risking losing control of their local government is to – give up control of their local government?

      1. Better than letting the damn Yids have it.

        1. Or maybe limit the things government can do. Harder to do on a local level I know but not impossible. And it’s not like they’re fighting the tryanny of a HOA.

          1. The town I used to live in had a decent idea on that. Basically the entire town council and the mayor had to agree unanimously for any new law to take affect.

    2. “I want the village to be like it was eight years ago when I moved up here,” said Mayor Frank Gerardi, who signed a petition calling for the dissolution. “It was a quiet place, a nice little town. Now everything has changed. There’s hustle and bustle, a lot of housing changes.”

      Sounds like the mayor is a pretty new arrival too.

      1. That’s a freakin’ good catch. He wants the village to be like it was when he moved there 20 minutes ago.

        Hey Frank, why did you want to become mayor of a town you moved into 20 minutes ago? Because you just LOVED things the way they were?

        1. If’n it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    3. With Lamm unable to complete renovations, most of the storefronts downtown remain empty, hurting business at Patti Bechtold’s Village Thrift Shoppe. She lives just outside Bloomingburg, and the mountain view from her kitchen window is now blocked by the townhouses.

      She said she would like Bloomingburg to dissolve because it would prevent the Hasidim from taking over by diluting their voting power.

      And this busybody doesn’t even live there. But don’t ruin her view with your black hats!

    4. This is true but this has happened in different situations all over the world

    5. Democracy is a cunt. Fuck it.

    6. Exact same argument against open borders.

      1. Can we dissolve the federal government to stop the beaners from monopolizing the vote?

      2. Keeping the JOOZ out? I have some bad news for you…

  2. You know who else wanted to keep the Jews from taking over the government…

    1. Pontious Pilate?

    2. Jesse Jackson?

  3. Jesus Christ I fucking hate town houses, they look like shit and they’re built like shit. So, what the hell was the rest of this article about?

    1. they look like shit and they’re built like shit.

      I’m with you on the looks, but they’re not necessarily built like shit. My father built probably a thousand units of them in his career and the problem rate was no worse than with detached homes.

      1. Maybe its just my part of the country. I never saw one down here until maybe ten years ago, but it seems like they’re popping up everywhere now. Also seems like they’re falling apart five years after being built.

        1. A lot of very shitty houses have been built in the last 10 years or so.

          1. They really like using that shitty particle board and strand board don’t they?

            1. Nobody cared about durability, since the house were going to be flipped to some other sucker 2-3 years later at a 50% premium.

    2. Open carrying of deep dish at abortion clinics, I think.

      1. I’m no expert on world religions, but I believe that circumcision would also come into play.

  4. So… a town… in the Catskills is worried about an influx of Jews?

    1. That was my first reaction.

    2. I immediately got “Join hands and hearts and voices, voices hearts and hands. At Kellerman’s the friendships last long as the mountain stands” stuck in my head.

      1. That’s a bullshit move. 🙂

        That I know what your quote is from without looking it up might speak volumes about my own masculinity.

    3. Was Cats kill citizens involved?

    1. They won’t go Gentiley into the night.

  5. Oh, by the way, I’m sure that progressives everywhere, and the Obama administration is totally on the town’s side here.

    Because you can’t have a business cater to a specific set of clientele. For instance, imagine if the developer wanted to create a housing development for gays only, or straights only.

    That’s verboten.

    1. Don’t be silly. Retirement/Senior Living communities exist pretty much every where. Besides, there is nothing in the article to suggest that the developer wouldn’t sell to you, if you were interested. The question is why you would desire to live in the middle of a community of a group of religious mysticism who don’t regularly co-mingle with outsiders*, but nothing is saying that you are de jure prohibited from doing so.

      *Fun fact: There exist cultural exchange groups between Chasidic Jews and the Amish.

      1. Retirement/Senior Living communities exist pretty much every where. Besides, there is nothing in the article to suggest that the developer wouldn’t sell to you,

        Then why did the article read, and I quote: A plan to build 396 townhouses for ultra-orthodox Jews in a rural New York village

        If the developer would sell to me (aka everyone) then wouldn’t the sentence make more sense if it read: A plan to build 396 townhouses for ultra-orthodox Jews and anyone else interested in buying”?

        1. Then why did the article read, and I quote: A plan to build 396 townhouses for ultra-orthodox Jews in a rural New York village

          If the developer would sell to me (aka everyone) then wouldn’t the sentence make more sense if it read: A plan to build 396 townhouses for ultra-orthodox Jews and anyone else interested in buying”?

          No, because as you have stated, the former would be illegal.

          1. That’s only if the developer is building on spec.

            It’s probable that the developer is building with purchase agreements already in place.

            1. That’s true. That’s also why I was careful to state de jure. Indeed, even after they’re built, while exclusionary covenants are illegal, its most likely that these homes would not be put on the market if one wanted to sell.

              Besides, my point is that Progressives aren’t going to go to bat for the town here, because if there is one thing smug New York Times-reading morally sanctimonious left-wing pricks love to do is to move en mass to upstate New York and then zone small dairy, pig, and chicken farmers out of existence.

              1. Besides, my point is that Progressives aren’t going to go to bat for the town here, because if there is one thing smug New York Times-reading morally sanctimonious left-wing pricks love to do is to move en mass to upstate New York and then zone small dairy, pig, and chicken farmers out of existence.

                Which was my point about hypocrisy.

              2. Hasidic Jews aren’t the right type of NYC people.

        2. A plan to build 396 townhouses for ultra-orthodox Jews and anyone else interested in buying”

          If you’re looking for a house with space for multiple redundant kitchen appliances, sure. That floor plan generally doesn’t sell outside the Hasidic community, though.

          1. I’m no expert on the strata of the Jewish religion, but one isn’t necessarily a Hasid to go Kosher. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      2. Retirement/Senior Living communities exist pretty much every where.

        And here in my state, the government has forced them to accept the mentally disabled, which makes for a really shitty mix.

        osalie Hall, 75, said she used to stroll each evening after dinner through the wide hallways and leafy courtyards of Heights Manor, a three-story public apartment building in Columbia Heights that houses mostly senior citizens.

        Now, she rarely ventures outside her one-room apartment after dark.

        “We used to be like a family,” said Hall, a retired store clerk. “We would make puzzles and play cards until late at night. Now everything is upside down and crazy and people are so scared.”

        1. Disability advocates say such tensions are likely to intensify as the state moves forward with ambitious plans to further desegregate housing for the disabled. Under pressure from the federal courts, which recently admonished the state for not moving quickly enough to integrate disabled people into the community, state and local authorities are preparing to move thousands of people with mental and physical disabilities from group homes and other institutional settings to individual apartments.

          “All of a sudden seniors find themselves surrounded by 26-year-old kids with serious disabilities who like to go outside and smoke,” said Jim Kordiak, Anoka County commissioner and member of the Heights Manor advisory board. “It creates a culture clash.

          http://www.startribune.com/pol…..83361.html

          1. elderly residents have complained of an increase of physical threats, drug use, thefts, loud music, late-night parties, and disorderly behavior.

            So they used to play cards until lat into the night, and now they’re bothered by other people’s late night parties? People going outside & smoking is bothering them how?

            What does this boil down to? Is having “mental disabilities” a euphemism for “antisocial”? Or is it just that people are superstitious and scared of people with mental & physical disabilities? Heck, just getting old leads to mental & physical disabilities! Being old & demented is OK, young & demented is not?

  6. Here’s a frightful impending government takeover from 20 years ago that seems right up Jesse’s alley…

    http://articles.latimes.com/19…..disneyland

    1. “Our reputation as a very serious ecumenical community is being ruined,” said Hanne Strong, 51, director of the Manitou Foundation, which granted land to spiritual centers here.

      “We’ve worked very hard and created a place where the most ancient of the religious teachings can settle,” Strong said. “My roots are deep here; I’m not going to relocate. I’ll have them relocate first.”.

      Well then…

      1. the most ancient of the religious teachings

        Animism?

    2. Just built that pink granite pyramid with obsidian top in minecraft. No peace on earth. Creepers attacked it

    3. Here’s a frightful impending government takeover from 20 years ago that seems right up Jesse’s alley…

      This is great. “They have moved to this area or purchased land here in anticipation of their impending crossing to the fifth dimension through the proposed pyramid.” Thanks, BP.

  7. I think that land owners ought to be able to develop their land as they see fit. But there are some other towns that were developed on similar plans to attract a whole bunch of orthodox Jews to live there. For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K….._New_York, which has very high poverty and welfare dependence because of all of the very large, single income families and is arguably run as a theocracy.

    On principle I don’t like zoning/planning. But it could really suck for the people who live there now if this goes through.

    1. I always appreciate when people include links to references that demand further explanation, but you linked to a wikipedia article that reports that there’s no article.

        1. Our growth comes simply from the fact that our families have a lot of babies,

          … and government assistance to make it possible.

          Scum.

          1. It’s also a big issue in Israel, where they are often resented by the majority secular population for not only having most of the subsisting on welfare, but until March of this year they were also exempt from military service as well.

            1. *having most of their families

        2. Ah, thanks, trailing comma is what the issue was on Zeb’s link.

          Yeah, it’s all very interesting, but zoning’s only legitimate function in my opinion is to keep residents relatively separated from potentially invasive businesses etc. You don’t want a cement factory in the middle of a bunch of houses.

          Social engineering or racial segregation (or forced mixing) leaves me with a queasy feeling.

          If people want to create a community of a particular ethnic, or religious concentration, they should have the right to buy property and develop it as long as they follow all the mundane codes and rules that everyone else has to follow.

      1. A comma got added to the end of the link for some reason.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiryas_Joel,_New_York

  8. Why can’t the town just de-annex (or whether the proper term is) the parcel in question?

    Why can’t the developer just create his own friggin’ town? Too much work?

    1. Then they would be unable to enslave the other citizens to their collective will.

      1. I don’t think the welfare programs the Hasidim rely on are administered by municipalities, though.

        1. I was wondering that same thing.

          1. The only relevant thing I can really think of is schools, and we know they don’t use those.

            1. Except for special ed. (at least in the Kiryas Joel case).

        2. The municipal water and sewer probably are though.

    1. This is interesting on many levels. An increasing population of Hasids, who don’t send their kids to public schools, educating them in Yeshivas instead.

      They pay high property taxes, most of which feeds the local public school district.

      The local public school budget continues to rocket skyward, increasing property taxes along the way. The Hasidic population also continues to grow, paying more taxes, but yet sending no students into the school system.

      I can understand why the Hasid population is getting pissed. A government agency which provides no service to them keeps extracting more and more from them– for a service they don’t provide to same. If anything, the local district should be lowering taxes as the percentage of population not using a specific public service pays an ever higher percentage of their budget.

      1. To be fair, the episode makes clear that the Hasids have no problem with taxing non-Hasids to fund their private schools (the breaking point was in fact firing the disctricts $100/hour lawyer to hire a $250/hour lawyer that specializes in finding ways to funnel tax dollars to religious schools), so lets not make them out to be heroes of libertarianism.

        1. Yeah, if they could make the public schools religious, they would. They are definitely not making a principled stand against public schools.

          1. Really? I don’t see that at all. What I got from the transcript of the show was this:

            A prominent real estate developer in the Hasidic community, a man named Yehuda Weissmandl, wrote a letter to the local newspaper.

            “Dear fellow taxpayer in the East Ramapo school district, again and again, I read about how upset you are about the members of the school board, how we bloc-voted them in, how we don’t have the interests of the schoolchildren at heart. Well, let’s take a closer look at that.

            For many years, you took our tax money, year after year, increase after increase, and you never had any problem with that. But when we finally get together and say, that’s enough, that is a problem.

            I have a solution. How about giving all of us the option to bow out of the public school system and keep our money in our pockets? You want our money and our silence. Sorry, you cannot have it all your way.”

            The author of that letter, Yehuda Weissmandl, is now the president of East Ramapo school board.

            Sounds like a principled argument for school choice and against coercive taxation to me.

            1. Because the Hasid controlled board hasn’t lowered taxes. In fact they’ve continued to increase them. All they’ve done is shift what those taxes are spent on from the public schools to their private schools.

              1. Could you please point to where in the transcript it says that? Because the, of course, Prog-sympathetic NPR reporter rakes the East Ramapo board over the coals for not raising taxes to support the public school’s ever-increasing budget.

                Let me explain the second part of what Kohn had to say, because this is less obvious. Kohn says going into all this, the Hasidic community saw the public schools as a system in trouble, bloated with unions and inefficiency, and a good slap of fiscal conservatism would go a long way.

                But then once the Hasidim had control, there were all kinds of external financial factors that came crashing down– the recession, the state property tax cap. And like school districts all across the state, he says, East Ramapo was suddenly super hard-up. …

                Kohn says it wouldn’t have mattered who was on the board. Cuts were inevitable. But he says there was so much mistrust, nobody could see this.

                1. Morris Kohn

                  It would always be the private school parents against the public school parents, and I felt, in such an environment, no matter what you will do, in one way or another, eventually you will be blamed for it.
                  Ben Calhoun

                  This argument– that cuts were inevitable in East Ramapo, that they were making the same tough choices as other districts– it’s not supported by the facts. I’ve analyzed the budgets of all the school districts in the county for the last 10 years. All the other regular school districts in the area, districts that faced the same economy and made it through without the same kinds of massive cuts, the main thing they were doing was raising property taxes. During the five years that East Ramapo was making its biggest cuts, all of the normal neighboring school districts raised their property taxes by an average of more than 25% just to get by. During the same five years in East Ramapo, the Hasidic-controlled board raised taxes by just 9%.

                  Some more numbers. During the last 10 years, every comparable school district in the county grew its budget by an average of 50%. East Ramapo’s budget grew by 33%. Which, to a layperson, you might say, well, oh, the budget grew. How bad could that be? I actually kind of thought that, at first.

                  1. But I talked to school administrators and experts who said that the costs the Hasidim and other conservatives say are out of control actually are rising alarmingly fast– pensions, health care, union contracts, cost of living. Those things grow by so much that a 30-some percent budget increase, that isn’t growth. That’s devastation.

                  2. Ben Calhoun

                    Fields went page by page, showing me what was cut. The business department, that was several pages, all eliminated.

                    Jean Fields

                    All of these courses are gone.

                    Ben Calhoun

                    There were other departments cut by 80%. Full pages of honor societies, sports, JROTC, AP classes, clubs, dance, home ec, administrative staff. District-wide, the cuts have been sweeping. Here’s a partial list from the last five years.

                    All deans, all social workers eliminated. All assistant principals at the elementary school level, music instruction for elementary school kids, funding for field trip buses– all eliminated. That came with cuts to administration, guidance counselors, teaching assistants, maintenance, assistant principals, among lots of others.

                    Kindergarten was reduced from full-day to half-day. System-wide over the last six years, the district’s laid off 22% of all its teachers. At one point, Jean Fields says there got to be so few teachers in her building, there was a conversation about whether the school should just let seniors go halfway through the day.

                    East Ramapo’s budget grew by 33%.

                    They’ve close two schools, laid off 22% of their staff, cut entire departments. Yet the budget went up 33%

                    Where’s all the money going?

                    1. Where’s all the money going?

                      I believe that was answered by the quote @ 2:19. You know, “pensions, health care, union contracts, cost of living.”

            2. Ok, I better listen to the whole thing, so I need to amend my post below. If that’s the case, that they want a ‘voucher’ for the tax money that’s not being used on their children, then no, that’s a little more complicated. Yes, one could argue it’s ‘funneling’ tax dollars towards their religious private school, or they’re getting their money back for a direct service they don’t use. A service entirely predicated on the size of the student population being educated.

        2. Huh, I didn’t get through the whole thing (and I don’t listen to NPR any more — station that carries this show).

          I just heard the intro.

          But if that’s true, then yes, it’s another group taking an accidentally libertarian stand while the long-term move is to get their own free shit.

          1. It’s not an NPR show.

    2. On special needs children having to leave the yeshivas to get proper care…

      Yossi Gestetner

      The– first of all, if the law tortures the children, the law should be changed, you know? So don’t– don’t throw around “the law.” I mean, law was used to agitate against people all the time. So if the law is broken, don’t force the district to spend a million dollars to fight this damn law. Change the law, and finish. It’s never an argument to me, like, well, it’s against the law. So change the damn law.

    3. It’s not like they didn’t raise taxes…

      This argument– that cuts were inevitable in East Ramapo, that they were making the same tough choices as other districts– it’s not supported by the facts. I’ve analyzed the budgets of all the school districts in the county for the last 10 years. All the other regular school districts in the area, districts that faced the same economy and made it through without the same kinds of massive cuts, the main thing they were doing was raising property taxes. During the five years that East Ramapo was making its biggest cuts, all of the normal neighboring school districts raised their property taxes by an average of more than 25% just to get by. During the same five years in East Ramapo, the Hasidic-controlled board raised taxes by just 9%.

      1. But I talked to school administrators and experts who said that the costs the Hasidim and other conservatives say are out of control actually are rising alarmingly fast– pensions, health care, union contracts, cost of living. Those things grow by so much that a 30-some percent budget increase, that isn’t growth. That’s devastation.

        The budget grew by 33% while neighboring budgets grew by 50%. And the writer of this piece thinks it’s devastation because pension liabilities are spiraling into orbit?

    4. The lawyer defending himself against the Yale student.. JUST READ the transcript. It is good.

  9. So how do you build townhouses “for ultra-orthodox Jews,” given that we have laws that forbid religious discrimination in the sale or rental of housing? By putting mezuzahs next to each front door in hopes that goyim will react like vampires to crosses and garlic?

    1. I would guess that you target your advertising and marketing at the group you want to live there and assume that few non-Orthodox-Jews would want to live in such a place.

      1. Also, I’d wager there would be very little demand for the housing at all without the Hasidic communities that want to leave Brooklyn.

        And clearly, few non-Hasidim do want to live among Hasidim.

    2. Have you ever read an ad in Yiddish?

    3. I’m fairly sure that the mandates of their dogma require certain consiterations in the design of the housing they live in. It doesn’t prevent people not of that faith from using it, but is designed around the chosen lifestyle of that group. I don’t remember the details.

      1. Kosher kitchens for one thing. I think they require pretty much completely separate facilities for dairy and meat.

        1. Well, that and every home in the development needs to be within walking distance of the synagogue. And then an eruv needs to be strung around the boundaries entire development, etc. etc.

          1. I always find all of those special Sabbath tricks very funny. Isn’t is sort of cheating? And don’t you think God woudl notice? If God doesn’t want you to do certain things outside of your home, shouldn’t you just not do those things?

            1. Yeah, I don’t get it either.

            2. I’m trying to remember this joke I heard once involving a rabbi getting into an argument with God about the Torah and the Rabbi winning, the punchline to the effect that the real purpose of all the rules being that God just loves to argue for the sake of arguing.

  10. Why don’t they go live in Israel? I’m sure they can get a great deal on a home that a family was recently forced out of.

    1. To begin with, Satmars don’t recognise Israel. It’s that group of Jews that a year ago or so sent delegation to Iran to support their “fight against Zionism”, etc. In other words, since you seem not to like Israel either, they would be your best friends.

  11. Hey Jesse, it would have been nice if you had provided the population on Bloomingburg in your article.

    1. The only “article” here is the Bloomberg piece I linked to, where the town’s population is mentioned in the fifth paragraph.

  12. Question:

    What is to stop people other than Hasidic Jews from moving into the townhomes?
    How can the developer control what type of people purchase and live in the townhome?

    1. 1. Build homes that have a bunch of features only hasidic jews want.
      2. Charge extra for the features.

      That’s it.

  13. My wife’s family is from this area. The Hasidic are not well-liked, and it has nothing to do with anti-semitism. First, they’re not very friendly people. They are secretive and do not interact well with other members of the community. They tend to look down on non-Jews. Many of them also live off of public assistance. They claim their residences as church property and thereby avoid paying property taxes. Because of this, the tax bases in these small towns have been decimated, eliminating any chances for improving public services, schools, etc.

  14. Walker is wrong here. The current population is 420 (four hundred twenty). 386 = control. This is not a conspiracy, this is what has happened in certain places on Long Island and New York City.

    1. What am I wrong about?

  15. Wanna know why this happens?

    1) Because, as others have mentioned, hasidic Jews are an isolationist people who don’t want anything to do with their neighbors (other than whatever the neighbors can provide), avoid property taxes with sham exemption claims, and live on public assistance.

    2) And once they are in, they do things like this http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…..g00000051, or making separate lines at the grocery store for men and women, and taking over local school boards like in Ramapo, and basically trying to make everyone in the area live in a way that comports with what makes life easier for their religious observance.

    I grew up as an orthodox Jew. I know these people. Frankly, if they want to be in their own cloistered community, they should go build one from scratch rather than trying to take one over so they can inherit the infrastructure.

  16. The Town of Mamakating NY, attempted to stifle free speech by placing durational limits on political signs on homeowners lawns. Since Ladue v. Gilleo (1994) there has never been a case where these anti-First Amendment sign ordinances have held when challenged.(see the following)
    http://nydailyrecord.com/blog/…..eech-zone/

    It has become such a problem in New York state that they have issued a guide on this very matter (see here).
    http://www.dos.ny.gov/lg/publi….._signs.pdf

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