South Blooming Grove, NY – A group of Hasidic landowners who own nearly half of all the property in the Village of South Blooming Grove is suing the municipality in federal court for what it claims are discriminatory practices aimed at preventing Hasidic Jews from expanding in southern Orange County.
The suit filed in U.S. District Court in White Plains contends that South Blooming Grove’s extension of a building moratorium, as well as its recently proposed zoning changes are aimed at preventing them, and members of the Hasidic community in general, from entering the village.
The moratorium, put in place before the village’s incorporation in 2006, has been in place for two and a half years.
The zoning change proposal includes decreasing density, banning two-family duplexes and creating a conservation overlay district on large parcels, said Michael Sussman, the Goshen attorney for the plaintiffs. “So it would be particularly directed to people like those in this group (of landowners),” Sussman said.
The plaintiffs, Zalman Berkovitz, Solomon Witriol, Mendel Schwimmer, Bernie Jacobowitz, Joseph Strulovitch, Jacob Gold, Moses Greenfield and Sam Wiesner, own a combined 1,400 acres of vacant land within the village purchased in total for $25 million, Sussman said.
Some are key stakeholders in the former bungalow colony and golf course located on 862 acres known as Lake Anne, Sussman said.
Hasidic investors in that property once suggested building more than 200 homes on it.
The lawsuit says the incorporation of the village itself was an attempt by the Blooming Grove community to prevent Kiryas Joel investors from developing their land in Blooming Grove and then annexing their property into Kiryas Joel.
“The existence of Kiryas Joel cannot be an excuse for anti-Semitism in this county,” Sussman wrote in a news release publicizing the suit.
South Blooming Grove Mayor Rob Jeroloman said he learned about the suit from a reporter before the complaint even arrived at his desk in Village Hall. He questioned why Sussman would make the case public before his village was even served.
Sussman said he sends out press releases on high-profile cases to notify the community about their magnitude.
“Clearly these plaintiffs seek to have their claims adjudicated in the media,” Jeroloman said in an e-mail. “The village will respond in the court, where these false claims of discrimination will be soundly rejected.”