Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Court Approves Contentious Annexation By Kiryas Joel

As reported by the New York Law Journal, a New York state trial court judge last week, in a 97-page decision, upheld actions by the municipalities involved to allow the Village of Kiryas Joel-- inhabited almost entirely by Satmar Hasidic Jews-- to annex 164 acres of land from the Town of Monroe. Respondents contended that opposition to the annexation was motivated by anti-Semitism. Petitioners argued that the annexation reflected Kiryas Joel's desire to engage in religious segregation and to encourage an in-migration of residents from the Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn.  While much of the court's opinion dealt with the adequacy of the environmental review involved, the court also dealt with Establishment Clause claims and allegations of discrimination.  In Village of South Blooming Grove v. Village of Kiryas Joel Board of Trustees, (Orange Cnty. Sup. Ct., Oct. 11, 2016), the court held that the individual and organizational challengers lack standing to raise an Establishment Clause claim, and even if they had standing their claim would fail on the merits, saying in part:
The fact that most of the Village's residents belong to the same religious community does not extinguish the secular purpose of the annexation.
The court also rejected petitioners' claim that the annexation violated a provision in the Town of Monroe Ethics Code that prohibits causing voluntary segregation, saying that this is a provision that only applies to recruitment of personnel.