Robert Hermansen, Jonathan Wong, Janet Ariemma, George Ervin, David May and James Wysocki should follow Steven Sbarra and resign.
In this video, the council nods along as a resident calls Jews “an infection”, then proceeds to chastise Michael Cohen, the East Coast director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for merely calling out the hatred and vitriol infused in the ordinances the State of NJ has sued Mahwah for passing.
As reported by JacksonLeaks.com, the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice has launched its own investigation into Jackson’s municipal laws over possible violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
As was reported yesterday, the NJ State Attorney General’s office has also sent a subpoena to Jackson officials requesting documents related to their ban on eruvs within the township.
The DOJ’s request (embedded below) focuses on two ordinances (3-17 and 4-17) dealing with school and dormitory requests by a religious organization, after bans were put in place by Jackson officials. It requests 10 years worth of zoning and planning documents to see if there is a pattern of targeting unwanted groups or part of a coherent strategy on zoning.
“Our investigation will also focus on whether the Township, by enacting these Ordinances, has engaged in discrimination on the basis of religion by effectively prohibiting any religious organization from establishing a school with religiously affiliated housing, including a yeshiva, in Jackson.”
On Thursday evening, Mahwah introduced Ordinance 1820, which rolls back the restrictions on non-NJ residents entering their parks, created by Ordinance 1806 this summer.
Mahwah’s attorney, Brian Chewcaskie called the move a “strategic recommendation by council” and it seems calculated to do whatever is necessary to appease the outgoing attorney general, who filed a 9 count complaint against both the Township and it’s Council individually, for passing animus infused ordinances against Hasidic Jews in neighboring New York communities, that were enjoying the local public parks.
At the meeting, there was no sign or acknowledgment by the Council that these restrictions, which prompted warnings and alarms from every level of government earlier this year, were wrong on their face. There was no contrition. There was no Read More
UPDATE: This may not be a done deal just yet. As per TLS:
There have been reports today in various media outlets claiming that the Orthodox community’s lawsuit against Jackson Township has been “settled” following the Township’s introduction of a resolution to allow Eruv placement on utility poles.
These reports are blatantly inaccurate.
Rabbi Avi Schnall, Director of Agudath Israel’s New Jersey Office, the lead plaintiff, explains the status of the lawsuit:
“We are currently engaged in mediation with Jackson Township,” Rabbi Schnall told TLS. “While we are encouraged by the Township’s Resolution, no settlement has yet been reached. We are not at the end, and much more still needs to be worked out. We remain hopeful for a positive resolution.”
Jackson, NJ has entered into a settlement with Agudath Israel, a Jewish group attempting to create an Eruv over objections from the Township. The agenda lists Resolution 368R-17 as pending. The Resolution (embedded below) calls to:
“Ratify interim settlement and stand-still agreements in connection with pending litigation and provide municipal consent for residents to seek utility company permission for space on utility poles”
It goes on to note:
“That permission and authority are hereby granted for the placement of eruvim/lechis on poles erected by utilities that have the lawful right to maintain the poles within the public right-of-way in the Township of Jackson provided the utility company consents to such placement and there is compliance with all applicable Federal, State and Local laws regarding safety requirements related to the use of the public right-of-way.”
“The resolution to be voted on by Jackson council members specifically notes “exorbitant amounts of legal fees” as a reason for the settlement.”
The settlement comes a few days after the Village of Pomona lost a costly Federal Court battle over zoning created to prohibit a Jewish group from building in the NY area situated a few miles from Mahwah, NJ where a similar court action is pending.
There is a closed session meeting in Mahwah, NJ to discuss litigation today, Tuesday December 12th.
It’s unclear what the purpose of this “discussion” will be from the agenda. Perhaps, it a signal that the day of reckoning is coming to Mahwah, and the Council will tell the Attorney General they will never pass such an ordinance.
If so, they would be wise to also remove Ordinance 1806 (which prevents Jews from neighboring Rockland County from using its parks) at the same time. After the Chief of Police, County Prosecutor and State Attorney General declared the Township cannot enforce Ordinance 1806, it became the central element of the lawsuit against the Township for discrimination by the NJ State Attorney General.
Since it has no positive benefit (it can’t even be enforced) and it’s the main thrust of the Attorney General’s case against the Town and its council, the smartest move they can make is to eat a little crow and repeal Ordinance 1806 while disavowing Ordinance 1812.
What is Ordinance 1812?
As you may recall from August, this ordinance sought to strengthen the existing sign ordinance within the Township, at the same time as the administration was sending letters to Orange and Rockland Utilities and the Eruv Association, claiming that the Eruv violated the local sign ordinance.
Here is the language of the ordinance as it was proposed back in August:
The language is identical to Upper Saddle River’s Ordinance 16-15 (which is what USR claims is the basis to deny the BREA’s request to install an Eruv) and this discussion in Mahwah was taking place as an Eruv request was pending there.
Here are Mahwah’s 1812 and USR’s 16-15 side by side:
Therefore it came as no surprise that part of the complaint the Attorney General filed against the Township of Mahwah cited Ordinance 1812 as evidence of discriminatory intent. In fact, on advice of their attorney Brian Chewcaskie, ordinance 1812 was tabled at the meeting of August 10th. The Minutes which were posted this week reflect that:
And now…. it’s back.
Will Council President Robert Hermansen have the stomach to do the right thing and remove Ordinance 1806 while disavowing Ordinance 1812, after the rank animus exhibited by the council and several hundred residents?
Finding zoning rules were discriminatory against a dorm school, a decision in Manhattan Federal Court yesterday (112 page opinion embedded below) dealt a major blow against the Village of Pomona and their legal team (including lead attorney Marci Hamilton, who is also Of Counsel for Upper Saddle River in their Eruv litigation).
via Lohud.com, the battle cost Pomona more than $3 million as of 2016 (they had budgeted $800,000) and is still ongoing. They may be required to pay an additional $4 million in legal fees for Plaintiffs as well.
In addition to legal fees, the village was ordered to pay an additional $43,000 last year because the Mayor and former Trustee were found to have destroyed evidence by removing Facebook posts that were derogatory towards the Plaintiffs. “[Judge] Karas had called Louie’s deletion a “rare case where bad faith and a clear intent to deprive Plaintiffs of the evidence… is sufficiently clear” in a 145-page decision released in September 2015. ”
As per yesterday’s opinion:
“[Judge] Karas found “Plaintiffs established that Pomona’s zoning scheme is impermissible pursuant to New York law because its exclusionary scheme was enacted for an improper, discriminatory purpose and, consequently, is invalid.” (page 110)
In a filing early this morning, an individual named Robert Moss filed to intervene in Porrina v. Township of Mahwah and Mahwah Township Council.
Mr Moss, an advocate for increasing the amount of land under Green Acres encumbrances, in his motion (posted below) “seeks to protect his interest in preserving Green Acres encumbrances on Defendant Mahwah’s parklands”.
Mr. Moss has previously intervened in Hannon v. West Milford (NJ PAS-L-1675-03) and was a plaintiff* in Read More
Come from the government, the government has sent me.
So what happens when Code Enforcement gets tired of spying?
A helpful reader has provided audio of a conversation where they were confronted at their front door by two Code Enforcement Officers over praying in their house, after being watched by them for weeks. Below are excerpts from this audio. It is worth noting that the two officers are professional throughout and the conversation is cordial, however we find the content disturbing.
Code Enforcement Head Ken Pieslak introduces himself, and tells the resident that prayer (shudder) has been reported in his house. Praying is somehow against the law, though Ken isn’t sure exactly which one; it has something to do with acreage and setback. From his description it’s almost certain he is referring to Jackson zoning code § 244-115, which sets the conditions for a building that is primarily an institutional church, including a 2 acre lot and 200 foot setbacks. Needless to say, this person’s house is primarily a private residence and thus not subject to these requirements.
Ken Pieslak: I’m Ken Pieslak, department of compliance supervisor.
Are you the owner? Okay.
We’re getting, we’ve received some complaints last week that on Friday, you’re conducting services in the house. And we don’t want to bother, we didn’t want to come Friday at sundown and bother you so we wanted to get a hold of you ahead of time, cause you may not be aware that we have a code that doesn’t allow it. It only allows it in certain zones and you need X amount of property and, be, 200 foot setbacks and so forth. And we can get you a copy of the code, I don’t have it on me right now, but we just wanted to make you aware that it isn’t allowed.
I mean, if you have something scheduled for tonight, we understand, we don’t wanna, it’s last minute, we’re okay with that. But anything in the future beyond that, you know, we’re going to have to give a notice of violation followed up by a summons and that sort of…
What was the actual complaint? Was it noise or parking violations that spurred this concerned citizen to action? Code Enforcement Officer Connie Sidor fills in the details: an anonymous tipster helpfully took a video of people praying in the house and reported it.
Connie Sidor: The complaint came in, and we have a video of, they say, 30 people going into the garage and holding some kind of service or something. So, the ordinance says you can’t hold, on a continuous basis, any type of church or religious service.
Forget about any useful legal advice (or lack thereof) the officers may have been operating with, doesn’t this fail a basic smell test? Does it really bear saying that people are allowed to worship in groups in the privacy of their homes? Substitute in another type of gathering and imagine the absurdity: getting a notice of violation for hosting a weekly Boy Scout troop meeting or a summons because you have invited friends over on successive Sundays to watch the Giants lose. Imagine the township showing up because someone sent them videos of you having dinner parties (“We have decided that you are a restaurant” says Ken). What country is this anyways that people record their neighbors praying and run off to report them?
Let’s be reasonable here, one cannot do whatever they want in the name of religion. In Sexton v. Bates for example, the construction of a mikvah (Jewish ritual bath) was disallowed in a residential area in NJ. But our state constitution ensures that the right to gather and pray cannot be abridged by municipal zoning.
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