Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP Sends Letter to Village of Woodbury, NY Concerning Eruv Related Ordinance

2018 Election Results

Mahwah, NJ

In Mahwah, NJ and Hallandale Beach, FL, the eruv may not have been on the ballot — but those that opposed it throughout last year, faced their respective voters.

In Mahwah, NJ, Council-President Robert Hermansen, who had consistently promised ordinances that would effectively ban the eruv as well as parks related ordinances to limit Hasidic Jewish visitors to town, was ousted by his constituents.  With 58.78% of registered voters coming to the polls, a majority chose other candidates to represent them in the years ahead.  The outgoing council president garnered 2,972 votes (compared with the 4,402 votes by the current vice-president).

It is encouraging that the residents have sent a clear message that Mr. Hermansen’s tone and demeanor are not appropriate for public office.

Having attended many meetings in Mahwah, we hope that the newly constituted council is prepared to move forward in a manner that respects opinions from all and the constitutionally protected rights of everyone.

For full Mahwah election results, scroll down to the end of the post.

Hallandale Beach, FL

In Hallandale Beach, FL, Mayor Keith London, who had previously blocked requests by the Jewish community to reestablish an eruv in town, was ousted in a landslide by Joy Adams, a first-time political candidate and outspoken supporter of the eruv.

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Congratulations to Mrs. Adams, hopefully this will clear up any roadblocks being faced by sabbath-observant Jews in Hallandale Beach.

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2018 Mahwah Council Race

Back to square one, now with state monitoring

This Thursday, the Mahwah council is set to discuss one of the first steps required by the agreement with the AG.

During the eruv controversy last year, Mahwah adopted an ordinance (#1816) making it forbidden “to run or string any public service utility” near a park (as well as dozens of other actions including “abetting” the playing of ball games).

While this ordinance was not the subject of a civil rights lawsuit, it contained provisions that might have been construed to target an eruv or selectively target (((people using parks))), as we mentioned last year when it was adopted.

Confirming the problematic nature of the ordinance, exactly one year ago, Chief Batelli informed Eruv Litigation that, despite the vague language of the law, “officers would not interfere or take any action against anyone who was simply tossing a ball back or forth with someone.”

As part of the AG settlement, Mahwah must clarify this ordinance to remove the possibility of it being applied to an eruv. Instead, general development codes would apply, which have never prohibited the attachment of PVC pipes to utility poles in Mahwah.

A year later, and we are back to the same spot where we began.

If only Mr. Hermansen and the Council heeded the warnings we provided.

1816_changes pursuant to AG Settlement

Mahwah Settlement with AG

Below is the settlement between Mahwah and the NJ Office of the Attorney General. This closes the lawsuit brought last year by previous Attorney General Christopher Porrino over what he saw as a civil rights violation and attempt to ban Orthodox Jews from the township’s public parks.

Mahwah agrees to:

  • Not violate NJ’s Law Against Discrimination in any future decisions
  • Notify the AG before introducing any new laws affecting access to township parks.
  • Notify the AG before introducing any new laws affecting posting on utility poles.
  • Modify township code to make it clear that devices on utility poles other than signs are unregulated
  • Make a public statement against discrimination and harassment of others in township parks
  • Keep records of complaints related to existing ordinances governing township park use and present a quarterly report on their enforcement to the AG.
  • Allow lechis to be installed on utility poles in the township and investigate any damage to them as a criminal offense.
  • Make a suspended payment of $350k to the AG for legal fees and penalties. The payment will be cancelled after four years if no evidence of further discrimination is found, at which point notifications and quarterly reports will no longer be required.



Breaking: Challenge To Mayoral Recall Filed (document embedded below)

As the Bergen Record posted yesterday: Mahwah mayor files 12-page challenge to recall petitions.

We have obtained the letter and posted it in full below.

“The recall petition has been reviewed by the best election law firm in the state of New Jersey,” Laforet said in a statement. “They have concluded as a matter of law that the recall effort fraudulently solicited signatures and collected petitions. The Recall Petition needs to be dismissed.”

This is a developing story and as more information is received, we will post it.

Stay tuned.

Breakdown of argument in the Mayor’s objection:

  1. Recall Petitions must be signed by all people collecting signatures and this was allegedly not done here.
  2. If a statement is made in support of the recall, the subject gets to include a statement in response.  Since no statement was included, no response was permitted either. However, the Mayor has provided a document (attached as Exhibit A) that allegedly accompanied the recall petitions.
  3. 25% of the registered voter total must sign recall petitions.  This threshold was allegedly not met after “reviewing the Recall Election Officials own notes, as well as the elimination of duplicate signatures, unregistered individuals, those who are otherwise unqualified, false indorsements where someone appears to have signed on behalf of a purported voter, and those not registered to vote as of the date of their indorsement, the number of qualified signatures drops below the aforementioned threshold.”
  4. The Mayor alleges that Township officials, including the clerk have failed to remain neutral in the process of the recall by their “failure to maintain copies of government records, and in allowing the Recall Committee to modify the Recall Petition following its filing.”
  5. The Mayor alleges that political opponents “are driving the Recall Petition efforts behind the scenes in an attempt to defy the will of the voters of Mahwah who twice elected Mayor Laforet”. That petitions were misrepresented as “polls” or that signatures were needed to get his name on the ballot, in addition to other improprieties.
2018-07-25_Objection to Petition to Recall Mayor Laforet

Why hasn’t the NJAG case concluded against Mahwah?

On October 26, 2017 the NJ Attorney General filed a Civil Rights suit against the Township of Mahwah and the Township Council members.  The suit alleged discriminatory animus infused in ordinances related to a parks ban (since repealed) and a proposed ordinance which would have implicated an eruv (the Township has since promised never to enact such a ban in the future).

The case was transferred to Federal Court in November and is still pending.

Why?  The eruv action has settled.  Why hasn’t this action?

On December 4th, Robert Moss sought to intervene in the action to protect Green Acres funding on behalf of the public.  Today, the AG and other plaintiffs opposed the intervention.

“Plaintiffs oppose the application on the grounds that it fails to make a sufficient showing under Rule 24, Moss’s intervention will unnecessarily complicate and delay resolution of this matter, Plaintiffs’ position. adequately represents the interest of citizens who seek preservation of open space in New Jersey, and the motion is premature as Defendants have yet to file their response to Plaintiffs’ Complaint and the true issues in controversy have not yet emerged.”

What are the “true issues in controversy”?

Stay tuned… perhaps this case isn’t wrapping up after all.

[SHOCKING VIDEO] Mahwah Resident unleashes accusations of corruption by Township attorneys at Council meeting.

Mahwah Resident Jessica LoPiccolo openly accused Township attorneys of corruption for their ties to Lakewood, NJ

Last night, the Mahwah Township Council allowed several questions regarding the settlement agreement signed between the Township and the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association to end the ongoing Civil Rights litigation.

Resident Jessica LoPiccolo stated to the council that there could be a “conflict of interest” and a “breach of confidential information” based on the fact Mahwah’s attorneys represented Lakewood, NJ in unrelated tax appeals.  She stated that she “also had legal representation look at this and attorneys and all of them also saw a conflict of interest here.”

[ed note — representing another town in an unrelated action is not a conflict of interest in any way.  These are serious accusations and were proffered without a shred of evidence]

The episode was reminiscent of Mahwah councilman (now resigned) Steven Sbarra claiming that a Holocaust survivor addressing the council was a paid actor and imploring those in attendance to “follow the money, folks“.

This was too much for even Township attorney Brian Chewcaskie to take. Chewcaskie responded:

“What does the town of Lakewood have to do with anything?  Besides the fact that it has a Jewish community. Is that your point?”

Council President Robert Hermansen doubles down on the Jewish Conspiracy Theories

At the end of Ms. LoPiccolo’s comments, Council President Robert Hermansen connects the dots from (((Tracy Zur))) to the (((Simon Wiesenthal Center))) to (((Michael Cohen))) and then to Mahwah Mayor (((Bill Laforet))).

Hermansen stated:

“I found out about something also afterwards.  I found out about Chairwoman Zur and how she was involved with the Simon Wiesenthal Foundation too. And it just was miraculous that all of a sudden that we ended up with one thing having one thing to happen and before you know it we had someone who was representing them who was on the same board as she was, here, which just so happened to be someone else’s best friend who is sitting on our dais.  There was a lot of miraculous things starting to occur that I find out afterwards. Piecing things together, that’s all.”

Tracy has always been an active member of her community by serving as a Board Member of both the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey as a Women’s Philanthropy and Executive Board Member, as well as being an active member of the PTA. In addition, Tracy sits of the Board of Trustees at the Gerrard Berman Day School, and has volunteered for Alternatives to Domestic Violence and Meals on Wheels. She also serves as an NLC and Simon Wisenthal Center mentor and serves on the Board of both Emerge NJ and Women for Progress.

  • The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Mision states:

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a global human rights organization researching the Holocaust and hate in a historic and contemporary context. The Center confronts anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, promotes human rights and dignity, stands with Israel, defends the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaches the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.

Is it any stretch of the imagination that an organization whose mission is combating hate in a contemporary context, sent a representative to speak at a Town, whose council has been described as “entertain[ing] – and act[ing] under the influence of – public comments rife with hate and bias”, by the State of New Jersey?

The action against Mahwah and the Town Council has not yet been resolved.  I wonder what the reason could possibly be?  Perhaps Hermansen isn’t the only person that can connect some dots.

The AG Lawsuit against Mahwah and its council can be found here.

I reached out to the firm of Cleary Giacobbe Alfieri Jacobs, LLC, Mr. Olear and Council President Hermansen.
Mr. Hermansen responded via text “please go away”. I have not yet heard back from the law firm or Mr. Olear, but will update the post if they wish to comment.

Mahwah’s problems are just warming up


UPDATE: On Feb. 15th, Judge Vazquez entered a retention order and closed the case.  Normally, after a case is over, a new action may be necessary to enforce the terms of the agreement.  This order lets the court retain jurisdiction so that if there is a need to enforce the settlement, a letter can be filed asking the case to be re-opened.

UPDATE 2: Information and paragraph numbers in the settlement were added for ease of reading.

In settlement papers filed with the court today, Montvale has given up on their six month campaign aimed at prohibiting an eruv in the Borough.

The agreement contains an Exhibit A showing the agreed upon path of the Eruv through the Borough.

In a vote yesterday, the Montvale Council agreed to settle claims brought by the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association against the Municipality for threatening to prohibit an eruv erected in a section of the Borough.

Within 30 days, the Borough will pay the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP $10,000 to cover some legal costs, pursuant to paragraph 20 of the agreement.

The Eruv Association will attempt to use black narrow strips or black or brown color for the pvc piping on the poles (called lechis) unless required to use another color by the Utility companies.

Montvale will have 45 days to get necessary permissions to use the path identified in the accompanying map.  If they cannot get the required permission from private property owners, the BREA may use the map included in the original complaint:

Aside from the $10,000 payment, each party will bear their own litigation costs which may have been hundreds of thousands of dollars had this gone further.

Pursuant to the agreement:

  • Montvale will secure all consents necessary to allow the eruv to be constructed, and checked on a weekly bases in public areas (paragraph 9).
  • Montvale will grant any applications for new posts if necessary to effectuate the plans in the map (paragraph 9).
  • Montvale will make sure the BREA has consent to enter private properties to check on the Eruv at least three times per year, although inspections will be conducted from roadways and publicly accessible areas whenever possible. (paragraph 10).
  • If any approvals are required after the initial eruv goes up, Montvale will promptly grant the approvals (paragraph 11)
  • If Montvale and the Eruv Association can’t get a valid eruv up in 45 days based on the map provided in exh. A, the Eruv Association can put up the eruv according to the plan outlined in the original complaint (paragraph 12).
  • If Montvale ever moves to underground electric cabling, they agree to work in good faith to reestablish the eruv (paragraph 13).
  • No public funds will go towards the Eruv (paragraph 16).
  • The Borough will cooperate with BREA in any challenges brought against Montvale challenging the enforceability of the agreement and BREA shall handle the legal defense (paragraph 18)
  • Plaintiffs will not initiate any new litigation against Montvale for at least 2 years as long as they abide by the agreement (paragraph 19).
  • Plaintiffs agree not to file any further charges with any local, state or federal agency against the Township and/or any of its employees, agents or administrators arising from dealings that have occurred up to and through the date of execution by all Parties to this Agreement (paragraph 19).
  • Montvale will provide $10,000 for attorneys fees to the plaintiff’s law firm, Weil, Goshal & Manges LLP (paragraph 20).
  • Montvale recognizes the decision in Tenafly, that “the erection of the eruv is not an unconstitutional establishment of religion under the First Amendment.” (paragraph 21)
  • Montvale will not contest or challenge O&R or Verizon’s authority to enter into contracts with BREA (paragraph 22)
  • Montvale will not adopt any ordinance or resolution prohibiting an Eruv (paragraph 24)
  • If the Township violates the agreement, the plaintiffs may seek an expedited and immediate injunctive relief through an order from the court (paragraph 26).




Everyday Racism: 84 years ago and today

As Edmund Burke once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  For the past 7 months in NJ, we have seen a lot of good people saying nothing — as hatred and animosity towards the (((others))) came to the fore.

When a Mahwah Council-member (he has since resigned) mocked a Holocaust survivor and pointed to the “money-trail”, the good people were silent.

Racism isn’t new and hating people because they are different will never go out of style.  But between the violent outbursts we learn about in civil rights battles, there was always an everyday racism.  It’s the story of average, everyday people.  People that didn’t seem to be expressing active hatred.  People that seemed to just want to continue going about their daily lives the way they always had been.

It’s the everyday attitude that lets hatred proliferate when it ceases to be the muffled noise, and moves to the streets.

Eighty-four years ago, silence by good and decent people in Europe let evil triumph, as people took to the streets to advocate the destruction of the Jewish eruv and threw stones through windows of the Jewish community president’s home.

I have seen similar comments of those who threaten to tear it down today.  Not in Europe, but here in New Jersey.

Perhaps, those that don’t learn from history ARE doomed to repeat it.  What lessons are you learning?

Jewish Rite Nearly Starts Rumania Riot

Police Force Brought Out When Gentiles Protest Community Action

(Jewish Telepgraphic Agency)

BUCHAREST, Feb. 13. — The combined efforts of all the members of the police force of Dej. Transylvania were required today to quiet disturbances which arose when the Christian population of the town protested against the execution of a Sabbath duty by the Jewish community of Dej.

When the members of the Jewish community appeared in the streets carrying wire to be used in partitioning toff a part of the town for the purpose of establishing an “eyrev” for the Sabbath, the Christian population began a demonstration, inisting that the “eyrev” symbolizes Jewish possession of the township.  The demonstrators marched through the streets of the Jewish quarters, breaking windows and damaging the house of the Jewish community president.

Although the police of the town, which is predominantly Jewish succeeded in establishing order, excitement still continues in the atmosphere.

(According to Jewish custom, which prohibits the carrying of articles on the Sabbath, except in one’s own home, an “eyrev” — or wire surrounding a district where things may be carried — can be fixed to poles surrounding the district.)

Source [JTA]:

Jewish Daily Bulletin 1934-02-14

[UPDATE] Hermansen & Chewcaskie: How Chronic Liars Deceive You

UPDATE: After claiming the Town Hall meeting will be postponed and that they claim a meeting with the AG will happen in the next two weeks, a stipulation was filed extending the time to respond to the complaint through March 6th.

While I wouldn’t want to make any predictions, it seems that a settlement with the AG would have been an easy thing to accomplish if that’s the direction the State wanted to take.  Perhaps the State, having seen how people are treated at open public meetings in Mahwah, wants to vindicate the rights of the public?  Perhaps something else will be added to the complaint?

What will happen between now and March 6th?  We don’t exactly know.  But we will be keeping an eye on the court docket.

If you haven’t been told about this development by the officials in Mahwah, ask them why?  If you want to keep aware of new developments, follow our Facebook Group:

This past Tuesday, the Mahwah Council abruptly cancelled a scheduled Town Council meeting to discuss the settlement agreement entered into with the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association by the Town.

Last night, the Mahwah council met at their regular scheduled meeting.  They indicated the reason for the cancellation and it doesn’t make any sense.  At the 16:50 mark of the video below, the Council President Robert Hermansen asked the Township’s attorney Brian Chewcaskie to make a statement about the Town Hall meeting.

Chewcaskie said that Town Hall meeting was cancelled base on the advice of the attorneys handling the eruv litigation and the AG litigation.  He said:

the reason it was cancelled, although there was a settlement agreement entered into… there still are continuing actions being taken.  In fact, we have a scheduled meeting with the rabbi and the attorneys to discuss various alternatives they have agreed to accommodate Mahwah and do so. That meeting is scheduled the week of Feb. 20th. In addition, we have requested a meeting with the attorney general’s office.  We do not have a scheduled meeting yet and we expect that that would occur in the next two weeks. Based upon that, it was determined that it would be prudent not to have the Town Hall meeting until after those two meetings are conducted and we would expect that within the next three weeks that there would be a Town Hall meeting for any questions relating to the status of those litigation.  The matter has been resolved.”

This begs the question: didn’t that situation exist before the Town Hall meeting was schedule?

Since the ink was drying on the settlement agreement, Hermansen has been speaking about how they will be meeting to possibly move and relocate the eruv.  Now, he wants to claim that the Town Hall meeting needs to be postponed because they will be having that meeting?

Then Mr. Chewcaskie spoke about the stories people are reading from the internet:

“There’s also a series of what I would call misinformation and rumors — what’s going on, what’s being reported in the media regarding surrounding communities. The Montvale case has been resolved, it has been marked as settled and a formal resolution will be adopted on Tuesday by Montvale.”

I don’t know where he’s looking, but it’s clearly not “marked as settled” on the Court docket. The last entry sets the date to respond to the complaint:

Facts, how do they work?

Back to Mr. Chewcaskie:

“As I’ve indicated to the council, I have no problem addressing any questions relating to the settlement agreement itself, but with regard to any strategy going forward, we will not discuss that until we have some finality, which we expect we will have in a few weeks.”

So, why did the Town Hall meeting need to be cancelled?  I’m very confused.

What does the agreement say about moving the eruv out of Mahwah?

On the day the agreement was signed, Robert Hermansen took to social media to state that “the agreement permits us to have a dialogue for the relocation of the ERUV subject to the agreement of both parties”. (see image)

Does the agreement permit such a dialogue? 

Well, it doesn’t actually speak to it at all.  If that statement is accurate, so is this one:
The agreement permits Mahwah to put Hermansen in stocks and let the community light his pants on fire, subject to the agreement of both parties.

As lawyer and Mahwah resident, Jonathan Marcus wrote in his post entitled “A Lawyer’s Perspective“:

“Council President Hermansen issued a public statement on social media where he stated that one of the primary reasons the Council agreed to the settlement was that “the agreement permits us to have a dialogue for the relocation of the ERUV subject to the agreement of both parties.” This statement is simply untrue and is unsupported by the agreement itself. In fact, one could argue that the agreement states the opposite.”


“While Councilman Hermansen might wish to spin this language into saying that it permits the town to have a dialogue with the BREA about relocating the ERUV, the legal reality is that it does NOT. In fact, nowhere in the settlement agreement is the word “relocation” even used. The legal reality is that the only “dialogue” that has to take place results in the event the BREA (at its sole discretion) wants to modify or expand the existing eruv within Mahwah. Even then, the only dialogue required to take place relates to what route WITHIN MAHWAH such expansion or modification will take. The settlement agreement makes it unambiguously clear that the eruv is here to stay in Mahwah (and in fact, may be expanded within Mahwah) unless the BREA itself decides to remove it from Mahwah.”

It’s an excellent post, it goes through the relevant facts and cites to the settlement agreement.  It’s worth your time to read.

Having been called out, Hermansen addressed the issue before the opening of public input at the meeting:

Hermansen: “I just wanna discuss one other thing, because there is a couple of posts that are being flit around Facebook that is just blatant lies, and one of them is being sponsored, one of these lies is being sponsored by our own Mayor, by Team Laforet. So I wanna address that, have you address that about the potential of movement or potentially moving an eruv and some of things are being discussed. Because, some of the things that are being said is that there is no language in there … we can’t do this .. we can’t do that .. we’re not allow to do this … and the mayor was sitting in the same settlement negotiations, and the same meetings that we were, and somehow I don’t understand why he is sponsoring something that is just an absolute blatant lie. So I’d like for you to address that please.”

Chewcaskie: “I’m not familiar with any Facebook posts, however, the agreement provides that the parties will cooperate with any modification, location, expansion, relocation, which is what the meeting [on the week of the 20th] is for.”

Hermansen: “Thank you. Therefore, I’m not going to get into the nuts and bolts of everything, of it, but I can just tell you that the township council is still trying to work with the parties, with everybody, to find something that is a best interest for both parties on both sides, so that we can do the right thing for the community, for everyone, to hopefully move on so that we can get back to the business of what’s the most important things in this town and start to function on things and start to worry about our taxes and the sewer issues that we have and the things that are going on on Chapel Road and things that are happening in other areas of this town that we need to focus on as opposed to things that have been consuming this town for a very long time.

And personally, for myself, I’ve said this before, we’re a better town than this. We’re a better town than what’s been going on, we’re a better town that what people have been talking about, we’re a better town than people have been discussing in the press and we’re a better place than … we have not been represented to be by some of the people who are sitting up here on this dais, who are not protecting this town the right way. And, I think that the right thing to do now is to move forward, find the right thing. This is where we’re at, we allow the attorneys to do what they’re supposed to do, and we move on from here.”

Having been called out, the council that scheduled a Town Hall meeting to discuss the dialogue, claims the continuing dialogue prevents them from having a Town Hall meeting.  The language they use changes to describe the settlement and those calling them out are branded as liars.

And that, is how the chronic liar of Mahwah deceives the people.