Kiryas Joel annexation appeal looms

Meanwhile, KJ administrator taunts opponents: 'You were warned'

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  • On Monday, May 20, lawyers for the consortium of municipalities and the nonprofit group Preserve Hudson Valley are expected to file their appeal of a state Supreme Court ruling that dismissed their opposition to the annexation of 164 acres of land in the unincorporated portion of the Town of the Monroe into the Village of Kiryas Joel. The 164 acres are located in "The fingers" that area closest to the village borders. The larger, 507-acre annexation proposal - generally to the west of the village has not been decided yet.

By Bob Quinn

— On Monday, May 20, lawyers for the consortium of municipalities and the nonprofit group Preserve Hudson Valley are expected to file their appeal of a state Supreme Court ruling that dismissed their opposition to the annexation of 164 acres of land in the unincorporated portion of the Town of the Monroe into the Village of Kiryas Joel.

Last fall, a judge ruled that the groups had not demonstrated how they would be adversely affected by the transfer of property into the Hasidic community who call Kiryas Joel home.

The judge also ruled that half of the eight municipalities in the consortium — the Town of Cornwall, the villages of Cornwall-on-Hudson, Harriman and Monroe — had no standing in the case, meaning those communities would not be affected even if annexation proceeded.

This, too, will be part of the appeal, said Cornwall-on-Hudson Mayor Brendan Coyne, who acts as spokesman for the group. The other four towns in the consortium are the Town and Village of Woodbury, the Town of Blooming Grove and the Village of South Blooming Grove.

The members each contributed $25,000 to the initial defense fund; additional money has been allocated. Orange County also is a party to this group.

Preserve Hudson Valley filed individually.

The court handling the appeal is the Appellate Division, Second Department, in Brooklyn.

Pending decisionsMeanwhile, the Orange County Legislature has yet to take action on a separate proposal that would create a new municipality — the Town of North Monroe — that would include Kiryas Joel and the rest of the unincorporated portion of the Town of Monroe north of Route 17.

Nor has the Monroe-Woodbury School District acted on a proposal by the Kiryas Joel School District to amend the boundaries between the two districts to match the change wrought by annexation. Kiryas Joel officials have argued such a move would prevent a scenario akin to the East Ramapo School District in Rockland County.

There, the area’s Hasidic community took control of the school board and embarked on a series of budget cuts that make it hard for students to graduate. A state monitor now oversees the district.

‘You were warned’The population growth within Kiryas Joel is such that residents are not waiting for a decision regarding annexations. In increasing numbers, people are buying single-family homes in surrounding communities — Blooming Grove, Monroe and Woodbury.

This is what Kiryas Joel Village Manager Gedalye Szegedin has described as the “KJ outgrowth.”

In a series of emails last week and this, Szegedin addressed the impact of the “outgrowth.”

“See attached a double page ad in all the Yiddish Newspapers prompting the 350 beautiful homes being built in the new Woodbury Junction/Woodbury Villas development within walking distance of Kiryas Joel,” Szegedin wrote in his first email. “The 15 first pioneer families have already moved in to the new homes; more will move for the Passover holiday.

“Your policy of fighting the 164 acres annexation is working great,” the village manager added. “My estimate is that by five years at least 1,000 registered voters from KJ will reside in Woodbury and vote in the Woodbury Town/Village/School District elections.

“The Overflow from KJ is in full bloom,” he concluded. “Keep up the court appeal and KJ residents keep up the Overflow, just blame yourself. I am documenting this so you shouldn’t be able to deny the fact that you had ample notice and you chose to ignore it and continue the court appeal for your short term political benefit ignoring the long term implications of your failed policy and court fight.”

A second email this week included a link to a story about East Ramapo.

Szegedin wrote: “We in Orange County were lucky to have clearly established boundaries by having our own KJ Village and KJ School District. Not any longer, the KJ Overflow is in full bloom, the boundaries that served us all for 40 years were destroyed by the county’s fight against annexation. Now it’s Lakewood and/or East Ramapo in Orange County all over again. Blame yourself. You were warned.”

Which is it: overflow or peace and harmony?United Monroe, which has long opposed annexation, seeks to be a party to any discussions held by the county regarding annexation or the creation of the Town of North Monroe.

Emily Convers, one of the founders of United Monroe as well as Preserve Hudson Valley, responded to Szegedin’s emails:

“Gedalye Szegedin’s recent statements express perfectly the purpose for the expression ‘talking out of both sides of one’s mouth.’ The Kiryas Joel administrator, in his comments to The Photo News, is threatening the people of Monroe with ‘Overflow,’ should we not acquiesce to KJ’s annexation efforts. This is the same man who has submitted flowery press releases calling for ‘peace and harmony’ between our communities.

“Which is it, Gedalye?” Convers added. “Threats of overflow or peace and harmony? You can’t have it both ways.

“How about this, Mr. Szegedin: Stop the intimidation. Come to the table willing to compromise, and stop yourself and your man, Harley Doles, from using scare tactics in an effort to obfuscate and sway public opinion,’” she concluded. “We gladly await your decision to sit down like adults to come up with rational solutions.”

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