The seed is planted
Monroe voters approve secession of Kiryas Joel and the formation of the Town of Palm Tree by a margin of nearly 5 to 1
By Bob Quinn
MONROE — Monroe voters spoke loudly Tuesday with regard to their future.
Proposition No. 4 asked: Shall the Town of Monroe be divided to create the Town of Palm Tree and the Town of Monroe?
Yes, 8,656 voters said.
No, 1,749 others answered.
As of Nov. 1, there were 22,525 active registered voters throughout the Town of Monroe, which includes the villages of Harriman, Kiryas Joel and Monroe.
Proposition No. 4 generated a total of 10,405 votes, meaning the turnout for this historic turn of events was 46.2 percent.
There are many issues tied to moment - different lifestyles and different housing preferences among them.
But also include the ballot box, where the growing population of the Village of Kiryas Joel has become a voting bloc that had increasingly dominated Monroe Town politics.
That - and other local issues - gave rise to another voting bloc in Monroe - the grass roots organization, United Monroe.
‘Diplomacy instead of litigation’With the blessings of the Orange County Legislature, officials from Kiryas Joel and United Monroe forged an agreement that brought Monroe to this moment - the separation of the two communities.
Consider the statement by Kiryas Joel Village Administrator Gedalye Szegedin:
“Today is truly an historic day that will usher in a new era of peace and stability for all the residents of Monroe,” Kiryas Joel Village Administrator Gedalye Szegedin said in a statement. “We would like to thank all the voters in Monroe for their overwhelming support. They chose a better path forward, one of diplomacy and compromise instead of angry rhetoric and litigation.”
Emily Convers, the chairwoman of United Monroe, expressed similar sentiments.
“Monroe has hope for a sustainable future,” she added. And she ended her statement by quoting anthropologist Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
News elsewhereThe vote also was reported in various publications here in the United States as well as in Israel.
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “The Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel reportedly will become the first haredi Orthodox town in the United States after voters in Monroe, New York, overwhelmingly backed a referendum on secession. On Tuesday, over 80 percent of Monroe voters backed the measure on Kiryas Joel, a village of over 20,000 Yiddish-speaking Jews associated with the Satmar Hasidic sect, to form the state’s first new town in 35 years. The Town of Palm Tree — an English translation of the Satmar rebbe’s surname, Teitelbaum — should come into existence in 2020, unless lawmakers speed up the process.”
The Jerusalem Post carried a similar story on Wednesday.
What’s nextMuch remains to be done.
As things stand now, voters within the Town of Palm Tree will vote on who will represent them in November 2019 and then take office on Jan. 1, 2020.
Assemblyman James Skoufis as well as Kiryas Joel officials themselves are seeking to reduce the timetable, allowing Palm Tree residents to vote in November 2018 with officials taking office on Jan. 1, 2019.
Whichever the date, six months after the town begins its work, the boundaries between the Kiryas Joel School District and the Monroe-Woodbury School District will be redrawn. That means the Town of Palm Tree and the Kiryas Joel School district will share the same boundaries, as the district does now with the Village of Kiryas Joel.
This was a critical part of the agreement between Kiryas Joel and United Monroe - the fear that bloc voting within the Monroe-Wooddbury School District would create another East Ramapo School District. There, the Hasidic community had taken control of the school board and stripped so many programs that it was difficult for high school students to graduate. A state monitor now oversees the district.
More immediately, lawyers for Kiryas Joel and United Monroe and its non-profit, Preserve Hudson Valley, will be in court, seeking a judge’s approval dismissing the lawsuits each has against the other.
The agreement also includes a stipulation that Kiryas Joel officials will not seek additional land in either Monroe or Blooming Grove for 10 years.