‘A gesture of good neighborship'

| 21 Feb 2012 | 11:00

    WOODBURY-The Kiryas Joel Alliance announced this week it has withdrawn its petition to annex 87 acres from the Town of Woodbury into the Village of Kiryas Joel "as a gesture of good faith in its desire for improved relations and neighborliness with the surrounding communities." Pinkus Jakobowitz, speaking on behalf of the alliance at a press conference with town of Woodbury officials and members of SOCA at Work, acknowledged that the sole motive behind the annexation bid was "to help alleviate the great hardship experienced by large middle income families in their quest for affordable housing. "However, after listening to the concerns of our neighbors during various discussions with leaders of the Town of Woodbury and SOCA-at-Work for the past two months, and after evaluating the current situation as a whole, we have concluded that for the sake of promoting good neighborly relations we are withdrawing this petition for annexation," he added. The timing of the Tuesday's announcement, noted Woodbury Supervisor Sheila Conroy, was important because on Wednesday, the state Department of Environmental Conservation was to rule on which municipality - the town of Woodbury or the village of Kiryas Joel - would be the lead agency to oversee environmental reviews. Conroy, like Jakobowitz and Jonathan Swiller from SOCA at Work, acknowledged the spirit of cooperation among the parties. And although the details remain to be worked out, she and Town Councilwoman Lorraine McNeill also discussed the creation of a community panel to continue discussions between the groups. That collegiality has not always been evident in such discussion. SOCA is non-profit organization comprised of members who are concerned about the potential growth in southern Orange County and committed to fighting the proposed "KJ Pipeline" as well as any future proposals to annex Monroe and Woodbury property into the Village of Kiryas Joel, according to its Web site. "We can prevent annexation. We can prevent the creation of new villages. But we can only do so if the panic selling stops," the group says on the Web. But on Tuesday afternoon, at the backyard press conference in Woodbury, Swiller also struck a conciliatory tone with the Alliance. "When the KJA saw that our objection to annexation was based on real concerns, and not blind resistance, they reconsidered the idea of annexation and told us that it was outweighed by their wish to have constructive relationships with their neighbors," he said. "They then offered to drop their annexation plan. This was done unilaterally and was not part of any quid pro quo. "And we are profoundly grateful to the Kiryas Joel Alliance who put neighborliness first, and proved that their words were matched by their actions. We view this event as merely the start of an interaction based on mutual respect, openness and fairness on all sides." Then he and Jakobowitz shook hands. The issue of growth in Kiryas Joel remains, however. According to a report in the Times Herald-Record, the alliance has not withdrawn the second annexation petition it filed in August n to annex 97 acres of Monroe into Kiryas Joel.