Sunset on Hillside–A Disastrous Plan for Airmont
After assurances from Mayor John Layne that he would oppose the development in every way he could, the mayor abandoned his promise in a session that possibly violated New York State’s Sunshine Law. As a result, plans for a thirteen-building complex were submitted to the Village on April 5. In the middle of a quiet, established neighborhood, the plans call for one yeshiva for married students, another yeshiva for unmarried students with a dormitory, 10 three-floor buildings to house married students, a rabbi’s house, and 212 parking spaces.
In 1983, the Church of the Nazarene applied for permission to build a church on the same property. They were turned down, and the numerous objections then (traffic and safety considerations, water, sewage, and environmental issues, character of the neighborhood) still exist today. To read a history of the site that includes both religious applications and the objections to both petitions, click here or on the photo of the actual site above. To see the specifics of the site plans from the Congregation Mischknois Lavier Yakov, click here.
[The most recent stories are on the home page]
"I think it's time for the village to take another look at the master plan," said Trustee Anthony Valente, who proposed the moratorium and was one of three trustees voting for it.
"Back then, traffic was the issue," Valente
said, "but now water, sewers, sewer capacity, are the issues, too."
[Story available only in Journal News archives]
Response from the applicants is expected in
March. The Congregation Michknois Lavier Yakov was presented with a
16-page list of environmental issues including critical problems with
water, sewage, and traffic.
[Story available only in Journal News archives]
If you walked the length of Hillside Avenue in Airmont and counted the residents, the total would be about 125. Contrast that with the numbers planned for the 13-building complex planned by the Congregation Mischknois Lavier Yakov, Inc. On one of the four Adult Student Housing sites created by Supervisor St. Lawrence and his Board, where no zoning regulations apply, the congregation plans to build two yeshivas and eleven residential buildings.
Recently, a licensed architect reviewed the plans to provide maximum occupancy calculations for the Airmont Planning Board. The numbers he came up with are shocking. The settlement arrived at for one of the yeshivas allows for 170 unmarried students--the proposed building has a capacity of 1,300. The other yeshiva was supposed to be for 30 married students per the settlement--real maximum capacity for the building is 628 students. The ten multi-story town houses for married students were supposed to be for 30 students and their families--maximum capacity of actual buildings is 540. Read the entire letter here.
You can also read the front page story from the Home and Store News "Airmont proposed development worries USR residents" here. The December 7 article provides a good overview of the project and the problems for residents on both sides of the state line.
Closing Hillside Avenue: (Dec 14), the Upper Saddle River Council voted down a proposition to close Hillside Avenue on the Jersey side. The vote was 5 to 1 against, and the meeting was held at the Cavellini Middle School. Several hundred residents attended the meeting.
Hillside on Hold, Temporarily (July 27)
Before a standing-room-only crowd of much more than the estimated 200, the Airmont Planning Board followed their attorney’s advice and put the Hillside application on hold while their counsel set up a conference with Judge Robinson. (more)
Airmont residents, according to St. Lawrence, are “doing everything they can to keep [Orthodox Jews] from coming into the community, and the federal government has had enough. I’ve spoken with the federal prosecutors,” he said, “and they’re ready to teach Airmont a lesson.”
These inflammatory words were uttered by the current supervisor in a newspaper article in The Jewish Week titled “Whiff of Foul Air in Airmont.” You can read the article and an analysis with notes and corrections here.
Airmont investigates mayor (July 26)
When the Hillside Avenue Preservation Association decided to meet to discuss the Village’s agreement with the Federal prosecutor that would allow the Hillside project to bypass all zoning regulations, they assumed the first amendment would be in play. That’s the one that guarantees "the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Petition and even sue--that’s what they were going to discuss. Unfortunately, Mayor Layne, motivated, he says, by civic responsibility, thought he should warn the church where the meeting was to be held. His first explanation of his actions was that he didn’t want the church to think this was an official Airmont Village meeting. Yes, a meeting of the Village officials to discuss suing themselves. Well, his second explanation to the Journal was a little more nuanced. [Story available only in Journal News archives]
U.S. accuses Airmont again of housing bias (June 14)
"A lawsuit brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan specifically accuses Airmont of prohibiting dormitory-style housing for religious schools. . . The lawsuit, filed late Friday, wants a federal court to declare Airmont's ban on schools with housing unconstitutional under the Fair Housing Act and also under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA)." [Story available only in Journal News archives]
Journal News reporter, Laura Incalcaterra offers an overview of the complicated issues concerning RLUIPA and how it has been invoked here and around the country. Read her "Religious land-use causing friction" and then you can go to the RLUIPA button above for a more complete view of Prof Marci Hamilton's opposition to the law.[Story available only in Journal News archives]
An environmental engineer with extensive experience in sewer system design and construction appeared before the Airmont Planning Board to present his views on the sewer overflows in Airmont and elsewhere in Ramapo. These spills have been occurring with increased frequency and are not inconsequential--they often involve tens of thousands of gallons, and many make their eventual way into the branches of the Saddle River. Click here for his report on the problem, additional information on the Sewer District's reports of the spills, and specific information about the health risks.
Upper Saddle River Joins Hillside Association v. the Airmont Project (May 12)
A Nasty Catch 22 for Airmont (May 9 Board Meeting)
Hillside Residents Revive Association and File against Airmont (May 3)
Two Phantom Meetings Cancel Citizens' Rights in Airmont (April 21)