Rabbi Zwiebel urges “all parties to proceed in a spirit of good faith and constructive cooperation”

Agudath Israel of America applauded the news of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s veto of two legislative bills designed to prevent the Village of Kiryas Joel from annexing certain land of the Town of Monroe.

Existing New York State law provides a detailed mechanism through which land may be annexed by a neighboring jurisdiction. Upon the petition of landowners in the Town of Monroe who seek to have their land annexed by the neighboring Village of Kiryas Joel, that mechanism has been activated, and the relevant parties have followed the statutory process for considering the petition.

However, in a transparent effort to block the Kiryas Joel annexation effort, the state legislature passed two separate laws in June that would have added layers of additional hurdles to the annexation process and would have made it all-but-impossible for the Kiryas Joel annexation to succeed. While the bills were neutral on their faces, not mentioning Kiryas Joel by name, it was clear to all that their sole purpose was to block the growth of the Chasidic community of Kiryas Joel.

While the bills were being considered in the state legislature, Agudath Israel general counsel Rabbi Mordechai Biser, Esq. submitted a memorandum of opposition to the bills, pointing out their constitutional and policy flaws. Then, after the legislature passed the bills and sent them to Governor Cuomo for approval, Agudath Israel’s executive vice president Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Esq. sent the Governor a letter urging him to veto the bills. The Governor has now done so, citing a number of the substantive concerns raised in the Biser memo.

Said Rabbi Zwiebel, “What was especially troubling about these bills was that nobody before had ever suggested that the well-settled annexation process be burdened by additional layers of complicated hurdles. For some reason, the alleged weaknesses of the existing process were discovered only now in the specific context of a Chasidic community seeking to accommodate its organic growth. It is gratifying that Governor Cuomo saw these facially neutral bills for what they really were: an effort to prevent the community of Kiryas Joel from growing.

“As the annexation process will now move forward under the longstanding guidelines of state law, we urge all parties to proceed in a spirit of good faith and constructive cooperation, recognizing the need to accommodate the needs of the growing Chasidic community while respecting the rights and sensitivities of neighboring communities. The time has arrived for constructive dialogue among all interested parties to help achieve those ends.”