Over 500 people have signed a petition protesting the Village of Montebello’s prosecution of Rockland resident Zev Oster for keeping two small beehives and blueberry bushes on 1.3 acre vacant lot on Spook Rock Road. Oster will appear in Montebello Village Court on Wednesday evening, May 27, at 5:15 p.m.
The petition can be viewed here.
“All I want to do is share my love of the land with my neighbors,” Oster said, “I’m using this property for what it was intended—to grow and to support the natural habitat. Bees are integral to the agricultural ecosystem and blueberries are a beautiful part of our local environment. It’s a shame that rather than encourage local agriculture, I’m being prosecuted for using this land as nature intended.”
Oster, a lifelong Rockland resident, bought the vacant land in Montebello after growing blueberry plants for three years in the backyard of his Monsey home. Oster said that as soon as he began preparing the land for planting the bushes, he was served with violations for land disturbance and, outrageously, alleging that having a beehive on the property violates the village zoning code.
“I hope this is just an overreaction by the village,” said Oster’s attorney, Ryan Karben. “There were bees long before there was a Village of Montebello. We will defend this overzealous prosecution while submitting an application to the village’s Community Design Review Committee to discuss the concerns raised by the village.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, since 2006, as much as one-third of bee colonies in the United States have disappeared. According to the Back Yard Bee Keeping Association, urbanization has radically decreased the area available to bees to forage. Bees are needed to pollinate fruit and vegetable crops, and benefit as much as one-third of all food and beverages. Some foods, like almonds, are entirely dependent on bee pollination.
The value of bees is so manifest that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama placed a beehive on the South Lawn of The White House in 2010. The bees pollinate the grounds’ flowers while providing honey for official functions.