ONE TOWN DIVIDED OR TWO SEPARATE TOWNS ?

Orange County Legislature votes to allow Kiryas Joel referendum to ‘secede’ from Monroe

BY KATHY KAHN 

By overwhelming majority, the Orange County Legislature last week agreed to allow the Town of Monroe to put a referendum on its November 7 ballot to create an all-Satmar Hasidic town.

Speaker after speaker filled the County’s Emergency Services Building on Thursday, September 7, pleading with Legislators to say “aye” to the referendum to separate the village of Kiryas Joel and allow it to be absorbed into a new town called Palm Tree. Most who spoke said it will prevent the Monroe-Woodbury School District “from becoming another East Ramapo” and will preserve the suburban lifestyle for the rest of Monroe residents enjoy.

The KJ School District, which serves only disabled children in the Satmar village and will serve East Ramapo’s disabled children as well, agreed to realign its boundaries with the M/W School District at a cost, which has yet to be determined. Monroe residents pointed to East Ramapo district and the Town of Ramapo as owners of fates they wish to avoid.

There were many unanswered questions the Legislature bypassed, including where the water to serve the population of Kiryas Joel and/or its new town will come from. Its pipeline from New York City’s Catskill aqueduct to the village of Kiryas Joel was shut down and still being debated in the Appellate Division. The current plan is to draw water from nearby Cornwall, a community that’s primarily dependent on well water.

Matt Turnbull (D-Hamptonburgh), one of the three of 21 Legislators who voted no, said the agreement between United Monroe, a local political party, and three Orange County legislators behind closed doors was insufficient. With no SEQR review and no comprehensive plan filed with the Orange County Planning Department, the public is in the dark when it comes to what the proposed new town’s intentions will be.

“We found a solution and want the fighting to stop. Trust us,” United Monroe Chair Emily Convers told the Legislature,

With more than 10,000 registered voters in the village of Kiryas Joel who will also be voting in that same November referendum, there’s little doubt it will pass. Although the village of Kiryas Joel was declared unconstitutional by The US Supreme Court, former Governor Mario Cuomo and his successors have re-written laws to bypass the SCOTUS decision.

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, who represents areas within Orange County including Monroe along with parts of the Town of Ramapo in Rockland County, said, “I have long advocated that separation of the residents of Kiryas Joel into a new town was a solution that should be explored and I am glad that the leaders on both sides of the issue sat down and have come to an amicable agreement. The creation of the Town of Palm Tree for the people of Kiryas Joel will allow self government for both the people of Monroe and the people of Kiryas Joel, and will mitigate the differences and disagreements between them. Following a yes vote tonight the destiny of both Monroe and KJ will be in the hands of the voters, and I wholeheartedly endorse such a result.”