BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
CLARIFICATION – The Rockland County Times reported that a summons issued to the Echo Ridge shul by the Village of Airmont contained a potential $2.25 million fine.
The summons carried a penalty of up to $15,000 (three $5,000 fines) for the date of October 6, 2017. The summons also warned of continued ongoing violations over a 150-day period, which would amount to up to $2.25 million in fines.
Despite this broad language, the summons only listed specific violations on the date of October 6, 2017 and it is not clear whether the threat of “ongoing daily” violations was legally binding. Airmont village attorney Sean Mack said it was not and the verbiage was included because, “The law requires we advise them of what the law is.”
An Airmont shul was threatened with up to $2.25 million in parking violations only to settle the ticket for a mere $100, the Rockland County Times has learned.
According to the public documents obtained by the Rockland County Times, the Congregation of Echo Ridge, which is run by village resident Rabbi Eliezer Halberstam, received a summons on March 2, 2018 for three different violations for the date of October 6, 2017 with a maximum penalty of $5,000 each. The summons warned the defendant was to answer the court for his violations on October 6 and similar violations “on a continuing, ongoing daily basis thereafter.”
In the end, the village agreed to settle the ticket for a mere $100. Village officials said it is common for parking violation to be settled for mere hundreds of dollars, despite maximum penalties that reach thousands and even include potential jail time.
When reached for comment Rabbi Halberstam said he had initially gained approval to expand his shul’s property and parking lot space in August 2016. When an opportunity arose to buy the neighboring property Halberstam took it and submitted a new plan. This time village code enforcers began to resist his efforts, leaving his congregation in limbo on issues such as parking.
Halberstam said he allowed congregants to park on the lawn, which he believed to be a common practice in the area. He said he understood the summons’ language to be a threat against him for up to a $2.25 million fine. He said he was drained by the time spent before village officials and in court.
“I’ve been before the board practically since I got here [six years ago]. The process has been extremely hard and extremely expensive. I’ve tried to abide by codes try to do the right thing safety-wise. The village has been doing everything possible delay,” said Halberstam, adding that he had received no prior code summonses prior to the parking controversy.
“I would like to thank the Village Attorney Sean Mack for working with my attorney to reach an amicable resolution,” Halberstam said.
Village Attorney Sean Mack said, “Congregation of Echo Ridge was never issued 450 violations and was not facing $2.25 million in fines. Congregation Echo Ridge was cited for having three cars parked in violation of the Village Code on one single day. The $100 fine issued to Echo Ridge was consistent with other parking violations issued to other residents of the village.”