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  • Mike Diederich Jr.

Six defining steps on Stony Point's road from democracy to theocracy

July 5, 2021

"Clarkstown, What They Don't Want You To Know on Facebook" put together a fascinating post on July 5, 2021 that applies to Rockland County and Orange County (NY) and Ocean County (NJ). I am informed that the post below and the comments come from information prepared by long-time Orange County resident Geoffrey Howard and from lectures given by Richard Hull, the town's Municipal Historian of Warwick. While I do not necessarily agree with all of what is presented below, and my focus is on the Establishment Clause and secular education, the below is certainly well worth considering. According to CWTDWYTK, Ramapo is in Phase 5 if not 6, Airmont recently entered Phase 4, Stony Point is entering Phase 1, Clarkstown, Orangetown, and Haverstraw somewhere between Phase 1 and 2. UNEASY NEIGHBORS: THE ORANGE COUNTY CITIZEN'S GUIDE TO LIVING WITH THE SATMAR OF KIRYAS JOEL First is the cultural emphasis on large families. Typically, Satmar couples have four or five children. Eight or nine kids is not unusual. According to the U.S. Census, almost a quarter of the KJ population in 2010 were pre-school children under five years old. Sixty-one percent were kids under 18. Only one percent were senior citizens over 65. The result is a burgeoning population. At its current rate of growth--about three percent per year--the KJ population, now about 23,000, will be 33,000 within ten years, making it the largest town or city in Orange County. Secondly, the Satmar leadership encourages cultural isolation from the outside world. Children tend to stay in the community as adults, rather than disperse into the outside world when they come of age. As a result, there is a constant need for new housing to accommodate them. But the current village of Kiryas Joel is running out of space for new construction. To solve this problem, Satmar leadership will have to either expand the boundaries of KJ itself, or establish new Satmar communities nearby. They are currently in the process of doing both. 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑮𝒂𝒎𝒆 𝑷𝒍𝒂𝒏 By looking at the history of development of Kiryas Joel and Bloomingburg, one can see a discernible strategy, a step-by-step “game plan” for expansion. This expansion game plan has also been carried out with great success in Rockland County, where ultra-orthodox Hasidim have taken control of the East Ramapo school system, amid great controversy. To absorb the inevitable Orange County Satmar expansion in the most orderly and peaceful manner, and to respect the interests of non-Satmar residents as well, the Mayors, Supervisors, and Town Boards of surrounding towns and villages need to understand this game plan, and how it works. Here’s what that Game Plan looks like: 𝑷𝒉𝒂𝒔𝒆 1 𝑰𝒏𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒂𝒍 𝑨𝒄𝒒𝒖𝒊𝒔𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏: Using shadow corporations, acquire a large enough parcel of land for a major housing development. Obtain the prior agreement —in private — of key local officials to support the development in obtaining the needed approvals. Make as little mention as possible of any religious affiliation. 𝑷𝒉𝒂𝒔𝒆 2 𝑩𝒖𝒊𝒍𝒅-𝒐𝒖𝒕/𝒈𝒓𝒐𝒘𝒕𝒉: Build as many homes as permitted. Move families in and await the inevitable rapid population growth. Acquire as many adjoining or nearby parcels as possible. 𝑷𝒉𝒂𝒔𝒆 3 𝑰𝒏𝒄𝒐𝒓𝒑𝒐𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒂𝒔 𝒂 𝑽𝒊𝒍𝒍𝒂𝒈𝒆: Once the population reaches 500, use the NY State law that permits a community to create its own incorporated village, a legally separate municipal entity, within the town. 𝑷𝒉𝒂𝒔𝒆 4 𝑴𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝑮𝒓𝒐𝒘𝒕𝒉 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝑷𝒐𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒍 𝑪𝒐𝒏𝒕𝒓𝒐𝒍 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑻𝒐𝒘𝒏: With the ability to control the village laws, especially the zoning code, build as densely as possible to achieve maximum population growth. With this growth in the village population, use bloc-voting to win town elections for Supervisor, Town Board, School Board, and local judges. 𝑷𝒉𝒂𝒔𝒆 5 𝑨𝒏𝒏𝒆𝒙𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏: Knowing that there will be little or no opposition at the town level, embark on a campaign to grow through annexation of town lands, again permitted through NYS law. This process may be hastened by the departure of neighboring non-Satmar people fearful of being surrounded by an unfamiliar exclusionary culture. 𝑷𝒉𝒂𝒔𝒆 6 𝑬𝒙𝒑𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒊𝒏𝒇𝒍𝒖𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒖𝒆𝒅 𝒈𝒓𝒐𝒘𝒕𝒉: Continue to rely on ever- expanding bloc-voting to influence officeholders at the County, State and Congressional levels, especially to get the financing, special legislation and exemptions needed for the larger infrastructure projects, such as the sewage and water, without which growth is not possible. These are the basic elements of the plan. Kiryas Joel is in Phase 5/6, while Bloomingburg is at Phase 2. In other communities, Phase 1 may already be underway below the radar. 𝑨𝒏 “𝑨𝒍𝒍-𝑨𝒎𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒏” 𝑷𝒍𝒂𝒏? It’s important to recognize that this game plan has its roots in some of the most basic American traditions — the immigrant saga, self determination, the democratic process, freedom of religion, property rights, and the notion that all people are created equal. In addition, it uses the rule of law for things like village incorporation, zoning, annexations, school funding laws and formulas, and the provision of social services. Most important, it relies heavily on the electoral process and lobbying to influence decision-making, preferential legislation, and the flow of resources. Close to 100% bloc-voting, dictated to a willing populace by Satmar leadership, creates an ever-expanding, de facto sphere of political influence and support. The Game Plan, although based on some of America’s core principles and values, in its end game simply does not fit easily with this country’s cultural tradition of being good neighbors. The leadership of KJ has created an exclusionary society, entirely separate from the community around it, neither participating in nor contributing to it. Moreover, KJ is statistically poor — the poorest municipality in the United States, in fact. And due to the cultural norm of marrying within the Satmar community, KJ has health needs well beyond the statistical norms of the surrounding populations. The result is a skewed drain on resources where one community winds up — legally — with a disproportionate amount of the resources of County, State, and Federal programs. As the leaders of Satmar see it, these resources flow to them by right. To raise questions is to be guilty of religious intolerance. The stigma of anti-Semitism can make critics and questioners of KJ hesitate to speak out. Like bloc-voting, charging critics with anti-Semitism is one of the cornerstones of the Satmar plan, one that cuts across all phases. Perhaps the most effective of all strategies used by the Satmar leadership is an aggressive use of the legal system. Many of the towns and villages in Orange County have been or are being sued by Satmar plaintiffs. The bottom line is this: the aggressive yet isolationist culture of the Satmar, combined with rapid growth, runs counter to the idea of being “good neighbors.” The Satmar leadership seems to have little interest in interacting positively with the communities around them. They simply want to be left alone and be allowed to follow their religion and customs. Unfortunately, those customs inevitably result in an outward expansion. This expansion, in turn, requires significant concessions — land and resources — from surrounding communities. Therein lies the difficulty. 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑪𝒉𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒆𝒏𝒈𝒆 The core of the Satmar expansion “game plan” is legal. All kinds of interest groups and communities use get-out-the-vote political action, lobbying, and the legal system to achieve their goals and look out for our own interests. The Satmar leadership happens to do it aggressively and well. By far, the easiest and most productive way for non-Satmar people to look out for their own interests is to recognize the Satmar Expansion Game Plan at the very earliest stages of Phase One. That means Town Boards and Supervisors should monitor land sales and activities carefully. And citizens should keep a close eye on their Town Boards and zoning/planning boards. In large measure, Chestnut Ridge, the proposed development in Bloomingburg, got onto the drawing boards and was approved because no one was looking except a few local officials who had already been influenced to approve it. While it is easier to deal with Satmar expansion before Phase One, it is still not easy. Local officials and community leaders will have to decide whether they want an exclusionary community (e.g., the Satmar) in their midst. If they decide that such an enclave is not in the best long-term interests of their town, they need to pro-actively monitor land-use developments and activities, and then take appropriate legal steps to control or prevent these kinds of high- density developments.

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