Support Grows For Lawsuit Against Kiryas Joel

June 30, 2009
lawsuit2.jpgElected officials and citizens voiced support for a lawsuit challenging Kiryas Joel’s proposed water pipeline Monday night at a hearing held by the Orange County Legislature.

More than three dozen speakers took turns addressing lawmakers seated on a stage at Central Valley Elementary School for a hearing that lasted nearly two hours. Many talked about flaws in the environmental study for the water project or the potential impact it would have on growth in Kiryas Joel and on the county.

“This is a monumental mistake to allow this to go forward without being challenged,” said Woodbury Supervisor John Burke, one of eight public officials who spoke.

Legislature Chairwoman Roxanne Donnery arranged the hearing at the request of local officials to let the public weigh in on Kiryas Joel’s proposed connection to the Catskill Aqueduct. The Legislature is set to vote Wednesday on whether to support a second lawsuit against Kiryas Joel over the environmental review.

County Executive Ed Diana removed some impetus for the hearing by announcing last week that he will file a lawsuit. But the Legislature held the session anyway and opened the discussion to other water and sewer issues as well.

About 150 people turned out. Ten of the 21 county lawmakers — eight Democrats and two Republicans — attended the session but didn’t speak, except for introductory remarks.

Harriman Mayor Steve Welle expressed concerns that Kiryas Joel would overburden the sewer plant his village hosts by tapping New York City’s water supply. Sewage treatment is the central issue in the pipeline debate, but Harriman has a more visceral reaction than other communities because of odor problems.

“It certainly will not improve the currently unacceptable operating conditions,” Welle said of the planned 13-mile pipeline.

Several speakers criticized Kiryas Joel’s success in securing grants, its heavy dependence on public assistance and its political clout. Only one made a plea for improving communication between the village and its neighbors.

“I’m afraid it’s going to lead to violence,” said Kate Ahmadi of Blooming Grove. Noting that the two sides seem to meet only in courtrooms, she added, “Try to set up other ways that we can communicate.”

(Source: Times Herald Record)