October 9, 2007

Kiryas Joel, Monroe NY - The Town of Woodbury residents were informed by way of a newspaper article that a half-acre strip of land beside county-owned Gonzaga Park was bought for $200,000. The seller of this expensive piece of property was Ziggy Brach, a Woodbury resident.

The buyer of this site was the Village of Kiryas Joel. The reason for this purchase was "water." This transaction took place immediately after the Orange County Legislature denied the Village of Kiryas Joel permission to install two 34-foot-high water tanks on a county-owned park property.

The following day, the Woodbury building inspector sent a letter to Brach explaining that he must obtain subdivision approval from the Woodbury Planning Board before filing a subdivision plan. In that same letter, Brach was advised that he had to submit his site plan/special permit application for such work to avoid a stop-work order from being issued. Copies of this letter were sent to the Village of Kiryas Joel, the Orange County Real Property Tax Department, the Woodbury Town Board, the Woodbury Planning Board Chairman and lawyers for the Woodbury Planning and Zoning Boards. Brach had not responded to this letter. However, very recently, Brach has allowed construction of the water tanks to begin.

But a letter was received from Gedalye Szegedin, Kiryas Joel village administrator, indicating that, it appears to him, the Woodbury Planning Board has no legal jurisdiction with respect to this matter. In the concluding sentence of his letter, Szegedin advises the building inspector that he, the building inspector, should be careful not to exceed his lawful authority and potentially be subject to damages for the actions he might take under color of law.

Upon review of Szegedin's letter, I responded directly to Kiryas Joel Mayor Abraham Wieder. Szegedin's letter to the Woodbury building inspector was clearly viewed as a threat, a form of intimidation and an indication that the Village of Kiryas Joel was going to ignore its responsibility to follow legal procedures.

My letter to Wieder clearly states the Town of Woodbury's position regarding this matter. At the end of my letter, the mayor is reminded that the construction of water tanks in connection with a municipal water system is initially subject to the zoning regulations in effect. A copy of this letter was also sent to Brach.

The silence to the correspondence to Wieder, Szegedin and Brach was deafening, only to be broken by the sound and movement of a large crane on the half-acre site in question. The building inspector's stop-work order was ignored and a fence was erected with security to prevent our inspector from entering the construction area. [Woodbury Supervisor John Burke/Record]