A federal lawsuit has been filed against the Village of Airmont to "rectify," the village's alleged effort to discriminate against its Orthodox Jewish community.
Audrey Strauss, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, filed the suit on Wednesday, Dec. 2, claiming the village is preventing the community from its ability to worship and run schools.
As alleged in the complaint, Strauss said Airmont has violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act by imposing land use and zoning provisions that, among other things, restrict Orthodox Jewish residents’ ability to worship in private homes and prevent operation of a private religious school.
The lawsuit marks the third time that the U.S. has sued Airmont since its 1991 incorporation for discriminatory treatment of Orthodox Jewish residents.
“As a jury found over two decades ago, the Village of Airmont was born out of a spirit of animus against a religious minority," Strauss said. "Sadly, rather than working to overcome that shameful legacy, Airmont has flagrantly ignored the terms of a court judgment and implemented land-use practices that by design and operation are again meant to infringe unlawfully on the rights of a minority religious community."
According to the complaint filed in White Plains federal court:
The village has actively sought to prevent its Orthodox Jewish residents from operating home synagogues and a private school in conformity with their faith.
The suit claims that Airmont has pursued its discriminatory agenda by, among other actions:
- Imposing a nearly two-year land-use moratorium in 2017 to prevent the growing community from developing property rather than any legitimate governmental purpose.
- Amending the Village Zoning Code in 2018 to strike “residential place of worship” as a recognized land use category, in direct violation of the terms of the final judgment entered by the court in 1996.
- Imposing new zoning code requirements that place an unlawful limit on the floor area of private residences that can be used for worship, ban the use of private home mikvahs, or ritual baths, and restrict the co-congregants whom homeowners are allowed to host.
- Implementing a new, land use application process controlled by the Village designed to impose unreasonable and unnecessary zoning requirements which are rarely approved.
- Targeting Orthodox Jewish residents with the threat and imposition of unfounded fines for supposed zoning infractions.
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