Lawsuit Accuses Upstate Village and Township of Religious Discrimination

NEW YORK -

A lawsuit Monday in federal court, accusing the Village of Bloomingburg, and the Town of Mamakating, located in upstate New York, of engaging in a conspiracy to prevent chassidic Jews from buying houses, establishing a private religious school, and operating businesses in their community.

“The Village and Town are seeking to use their political power, economic pressure, zoning laws, and sheer intimidation to prevent a certain type of people from joining their community,” the lawsuit charges.

“This type of intolerance might sound like a story from the Civil Rights era in the South. But it is unfolding right now in a municipality just 75 miles from New York City. In the United States, local governments and residents may no more prevent other citizens from moving into their neighborhoods based upon their religious observances than on the color of their skin,” the suit says.

The 66-page complaint cites the municipalities as defendants, as well as eight local officials, including Bill Herrmann, the Supervisor of the Town of Mamakating, who is quoted as saying that “the people elected him to stop the Jewish infiltration.” It also refers to Frank Gerardi, Mayor of the Village of Bloomingburg, has said that he was elected to prevent more of “those people” — namely chassidic Jews — from moving into Bloomingburg.

“This complaint reveals a pattern of pervasive and systematic anti-Semitism where Jewish residents of New York State are singled out by local authorities for special treatment,” Michael Fragin, a spokesman for the plaintiffs told Hamodia on Tuesday. “Today in Bloomingburg, Jews are unable to open a school, open a business, or renovate their own properties due to a determined effort by Village Mayor Frank Gerardi and Town Supervisor Bill Herrmann to drive them out of town.”

When contacted by Hamodia, the woman who answered the phone at the village of Bloomingburg headquarters said that none of the officials were in the office and therefore were unavailable for comment.

Steven Mogel, a Monticello-based attorney who represents Bloomingburg in other matters, told Hamodia that he hadn’t been served with the actual suit yet.

“I am aware of the lawsuit, but I haven’t yet read the documents and can’t comment at this time,” he said, adding that it had yet to be decided whether he will be representing the village in regard to this lawsuit.

The suit, which was filed in the Southern District of New York, seeks at least $25 million in damages, and requests a trial by jury.