Cuomo Vetoes Bills Aimed at Stunting Kiryas Joel’s Growth

ALBANY (Hamodia/AP) -

The village of Kiryas Joel on Wednesday overcame a key obstacle in their plans to accommodate explosive growth as Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that could have derailed a request to annex neighboring land.

Officials from Kiryas Joel, in Orange County, are overseeing an environmental review of a request to annex up to 507 acres adjacent to the village in the town of Monroe, about 50 miles north of New York City.

The proposal to make the village up to 70 percent larger would ultimately have to be approved by people living within the annexed area, who belong to the same Orthodox Jewish community as Kiryas Joel residents.

One bill vetoed by Cuomo would have given county planning departments a role in reviewing such annexation petitions, allowing them to send recommendations of approval or disapproval to the municipalities. Municipal boards wishing to override a recommended disapproval would need to muster a supermajority vote.

Cuomo in a veto message released late Wednesday said giving counties power over local annexations that don’t affect county boundaries violates the state constitution. Cuomo also vetoed a companion bill that would give the state environmental commissioner additional power in municipal disputes, saying it was duplicative and too broad.

Ari Felberman, Kiryas Joel’s government relations coordinator, thanked the governor for ignoring “angry rhetoric” from the bill’s sponsor and for looking “at these bills for what they really were, a thinly veiled attempt to stop the natural growth of the peaceful, family-oriented community of Kiryas Joel.”

At a county meeting before the bill’s passage last month, Agudah leader Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel and Assemblyman Dov Hikind testified.

Hikind, as well as state Sen. Simcha Felder, issued statements on Thursday thanking the governor for the veto.

“The governor has shown true leadership, sending the message that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated,” Hikind said. “No group should be singled out or targeted because they are different.”

“Gov. Cuomo was absolutely correct to veto this unconstitutional legislation,” Felder said. “The bills, which were shamefully rushed through the Senate and Assembly, were clearly aimed at preventing the annexation of a community that has supported development in the region, encouraging the growth of nearby communities.”

However, United Monroe, a group which led the sometimes-belligerent fight for the bills, said that Cuomo “chose to play politics” rather than obeying “the will of the people.”

Kiryas Joel was founded within the town of Monroe in the mid-1970s by the Satmar Rebbe, zy”a, Harav Yoel Teitelbaum. The village has since grown to around 22,000 residents living in 1.1 square miles and is responsible for making Orange the second fastest growing county in the state.

The boards of Monroe and Kiryas Joel are expected to vote — and approve — on the environmental review by early September.