Unannounced State Fire Inspections Vindicate East Ramapo Yeshivos

RAMAPO, N.Y. -
Rockland County executive building in New City, N.Y.
Rockland County executive building in New City, N.Y.

New York state inspectors who randomly selected eight East Ramapo yeshivos for fire safety scrutiny said Monday they did not find any hazards in the buildings, contradicting the county executive’s assertions of death traps and gross fire violations.

The state inspectors met last week with yeshivah administrators within the Rockland County school district. The yeshivos offered to counter County Executive Ed Day’s allegations by inviting the state education department to dispatch their inspectors to any yeshivah.

State inspectors, without informing Day’s administration, randomly chose eight yeshivos, visiting four of them on Thursday and another four on Monday. They suggested several changes but said that nothing they’ve seen constituted a hazardous condition.

“He told me, ‘I spent two days here,” one of the inspectors said on leaving a yeshivah, in a conversation paraphrased for Hamodia by a yeshivah official. “He said, ‘I haven’t found a death trap. And the things he was saying about body bags are crazy.’”

Adam Peltz, the Town of Ramapo’s fire inspector, was suspended in April for alleged leniency in building safety. When the news of it broke, Day accused about two dozen yeshivos previously inspected by Peltz that their buildings had dangerous conditions. He requested permission from the state education department to deputize county officials to inspect the yeshivos.

Yeshivos rebuffed the request, saying they had no problem with inspections from anyone — just not Day, who had just settled a lawsuit accusing him of saying he wants to limit the Orthodox community’s growth.

Day received the authorization four weeks ago but agreed to a delay of a few days. In the meantime, all the yeshivos were inspected by Ramapo fire officials and the state told Day he no longer had authorization to visit them.

County inspectors still tried going around to yeshivos, several yeshivah administrators told Hamodia, but they did not gain entry to any.

Meanwhile, a freedom of information request filed by News 12 as Day was focusing on Ramapo schools revealed Tuesday that a main county administration building housing 150 county employees itself had dozens of safety violations.

Three inspections, the latest occurring in May, showed the Sain Building in New City full of expired smoke detectors, burned-out or broken exit lights and an antiquated fire alarm system that lacks smoke or heat detection.

Yellow caution tape was put up Tuesday around the building, which houses the medical examiner’s office and health clinics. A News 12 cameraman captured exposed steel structure beams, open ceilings, dead-end hallways and unlabeled stairwells.

Day, whose own office is across the street from the Sain Building, told News 12 that the building “is in dire need of repair,” but he blamed the previous administration for allowing conditions there to worsen.

“Regardless of how the building got to this condition,” Yossi Gestetner, a local Orthodox activist, told News 12, “would it take body bags for Ed Day to care of it?”