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Khal B’nei Torah of Haverstraw Celebrates Legal Victory in Property Development Battle

Khal B’nei Torah of Haverstraw emerged victorious in its second lawsuit in two years, marking a pivotal milestone in its quest to develop a new property in Haverstraw to accommodate its rapidly expanding Shul. The recent court ruling, which came on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, was a crucial step forward for KBT after facing substantial legal challenges.

KBT, currently operating in a modest storefront at 130 West Ramapo Road in Garnerville, purchased the property located at 62 Riverglen Drive in the Town of Haverstraw in October 2019. The acquisition sparked a series of legal battles that have persisted for several years.

United States District Court Judge Cathy Seibel issued a decision on Wednesday, dismissing the lawsuit brought forward by neighbors residing near the Riverglen Drive property. The plaintiffs had sought to challenge the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) and state laws designed to safeguard the free exercise of religion, claiming these regulations were unconstitutional.

Furthermore, the disgruntled neighbors expressed concerns about the potential presence of too many religious institutions in the neighborhood, citing the existence of an already-established shul on the same street. This second lawsuit closely followed a prior legal dispute in which KBT had to initiate legal action against the Town of Haverstraw. The town’s planning board had initially denied the necessary permits for the conversion of the purchased house into a synagogue.

The resolution of the first lawsuit allowed KBT to proceed with its plans to convert a one-family home into a shul, a project that had been in the works since 2021. The agreement reached during the first lawsuit effectively diverted costly litigation that would have burdened local taxpayers with millions in expenses.

Among the grievances raised by the neighbors in the latest legal battle were complaints about KBT congregants frequently parking on both sides of the street overnight. Additionally, during a public meeting on November 10, 2021, a resident controversially remarked that if he were to encounter an observant Jewish individual in the dark, he would “of course back over them again.”

In their latest lawsuit, neighbors argued that allowing the construction of the shul would result in congregants walking in the middle of the street wearing dark clothing with no reflectors, particularly on dimly lit Riverglen Drive and the surrounding streets, citing concerns about their safety.

Last week, the second lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, concluding a protracted legal battle that had persisted for over a year. The dismissal was attributed to a lack of jurisdiction on the part of the plaintiffs, as ruled by the federal judge overseeing the case.

With this legal victory now behind them, Khal B’nei Torah eagerly looks forward to launching a building campaign to raise the necessary funds for their new home. This marks the culmination of four long years of waiting for the congregation, bringing them closer to their goal of establishing a permanent residence for the kehillah.

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