“Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski said Thursday that authorities should close down a private school that’s operating with an inadequate fire hydrant and without independent water and power, calling the approval the “most egregious example yet of the build first, ask questions later mentality.”
Zebrowski, a New City Democrat who has long advocated for pressuring schools to follow fire and safety codes, said he’s demanded the New York state Department of State investigate how the school got a certificate of occupancy to run a school, specifically with the apparent backing of the agency’s monitor assigned to review Building Department activities.
Ateres Bias Yaakov Academy of Rockland comprises 17 trailer classrooms with construction of a building in the rear of the property on Summit Park Road. The school opened in early September for up to 400 girls in first to 12th grade getting a secular and religious education.
“To me this is a perfect example of the culture which has been build first, ask questions later,” Zebrowski told The Journal News/lohud. “Until we break that culture and follow basic safety and building codes, we will continue to see outrageous development like this and put kids’ lives at risk.”
Zebrowski said he wants a state explanation about why state monitor Erika Krieger permited — even suggested — a temporary makeshift hydrant that she acknowledged doesn’t meet code to be built so the operators could get a temporary certificate of occupancy to run the school at 200 Summit Park Road.
Ramapo Chief Building Inspector Ian Smith delivered the school’s temporary certificate of occupancy dated Sept. 13 to the New Hempstead Village Clerk’s Office on Thursday. The document states the school has until Nov. 13 to install a permanent workable fire hydrant.
The village contracts for inspections by the Ramapo Building Department.
Rockland Fire and Emergency Service Coordinator Gordon Wren Jr. said the temporary certificate allowing the school to operate should be void. Wren said the school still lacks a working fire hydrant, certified electrical work, a water source, adequate parking, fire zones and other items that ensure the school is safe.
‘Disappointed’ with monitor
Ramapo Councilman Patrick Withers said Krieger was assigned to Ramapo to ensure fire and safety codes were followed, not to find loopholes that result in permits for schools and developers. He noted the Building Department’s lack of enforcement, use of temporary approvals without complete reviews and record-keeping issues led to the state sending in the monitor.
“I am very disappointed in her role in allowing the school to open under these conditions,” Withers said. “It seems to me she’s enabling the use of loopholes to continue. She’s supposed to be here to specifically make sure things are done properly.”
Read the complete Journal News coverage here.