“Even after a state judge signed the town’s request to close down an illegal Route 306 private school, officials are delaying a closure to allow administrators to legalize the school.
State Supreme Court Justice Paul Marx signed an order closing Congregation Bais Chinuch Ateres Bnos at 261 Route 306 pending a certificate of occupancy needed to legally operate classes for more than 300 girls.
To get the CO, the school needs site-plan approval from the Ramapo Planning Board. The school’s attorney also filed legal notice to appeal the judge’s approval of a permanent injunction to close the facility.
Town Supervisor Michael Specht said Friday that the town was giving school officials a chance to come into full compliance, noting there were no safety issues at the school, a cluster of 10 modular trailer classrooms. The cluster is near two other yeshivas.
Specht said school officials took a first step on Thursday when the Ramapo Zoning Board of Appeals approved variances from the zoning code — after rejecting the school’s application in March.
He said the school applied for reduced variances from those the ZBA turned down.
“Because of the approval, we will hold off on enforcing the injunction as they go back to the Planning Board and complete the approvals process,” Specht wrote in an email. “I was informed that the immediate neighbor spoke in favor of the application.”
The neighbor, Reuven Weinstein, could not be reached for comment. He’s complained to town officials about the schools in emails and at board meetings. He’s also looking to sell his house as plans are in the works for the religious community to consolidate the buildings at the site.
The school’s administrators have yet to file site plans with the Planning Board and no meeting on the school has been scheduled, said Deputy Town Attorney Alan Berman, projecting January as the earliest date.
The school also faces fines for failing to provide Rockland County health officials with a list of students who have not been fully vaccinated against measles. Administrators are cited for two schools — at 261 Route 306 and 246 North Main St. in Spring Valley.
Closures rarely sought
Ramapo has rarely sought school closures for lacking land-use approvals and COs, but has sought court orders when there are immediate safety concerns. Towns and villages cannot close down schools on their own.
Marx signed the town’s request for a permanent injunction on Dec. 6 until the school gets a CO. The town filed the closure-order arguments on June 13.
The judge found in an August decision the congregation delayed getting site-plan approval and noted the ZBA had denied the school’s variance requests.
The school’s attorney, Terry Rice, argued in court papers that the remedy of closing the school and denying more than 300 girls an education was too severe. He noted that the school was before town land-use boards and had passed state-mandated fire-safety inspections.
The congregation — like numerous others in Ramapo — put together a school using modular classrooms with the understanding a school building would be constructed within two years.
The school lost its temporary CO when its trailer permit, issued in September 2015, expired in July 2017, Ramapo court papers say.
The Town Board rescinded the modular-classroom law in late 2017 when officials determined it was being abused and operators weren’t building schools within the two-year time frame.
The school continue to receive state funding despite being in violation. State Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, wants funding withheld from schools in violation of zoning and fire and safety codes. His legislation has stalled in Albany, but he intends to reintroduce the proposal.
Rabbi Ari Waldman, who runs several schools in Ramapo, is listed on court papers as president of Congregation Devrie Chaim, which bought the property in February 2016. He has declined comment.
The school was also cited for violations by inspectors for the town and the Rockland Health Department.”
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