The representatives of Parkview Condominiums in Spring Valley are threatening a lawsuit after the building inspector ordered removal of religious baths and synagogue.
“A condominium development has threatened to bring a federal civil rights lawsuit against the village over its order to remove religious baths and a house of worship from the Main Street housing complex.
Chief Building Inspector Walter Booker said in June that the owners of Park View had violated their village-approved site plan, and that the owners installed the baths and built the synagogue without permits.
The housing — part of the village’s urban renewal project — originally was supported by federal money and facilities for specific religions were prohibited.
The complex remains under scrutiny for allegedly not advertising the housing outside the Orthodox Jewish community, based on a 2013 complaint the NAACP filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The building violations and order from Booker seeking to close down the mikvahs and synagogue remain pending in local Justice Court.
Lawyers for Park View Condominiums have now sent a letter to Booker and the village declaring that if he doesn’t withdraw the violations, he and the village will be sued in federal court for allegedly violating the owners’ First Amendent religious rights and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, known as RLUIPA.
The lawyers told Booker the owners would seek financial damages from him and the village.
Attorney John Stepanovich said religious freedom trumps land-use regulations.
“There is no legitimate government interest, let alone a compelling one, in imposing special burdens and restrictions on the use of property for religious purposes,” said Stepanovich, who specializes in first amendment religious cases and has handled two such successful cases against Airmont previously.
Booker, in a letter to Mayor Demeza Delhomme and the Board of Trustees, noted the original site plans from June 2009 to July 2015 states, “The community room many not be used for religious purposes, unless all religions are permitted to use the space equally …”
He also said a previous year-long permit for the mikvahs, issued by the Building Department when Booker was suspended by the mayor, expired May 19. He didn’t renew the permit and ordered the mikvahs removed June 27.”
Read the complete Journal News story here.