Airmont: Code violations pile up at Lee Drive house used as a shul

House at 4 Lee Drive Photo/ Steve Lieberman The Journal News

“A religious congregation continues to convert a single-family house into a synagogue despite piling up violation notices for lacking permits for construction and village land-use approvals, according to building department records.

The mayor and four trustees are aware of the violations cited at 4 Lee Drive since August and that Planning Board Chairman Yehuda Friedland is named on the deed of sale on behalf of Congregation Bais Medrash, the Orthodox Jewish congregation that bought the house in February. Friedland has said his name on the deed is a “mistake,” even though the congregation gives its address as Friedland’s house.

Despite the violation notices, vehicles for two contractors were reported to the building department parked on the house’s paved parking lot. Neither business is a licensed home improvement contractor in Rockland, according to the county Consumer Protection Office. Consumer protection officials sent an inspector to the house but couldn’t gain access when no one answered the doors. The case has been marked as closed, Consumer Protection Director James Elcik said.

Airmont: History of violation notices issued to 4 Lee Drive

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The building department violation notices are being filed for Justice Court dates. Village law allows the congregation 30 days to cure the violations and obtain permits and file plans with the village land-use boards, according to the building department.

The house has a certificate of occupancy as a single-family residence, according to documents obtained from the village under the New York State Freedom of Information law. In March, the then-property owners, Joshua and Chasida Halle, received a new certificate of occupancy and use to make internal renovations, according to a document signed by Building Inspector Louis Zummo.

History of code violations

The Airmont Building Department code enforcement officers issued Congregation Bais Medrash of South Monsey the following violations:

Aug. 8: Code enforcement officers issued violations for constructing a paved parking lot without a site plan or construction permit. The violation notice included charges of changing the use of the building from a single-family home to a house of worship without a special permit or application to the Planning Board. Friedland had been named Planning Board chair in April and had served as an ad-hoc board member since 2021.

Oct. 2: Nine violation notices ordering corrective action at 4 Lee Dr. were issued by the village code enforcement officer. The congregation was cited for a lack of certification of occupancy and/or use, lack of building permits, and Planning Board approvals and conditions, according to documents obtained under the state Freedom of Information Law filed with the Village Clerk’s Office.

Oct. 12: A violation notice charged the congregation with violating the village code governing neighborhood house of worship.

Nov. 8: The code enforcer issued additional violation notices. The violations covered “large amounts of work performed without a permit, including adding doors, removing bathrooms, removing walls, installing electrical …” The notice also noted the congregation was responsible for correcting the violations and notifying the Building Department.

Nov. 8: The building department posted the property for being in violation and issued stop-work orders. The congregation was told to seek building permits for the work already done and to apply to the Planning Board and Zoning Board to have a neighborhood house of worship.

Airmont officials decline to respond

Mayor Nathan Bubel and the four trustees did not respond to inquiries regarding 4 Lee Dr. When the Journal News/lohud first reported on the building on Nov. 1, only Trustee Brian Downey responded. He emailed the mayor and board members he had not heard about the Planning Board chairman’s involvement, and the mayor about a “course of action” and to get to the truth.

The village government has been controlled by members and loyalists to the Orthodox-Hasidic Jewish communities for nearly four years, reflecting the community’s growing population and influence. The mayor and two trustees are up for election in March; two community members were recently elected to four-year terms. Zoning issues and adherence to fire and safety codes have been problems in Ramapo for decades, with the state once assigning a monitor to oversee the town Building Department. The county, on state orders, has taken over the enforcement and prosecution of fire and safety codes in Spring Valley.”

Read the complete Journal News coverage here.