ORANGETOWN — The Ramapo-based religious group, which operates schools on the former Nyack College campus, pleaded not guilty to charges of firing and being fired for safety violations on Tuesday in an Orangetown judiciary.
The community attorney — Yeshiva of Viznitz D’Khal Torath Chaim — and the city’s prosecutor told the judge that work to cure unsafe conditions and violations at the 107-acre South Nyack campus continues. The municipality is also seeking city permits for the construction work already underway and the use of several buildings, the lawyers said.
Tuesday marked the community’s first court appearance after an Orangetown inspector dropped allegations of violation. The community’s next court appearance is scheduled for January 10.
orange city: The inspector brought six charges against the community that owns the former Nyack College campus
Named Violations: Former Nyack College campus inspections find multiple violations; let’s see what the inspectors say
sale: $45.5 million sale of Nyack College approved to Yeshiva of Viznitz in Ramapo
Charges against Orangetown remain against the community
Orangetown inspectors presented the congregation with six counts of charges – carved out of dozens of violations.
Progress has been made, prosecutor Elizabeth Brancati told Judge Richard Finning. The six charges center on the community with no building occupancy certificates and building permits.
“Four of the charges have made significant progress,” Brancati said. “The resident is making efforts to apply for permits.”
She declined to recommend any fines on Tuesday.
Finning considers the following six charges by Code Enforcer Domenic Miano:
- Operation of an elementary school and day-care center without proper occupancy certificates during a September 6 inspection. The school operated in the basement of the Boon Campus Center at 1 South Blvd. while the day care center operates on the ground floor.
- Installation of multiple toilets near existing showers without first obtaining planning permission at Moseley Hall, 106 Highland Ave. The inspection took place on September 22nd.
- Removal of cooking stoves and installation of two open gas burners on plinths in the kitchen without planning permission in the canteen.
- Installation of wall air conditioners without building permit.
- Replacement of lighting fixtures without prior obtaining planning permission at the Boon Campus Center.
- Use of a building as a dormitory without an occupancy certificate. The inspection took place on September 6 at S. Highland Ave. 102-106 instead.
The congregation vows to heal transgressions
Attorney Joseph Churgin, representing the community, said the violations could be fixed within 60 days as the community works with city inspectors and authorities.
Churgin told the judge the community inherited many rights violations in the buildings when it bought the property. The Hasidic Jewish community bought the sprawling campus in late 2020 for $45.5 million from the Missionary Alliance, which operated Nyack College for decades.
Along with the massive campus on the mountain, Orangetown also inherited a lawsuit brought by South Nyack in the New York State Supreme Court to compel the community to comply with fire and safety codes. The case was referred to the 9th Circuit Mediation Program for Alternative Dispute Resolution. Retired judge William Sherwood was assigned to the case.
South Nyack argued that several campus buildings were being used despite violations and without permits and inspections. Lawyers for the Hasidic Jewish community called the village’s lawsuit premature, arguing the village took no action when the property was a Christian school.
Orangetown inspectors found multiple zoning, fire and safety violations in buildings. Many of the violations have been fixed.
Orangetown took over the enforcement and prosecution of building codes in April when the South Nyack village government officially disbanded. South Nyack’s inspections of the former Nyack College’s 35 buildings before approving the sale revealed numerous fire and safety violations which village officials claimed could prevent people from living and working in the buildings if not repaired would. The South Nyack inspections were required by village regulations before a sale is completed.
Orangetown Superintendent Teresa Kenny said she was told by the building superintendent that a majority of the violations cited on Sept. 6 and 22 had been resolved, with occupancy permit applications being submitted without the required occupancy certificate.
The Viznitz yeshiva has initial plans to operate two schools with about 500 students taking courses at the high school and college levels, Chugin said. Nyack College, a Christian school, had more than 600 students and families on the South Nyack campus before deciding to sell the property and move to New York City in December 2018.
Steve Lieberman covers government, breaking news, courts, police and investigations. Reach him below email@example.com. Twitter: @lohulegal.
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