I will work to block property purchases based on supervisor's bigoted comments

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Immediately upon hearing the bigoted remarks of our town supervisor, Alex Jamieson, I posted a response on Facebook. Today, I am announcing that should the town board approve bonding for the acquisition of lands to block the alleged expansion of land purchases by Hasidic citizens, I will circulate petitions to block this use of publicly raised money. This is ironic because, for entirely distinct reasons, I strongly support the town’s purchase of the “dark” theater in Sugar Loaf.

However, as in lawsuits I have brought recently against the Highland Estates Homeowners Association and the Town of Haverstraw, official authority cannot be used to thwart any group’s integration into the broader community, whether through commerce or residence. This violates basic constitutional and statutory norms. Buying a theater to expand cultural opportunities for all is very different than buying a theater with no plan for its re-opening as a means of preventing others from doing so based upon their religion. The latter is illegal.

As a civil rights lawyer, I imagine a set of public policies which limit African-Americans to residences in certain parts of a community. But, then, I need not use my imagination because I spent 26 years of my life fighting precisely such policies, often expressed in overt terms, in the City of Yonkers.

The way forward is not going to be accomplished by repeating our exclusionary, segregationist past. Many say that Hasidic people want to live by themselves. So, they posit, what is the big deal of telling them where they can live. This is a big deal, and the government cannot act to limit the opportunities of any person based on his/her group affiliation nor of any group based on religion, race, or other such characteristics. In fact, in America, our government should actively work to improve inter-group understanding, not stoke the flames of hatred and exclusion.

Since the policies Mr. Jamieson wants to implement plainly cross the line and are explicitly motivated by exclusionary intent, I will do what needs to be done both to petition to stop this obscene abuse of power and, if called upon, to litigate should the community support such behavior at the polls.

Finally, I am still reviewing the constitutionality of the newly created Town of Palm Tree and will decide whether to sue regarding its creation by the end of November.

Michael Sussman


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