Greens of Chester adds to its discrimination lawsuit

Chester. A day after the state attorney general intervened in a lawsuit brought by the Greens of Chester, the developers filed an amended complaint that adds examples of alleged discriminatory conduct by town and county officials, including an early meeting the plaintiffs characterize as "ominous" and comments by members of the public at a town meeting.

09 Dec 2019 | 02:04

The Greens of Chester filed an amended lawsuit on Dec. 6 that adds examples of alleged discriminatory conduct by town and county officials, including an early meeting the plaintiffs characterize as "ominous."

The developers filed the amended complaint the day after New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced she was intervening in the lawsuit first brought by the Greens against the town of Chester and Orange County in July. James said the lawsuit illustrates a "campaign to deny housing to members of the Jewish community" that is "not only a clear violation of our laws, but is antithetical to our basic values and blatantly anti-Semitic."

The amended complaint filed Friday describes a meeting held on Nov. 17, 2017, a few weeks after the developers acquired the 117-acre Greens property in Chester. Local officials -- including then-Supervisor Alex Jamieson, town board member (now supervisor) Robert Valentine, and Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus -- sought to learn more from the developers about their plans.

According to the amended complaint, Valentine wanted to know “what is the target audience" for the Greens. He asked if the developers planned to advertise in a Jewish newspaper, and to let him know before taking out such advertisements. Valentine urged the developers to “create a non-Hasidic community," according to the document.

One of the partners told Valentine they were businessmen who "had built thousands of residential units in New York for the general public, had never once engaged in any form of discrimination, and were not about to start doing so," the amended lawsuit says.

It also quotes Valentine as saying, “This isn’t Brooklyn. People here have big guns.”

The town engineer's notes from that meeting were added as an exhibit to the amended complaint.

Local residents cited

The amended complaint, complete with video links, adds comments made by several members of the public at the town board's April 25, 2018, meeting. One said, "They’re just gonna move on to the next (town)," says one resident. "They’ve got all this money. They’ve got all these attorneys. Every attorney is Jewish nowadays."

The amended lawsuit says this comment was met with "groans of protest," and that "a local politician took the floor to suggest (the comment) be condemned lest it be used as evidence of improper motives for Town policies."

Developer Livy Schwartz said many more examples could be included than the ones added Friday.

Water letter a 'nakedly political intervention'

The amended complaint also answers a point made by the county attorney that it is the state health department, and not the county, asking for more studies and testing of the Greens' well, and that the county had simply passed on to the state concerns they had heard from local residents.

The amended complaint says the county health department's letter recommending that the state conduct more studies "false, disingenuous, nakedly political intervention dressed up as a hydrological engineering concern." It says the county was trying to create the false impression there had been significant growth in the vicinity of the Greens that would affect the wells that would affect the wells, when "there had been no growth that gave pause to the County about courting Great Wolf Lodge to build a major indoor water-park resort nearby, or about converting The Greens to an industrial facility, either of which would use far more water than 431 residences."

The complaint says the county had also failed to inform the state that, only one month earlier, senior county health engineer Greg Moore granted a five-year extension, to July 17, 2023, of its own approval of the Greens’ water system.