In their own words: Town officials discuss the Greens of Chester

Chester. The complaints below are excerpted from the lawsuit filed July 19, 2019, by the Greens of Chester against town and county officials: building inspector James Farr; Supervisor Robert Valentine; board members Cindy Smith, Ryan Wensley, Orlando Perez, and Vincent Finizia; former Supervisor Alex Jamieson, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, and Orange County.

06 Dec 2019 | 02:26

This action arises from illegal, discriminatory conduct by the Town of Chester, County of Orange, and their highest officials and agents. Defendants have done so because, by their own account, they feared the homes would be purchased and occupied by Hasidic Jewish families, whom Defendants regard as “threats” to the “character” of the Town. Defendants have spoken publicly of their prejudice.

Jamieson: We’re doing what we can to alleviate 432 (sic) Hasidic houses in the Town of Chester. We’re trying.

Valentine: Every day.

Jamieson: There’re nobody on this Board, there’s nobody on the Board, nobody that works in the Town, there’s nobody that want this development to go through. There’s nobody. There’s nobody who wants the development to go through. (May 9, 2018 meeting at 1:30:30, bit.ly/Chester-01).

Code Enforcement Officer MaryAnn McKenna, replying on town email to a correspondent who had written to her about Plaintiff and Hasidic Jews in general, “Get rid of this (sic) little roaches. . . . They are so rude!!!!” McKenna’s reply: “I definitely have to agree with you, they don’t care about anyone but themselves.”

Neuhaus: responding to an inquiry whether there was “a way financially to slow them down” because “they all or many of them” are on public assistance: "Here’s the deal: you live in Warwick, you go on welfare in Orange County, you need SNAP, you need any type of assistance, you got to come through me, and we are tight with you. We’re tough. . . . The village of Kiryas Joel, if that’s what you’re asking about — because I know you are, everybody in the room is doing it and Alex (Jamieson, Chester Town Supervisor) and the rest of us are being careful — goes directly to Albany for their social service benefits. . . . It was set up that way because of cultural differences. (April 25, 2018, meeting at 2:40:08, bit.ly/Chester-03).

Jamieson: "We are going to fight them and we’re not rolling over, and, although, we, sometimes, in my situation I have to be careful what I say and what I can’t say." (April 25, 2018, meeting at 2:03:34, bit.ly/Chester-04).

Neuhaus: "First of all, we can pressure the developer. We have a lot of influence here. Gentleman talked about building permits, the County Health Department. I don’t know when the water was tested. . . . There’s a lot of stuff to revisit. . . . When was the traffic study done?. . .But we can pressure them to either go commercial, which I think we should do, or we can buy it. . . . You could also take it by eminent domain for the purposes of economic development. . . . That’s why I’m not talking about when they’re gonna start building. . . . Alex (Jamieson), I know you’re with me on this. I know you are too, Bobby (Valentine) and Ryan (Wensley). (April 25, 2018, meeting at 2:36:30, bit.ly/Chester-05).

Valentine: "What are we supposed to do to stop him? Do you have an idea? Do you have something you can tell us because we’re trying to do everything we can. . . . We can’t require further testing . . . It’s approved by every agency that is supposed to approve it. . . . So what do you expect us to do? Break somebody’s kneecaps? I mean it’s not that easy. . . . We can’t stop it right now. They’ve done what they’re supposed to do. We can’t stop it. (April 25, 2018, meeting at 2:29:38, bit.ly/Chester-06).

Valentine: “If there were any way that, like, you know, legally, we could, like, choose who could live there or pick who could live there or what size house they could do, we would love to do that. But we can’t do it.” (February 28, 2018, meeting at 37:28, bit.ly/Chester-07).