A judge ruled on Tuesday that a rural village and a surrounding town can face a $25 million lawsuit alleging Hasidic Jews were blocked from building housing and opening a bath for ritual immersion and purification.
U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest said that discrimination claims can proceed against the village of Bloomingburg and the Town of Mamakating, in Sullivan County, though she have tossed out many claims and narrowed the number of defendants who can be sued.
The judge allowed plaintiff Sullivan Farms II Inc. to proceed with claims that the village obstructed the completion of a housing development project known as Chestnut Ridge, and she permitted Malka Rosenbaum and Winterton Properties to pursue claims the town and its zoning board stymied the conversion of a Bloomingburg property formerly used as a day spa and a residence into a mikvah, a bath used by Hasidic Jews.
The judge said that Sullivan Farms II had presented “detailed and legally sufficient allegations” that could result in a finding that the village and some leaders discriminated against Hasidic Jews.
She added that Rosenbaum and Winterton properties could face claims that a stop work order and the actions of the town’s zoning board were designed to prevent the plaintiffs from exercising their religion and associating with others to do the same.
Bloomingburg has 420 residents and the area’s Hasidic Jewish population has increased in recent years.
The village said that it has not violated rights.
Michael Zarin, a village lawyer said, “This lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt by these developers to intimidate this small municipality. The court has now dismissed most of their claims, and we are confident that at the end of the day the village will prevail.”
Bloomingburg Mayor Frank Girardi said the village “will continue to treat all residents evenhandedly.”
Attorney Brain Sokoloff said that the town was pleased the court gutted most of the plaintiff’s case and dismissed the town supervisor from it.
He said, “What remains with the town is a run of the mill zoning dispute. The developers’ attempt to divert attention from the unseemly events involving their mega project with a splashy lawsuit against dedicated public officials was unsuccessful. We look forward to complete vindication as the case moves forward.”
A plaintiffs’ lawyer, Steven Engel said he was pleased the judge “sustained our religious discrimination lawsuit against village and town officials.”