Cuomo Vetoes Bill Allowing County to Review Kiryas Joel Annexation

July 15, 2015 Updated: July 15, 2015

ALBANY—The Hasidic Jewish village in Kiryas Joel can chalk up a victory as Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that could have derailed the village’s request to annex neighboring land, an effort that has raised tensions between the quickly growing enclave and surrounding suburban communities.

Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus expressed disappointment at the governor’s veto and hoped for a prompter response, adding that its own study found the annexation would be bad for the county.

“I wish that the state responded over a year ago when I first asked to give the county a formal, legally binding role in the annexation process.”

Officials from the village are overseeing an environmental review of a request to annex up to 507 acres adjacent to the village in Monroe. Leaders of the ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews said the village needs the additional land, but many people in the surrounding suburbs fear congestion from the spread of multifamily apartment buildings like the ones packed into the 1.1-square-mile village.

Many people in the surrounding suburbs fear congestion from the spread of multifamily apartment buildings.

The proposal to make the village up to 70 percent larger would ultimately have to be approved by people living within the annexed area, which is populated by the same Satmar group that requested the annexation but currently lives under more restrictive zoning that favors single-family homes.

The bill vetoed by Cuomo would have given county planning departments a role in reviewing such annexation petitions, allowing them to send recommendations of approval or disapproval to the municipalities. Municipal boards wishing to override a recommended disapproval would need to muster a supermajority vote.

Cuomo in a veto message released late July 8 said giving counties power over local annexations that don’t affect county boundaries violates the state Constitution. Cuomo also vetoed a companion bill that would give the state environmental commissioner additional power in municipal disputes, saying it was duplicative and too broad.

Ari Felberman, Kiryas Joel’s government relations coordinator, thanked the governor for ignoring “angry rhetoric” from the bill’s sponsor and for looking “at these bills for what they really were: a thinly veiled attempt to stop the natural growth of the peaceful, family-oriented community of Kiryas Joel.”

A leader of a local residents’ group fighting the annexation said it looked like Cuomo was bowing to a political bloc at the expense of other residents. “We believe he chose to play politics instead of listening to the will of the people,” said United Monroe Chairwoman Emily Convers.

Kiryas Joel was founded within the town of Monroe in the mid-1970s by members of the Satmar sect seeking a more tranquil setting than Brooklyn. Men in the village wear black suits with brimmed hats and women dress modestly. Families are large at Kiryas Joel, which has grown from about 12,000 in 1994 to around 22,000.

The boards of Monroe and Kiryas Joel are expected to vote on the environmental review by early September.

Neuhaus promises to forge ahead. “Orange County, along with our local municipalities, will continue to address this important issue.”

 Staff member Yvonne Marcotte contributed this report.