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Congregation Refuses To Apply For Special Permits, C of Os, And Remediation of Code Violations
By Tina Traster
The Village of South Nyack has filed a suit against Yeshiva Viznitz, which bought the Nyack College campus last year for $45.5 million, alleging the new occupant is using the property without proper permitting, has failed to conduct safety inspections, and has not resolved open code violations.
The suit, filed in Rockland Supreme Court this week against Yeshiva Viztnitz Dkhal Torath Chaim, Inc., is aimed at compelling the new owners to comply with the village and county codes and New York State Law.
The Village, which is in the process of dissolution and becoming part of the Town of Orangetown, claims the congregation represented that upon acquiring the property, it would seek special use permits where necessary and would address the outstanding violations.
Instead, the multi-count complaint alleges the Yeshiva has not registered with the New York State Education Department as a secondary, post-secondary or other education program, as required by state law. Because they have not registered, the state has not conducted necessary annual fire safety inspections required to protect students and staff, the suit claims.
The suit maintains the Village has “no objection to the intended use of the property,” but was forced to litigate because the congregation has refused to provide information to the village concerning how the buildings are being used and as how open safety violations will be addressed.
New certificates of occupancy are required when ownership changed. After the sale, the congregation indicated they will not be pursuing any special use permits or new certificates of occupancy for any of the parcels. The Village of South Nyack is asking the court to determine the safe, legal, and appropriate use of each of the 40 plus parcels.
The lawsuit combs through each individual parcel, and requests the court prohibit any other use than what’s permitted.
The former Nyack College was made up of many buildings and is not, for zoning purposes, just one campus. There is no special permit that covers the entire campus.
Nyack College ceased operating in September 2019 and the congregation completed the sale Dec. 20, 2020. Under the Village code, any prior nonconforming use had expired prior to the closing because a nonconforming use is only valid for one year after it’s discontinued. A prior non-conforming use, like a college campus, is a use that predates passage of the zoning code.
The Village is asking the court to confirm that the non-confirming use has expired.
Under New York State law dormitories must be tied to educational programs and are subject to New York Multiple Dwelling Law. Safety requirements under the law include occupancy levels, fire safety, lighting, and heating and others. The congregation has failed to comply with these state regulations for each and every property housing students, including dormitories at 31 South Boulevard, 65 South Boulevard and Jaffray Hall and 102-106 South Boulevard, the suit says.
Also, there are four parcels that are improved with single-family residences. On parcel at 175 South Highland Avenue was destroyed by a fire and the utilities have been cut off. Before the structure can be occupied, the congregation must obtain permits and remediate.
Other parcels are only approved as single-family residences and do not have special permits, use variances, certificates of occupancy, or prior legal nonconforming uses that would allow them to be used for anything other than single-family residences.
The Village is asking the court to bar the congregation from using these properties for anything other than single-family residences.
Several parcels are currently improved with two-family residences. For example, the building at 5 Upland Drive has been converted into office space and a café without approval. The Village is seeking a court order barring any use of these properties for any use other than two-family residences.
Griswold Cottage is also approved for use as a two-family residence. Though it previously had approval to sleep eleven students, the Village is seeking a court order to anything what was previously permitted.