South Nyack & Yeshiva Viznitz Trying To Settle Differences Outside Court

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Special Counsel Says Village Is Hoping To Work Things Out

By Tina Traster

The Village of South Nyack is trying to settle its differences with Yeshiva Viznitz outside the courts, at least for now.

Village special counsel John Loveless said the village and the yeshiva are trying to see if they can work things out. The Village missed a June 4th deadline to respond to the Yeshiva’s motion to dismiss the case. Had the Village filed that response, the Yeshiva’s reply would have been due on June 25th.

The Village of South Nyack last year 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 Supreme Court of Rockland County 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.

In response, the yeshiva cited hundreds of pages of hostile social media posts in its more than 1,000-page filing, and asked the court to dismiss the Village’s lawsuit filed alleging the congregation failed to conduct safety inspections and resolve open code violations.

Yeshiva Viznitz Dkhal Torath Chaim is claiming discrimination toward the college has prompted the village to enforce code provisions that were not enforced when Nyack College inhabited the campus.

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.

But in its motion to dismiss the case filed in the Supreme Court of Rockland County, the Yeshiva asks, “How it is that Nyack College, an esteemed and worthy religious school operated without interference from the village, but from the moment that the Village (and its residents) realized that a Hasidic school was going to be the new neighbor an epiphany erupted within the Village? Suddenly a call to action in the form of threatening letters and violation notices was fired off to Viznitz, even though the alleged violations existed before it owned the property.”

Late last year, the Yeshiva engaged Step Ahead Social Research, a social media research and litigation support company, to screenshot thousands of social media posts from Facebook groups that were discussing the college’s intention to purchase the Nyack campus. The suit cites hundreds of negative comments including phrases such as “Keep them out of Nyack,” “Happening While You Were Sleeping As It Did In Ramapo”, “We Both Know What Nyack Will Look Like In A Few Years.”

The Yeshiva is aiming to show that community bias drove the Village to file a discriminatory lawsuit. Using social media posts is becoming a more frequently used tactic to build a case involving religious discrimination.