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Upstate Update: AG Warns Monroe Mayor Over Proposed Law That Appears To Target Orthodox Jews; Pattern For Progress Report Shows Homeownership and Rent Is Out Of Reach For Most Hudson Valley Residents

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Attorney General Gives Monroe Mayor Until Sept. 29 To Provide Justification On Proposed Law That Appears To Target Orthodox Jews

State Attorney General Letitia James’ office has issued a warning via a letter to leaders of an Orange County village, urging them to not pass a proposed law that she believes appears to target Orthodox Jews by violating their rights to exercise their religion.

The village of Monroe’s proposed law would limit large gatherings in residences, places of worship and schools. The attorney general said the proposal raises grave concerns it may violate both state and federal statutes governing the freedom of religion.

The civil rights bureau of James’ office sent the letter to Monroe Mayor Neil Dwyer earlier this month requesting that village officials delay any action on the proposed local law, which is listed as the “Place of Worship and Schools law.”

“The (attorney general’s office) is not persuaded that the law’s stated rationale is sufficient to justify those restrictions,” the letter states. “To the extent the proposed law addresses legitimate health and safety concerns, the (attorney general’s office) is not persuaded that its requirements are the least restrictive means for achieving the law’s goals.”

“Recently, the village has seen an increased demand for regular large gatherings of people in residential areas, most commonly for worship but possibly for other purposes protected by the First Amendment,” the text of the proposed law reads. “Historically, the village’s synagogues, churches and other places of worship were generally located in or on the periphery of commercial areas. The village recognizes that satisfying the religious and other First Amendment needs of residents may result in an increase in the number of non-residential uses located in residential neighborhoods. If designed properly, these gatherings need not impose upon the quiet seclusion of residential neighborhoods.”

The law would set limitations for on-street parking and lighting, along with limiting the number of people allowed on the property of a single-family residence and the times in which “non-residential” activities can be conducted.

The law says the measure is intended to protect the village’s “quiet enclaves” of single-family residences, with the legislation citing “clean air, roads free of traffic congestion, relative privacy, dark night skies, and the safety that comes from stable tenured neighbors” as assets the law is meant to preserve. It would place greater restrictions on residentially zoned areas, as well as neighborhood and community areas of worship and schools.

The law does not mention the Orthodox Jewish community, which has frequently clashed with the village of Monroe over zoning-related issues.

James’ office is seeking to compel Dwyer to provide further justification of the proposed law by Sept. 29, including the “compelling governmental interest” the law is meant to address, as well as identifying the specific problems that it’s meant to resolve.

The state office warned that failure to provide that justification would result in further action by the attorney general.

Pattern For Progress Report Shows The Cost of Homeownership and Rent Is Out Of Reach For Most Hudson Valley Residents

Out Of Reach 2023Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress released a new report that underscores the affordability crisis for housing in the region, as stagnant wages, increasing rents, and skyrocketing home prices have stretched household budgets to their limits.

The report, Out of Reach Hudson Valley 2023, uses federal and local data to examine the gap between wages and the cost of rental housing for those living in the nine-county region. Pattern also examined the affordability of homeownership throughout the Hudson Valley by comparing median home prices to the mortgages for which typical families would qualify in each county.

The data show a persistent and clear trend across the entire Hudson Valley: the cost of housing has pushed beyond reasonable levels of affordability for most of our neighbors. A single worker cannot afford fair-market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in any of the nine counties, and median home prices are more than $100,000 higher than the mortgage that typical families would qualify for in every county.

“The data we analyze each year tell a clear and troubling story: most of our neighbors cannot afford to live in the communities where they work,” Pattern CEO Adam Bosch said. “As our neighbors choose to leave the region, have smaller families, and our workforce slowly shrinks, the Hudson Valley is starting to feel some of the most painful ramifications of stagnant housing and zoning policies. The vibrancy and viability of our communities will depend on actions that encourage the production of more housing at prices our working-class neighbors can afford.”

The full Out of Reach report can be found on the Pattern for Progress website.