MAHWAH, N.J. – Hundreds of Mahwah residents packed into town hall Thursday night amid brewing controversy spurred by an attempt to extend an eruv into the municipality .
“We will do whatever we need to do in order to protect our laws, our codes, and the people in this community,” Council President Robert Hermansen told those in attendance.
The mayor and council heard over an hour of public comment from a string of people with concerns about enforcing zoning laws. Many of them waited in an overflow room created for the crowd in the basement.
“The issue that has thrust this community into the spotlight has nothing to do with religion, preventing any race, color or creed from enjoying this wonderful town,” said the first speaker, Mahwah resident Conrad Olear.
“Very simply, this is an issue on enforcing an ordinance that was established decades ago.”
Here's what you need to know about the eruv issue:
- A New York based group called the South Monsey Eruv Fund is attempting to extend a Rockland County eruv into parts of Mahwah, Upper Saddle River and Montvale.
- An eruv permits observant Jews, such as ultra-Orthodox Jews, to carry items such as house keys and push strollers within its boundaries on Shabbat, a day where carrying objects outside the home and all activities associated with work are prohibited for some sects.
- The eruv’s boundary is being marked by half-inch thick PVC piping on utility poles. Both Mahwah and Upper Saddle River have called for the removal of the piping, based on current zoning laws prohibiting signs on the poles. Montvale Mayor Michael Ghassali told Daily Voice he issued a stop order over an attempt to put up the piping on Montvale poles.
- In Mahwah, some of the pipes have been vandalized , and police are investigating it as a bias crime.
- Some Bergen County residents have expressed concern in growing online groups and a since-taken down online petition about Rockland County’s Hasidic community expanding across the state boarder. In nearby Rockland County, Hasidic residents have clashed with others in the community.
The meeting also touched on the issues of some homeowners being approached with offers to buy their homes for cash, and busloads of out-of-state residents crowding Mahwah parks.
Suzanne Ross, who lives across the street from Winter's Park, said when she recently brought her children there, "it was just so packed, they couldn't even go down the slides. I just never experienced that before."
An ordinance had recently been adopted to limit the use of the township’s recreational facilities to New Jersey residents.
But earlier Thursday, Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal ordered Mahwah police not to enforce the new ordinance , saying it violates the U.S. Constitution.
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