NY attorney general: Town, county tried to prevent Jewish families from moving there

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday intervened in a lawsuit against a town over housing practices she says discriminated against Jewish families.

James filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit against the town of Chester and Orange County saying they violated the Fair Housing Act by blocking the construction of a housing development with the specific aim of preventing Jewish families from purchasing units.

“Blocking the construction of homes to prevent a religious group from living in a community is flat out discriminatory,” James said in a statement. “This campaign to deny housing to members of the Jewish community is not only a clear violation of our laws, but is antithetical to our basic values and blatantly anti-Semitic."

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“New York has a longstanding commitment to ensure equal housing opportunities for all residents – regardless of race, gender, or religious identity – and we will ensure this commitment is upheld," she continued.

The developers of the “The Greens at Chester,” which first filed the suit in July, purchased a 117-acre property in Chester in 2017. Since then, the developers have claimed that town and county officials explicitly said they do not want Hasidic families to move into the community. 

Officials are also accused of taking specific steps to stop the development’s construction, including: passing a law to restrict the size of the houses that could be built to try to make them uninhabitable for families, advancing proposals to implement extra taxes on the development and limiting the hours under which construction could occur.

The town and county ultimately denied the developers' permit applications after they complied with what James called “unnecessary” requests, including constructing a new sewer waste line and moving the main road by 10 feet.

James connected the lawsuit to a string of recent anti-Semitic incidents that have taken place in New York and across the nation.

“As we have seen an alarming rise in the rates of anti-Semitic incidents in New York and across the country, this type of intolerance and discriminatory behavior, especially at the hands of local government, is truly despicable. Intolerance towards others only fosters hate and makes our communities weaker,” she said.