What to Know
- Illegal school trailers have popped up in Rockland amid increasing demand for private religious schools to serve ultra-Orthodox Jews there
- Trailers were first constructed at 261 Route 306 in Monsey in 2015, and still don't have a certificate of occupancy
- Residents say they are worried about safety inside the trailers and on the neighboring roads
A new neighborhood battle is erupting in Rockland County over school trailers housing hundreds of children amid an increasing demand for private, religious schools to serve the ultra-orthodox Jewish community.
As the controversy has plagued Rockland in recent years, Monsey resident Reuven Weinstein is leading the fight against the series of "temporary" trailers for a school at 261 Route 306 in Monsey, which has not had a certificate of occupancy for nearly a year. The trailers were first constructed in 2015. Congregation Bair Chinuch Alteres Bnos is affiliated with a property next door, where several hundred more children attend school in a different building.
"How is a building being occupied by nearly 300 children without a certificate of occupancy? Aren’t those certificates of occupancies for all our safety? How is the town letting this slide?" Weinstein said.
Weinstein said he is worried about safety inside the school and on the neighboring road, where traffic has become increasingly congested. The longtime resident lost his son at a nearby intersection in 2005, when a car ran a red light and struck the 10-year-old boy as he was riding his bicycle home from a friend's house. Weinstein claimed the intersection was dangerous when his son died, and that it has become even more problematic since the school opened a few years ago.
"It’s only gotten worse," he said. "The traffic is uncontrollable. There’s more traffic here than can be handled."
Ramapo's prior administration was plagued by building department scandals. Recently elected supervisor Michael Specht said his administration is trying to get a court order banning the school at 261 Route 306 from operating until representatives get the required approvals.
"It’s illegal," Specht said, "but there is no remedy in the law that allows us to shut them down."
The supervisor said an inspector recently went into the property after a fire call but did not find any serious safety issues. In February, an inspection noted "dangerous conditions" and multiple fire violations, which the town said were addressed.
Justin Schwartz, chairman of the Rockland County illegal housing and private school task force, said, "I’m asking people to intervene before we bring out body bags. People seem not to care about the children. Not the firefighters, not anyone."
A representative for the school, who declined to speak to the I-Team on camera, said they are working with the town. In court papers, an attorney said the school has been singled out for discrimination and that "numerous violations exist for similarly situated properties throughout the Town of Ramapo."
Retired Rockland fire coordinator Gordon Wren said, "It’s epidemic. It’s widespread. And it’s not just the schools. It’s all over. The lack of enforcement is just criminal."