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Rockland County, NY - Report Highlights Fire Safety Inadequacies In Monsey Yeshivos

Published on: December 22, 2015 02:53 PM
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Rockland County, NY - Private schools in the Monsey and Spring Valley areas are finding themselves in the media spotlight, this time for their less than stellar performance when it comes to fire safety.

55 Rockland County’s yeshivos were visited during the course of a five month long investigative report by News 12 with several bearing state mandated annual fire inspection certificates that were a year or more out of date. According to the report, titled “Playing with Fire,” 75 percent of the schools visited either had not passed an annual fire safety inspection within the last year or refused to show their compliance certificate to the News 12 team. The report charges that little is being done to bring failing schools into compliance.

A visibly disturbed Ray Guarnuccio, Spring Valley’s fire inspector, told News 12 that with only one part time worker to help him, it is nearly impossible to inspect the village’s 1,400 properties each year.

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“We are overwhelmed with all that we have to do,” said Guarnaccio, who noted that he feels students’ lives in danger when they go to the failing schools.

“Do you worry for these children?” asked News 12 reporter Tara Rosenblum.

“Every day,” replied Guarnaccio heavily.

Rockland County’s fire coordinator Gordon Wren labeled the non-compliant schools as “ticking time bombs.”

“Should we wait for a big tragedy and then there will be an uproar?” asked Wren. “You want to wait for that and have poor innocent children pay with their lives?”

The News 12 report displayed footage of numerous schools in Monsey, Spring Valley, New Square, Airmont, Suffern, West Nyack, and New City, zeroing in by name on just three yeshivos that were not in compliance with state regulations, including one whose latest fire inspection certificate was dated 2008.  While over a dozen schools were found to be up to date on their fire safety inspections, the report showed just one, Ateres Bais Yaakov, located in Airmont.

Rabbi Noah Kalter, head of the pluralistic Rockland Jewish Academy in West Nyack, told News 12 that a lack of information may be to blame for at least some of the schools that are not in compliance and that he himself had no idea that fire safety inspections had to be performed annually.  Rabbi Kalter said that once he was made aware of that requirement, he filed the necessary paperwork to bring his school up to code.

“I think a lot of these schools may just not be aware of the things that need to be done to be in order to be considered in compliance,” said Rabbi Kalter.  “There doesn’t seem to be any kind of document available where schools can access it off a website to kind of almost as a checklist.”

While the News 12 report raises many valid points about a crucial issue, it also relies heavily on innuendo and suggestion. 

Footage displayed during the report shows clips of school buses belonging to Chasidic institutions that are not named as having failed their safety inspections and shots of particular school buildings shown as the narrative discusses failing schools unfairly suggest that those schools failed their inspections without offering any proof. 

Queries about one extremely outdated fire safety certificate were made as a staffer was loading children onto a school bus, with the staffer advising News 12 politely that he was not available to talk at that time.  The report also makes it clear that of the total number of schools visited, some were found to be in violation of fire safety codes while others simply refused admittance to the News 12 team or declined to show reporters their fire safety certificates.

The exact number of yeshivos in Rockland that are not currently in compliance with the fire safety codes is, in fact, impossible to determine based on this report, which only identifies three such institutions.  Rosenblum noted that she visited several Catholic schools in the course of her investigation and all were found to be in compliance with local codes.

Asked by Rosenblum if the failing schools should be shut down, Wren replied without hesitation.

“Absolutely,” said Wren.  “Without a doubt. It’s indisputable.”


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Read Comments (21)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Dec 22, 2015 at 03:16 PM Yes, it is a shanda Says:

While it is not clear whether schools were actually non complient or refused to answer to what is essentially a private citizen, I assume someschools let this slide. Every school answers to the parents and parents have to have the guts to say "make it safe or my child is not going to attend"
If budget issues and costs are too much then close down immediately, it is a statement that the risk is being taken to save money.

2

 Dec 22, 2015 at 03:29 PM Averagejoe Says:

Before everyone claims anti semitism is at play here, let's take a deep breath and recognize that maybe we do need to keep our children safe. I wouldn't dare suggest we keep laws....oh that would be way too much to ask. But let's just keep our precious children safe!
And why can't we act with a little more civility when approached by reporters? Does anyone realize that "no comment" is a perfectly legal and accepted term to be used for reporters?

3

 Dec 22, 2015 at 03:46 PM yossi Says:

Reply to #1  
Yes, it is a shanda Says:

While it is not clear whether schools were actually non complient or refused to answer to what is essentially a private citizen, I assume someschools let this slide. Every school answers to the parents and parents have to have the guts to say "make it safe or my child is not going to attend"
If budget issues and costs are too much then close down immediately, it is a statement that the risk is being taken to save money.

I assume you have NO kids home or never had any. If you have a houseful home you don't want then a half a day in the house. bottom line is:
Shomer Pesoyim Hashem...Yidishe kinderlech go learn Torah every day hashem watches over them.

4

 Dec 22, 2015 at 03:52 PM Anonymous Says:

If our kids are caught in a fire, will we blame the firemen or the yeshivas that didn't feel it's necessary to follow the laws? Why don't parents demand to have updated inspections?

5

 Dec 22, 2015 at 03:56 PM MMNSY Says:

I will just say this, and this has nothing to do with this articale. Rockland County’s fire coordinator Gordon is an anti-Semite.

6

 Dec 22, 2015 at 04:00 PM Maven Says:

Its the same people over and over who will find anything and everything on Chasidic Jews.
I rest my case.

7

 Dec 22, 2015 at 04:41 PM Anonymous Says:

Why should the firemen risk their lives knowing these are firetraps and that the Rabbonim refuse to follow laws? If you shopped in a supermarket you knew had no detectors and no available water, would you still shop there?

8

 Dec 22, 2015 at 04:54 PM Anonymous Says:

Big deal so no updated certificate that makes it dangerous because you didn't fill out paper work? Oh and it expired in Dec 2014. One yr off. So on Nov 30 2014 the school was safe. But a day later on Dec 1 2014 all becomes unsafe? Our nation has become a stupid paranoid bureaucratic nation.
Oh and fire extinguishers last a nice while after expiration dates.

9

 Dec 22, 2015 at 04:55 PM Shanda says No, Yossi Says:

Reply to #3  
yossi Says:

I assume you have NO kids home or never had any. If you have a houseful home you don't want then a half a day in the house. bottom line is:
Shomer Pesoyim Hashem...Yidishe kinderlech go learn Torah every day hashem watches over them.

BH, I have kids at home.
I also have smoke alarms and repair anything that might be a danger. That is obligatory today and especially for a yeshiva which has more people at one time.
I assume you are too youngto know this, there was a devastating fire decades ago in an out of town Boy's Yeshiva. We believe but still have to do what we can.

10

 Dec 22, 2015 at 05:34 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
yossi Says:

I assume you have NO kids home or never had any. If you have a houseful home you don't want then a half a day in the house. bottom line is:
Shomer Pesoyim Hashem...Yidishe kinderlech go learn Torah every day hashem watches over them.

Are you kidding me? The Torah protects, but not against negligence!!! And you my dear brother are an Am Haaretz, plain and simple.

11

 Dec 22, 2015 at 05:52 PM hashomer Says:

The yeshivot are incapable of policing themselves for anything, safety, quality of education, use of public funding. There should be a Jewish entity that works with the yeshivot to address these issues, especially safety.

12

 Dec 22, 2015 at 07:19 PM Vote4Trump Says:

Where are the Rabbonim? This is if not more important then tznios or yiddishkeit! Chamira Sekanta Mayusura! Why aren't they coming out with a kol koreh warning and demanding that we have to comply with fire safety rules! Our little children's lives are at stake and non of them care? Zu Torah? Its a big dam shame!!!

13

 Dec 22, 2015 at 07:51 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #6  
Maven Says:

Its the same people over and over who will find anything and everything on Chasidic Jews.
I rest my case.

Perhaps because they find the same legal and zoning violations over and over

14

 Dec 22, 2015 at 08:15 PM hershel Says:

Is this about actual fire safety or about getting a new certificate every year?

15

 Dec 22, 2015 at 08:45 PM eli845 Says:

This smells to me as bogus.... If they are not up to fire code why does the fire inspectors not giving them fines??? I remember being in yeshiva before the inspector came they made sure all is in order. I think it's a crock... Say what you want.

16

 Dec 22, 2015 at 10:51 PM stanislav Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

Big deal so no updated certificate that makes it dangerous because you didn't fill out paper work? Oh and it expired in Dec 2014. One yr off. So on Nov 30 2014 the school was safe. But a day later on Dec 1 2014 all becomes unsafe? Our nation has become a stupid paranoid bureaucratic nation.
Oh and fire extinguishers last a nice while after expiration dates.

If a store has a Hoshgocha certificate with an expired date, would you still trust it?

17

 Dec 23, 2015 at 08:35 AM RamapoJew Says:

The most striking thing about the video is the way those who were confronted acted on camera. That is the chillul hashem icing on the cake. The smartest thing to have done when confronted was to say. Thank your for pointing this out, we did not realize our inspection is our date, the safety of the children is of upmost importance, we will deal with this immediately. Being rude and insulting is the worst possible response. Its sad to see that those who are tasked with educating the next generation of Torah observant children are such poor examples of how to behave. Kudos to Rabbi Fink and the Rabbi from the Nyack school for representing Torah Judaism so positively. Shame on the others.

18

 Dec 23, 2015 at 10:25 AM Ntts Says:

There is no question that there is a serious problem, however it seems from the report that the fault lays with the fire safety bureau who is not doing the mandated inspections.
I think more of the report should have been focused on that aspect.
Many of the schools administrators are safety conscious and maintain safety standards on their own regardless if the fire inspector comes around to update the certificate.
By spending most of the time on the piece interviewing school officials and implying by innuendo that they are at fault instead of interviewing the government officials who are really responsible for the problem should be cause to question the agenda of the writer of this report.

19

 Dec 23, 2015 at 11:58 AM Anonymous Says:

I would never send my precious children to school that did not meet fire safety regulations. What other safety laws are they breaking? My neighbors have between 9 and 12 kids each and they make sure all their schools are up to date.

20

 Dec 23, 2015 at 12:48 PM Butterfly Says:

I have kids. What are the rabbanim going to say when they come back and close the yeshivah? The parents will want their tuition back!!

21

 Dec 23, 2015 at 10:53 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #17  
RamapoJew Says:

The most striking thing about the video is the way those who were confronted acted on camera. That is the chillul hashem icing on the cake. The smartest thing to have done when confronted was to say. Thank your for pointing this out, we did not realize our inspection is our date, the safety of the children is of upmost importance, we will deal with this immediately. Being rude and insulting is the worst possible response. Its sad to see that those who are tasked with educating the next generation of Torah observant children are such poor examples of how to behave. Kudos to Rabbi Fink and the Rabbi from the Nyack school for representing Torah Judaism so positively. Shame on the others.

Whenever they are interviewed, they are extremely nasty to the reporters, especially the females. Is that how they treat their wives? Instead of saying "get out" they could have acted as menches.

22

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