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Mamakating, NY - Hotel Faces Environment Law Charges after Oil Spill

Published on: July 10, 2009 07:34 AM
By:  Record
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Summitville and Wurtsboro Fire Departments try to stanch a fuel spill at the former Homowack Hotel. Mike Rice for the Times Herald-RecordSummitville and Wurtsboro Fire Departments try to stanch a fuel spill at the former Homowack Hotel. Mike Rice for the Times Herald-Record

Mamakating, NY - A former resort hotel that has been under intense scrutiny since it fell into the hands of a Hasidic sect from New City has been charged with three counts of violating the state environmental conservation law after an oil spill at the site Thursday.

State DEC police officer Scott Steingart said his officers, as well as DEC spill response units responded to the former Homowack Hotel, now known as Machne Bnos Square, for an oil spill reported by a local resident around 3:30 p.m.

Upon arriving at the site, Steingart learned that the owners of the hotel, a Hasidic group known as Congregation Bais Trana, had released a quantity of heating oil while trying to transfer it from one tank on the property to another.

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The oil escaped into drains that eventually empty into a nearby stream. A pump was found near a hole by Phillipsport Road may have been used in an apparent attempt to pump water out of the drainage culvert possibly to stop the oil from escaping the property through another pipe that runs under the road, Steingart said.

Thursday evening, firefighters and members of a Hazmat team tried to stanch the flow with pads of absorbent material.

No oil seems to have left the property, Steingart said.
However, charges were filed against the congregation for failing to report the spill, which initially occurred at 7:45 a.m., Steingart said. In additon, the group was charged with failure to register bulk storage tanks and producing an “unwholesome” material on or near a public road, all misdemeanors that carry heavy fines under the state environmental law.

The Skver sect of Hasidim from New City purchased the hotel, a former resort for non-Hasidic Jews, along with 450 acres of land in 2006, apparently intent on creating a new Hasidic village akin to the Satmar village of Kiryas Joel in Monroe.
It was not known last night if there was a connection between the sect and Congregation Bais Trana.

Mamakating town officials, however, have lately been critical of the operation of the hotel, a summer getaway for Hasidim from all over the state, largely because the proprietors have failed to observe building, health and safety codes.

Town officials, including Supervisor Robert Fiore, were at the site last night, meeting with members of the congregation. Town resident Andy Weil, who reported the spill, alleged that the town leaders were failing to stay vigilant enough on the Hasidic group’s activities.

“There’s a lot of problems at this end of Mamakating that the town’s not dealing with,” he said.At the property, members of the congregation refused to speak to the reporter.

 


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Read Comments (20)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jul 10, 2009 at 07:03 AM Logic613 Says:

How much longer will people insist on making a chilul hashem? The few extra dollars it takes to be compliant with codes to avoid a chilul hashem will be worth it.

2

 Jul 10, 2009 at 06:59 AM Anonymous Says:

Chasidim not obeying the law? Unheard of!! What is this - Postville???

3

 Jul 10, 2009 at 06:47 AM shmiel Says:

what exactly happened??????
they were transfering oil from one tank to another
and then
some oil spilled or the barrel tipped
and then
they tried to pump it back in the barrel
sounds very reasonable,
failure to register a tank is a technicality not a danger

4

 Jul 10, 2009 at 07:48 AM Anonymous Says:

What is going on? who do you think transfers oil from one tank to a nother? any person cannot go with pots and pans to do this job on their own a company has to come down to do the jobe! one may think accidents don't happen while on a job? how many times do you get an oil delivery to your own house and they overfill the tank? I know this happened to me once did the city come down to ticket me? no! the company came down and cleaned up the mess. this story does not sound fishy after all the company did try to pump out the oil. i think it' s the old story that the town does not want a new development by them only our tax dollars!

5

 Jul 10, 2009 at 07:48 AM Yossi Says:

So now any accident that happens by chasidim is a chilil hashem? Remember the big money laundering at Yeshiva Chaim Berlin in Flatbush which was smeared over all newspapers in NY.? That was NOT chasidim..So please DONT always blame the chasidim ......We are B"H know as the worlds biggest Gemiles chesed people and Bal Tzedukeh..WE have nothing to be ashamed off and we are proud to be called Chasidim...

6

 Jul 10, 2009 at 07:44 AM Chaim S. Says:

Technicalities can often be dangerous. Since when is having oil in your coffee not dangerous? Yes reasonable. They really did try to remedy their situation. But if they had complied with the town health and safety rules, maybe this technicality of oil in the town's coffee wouldn't have occurred. This time no oil did actually go into the town's coffee, but next time? What exactly happened? Negligence. For forgetting the Torah gives us a korban chatos for a slicha. For negligence there is no korban to be m'chaper. And for all those who will be screaming about chasidim. Remember the proud yeshivish litvish guy who sold treif meat in Monsey? Is "Rabbi" Pinter chasidish? You remember. The proud yeshivish guy who is now sitting in jail the 2nd time for defrauding the government and banks. And Mr. Madoff is very far from chasidish. This is a pre-WW 1 golus mentality of doing anything to make a buck because if not you actually starved. Yes Jews just about had no choice. How about looking up in Shulchan Orech Hilchos Geneiva what the Maharam M'Rottenburg paskens about to'us akum? Ossur. To'us, a mistake that the goy made, not open and out stealing from goyim. No question that's ossur. And this is the same Maharam who witnessed the burning of seforim, who witnessed persecution, who himself died in a prison tower. How much more so is defrauding governments, insurance companies and banks ossur min hatorah.

7

 Jul 10, 2009 at 08:09 AM Anonymous Says:

There are two common threads in all of these recent stories about zoning and land use violations, operating without permits, violations of existing rules, non-conforming uses, etc.. First, there is a widespread although not pervasive arrogance among some of these chassidishe groups that say the rules meant for goyim don't apply to us. Second, even where the applicability of the rules is acknowledged, the efforts to comply are too often done "on the cheap" with unlicensed or poorly trained personnel on the apparent theory that the money can be better spent on tzadakah, maasim tovim and other yiddeshe needs. Again, this is not a universal problem with all chassidishe institutions, but a pattern we see all too frequently.

8

 Jul 10, 2009 at 08:27 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
Logic613 Says:

How much longer will people insist on making a chilul hashem? The few extra dollars it takes to be compliant with codes to avoid a chilul hashem will be worth it.

You should of know that every story has 2 sides to it! And just because the record reports the story the way they are, dosnt mean that this is how it was, so you can't say its a chilel hashem before you know what exactly is going on there.

9

 Jul 10, 2009 at 08:36 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

There are two common threads in all of these recent stories about zoning and land use violations, operating without permits, violations of existing rules, non-conforming uses, etc.. First, there is a widespread although not pervasive arrogance among some of these chassidishe groups that say the rules meant for goyim don't apply to us. Second, even where the applicability of the rules is acknowledged, the efforts to comply are too often done "on the cheap" with unlicensed or poorly trained personnel on the apparent theory that the money can be better spent on tzadakah, maasim tovim and other yiddeshe needs. Again, this is not a universal problem with all chassidishe institutions, but a pattern we see all too frequently.

You are 100% on target

10

 Jul 10, 2009 at 08:33 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

What is going on? who do you think transfers oil from one tank to a nother? any person cannot go with pots and pans to do this job on their own a company has to come down to do the jobe! one may think accidents don't happen while on a job? how many times do you get an oil delivery to your own house and they overfill the tank? I know this happened to me once did the city come down to ticket me? no! the company came down and cleaned up the mess. this story does not sound fishy after all the company did try to pump out the oil. i think it' s the old story that the town does not want a new development by them only our tax dollars!

There was never any mention of a company doing the work, there were never any permits issued, on the surface it appears that someone was trying to skirt the code. Why must we always think that the laws and codes do not apply to us.

11

 Jul 10, 2009 at 08:56 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

There was never any mention of a company doing the work, there were never any permits issued, on the surface it appears that someone was trying to skirt the code. Why must we always think that the laws and codes do not apply to us.

do you think it's that easy to remove oil from one tank to another? the oil company has to do the job with special trucks! come on i am not trying to defend anyone, but try laying bricks without cement or whatever material is used

12

 Jul 10, 2009 at 09:08 AM Expatriate Owl Says:

How does this differ from driving an automobile without a valid license? Or without valid insurance?

13

 Jul 10, 2009 at 09:41 AM bigwheeel Says:

Reply to #1  
Logic613 Says:

How much longer will people insist on making a chilul hashem? The few extra dollars it takes to be compliant with codes to avoid a chilul hashem will be worth it.

...The old adage about there being Three sides to every story applies here! "Yours, mine and the truth! The truth is somewhere in the middle! All people in general should put an emphasis on being compliant with all the Building and Sanitary regulations! But it's been found that, especially in small towns the Rules and Regulations are enforced selectively, and are sometimes used as a means of keeping out people "who don't look like us"! Without being on the scene or having knowledge of this specific case, I'm certain that the (non-major) oil spill was an accident! And the person who reported it to the authorities had no altruistic motives in mind!!!

15

 Jul 10, 2009 at 10:35 AM Anonymous Says:

I think the most telling point of the story is that the town says they have put this camp under scrutiny since they bought the Homowack. That indicates clear prejiduce, that as soon as a taxpaying entity closes down and it is taken overby a Jewish exempt organization, thye will try to find any method of recovering the lost tax dollars. There is no question that the town is looking for something. You can find many problems at even the best run facility will have some sort of violation that will show up iif someone is keeping them under close scrutiny. There is a definite bias from the town.

16

 Jul 10, 2009 at 09:51 AM bigwheeel Says:

Reply to #6  
Chaim S. Says:

Technicalities can often be dangerous. Since when is having oil in your coffee not dangerous? Yes reasonable. They really did try to remedy their situation. But if they had complied with the town health and safety rules, maybe this technicality of oil in the town's coffee wouldn't have occurred. This time no oil did actually go into the town's coffee, but next time? What exactly happened? Negligence. For forgetting the Torah gives us a korban chatos for a slicha. For negligence there is no korban to be m'chaper. And for all those who will be screaming about chasidim. Remember the proud yeshivish litvish guy who sold treif meat in Monsey? Is "Rabbi" Pinter chasidish? You remember. The proud yeshivish guy who is now sitting in jail the 2nd time for defrauding the government and banks. And Mr. Madoff is very far from chasidish. This is a pre-WW 1 golus mentality of doing anything to make a buck because if not you actually starved. Yes Jews just about had no choice. How about looking up in Shulchan Orech Hilchos Geneiva what the Maharam M'Rottenburg paskens about to'us akum? Ossur. To'us, a mistake that the goy made, not open and out stealing from goyim. No question that's ossur. And this is the same Maharam who witnessed the burning of seforim, who witnessed persecution, who himself died in a prison tower. How much more so is defrauding governments, insurance companies and banks ossur min hatorah.

On the importance and necessity of complying with the rules and regs. I agree with you 100%! But your contention that failure to comply is done deliberately and is mistakenly based on a P'sak in Shulchan Aruch, by those alleged perpetrators. There, you are 100% wrong!!!

17

 Jul 10, 2009 at 09:50 AM Shlomo Says:

Reply to #3  
shmiel Says:

what exactly happened??????
they were transfering oil from one tank to another
and then
some oil spilled or the barrel tipped
and then
they tried to pump it back in the barrel
sounds very reasonable,
failure to register a tank is a technicality not a danger

They aren't "technicalit(ies)"--they're the law.
The laws aren't there simply to raise revenue: they are there because hazardous materials and oil releases are tough to deal with. Additionally, it is not simply the town's water supply, that entire area is part of the NYC watershed.
Lastly, much of the problem seems to stem for timely notification. With a spill, it is better to call for an emergency response early and stop it from spreading. The longer it is uncontained, the more it spreads, the harder the clean-up.

18

 Jul 10, 2009 at 03:56 PM Raphael Kaufman Says:

Reply to #13  
bigwheeel Says:

...The old adage about there being Three sides to every story applies here! "Yours, mine and the truth! The truth is somewhere in the middle! All people in general should put an emphasis on being compliant with all the Building and Sanitary regulations! But it's been found that, especially in small towns the Rules and Regulations are enforced selectively, and are sometimes used as a means of keeping out people "who don't look like us"! Without being on the scene or having knowledge of this specific case, I'm certain that the (non-major) oil spill was an accident! And the person who reported it to the authorities had no altruistic motives in mind!!!

The Envronmental Regs in question are NY State laws, not town laws. Usually there is a minimum reportable amount. In this case, where the spill was seen to get into the watershed, it would apear that the minimum amount was exceeded. The previous poster is correct when he says that the main issue was the delay in reporting. In my experience the DEP will work with you if you are straight with them. They generally will not fine a first offence.
For the last five years I have managed a 300 megawatt powerplant and have had to deal with DEP, OSHA and other state and federal regulators on an regular basis. I have found that they are not out to play gotcha but are ready and willing to help you comply with the regs.

19

 Jul 11, 2009 at 09:16 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #15  
Anonymous Says:

I think the most telling point of the story is that the town says they have put this camp under scrutiny since they bought the Homowack. That indicates clear prejiduce, that as soon as a taxpaying entity closes down and it is taken overby a Jewish exempt organization, thye will try to find any method of recovering the lost tax dollars. There is no question that the town is looking for something. You can find many problems at even the best run facility will have some sort of violation that will show up iif someone is keeping them under close scrutiny. There is a definite bias from the town.

Why would a hotel that was bought over by chasidim become tax exempt??? Because they change the name to Machane Bnos Skver? They should pay taxes just like everyone else and not hide a hotel behind a shuls name.

20

 Jul 11, 2009 at 09:47 PM bigwheeel Says:

Reply to #18  
Raphael Kaufman Says:

The Envronmental Regs in question are NY State laws, not town laws. Usually there is a minimum reportable amount. In this case, where the spill was seen to get into the watershed, it would apear that the minimum amount was exceeded. The previous poster is correct when he says that the main issue was the delay in reporting. In my experience the DEP will work with you if you are straight with them. They generally will not fine a first offence.
For the last five years I have managed a 300 megawatt powerplant and have had to deal with DEP, OSHA and other state and federal regulators on an regular basis. I have found that they are not out to play gotcha but are ready and willing to help you comply with the regs.

...The statements presented in my post were of a general nature and were not addressed to this specific case. I merely pointed out that in some cases the local population use zoning and other regulations in an attempt to keep out "undesirable" groups!

21

 Jul 14, 2009 at 05:02 PM avremele Says:

Reply to #19  
Anonymous Says:

Why would a hotel that was bought over by chasidim become tax exempt??? Because they change the name to Machane Bnos Skver? They should pay taxes just like everyone else and not hide a hotel behind a shuls name.

It IS a camp!

22

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