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New Jersey - Mahwah Backpedals On Parks And Eruv Bans But May Still Face Costly Repercussions

Published on: December 17, 2017 02:03 PM
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Eruv piping is visible at Airmont Rd in Mahwah, NJ on July 25, 2017. Sandy Eller/VINnews.com)  Eruv piping is visible at Airmont Rd in Mahwah, NJ on July 25, 2017. Sandy Eller/VINnews.com) 

Mahwah, NJ - Less than a week after Jackson Township backed down from an eruv ban within its boundaries in order to avoid a costly legal battle, the Mahwah town council has also taken a step back from two controversial measures that were viewed by some as anti-Semitic.

The Journal News (http://lohud.us/2ziQtx5) reported that a unanimous vote by the Mahwah town council this past Thursday night had the lawmaking body agreeing to discontinue a ban that prevented non-residents from using township parks. 

As previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2z9jZVZ), Mahwah found itself facing a lawsuit filed by New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino in October charging the town with violating the state’s Green Acres Act by banning out of state residents from its parks which were built using state grants.

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The lawsuit demanded the return of $3.4 million in grant money, prompting Mayor Bill Laforet to warn that the township council’s actions could cost residents millions in legal fees and damages.

A second resolution passed at the same township council meeting backed away from a proposed resolution to ban the PVC piping used to construct eruvim, a measure that the state lawsuit also categorized as discriminatory.

The legislation was passed unanimously by the six council members present at the advice of the township’s lawyers.  The seventh member of the council, Steve Sbarra, was not present at the meeting and is expected to resign his seat on the board by the end of the year due to personal reasons.

Support for the town council’s actions was mixed and the Mahwah Strong Facebook group took Mayor Bill Laforet to task for ignoring the town attorney’s recommendation not to offer any comment on the resolution.

After being blocked from speaking publicly at the hearing after the vote, Laforet read a prepared statement outside council chambers to a group that included both residents and non-residents criticizing the town council for potentially opening Mahwah residents up to significant financial liabilities through the proposed ordinances. 

“Tonight we are witnessing the very arsonists who burned down the building coming back to the scene offering to put out the fire simply by rescinding the ordinances,” said Laforet. 

“They are hiding from you that if they failed to do so the attorney general can come into Mahwah to press civil or criminal bias charges against every single one of the people sitting to my left. No, for people who did a lot of shouting, and shouting down, the past several months, they are strangely quiet about that.

For these arsonists, this is still going to be one hell of a costly fire.  The council has had the nerve to ask Mahwah taxpayers for a quarter of a million dollars to pay lawyers to clean up the mess that they themselves made. And that may only be a down payment.”

Laforet also criticized the council for allowing “shameful demonstrations of bias against concentration camp survivors” and for blackening the reputation of a community “that welcomes newcomers as neighbors.”

In its post, Mahwah Strong blasted the mayor, calling his actions “deplorable and embarrassing” and noting that council meetings “have become circuses.”  The group also complained about unfair news coverage over the last several months, saying “the media has placed a target on Mahwah.”

An editorial that appeared on NJ.com (https://njersy.co/2ziyvuw) took the town council to task for what it described as a grudge match with the mayor and its lack of remorse for actions that were construed by many as anti-Semitic saying, “The council could have offered an apology to Mahwah residents and to all who perceive Mahwah is a community focused on exclusion rather than inclusion. 

It did not.  The township council has not had a change of heart, just a good look at checkbooks. We applaud eliminating the ordinances but there is nothing to cheer about the apparent lack of remorse or that the council is doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.”



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