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Mar 30, 2016 8:51 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Eruv Proponents Offer Deal To Westhampton Beach Village; Board Is Considering Offer

Mar 31, 2016 7:44 AM

Westhampton Beach Village officials are now considering a settlement with representatives of the East End Eruv Association that, if accepted, will allow them to avoid potentially having to pay millions of dollars in attorney fees.

Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore confirmed last week that the village hired attorney, Brian Sokoloff, has presented members of her Village Board with a copy of the proposed agreement that, she said, is similar to the one signed by Quogue Village officials on March 7. That settlement ensured that Quogue officials, who had previously objected to the expansion of an eruv on grounds that its markers would violate their municipality’s sign ordinance, would also avoid paying the organization pushing for the boundary’s creation possibly millions in legal fees if they dropped their objections to the eruv, which was installed in neighboring Westhampton Beach two summers earlier.

This week, Manhattan-based attorney Yehudah Buchweitz, who is representing the East End Eruv Association, or EEEA, in the ongoing suit, said the same deal has been presented to officials in Westhampton Beach, but, to date, they have not accepted.

Mr. Buchweitz declined to say when the settlement was offered, citing the ongoing negotiations, but emphasized that an offer is on the table. If the village opts to not take the settlement, and a judge ultimately decides against the village, Westhampton Beach could be on the hook for the EEEA’s legal fees, he added.

Ms. Moore, whose village has spent approximately $125,344 on its own legal fees on the issue, said that it is still too early to say how the board will vote, noting that the issue will be discussed at length over the next few months.

“We will review the terms and see if we have any comments about that,” she said, referring to her board. “Right now, that is as far as it has gone with us.”

The issue dates back to February 2008, when the Hampton Synagogue on Sunset Avenue in Westhampton Beach—the only house of worship to benefit from the eruv—filed an application with the village. But before the board could vote on the measure, and in the face of growing animosity over their proposal, synagogue officials withdrew their eruv application later that year, stating that they would eventually resubmit it.

In 2011, representatives of the EEEA picked up the fight, petitioning Southampton Town, and Quogue and Westhampton Beach villages, to permit the creation of the eruv, a special zone that allows adherent Orthodox Jews to push and carry objects that would otherwise be forbidden on the Sabbath. Both the town and Quogue Village rejected the application, arguing—ultimately in vain—that the boundary’s markers, called lechis, would violate their respective sign ordinances. The EEEA sued all three municipalities even though Westhampton Beach Village, which lacks a similar sign ordinance, never formally rejected an application.

Westhampton Beach was still listed as a defendant for several reasons, according to Mr. Buchweitz. In its original complaint, the EEEA referenced a Village Board meeting in which then-Mayor Conrad Teller attempted to have a resolution regarding the eruv added to the agenda for a vote—but the measure failed due to a lack of support. The lawsuit also cites several letters in which the village informed both LIPA and Verizon that They needed the village’s permission to install the lechis on utility poles.

In June 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Tomlinson ruled that Westhampton Beach was powerless to prevent LIPA and Verizon from licensing their utility poles to the EEEA. That ruling enabled the group to attach lechis—PVC strips that are a little more than a half-inch wide and between 10 and 15 feet long—to the poles. Judge Tomlinson must still decide whether the creation of such a boundary violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which prohibits the state from formally endorsing any single religion.

But now that Quogue and Southampton Town have settled, Westhampton Beach is the only one of the three that could still end up shelling out millions in legal fees to the EEEA, which has been working pro bono for the synagogue for the past five years.

The village is expected to make a decision in the next few months, according to Ms. Moore.

“If they want to settle, they know my phone number,” Mr. Buchweitz said this week.

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So, this hasn't been about scamming millions from a municipality whatsoever and these people simply wanted a religious symbol approved?! If the Village simply said yes years ago, the world wouldn't have ended?! You don't say. ..

Dumbest legal bickering I've ever heard of. ..
By Brandon Quinn (161), Hampton Bays on Mar 30, 16 10:04 AM
1 member liked this comment
Can you say EXTORTION?
By bigfresh (3834), north sea on Mar 30, 16 12:33 PM
How on earth can got even think this constitutes extortion?

Group A has continuously won the right to something in court. Group B has continously denied this right, and fought it tooth and nail through the court systems.

On the precipice of finally winning for good, Group A offers Group B a way to save taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees that they are 100 % entitled to under state law. That is the system - fight to the end and lose, you pay.

All group B must ...more
By Brandon Quinn (161), Hampton Bays on Mar 30, 16 4:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
it would be interesting to see how they justify those fees and if they were written off in the past. Plus, I guess even the "proponents" of the eruv would have to deal with the tax increases as a result of the Village paying the bill.
By realistic (453), westhampton on Mar 30, 16 7:28 PM
The term would seem to apply, your brief withstanding.

Group A wants something which requires certain permissions from Group Bch.

For reasons having nothing to do with Group Bch, Group A discontinues it application.

Some years pass, and a third group, E, tries an application of its own, cleverly surrounding Group Bch without applying to Group Bch as nothing "touches" Group Bch's territory.

After much legal wrangling with two other groups, Q and S, and getting ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1802), Northampton on Apr 6, 16 1:08 PM
Such a deal !
By STANNER (15), SOUTHAMPTON on Mar 30, 16 2:29 PM
Ahh.....religious disputes. How strange this is
By Lets go mets (337), Southampton on Mar 30, 16 9:36 PM
This has been coming for some time now, the next steps are clear: we need an Eruv at Truck Beach and the Picnic Area so that all can be accommodated on summer weekends. We should also consider an Eruv for Turtle cove in Montauk.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (580), southampton on Mar 31, 16 8:15 AM
They got the Eruv they wanted - why don't they back off from having their "expenses" paid by other taxpayers - am sure the attorneys won't mind...
they can avail themselves of the Eruv and consider their work a mitzvah.
By Vikki K (487), Southampton on Mar 31, 16 12:50 PM
Weren't the lawyers working for the establishment of the erev offering their time and services pro bono? I seem to remember reading that this was so.
By PPBubbles (3), Bronx on Mar 31, 16 7:25 PM
The Lawyers for the EEEA were providing their services PRO BONO. Period. If they planned to charge the defendants for the legal fees then it wasn't Pro Bono. It was Bullying! Now where are the Lechis? I would like to see a First Amendment ruling; separation of Church and State. How many of these devote People are going to push anything from Quogue or Southampton to Westhampton? If they can't be Orthodox without creating all these problems, just be a regular Jew. I am not anti Semitic.
By jeffaada (2), East Quogue on Mar 31, 16 8:50 PM
Even if the lawyers were providing their services to their client pro bono, free to them is not the same as free to you.
By Paramarine (26), Raleigh, NC on Apr 6, 16 10:39 AM
I still think the people who want to use the road this way could make themselves a map and use the map - no demarcations necessary. And my question still stands - what if they are using it and there is an accident? Who is responsible? People walking on the road - aren't they taking their chances? What if the people driving there are not aware of this use - and accidentally hit someone - It is a roadway after all. And people observing this religion tend to wear dark clothes and are not easily ...more
By Vikki K (487), Southampton on Apr 7, 16 6:42 PM