‘Tish Gets It’: New York Attorney General Letitia James Praised by Jewish Groups for Ending Antisemitic Housing Practices in Orange County
New York’s Attorney General on Friday moved to decisively end discriminatory housing practices that have prevented members of the Jewish community from moving to Chester, a small town in upstate New York that lies to the west of the mainly Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel.
AG Letitia James announced that her office had reached “agreements with Orange County and the Town of Chester to end their use of discriminatory housing practices that were designed to prevent members of the Jewish community from moving to Chester, New York.”
“The agreements mandate that the county and the town comply with the Fair Housing Act and take preventative measures to ensure equitable housing practices moving forward,” a statement from her office said.
Announcing her decision, James slammed the antisemitic practices of both Orange County and the town of Chester.
“The discriminatory and illegal actions perpetrated by Orange County and the Town of Chester are blatantly antisemitic, and go against the diversity, inclusivity, and tolerance that New York prides itself on,” she said. “Every New Yorker deserves equal opportunities in housing, regardless of gender, race, nationality, or their faith. Today and every day, I stand with all communities against hate and discrimination, which will not be tolerated in New York state.”
In May 2020, James intervened in lawsuit which alleged that the town and county “engaged in a concerted and systematic effort to prevent Hasidic Jewish families from moving to Chester by blocking the construction of a housing development.” It said that the developers of the 117-acre property, The Greens, “had been fully approved for residential development under the ownership of the previous developer.”
However, since the purchase of the property in 2017, “officials from the town repeatedly sought to block development of the site and openly expressed discriminatory intent to block the development at public town meetings — explicitly referencing their desire to keep Hasidic families out of the community,” the lawsuit stated.
Jewish groups in New York praised James for her stance.
“UJA-Federation of New York is grateful to Attorney General James for her commitment to upholding fair housing laws and ensuring all New Yorkers are protected against discriminatory housing practices,” said Eric S. Goldstein, CEO, UJA-Federation of New York, in a statement. “Attorney General James is sending a strong message that anti-Jewish sentiment will not be tolerated in New York, and we are fortunate that she is a relentless advocate for our community.”
The Anti-Defamation League’s regional director in New York and New Jersey, Scott Richman, said his group was “so grateful for Attorney General James’ leadership in this case, and for her continued partnership in building a welcoming and inclusive New York, where no group or individual experiences hate or discrimination based on who they are.”
Rabbi David Zwiebel — executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America — pointed out in a separate statement that “not everybody understands the gravity and pervasiveness of bias against Hasidic Jews.”
Continued Zwiebel: “Not everybody appreciates that the growth of the Hasidic community is cause for celebration, not discrimination. Not everybody realizes that the law can be a powerful tool in ensuring fair housing opportunities for Hasidic families. With this lawsuit and settlement, Attorney General Tish James has proven — once again — that she gets it.”