A letter from Assemblyman James Skoufis to DEC Commissioner Martens urging him to designate the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District or DEC as lead agent in the 507-acre…
February 13, 2014
Mr. Joseph Martens
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Albany, NY 12233
Dear Commissioner Martens:
I am writing to you today regarding the competing requests for lead agent in the annexation petition that seeks to move 507 acres of land from the unincorporated Town of Monroe into the Village of Kiryas Joel. Given the unique circumstances involving the matter, I strongly encourage you to designate the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District (MWCSD) or the DEC as lead agent.
First and foremost, it is very apparent that the annexation request by homeowners and landowners is, in actuality, being done at the behest of the Kiryas Joel administration. Today, the village administration refuses to make any public comments on this matter, but they made their intentions known in 2004 when a similar annexation proposal was being considered. According to the Times Herald- Record, “[Village Administrator] Szegedin told the Record that the village planned to first submit a large annexation request and then have County Executive Ed Diana propose the creation of a separate town as a peacemaking gesture.”1 In the same 2004 conversations, Szegedin explained the idea further by sharing, “It’s not going to be convincing by love. It’s going to be convincing by reality.” 2
Based on the above referenced comments and the fact that the Kiryas Joel administration clearly is the driving force behind the present annexation petition, they are not an objective party in this process as would often be the case in these types of annexation proceedings.
Furthermore, the present Kiryas Joel administration has a history of dealing with environmental impact studies in a nonchalant manner in order to expediently serve their own interests. Perhaps most notable was their preposterous original attempt at a negative declaration regarding the village’s 13-mile water pipeline project. It was only after numerous court orders that an environmental impact study was conducted; further environmental litigation is still pending.
It is also important to consider the history of the Kiryas Joel administration’s blatant lack of respect for the state Open Meetings Law and Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). While the Town of Monroe is petitioning to be co-lead agents with the Village of Kiryas Joel, such status would nonetheless provide the village with an influential say in the process. Any influence would need to accompany with it public disclosure of actions, something that the village has never demonstrated. The Kiryas Joel administration does not respond to FOIL requests, the village has no website and, thus, no posting of meeting agendas or minutes, and often cancels meetings at a whim. In 2012, the Times Herald-Record reported that “attempts to [determine when meetings were held were] met with almost comical obstruction.” 3 This disrespect for disclosure is unacceptable for any lead agent or co-lead agent during a critical application such as this annexation petition.
The Village of Kiryas Joel should, in no way, be involved with any decision-making during the annexation petition’s SEQRA proceedings for the reasons outlined above. The MWCSD B oard of Education, on the other hand, is an elected body just like any municipal board and, given the political reality of the situation, I believe they are the most objective body in these annexation proceedings. There is no question that the MWCSD has standing in the matter given the tremendous financial toll the 507- acre annexation would have on the school district’s taxpayers, made up in-part by residents of the 99th Assembly District that I represent.
I thank you for your serious consideration of this matter and if there are any issues or questions that I may be of assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Member of Assembly
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