The opinion of the court was delivered by: Goettel, District Judge:
A large portion of the Town of Ramapo is a state park and
undeveloped land. In the occupied area, a "village movement"
has resulted in the formation of eleven incorporated villages
within the town borders along its perimeter.*fn1 An
incorporated village controls the tax base within its
boundaries and has the authority to execute its own zoning
laws, run schools, operate police, fire, water and sewage
departments and regulate the use of the streets. As a rule,
the boundaries of a village may not exceed five square miles,
N Y Village Law § 2-200, subd. 1(a), unless the borders of the
village are coterminous with another district, N.Y. Village Law
§ 2-200 subd. 1(b), (c).
According to plaintiffs, the Orthodox Jewish population in
the Town of Ramapo, currently between 22,000 to 26,000 or 23
to 27 percent of the Town's total population, has increased
dramatically over the last ten years. Because strict
observance of Judaism requires the availability of a large
infrastructure, Orthodox Jews tend to dwell in closely knit
communities. A large segment of the Orthodox Jewish population
resides as a geographically compact minority within the
central unincorporated Town where they have been an active and
vocal force in Town government. In addition, the populations
of at least two of the villages are predominantly Orthodox
Jewish. When moving into communities where the population is
not Orthodox Jewish, the Orthodox Jews cluster their
residences out of necessity.
The sufficiency of the petition with respect to the
description of the village boundary was challenged in an
Article 78 proceeding. On appeal, the court held that, while
not conforming to the boundary forms specified in the statute,
the metes and bounds contained in the petition described the
boundary of the proposed village in a readily ascertainable
fashion and was therefore sufficient. Lefkowitz v. Reisman,
144 A.D.2d 465, 534 N.Y.S.2d 2, 4 (2d Dep't 1988), appeal denied,
73 N.Y.2d 704, 537 N.Y.S.2d 492, 534 N.E.2d 330 (1989). The
incorporation was approved in a referendum on January 30, 1989,
by a vote of 1692 to 601, and another Article 78 proceeding was
filed attempting to nullify the results of that election. This
attempt failed because the petitioner lacked standing.
Schreiber v. Gorman, 561 N.Y.S.2d 815 (2d Dep't 1990).
On April 10, 1991, the Secretary of State signed the
certificate of incorporation for the Village. A Village Clerk
was appointed on April 15, 1991 and she, in turn, appointed
four election officials. On April 23, 1991, the Village Clerk
posted and published a notice of election for Village Mayor
and for Village Trustees. The notice posted at Town Hall
stated that the election would take place on Thursday, May 16,
1991.*fn3 Upon election of the village officials, the village
will start to function.
The impetus to incorporate Airmont came from a group of
residents who formed the Airmont Civic Association in 1986.
Defendants maintain that ACA was formed to advance a number of
civic goals, including the promotion of effective zoning
administration and enforcement and to implement the
incorporation of the Airmont area as a village. ACA has
actively opposed the establishment of synagogues in local
homes or home offices. There are more than mere hints in the
record of anti-Orthodox Jewish sentiments on the part of
certain ACA members. However, ACA has been involved in other
civic activities such as securing a telephone for a senior
citizen complex and objecting to zoning violations committed
by a local swim and recreational club.
The plaintiffs in this case are Orthodox Jews, residents
since 1987 (which was after the selection of village
boundaries) of a development called Park Avenue Estates.
Because travel by car on the Sabbath and on holidays is barred
by Jewish law, these residents must walk to synagogue for
worship. The nearest synagogue is located well over a mile
away (outside the Airmont area), but the Park Avenue residents
cannot join that congregation because additional membership
would take the synagogue above its legal capacity.*fn4
Rabbi Sternberg, one of the plaintiffs, applied to the
Ramapo Zoning Board for permission to establish a professional
home office where, among other uses, the Orthodox Jewish
residents of Park Avenue Estates (consisting of eight
families) could gather for Sabbath and holiday services. Such
uses are permitted in the Town of Ramapo*fn5 and many such
exist within the unincorporated Ramapo area.*fn6 ACA opposes
a synagogue established in a residence — its position is that
such use is not permitted by the Ramapo zoning laws and part of
its agenda is devoted to strict enforcement of the Zoning code.
Rabbi Sternberg still hopes to establish a synagogue in his
As soon as incorporation papers for Airmont were signed by
the Secretary of State, plaintiffs filed their complaint
alleging that the establishment of Airmont is illegal because
its borders were drawn with an intent to exclude Orthodox Jews
through strict zoning laws. The primary relief sought is
dissolution of an already incorporated village.
By order to show cause, plaintiffs have brought this motion
for a preliminary injunction, attempting to stop the election
scheduled for May 16, 1991. Without the election, the Village
of Airmont will be unable to begin functioning. Plaintiffs
acknowledge that this motion is a back door attempt to stop a
village that is already a legal entity.