Developer claims anti-Hasidic bias in suit over thwarted housing plans

Posted By on December 7, 2022

A developer has sued the Crawford Town Board for denying a zoning change he needed to build apartments, claiming the board turned against his project in 2020 after residents raised objections based on anti-Hasidic sentiment.

Rockland County developer Moses Schwartz had planned to build 54 apartments and a commercial building on Route 302 in Pine Bush and initially had support from town officials, who welcomed the affordable housing and were set to sell him 7.5 acres of town-owned land. But the board wound up rejecting the zoning change after a flood of residents spoke out against the project, voicing concerns about limited groundwater and traffic at that location.

In a lawsuit filed last week in federal court, Schwartz's attorneys argued that the true motivation was fear that Hasidic families would rent the apartments. The complaint cited Facebook comments about the project that made reference to Orthodox Jews and the Sullivan County village of Bloomingburg, where a 396-unit townhouse complex was being built for Hasidic families.

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"The Town did an about-face and adopted its residents' exclusionary and discriminatory campaign against the zoning changes and Plaintiffs' proposed multi-family housing project," wrote attorneys Robert Rosborough IV and Jennifer Thomas.

Crawford Supervisor Charles Carnes said in response on Tuesday that the suit was baseless. He said the board voted 5-0 against the zoning changes because of valid water and traffic concerns and the overwhelming public opposition to the project. He also countered the bias claims by saying the 1- and 2-bedroom apartments Schwartz planned to build weren't even intended for Hasidic families; he had told the board it would resemble a project he built in Maybrook.

"They definitely weren't geared toward Hasidic families," he said.

Schwartz had signaled his intent to sue the town by bringing an initial lawsuit against Facebook last year to demand it disclose the identities of people who had commented on the project on a private page called "Town of Crawford Now." Town officials had condemned remarks on that site as anti-Semitic.

That case ended in May with a judge ordering Facebook to tell Schwartz who administered the Facebook page, after he had agreed to narrow his original demand for the names of all participants. His lawyers appeared to be probing if town officials took part in the discussion and find out what they said.

The new suit alleges the town violated the federal Fair Housing Act, state law and the U.S. Constitution, and engaged in exclusionary zoning by limiting multi-family housing opportunities. Schwartz, who says he spent more than $60,000 on his thwarted development plans, is seeking damages, reimbursement for his legal fees, and an order requiring the town to "amend its zoning to comply with constitutional mandates."

Chris McKenna covers government and politics for the Times Herald-Record and USA Today Network. Reach him at

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Developer claims anti-Hasidic bias in suit over thwarted housing plans

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