Gov. Hochul Stands Up for Kiryas Joel after Vetoing Bill that Would Restrict its Further Development
By Yehudit Garmaise
Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke up for the Chassidic community this morning, when she was asked somewhat aggressively, about her thinking behind her Dec. 22 veto of the Blooming Grove Community Preservation Bill, a tax bill whose true purpose Kiryas Joel residents felt was aimed at preventing the further growth of the community.
The bill claimed to allow the town of Blooming Grove to impose a 1% property sales tax and use the proceeds to buy land it wants to conserve. The bill also gave the town the development rights to purchased tracts of land, however, KJ residents said the bill was a way to prevent the Chassidic population from continuing to developing necessary housing.
“You vetoed a local home rule bill regarding the town of Blooming Grove: which wanted to impose a less than 1% tax to protect open space in their town,” a reporter cynically asked Gov. Hochul. “There is talk that the bill had anti-Semitic overtones because it might prevent residents from Kiryas Joel from moving into Blooming Grove.
“You and your lieutenant governor met with leaders of Agudas Israel, who urged you to veto the bill. Even though it wasn’t stated in the veto message: Do you believe that there are anti-Semitic overtones in this legislation, which passed both houses overwhelmingly?”
In a calm, cool, and collected tone, Gov. Hochul responded, “I will tell you what I look at when I am deciding legislation, and literally in the last few weeks and months, I have had to examine 400 pieces of legislation.
“I have had to make very hard decisions, and when I look at the clarity of purpose of every bill, I think, ‘What is best for every community?’
“Those are the only influences I have. I will listen to people on both sides of debates. I am a lawyer. I always do. I weigh both sides.
“But I will always do what I believe it right for communities. I am willing to having future conversations, but I am not going to speak about people’s motivations behind what they do.
“My job in front of me is to examine the facts that lie before me and make the best decisions.”
When the reporter again pressed, “Did the alleged anti-Semitic overtones factor into [your veto]?”
Gov. Hochul said diplomatically, “When I look at a piece of legislation, I am weighing all of the factors that are out there. I was hearing from a lot of people on both sides of the issue.”
The Blooming Grove legislation repeated a similar bill that was written for Chester, but that bill was pulled before it came to a vote in the final days of the 2021 legislative session.
Gov. Hochul pointed out the similarities in the Chester and the Blooming Grove bills, when she provided her veto, last week.
“There have been well-documented tensions in Orange County between local elected officials and members of the Chassidic community,” Gov. Hochul wrote. “Similar tensions in the nearby Town of Chester resulted in litigation. It would be inappropriate to sign this legislation at this juncture, while facts are still being gathered about the situation.”