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May 18, 2012 5:36 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Quogue Village Rejects Application For Religious Boundary; EEEA Plans To Sue

May 23, 2012 10:58 AM

An application to attach wooden markers on utility poles throughout Quogue Village, to create a religious boundary called an eruv, was denied on Friday by village trustees, and, earlier this week, those pushing for its establishment said they intend to sue the village over the rejection.

At their monthly meeting, the trustees voted 5-0 to accept a written decision that denies the application filed in January by the nonprofit East End Eruv Association (EEEA). The group wanted to install two markers, called “lechis,” on 46 utility poles in the village that are owned by Verizon and the Long Island Power Authority, and a single marker on two of the poles for an “indefinite and unlimited period of time,” the application states. Some of the poles are located along Montauk Highway, at the intersections of Quogue Street, Jessup Avenue and Old Depot Road. Additional markers would have been installed along Scrub Oak Road, Old Depot Road, Bayberry Lane, Old Country Road and Old Main Road, according to the denied application.

Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius briefly summarized the resolution prior to its adoption Friday afternoon. He said that among the reasons for denying the application was a belief that it violates the free exercise clause of the U.S. Constitution, and that the markers will create a problem for Village Attorney Richard DePetris. The mayor explained that, in the past, Mr. DePetris has consistently denied other requests to install signs on utility poles in the village that fall within its right of way.

When asked about the decision immediately after Friday’s meeting, Mr. Sartorius said: “I think the decision speaks for itself, so I do not need to comment.”

The five-page resolution states, in part: “The Board of Trustees believes that to protect the safety of our residents, to maintain the beauty and quality of life in the Village, and to avoid constitutional violations, and liability, rights of way should be kept clear. The lechis represent more than functioning, unattractive pieces of hardware.”

The decision also states that they do not believe that a denial of the application violates the free exercise clause of the Constitution.

Attorney Robert Sugarman of the Manhattan firm of Weil, Gotshal and Manges, who is representing the EEEA, said on Monday that the nonprofit intends to sue Quogue Village over the rejection.

“We are disappointed but not surprised by the decision,” Mr. Sugarman said. “We feel it is significantly flawed and plan to go back to court to challenge it.”

He said he could not say when the suit would be filed with the court, or what the EEEA would be seeking in terms of damages. Mr. Sugarman would only say that his client’s lawsuit would be filed within the next few weeks, as soon as all of the necessary paperwork can be processed.

When reached on Tuesday afternoon and asked about the threat of another lawsuit, Mr. Sartorius said: “There are already suits pending, so I don’t want to comment on this suit until I see it.”

If it files suit as promised, the EEEA will be embroiled in two lawsuits that name Quogue Village as a defendant. In January 2011, the EEEA filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that Southampton Town, and Quogue and Westhampton Beach villages were discriminating against Jewish people, citing their objection to the proposed boundary even though a formal application was never submitted at the time. The EEEA filed a formal application with Quogue in January, though it has not filed similar ones with Westhampton Beach or Southampton Town.

If created, the boundary would allow Orthodox Jews to engage in certain activities that are typically prohibited on the Sabbath, such as the pushing of baby strollers and wheelchairs, and the carrying of items, like cellphones, glasses, canes and keys. While the EEEA is pushing for the boundary, the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach is the only local house of worship that would benefit from its creation.

In November 2011, a judge denied a motion filed by the EEEA that sought the establishment of a temporary religious boundary in the western portion of Southampton Town, which included parts of Westhampton and all of Westhampton Beach Village. The request was denied by Judge Leonard D. Wexler of the U.S. District Court in Central Islip on the grounds that the EEEA never filed formal applications for the lechis with Westhampton Beach, Quogue or Southampton.

Mr. Sugarman explained this week that the EEEA has no intention of filing a similar application with Westhampton Beach Village, noting that, unlike Quogue and Southampton Town, there are no ordinances that would hinder the creation of an eruv. Quogue Village rejected its application after pointing out that the lechis would be installed on utility poles that fall within the public’s right of way.

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Have a good weekend, fellow fiddlers.
By Nero (301), Sag Harbor on May 18, 12 6:24 PM
Let the fireworks begin!
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on May 18, 12 7:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
"He said that among the reasons for denying the application was a belief that it violates the free exercise clause of the U.S. Constitution..."

Maybe they read a few of my posts?

Nah, probably not...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 18, 12 7:49 PM
I'm happy it was rejected and I'm a Jew :)
By Summer Resident (251), Manhattan on May 19, 12 12:36 AM
I don't get it...how can an Orthodox sect imagine, justify, request, or demand that the govt. of secular Quogue Village somehow release said sect from one of its very own religious proscriptions?
That would be like Catholic congregants of Sacred Hearts asking Southampton Village to confirm allowing or disallowing the eating of fish on Fridays...
Makes no sense.

By PQ1 (167), hampton bays on May 19, 12 8:57 AM
I hope Westhampton Beach Village is paying attention... looks like Quogue Village is in the know . Good work !
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on May 19, 12 10:06 AM
1 member liked this comment
to PQ1:

It's an interesting doctrinal point. Under Orthodox Jewish doctrine, the eruv must be established with the consent of the local community UNLESS the residents are bigots. So the legal action to come will attempt to establish that the lechai'in must be allowed by law AND that Quogue residents are bigots.

Nothing personal, Quoguites.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on May 19, 12 11:11 AM

>> "UNLESS the residents are bigots"

What is your source on that?
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on May 19, 12 11:38 AM
I think he means that is the accusation from the plaintiffs, regarding the alleged grounds upon which their request was denied.

HHS is poking fun at them (plaintiffs), unless I am mistaken.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 19, 12 12:44 PM
to HHS:

Thanks for the info, but I remain confused...

That implementation of a finer point of doctrine requires the consent of a local authority implicitly suggests respect for that authority's own rules and reasons to grant a special request or not.

Should a recognized authority's response come back as a "No," perhaps it is just a "No," or a supportable "No," and not necessarily the presence of animus or prejudice.

That a sect would force such an issue anyway ...more
By PQ1 (167), hampton bays on May 19, 12 1:09 PM
2 members liked this comment
to PQ1:

I apologize, and retract my statement that bigotry makes government approval of the eruv unnecessary. I relied on the assertion of a forum correspondent that I am unable to verify. As far as I can tell, a proclamation by a government authority (bigoted or not) authorizing the eruv is necessary for it to be valid.

By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on May 19, 12 1:58 PM
I'm curious-how were eruv's established before there were utility poles.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on May 19, 12 4:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
guess they had to stick those little tags somewhere else !
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on May 19, 12 5:09 PM
My guess is that Quogue will get served by July and it will go to trial next Feb. Based on the Tenafly decision, Quogue will lose and be subject to some severe penalties.

The whole thing is costly and sad and both side are responsible for the break-down in communication.
By Steven (113), Westhampton on May 19, 12 10:01 PM
Let's say this becomes a court battle and the EEEA win. Would it be fair to assume that any and all religious groups could use the utility poles for any purpose they see fit? For me that's the larger issue here. It's not a matter of allowing the EEEA to apply lechis to poles, it's more a matter of not allowing all religious groups to apply articles of worship (symbols) to poles. So throw the bigotry argument out as it does not apply.
This really is Quogue vs Religious articles attached to telephone ...more
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on May 20, 12 7:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
Double Standard, "Christmas lights" are not religious articles. The very word "CHRISTmas" is a celebration of the birth of Christ. Without Christianity there would be no Christmas tree lights or Santa Claus (who is a freaking CATHOLIC SAINT!). Many people who are NOT Christian do not celebrate Christmas. Just another intellectually dishonest statement from and intellectually bankrupt zealot.
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on May 21, 12 8:12 AM
I like the intellectually bankrupt zealot part. It's hardly dramatic at all. A cross on a pole = religious. Pretty lights on a pole = not religious. You really don't see a difference? Hardly matters. Religious articles don't belong on telephone poles and churches, synagogues and mosques shouldn't demand that they are. Less caffeine, Witch.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on May 21, 12 3:54 PM
Santa Claus is not a Catholic Saint, "freaking" or otherwise.
By WHBangler (9), westhampton beach on May 21, 12 4:06 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on May 23, 12 1:03 PM
This is not Quogue vs Religious Groups. Quogue does not allow anyone for any reason at attach anything permanant to the utility poles. It is not anti or bigotry toward anyone. Quogue treats everyone the same-no attaching anything to utility poles.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on May 20, 12 11:57 AM
2 members liked this comment
to Steven:

Tenafly is not germane and the court will so find. In Tenafly, the eponymous town was found to have engaged in "selective enforcement" in that it had permitted symbols, religious an otherwise, on its utility poles before the Orthodox Jews made their application. Quogue has never permitted such attachments and has removed them whenever residents have placed them without authorization.

However, the only way that this question will be "decided" by the initial trial is ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on May 20, 12 12:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
Remember, the Tenafly utility is PUBLICLY owned, not STATE owned.

HUGE "technicality"...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 20, 12 7:38 PM
Do your own research
May 21, 12 9:00 AM appended by They call me
< ------ Obama Campaign Responds to Breitbart 'Kenya' Booklet Story
By They call me (2826), southampton on May 21, 12 9:00 AM
Saw the scan of the originals.

Looked like my own updated birth certificate..
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 21, 12 9:42 PM
Unless I'm mistaken, an Eruv is Rabbinical and not Biblical. More, there appears to be specific criteria that define an Eruv, but that criteria has been modified to accommodate modern society. So if it is Rabbinical in nature, has been modified from the traditional specifications, then it seems that a Rabbi could delineate a route and the worshipers can consider said route an Eruv. Yes? No? Why?
Of course, by stating this the logical conclusion will be that I'm intellectually bankrupt zealot.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on May 22, 12 1:32 PM
2 members liked this comment
If the shoe fits . . .
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on May 22, 12 2:17 PM
If the shoe fits . . .
By witch hazel (224), tatooine on May 22, 12 2:17 PM
Well how about it then, Witch? Are you for the Eruv? Can you make an argument for why it should be allowed? How is the town wrong here? Add something... change some minds.
"Because I want it" and "It's no big deal" don't count.
Let's hear it.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on May 22, 12 2:47 PM
Great Logic. You are right!. All the rabbi has to do is tell his orthodox that HE as the local "authority" states the boundaries of the eruv, and they can then use it and not be sinners!
The "eruv" is just one of many examples of how the orthodox get around the supposed rules of their....and my religion.
By DasK (26), on May 23, 12 4:07 PM
Yet people like Witch Hazel will go around accusing you of being a bigot or a zealot or whatever, but never offer anything that resembles an argument. It's all "I want" or "It's no big deal." That's not the way the world works. Substitute crosses for lechis and my opinion remains the same. No religious symbols on telephone poles. Either that or allow any and all religious symbols on telephone poles.
Yes or no to all, no exceptions.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on May 23, 12 5:36 PM
2 members liked this comment
Why was my comment removed? I was simply pointing out the fact that Santa Claus was inspired by the Greek Christian saint Nikolas of Myra. Sheesh! Touchy subject I guess.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on May 23, 12 3:26 PM