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Sep 9, 2015 9:56 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Will No Longer Contest Boundary's Expansion To Westhampton

Sep 9, 2015 9:56 AM

Lawyers representing both Southampton Town and the group fighting for the expansion of a religious boundary have finalized an agreement in which the town will officially drop its objections to the boundary’s expansion into the hamlets of Westhampton and Quiogue.

Robert Sugarman, one of the attorneys who has represented the East End Eruv Association pro bono in its ongoing, multi-year fight to establish the Jewish religious boundary, known as an eruv, said the town officially dropped its opposition in court on Tuesday.

The settlement comes two weeks to the day after the Town Board, via a walk-on resolution, announced that it would no longer contest the boundary’s expansion to Westhampton—as it had originally proposed to do.

“It’s a big step forward,” Mr. Sugarman said. “The eruv can expand to Southampton.”

Town officials did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The special zone, which allows adherent Orthodox Jews to push and carry objects that would otherwise be forbidden on the Sabbath, was established in the neighboring Village of Westhampton Beach last summer. The eruv effectively turns outside space within its boundaries to inside space under Orthodox law, permitting the normally banned activities that include the pushing of strollers and the carrying of house keys.

Opponents of the eruv, who include Jews and even some members of the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach—the only house of worship that will benefit from the boundary—argue that its creation will create a Jewish enclave in the area. Some are insisting that the town should continue to fight the eruv’s establishment, explaining that government should not be asked to entertain decisions when it comes to specific religions in the first place. They said that the request itself, which essentially forces the town to recognize and approve a religious boundary, violates the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution that bars government interference in religious affairs.

The town opted to drop its challenge after State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Farneti overturned an August 2013 decision by the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals stating that the placing of the markers, called lechis, on utility poles would violate the town’s sign ordinance. The town had argued that the lechis—thin, translucent PVC strips that must be affixed to utility poles—qualify as signs and were thus illegal.

Quogue Village has also objected to the boundary on similar grounds; Mr. Sugarman said that there has been no movement on that litigation, which also seeks to overturn a similar ruling regarding the lechis.

At last week’s meeting of the Westhampton Beach Village Board, Brian Sokoloff, the attorney representing the village in various litigation pertaining to the boundary, told board members that they must decide if they want to continue their legal battle with the East End Eruv Association. He was invited to update village residents about the case after several blasted the board at last month’s meeting for not providing enough information about the ongoing litigation.

Pointing to the town’s decision to no longer fight the boundary’s expansion, Mr. Sokoloff noted that several judges have ruled that permitting the eruv is not considered an endorsement of Judaism by the village.

“What’s left in our case is what they originally brought the case with: An argument that the village somehow impeded them in a decision to put up the eruv,” Mr. Sokoloff said. “Do we want to litigate that question or, recognizing that the eruv is up, do we want to put an end to this litigation? That’s where we are.”

He declined to share the board’s next move, but noted that recent court decisions—including the one that threw out the argument that the lechis violate the town’s sign ordinance—have set a precedent.

“It’s laid out, the law that governs our case. It’s the same eruv,” he said. “This decision is binding on our court—it’s binding on our case. Your chances of getting this up to the [State] Supreme Court … are pretty slim.”

Mr. Sugarman declined to estimate how long it would take the East End Eruv Association to secure the necessary licenses and agreement to attach the markers to utility poles in Westhampton and Quiogue. He said officials with that group, which took over the eruv establishment effort several years prior from the Hampton Synagogue, must still work with PSEG and Verizon to determine which poles should house the boundary markers.

Reporter Alyssa Melillo contributed to this story—Ed.

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Should be "US", Not "state", Supreme court.
Also all observant Jews benefit from an Eruv, not just those praying at the Hampton Synagogue.
By Morris Tuchman (5), Westhampton Beach on Sep 9, 15 8:04 PM
how do all observant jews benefit from an eruv when only the ultra orthodox need it ?. i would like to know.
By Peter Zegler (9), Westhampton Beach on Sep 10, 15 8:10 AM
to Morris Tuchman:

Quote:

"[A]ll observant Jews benefit from an Eruv, not just those praying at the Hampton Synagogue."
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Rubbish. The eruv is completely irrelevant to all observant Jews but the ORTHODOX for whom it creates an enormous notional temple thus enabling Orthodox Jewish congregations to finesse prohibitions against Sabbath behavior (such as driving one's car) that are forbidden by their particular Orthodox Jewish doctrinal ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Sep 10, 15 7:58 AM
The Southampton town supervisor anna throne-Holst and the town council members announced that they would not continue to fight the erection of an eruv in the town of southampton. (board backs away august 27th). With there decision not to fight for “our first amendment rights” they will be supporting the erection of religious symbols on “public property”. Let me say that again.. WITH THERE DECISION NOT TO FIGHT FOR “OUR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS” , THEY WILL BE ...more
By Peter Zegler (9), Westhampton Beach on Sep 10, 15 8:06 AM
1 member liked this comment
Now that dude in the panama hat doesn't have to park at the Fruit King anymore and pretend to walk to Temple
By Hambone (514), New York on Sep 11, 15 2:57 PM