One of the fastest growing Facebook pages in Rockland County is ‘Block the Block Vote’. It’s growth seems to reveal very strong undercurrents of anger in the county about what is going on with the Hasidic community. One of the ‘Block the Block Vote’ Facebook’s latest posts refers to the leader of the Democratic majority in the County Legislature, Aron Wieder, as the “East Ramapo Central School District Loooter (sic)“.
The commentary is running with the picture shown above of Legislator Wieder.
In the ‘Block The Block Vote’ Facebook page the editor writes about the county legislators saying: “As they have distinguished themselves conspicuously after a long pattern of avoiding all mention of the block vote based fraud, the ‘Block the Block Vote’ editor awards the Rockland political leaders the Medal of Silence ‘Semper Tacita – Always Silent’ on block vote fraudsters”.
Recently an article in Rockland Voice reviewed one of Legislator Wieder’s statements on the East Ramapo School situation following the disturbing report that was issued by the State Monitor, Hank Greenberg. The article asked readers to listen to the voice of Elie Wiesel:
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented” and then went on to ask: Who in the school system of East Ramapo is enduring suffering and humiliation? Who is the oppressor and who is the victim? Who is the tormentor and who is the tormented? Only when the county legislators face those questions will they be able to determine whose civil rights are being threatened and by whom. The people of East Ramapo have cried out for help. It is not necessary for the voters in Ramapo to cry out once more at the behest of Legislator Wieder while sixteen other members of the County Legislature remain silent about their plight.
In another article on the ‘Block The Block Vote’ website the editor refers to Legislator Grant as one “who is attempting to hide what the block vote fraudsters are costing each taxpayer in Medicaid fraud”. The Facebook page goes on to say that “there is fraud enabling the fraud and the attitude of ‘hide the fraud’ will no longer stand”.
In a Rockland Voice opinion piece A Picture Worth A Thousand Words this issue of possible Medicaid abuse was also raised. It was pointed out that the word ‘poor’ is used when referring to our Hasidic neighbors because 93% of the population in Kiryas Joel in Orange County are receiving Medicaid and other government services. The ‘poverty’ situation is not yet that bad in Rockland County but it is climbing as rapidly as the population grows. In Monsey and Spring Valley the percentage of the population receiving Temporary Assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (aka food stamps) and Medicaid is now 61.6% and 52.9% respectively. The population of Rockland County is about 320,000 and an astonishing 70,000 (22%) are receiving Medicaid in a county which is ranked as one of the top five richest in New York State. Twenty-four thousands (24,000) Hasidic children are being ‘educated’ in private Yeshivas and that number is expected to grow to fifty thousands (50,000) within ten years with a corresponding increase in government provided services.
Even the NY Times wonders what is legitimate about the Hasidic communities saying about Kiryas Joel just north of Rockland County:
“The poorest place in the United States is not a dusty Texas border town, a hollow in Appalachia, a remote Indian reservation or a blighted urban neighborhood. It has no slums or homeless people. No one who lives there is shabbily dressed or has to go hungry. Crime is virtually nonexistent. And, yet, officially, at least, none of the nation’s 3,700 villages, towns or cities with more than 10,000 people has a higher proportion of its population living in poverty than Kiryas Joel, N.Y., a community of mostly garden apartments and town houses 50 miles northwest of New York City in suburban Orange County.
One lawmaker, Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, who represents an adjacent district in Orange County, has demanded an investigation by state officials into why Kiryas Joel received grants for the center. “They may be truly poor on paper,” Ms. Calhoun said. “They are not truly poor in reality.”
Poverty is largely invisible in the village. Parking lots are full, but strollers and tricycles seem to outnumber cars. A jeweler shares a storefront with a check-cashing office. “I cannot say as a group that they are cheating the system,” said William B. Helmreich, a sociology professor who specializes in Judaic studies at City College of the City University of New York, “but I do think that they have, no pun intended, unorthodox methods of getting financial support.”
All of the above prompted the NY Times to ask a fundamental question: Are Kiryas Joel residents really poor?
Because of ‘poverty’ in local Hasidic communities the taxes on the ‘non-poverty’ stricken residents in Rockland County are beginning to spiral out of control and are threatening to drive taxpayers out of their homes and out of the State lest they too fall into a form of property tax poverty. Further, something of a siege mentality is creeping into the actions of the Town Boards bordering on Ramapo as fears of multi-family buildings and chicken slaughterhouses proliferate.
With such alarming statistics presently existing in Kiryas Joel and similar situations rapidly developing in Rockland County one wonders why the County Legislature is NOT discussing this problem?
What is your view? Is the Rockland County Legislature failing to pay attention to a core problem in Rockland County and what suggestions can you make to our legislators to address these problems?