Southampton Town has joined the villages of Westhampton Beach and Quogue in an ongoing dispute with a nonprofit that’s seeking to create a symbolic Jewish religious enclosure in the western part of the municipality.
Southampton Town attorney Michael C. Sordi sent a letter to an attorney for Verizon on November 16, arguing that the proposed boundary, which is known as an eruv, would violate the town’s sign code. The Press obtained a copy of the letter this week.
The eruv would be delineated by markings on the utility poles surrounding Westhampton Beach Village and the hamlet of Quiogue, as well as parts of Quogue Village and the hamlet of Westhampton. It would allow Orthodox Jews to push and carry items, such as strollers, wheelchairs and keys, within its borders on the Sabbath.
The nonprofit group proposing the eruv, the East End Eruv Association, needs permission from Verizon and the Long Island Power Authority to mark the utility poles, but has argued that it does not need permission from Quogue or Westhampton Beach villages. Both villages have disputed that assertion, and hired attorneys this month to represent them in the dispute.
Last month, Verizon indicated that it was prepared to allow the East End Eruv Association to put up the markings, known as lechis, even though none of the municipalities have signed off on the proposal. This summer, LIPA also gave preliminary permission to the association.
Marvin Tenzer, the Westhampton Beach resident who heads the East End Eruv Association, has never mentioned Southampton Town in his arguments, which have so far focused on the rights of the two villages to approve or deny the eruv. Mr. Tenzer, who maintains that his group does not need the permission of either village, did not return a call or an e-mail this week seeking comment.
In his letter to Verizon attorney William J. Balcerski, Mr. Sordi wrote that the town had stayed out of the dispute because Mr. Balcerski gave him the impression that the eruv would be confined to Quogue and Westhampton Beach, and not cut into Southampton Town territory—an impossible design, as Quiogue and part of Westhampton lie between the two villages. Mr. Sordi, who did not return a call seeking comment this week, continued that news reports contradicted Mr. Balcerski’s comments and stated that the eruv would surround Quiogue and encompass part of Westhampton.
Mr. Tenzer has said in the past that the eruv would surround Quiogue and encompass part of Westhampton, both of which fall under the jurisdiction of Southampton Town.
Mr. Sordi went on to write in the letter that lechis qualify as signs that would be prohibited under the town code.
“I must emphasize that our law is content neutral, it makes the owner of the pole legally responsible, and it provides for various penalties including fines of a continuous nature for every day the violation remains,” Mr. Sordi wrote.