Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Mahwah Repeals Parks Ban

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Mahwah Repeals Parks Ban

Article excerpt

MAHWAH — The Township Council finalized its repeal of a controversial parks ban Thursday night, ending an ordinance that drew allegations of anti-Semitism from multiple state leaders and attracted a civil rights lawsuit from the state Attorney General's Office.

In a 6-1 vote, the council withdrew the ordinance — which outlawed non-state residents in local parks — and replaced it with language stating that Mahwah's parks and playgrounds may be used by "residents and non-residents alike."

Councilman Steve Sbarra cast the lone dissenting vote in his final meeting on the governing body. He plans to leave the council at end of the year for personal reasons.

He declined to comment on the vote after the meeting.

The reversal comes as the township wrangles with a state lawsuit alleging that the township brought forth ordinances that were discriminatory and aimed at addressing a feared "infiltration" of Mahwah by Orthodox Jews.

Earlier in the month, the council approved a resolution disavowing a proposed measure that would have prohibited the posting of devices or "other matter," such as the white PVC pipes used to denote a Jewish boundary known as an eruv, on utility poles. That ordinance was introduced but never adopted.

Council members initially defended the ordinances as non-discriminatory, but in recent weeks have largely refrained from publicly discussing the repeal on the advice of legal counsel. Township Attorney Brian Chewcaskie has called the reversal a "legal strategy" as the town deals with the state's litigation.

Hundreds of residents backed the ordinances at public meetings over the summer in protest of an eruv that was expanded from Rockland County into Mahwah and Upper Saddle River. They also spoke of fears that ultra-Orthodox communities in New York State would spread into Bergen County, and also complained of overcrowding at local parks, particularly by Orthodox Jews from New York. …

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