The Village Board for the Village of Woodbury, New York (“Village”) is considering a new law that would require a permit in order to erect or maintain an eruv in any public street, right-of-way or easement. For those not familiar with an eruv, it is an unbroken demarcation of an area, often created by connecting existing telephone or utility poles and wires, that allows Jews to carry or push objects from place to place on the Sabbath and Yom Kippur. A number of eruvs have been erected as the Orthodox Jewish community has grown in Woodbury over recent years.

According to the draft local law (“Law”), available here, adoption of the Law is intended to promote consistency in the use of utility poles, in the interest of public health and safety. The Law is also intended to address concerns regarding the use of private security cameras that have been installed on utility poles, as well as regulating small, 5G cell towers.

In addition to the permit requirement, if passed, the Law would require eruvs to be placed between 8 and 20 feet high and either translucent or the same color as the pole to which it is attached. Existing non-complying eruvs that are placed across public streets or right-of-ways would not be “grandfathered;” rather, they would have to be removed within 90 days of the Law’s enactment.

In a seven page letter to the Village, the newly formed Woodbury Eruv Association claimed that the Law, if enacted, would violate the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, subjecting the Village to “costly, time-consuming, and ultimately unsuccessful litigation.”

Village Mayor Michael Queenan has likened the Law to customary land use regulation: “To us, it’s just like passing a zoning law on solar panels.” In a statement to the Times Herald-Record, the mayor stressed that the Law would not prohibit eruvs, and that the Village has “no desire to interfere with anyone’s right to practice religion.”

Local news coverage of the law is available here and here.

Original Photography by Waltarrrrsome rights reserved.

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Photo of Diana Neeves Diana Neeves

Diana E. Neeves, a member of Robinson+Cole’s Environmental, Energy + Telecommunications Group, focuses her practice on environmental, energy, telecommunications, and utilities law. She also helps defend municipalities nationwide in cases involving the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

Ms.

Diana E. Neeves, a member of Robinson+Cole’s Environmental, Energy + Telecommunications Group, focuses her practice on environmental, energy, telecommunications, and utilities law. She also helps defend municipalities nationwide in cases involving the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

Ms. Neeves handles litigation related to environmental and land use matters. She represents clients in disputes brought under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and handles litigation involving asbestos contamination and exposure. Ms. Neeves’ litigation experience involves federal and state environmental enforcement actions and lawsuits between private parties.

Ms. Neeves regularly works with clients on the clean-up of contaminated properties, including Superfund sites. She assists clients with federal and state administrative compliance, including environmental remediation. Ms. Neeves helps represent a client who owns property which was contaminated by a previous owner, and she has been working with the state environmental agency to coordinate site clean-up.

Ms. Neeves is part of Robinson+Cole’s Utilities Group, which serves utility and energy clients on  regulatory and environmental matters. She provides a range of transactional and compliance services. She helps clients navigate all local, state and federal permitting requirements, and works to ensure they are in compliance with all regulations. Ms. Neeves has recently been working with clients on energy and conservation matters in hearings before the New York State Public Service Commission.

Ms. Neeves provides guidance to clients seeking local zoning approvals. She counsels them on meeting requirements for land development and securing necessary municipal and state permits to do so.