Central Valley, NY – A Chasidic family of nine living in a Woodbury housing development near Kiryas Joel may be rendered homeless pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court.
Hershel Markovitz, his wife and his seven children moved into a Southfield Falls home in the Woodbury Junction development in June 2017. The house was bought for the Markovitzes by a relative for $420,000 from a previous owner and was located in an area of the still-under-construction-development that was designated as senior housing, as reported by the Times Herald Record (http://bit.ly/2yIevQz).
A gated community with approvals for 450 four to five bedroom homes, Woodbury Junction is divided into two separate sections, with 320 homes designated for multi-generational use and 130 homes situated on slightly smaller parcels of land for adults ages 55 and over. According to attorney Michael Sussman, who represents the Markovitz family, the previous owners assured his clients that there were other families with children living in the senior portion of the development.
“They told them that it was not an issue, that it was not enforced and it would not be enforced,” Sussman told VIN News.
But the Markovitzes soon found themselves slapped with two citations from the village for violating the development’s age restrictions.
A request for a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals citing the Markovitz’s limited income that would prevent them from finding another place of residence was denied last February with the board explaining that while it recognized the problem, it is was not authorized to grant a “mercy variance.”
The Markovitzes have remained in their home since that time, prompting the Village of Woodbury to file a lawsuit asking a Supreme Court judge to force the family out and to formally prohibit anyone under 55 from living in the house.
The Markovitzes are also facing potential penalties of up to $500 per week for violating the village code according to the Times Herald Record (http://bit.ly/2yKtZmV).
While the Markovitzes purchased their home from a previous owner, Lazer Dovid Hoffman, a broker with the designated listing agent for Woodbury Junction’s new construction, MK Realty, said that his firm adheres strictly to the development’s age requirement on homes designated for seniors.
“It is a deal restriction and no different than in many other places,” said Hoffman. “The development is big enough and there are homes available in both sections. Both types of homes are on the table, so why would anyone want to squeeze themselves into a kids’ shoe when they really need a men’s shoe?”
To date, only 30 of the planned 130 homes in the 55 and up section of Woodbury Junction have been built, with the age restriction creating unique problems for both existing and would-be residents.
Current homeowners who want to sell their properties have found that there is limited demand for senior housing of this type and want the age requirement lifted. Those who want to stay in Woodbury Junction’s senior community are in favor of the age limitation, arguing that it ensures the quiet lifestyle that brought them to the development in the first place.
Lifting the age restriction is no simple matter, explained Woodbury Mayor Michael Queenan, who said that any change would have to be initiated by the current developer, George Kaufman and would also have to be approved by the planning board in addition to be being subject to an environmental review.
“It could cost a lot of money and might mean losing a few lots,” said Queenan.
Queenan said that while he feels for those who are having difficulty selling their senior homes in Woodbury Junction, it is an issue that they will have to deal with on their own.
“It’s not our job to market their homes,” said Queenan. “They were well aware of what they were buying into and this is something that could happen to anyone buying a home anywhere. It might take a little longer but they will be able to sell their homes.”
But Sussman argued that his clients were misled and that the village was selectively enforcing the 55 and up rule when they saw Chasidic families moving into the development. There were other families with young children living in the senior section when the Markovitzes were buying their home, said Sussman.
“The village acknowledged that those families were there,” said Sussman. “They claim that they were living there temporarily and we understood that they were there a year at a time, on a continuing basis. Those people left but there were successive families, living in several buildings, and as far as we understood it, the village knew about it but did not take action.”
Queenan insisted that he was only aware of two violations of the age restrictions in the development’s senior section. In one instance a citation was issued and the family relocated within 30 days. The other violation was the Markovitz family and Queenan said that since the local courts have limited authority the matter was escalated to the state level.
“We want the problem rectified,” said Queenan.