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Breaking: Judge Blocks New York Village’s Effort to Seize Property from Jewish Group to Build Lifeguard Center Blocks from Beach

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September 6, 2022

News Release
For Immediate Release: 9.6.22
Contact: Peyton Luke, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

Breaking: Judge Blocks New York Village’s Effort to Seize Property from Jewish Group to Build Lifeguard Center Blocks from Beach
Judge acts on lawsuit filed in July by Chabad of the Beaches against the Village of Atlantic Beach, stopping the Village from unlawfully taking property by eminent domain.

New York, NY—United States District Court Judge Joanna Seybert today issued a preliminary injunction against the Village of Atlantic Beach, New York, halting the Village’s effort to seize property owned by a small Jewish group, Chabad of the Beaches, through eminent domain.  First Liberty Institute, Sidley Austin LLP, and the Harvard Law School Religious Freedom Clinic filed a complaint and motion against the city in July.

You can read the order here.

“Chabad of the Beaches is grateful that Judge Seybert has stopped the Village – at least for now – from taking its property,” said Jeremy Dys, Senior Counsel at First Liberty Institute.  “We hope this decision today encourages the Village of Atlantic Beach to welcome Chabad of the Beaches to its community, rather than spending even more taxpayer dollars to keep them out.”

In her order, Judge Seybert said, the Village’s “decision to acquire the Property by eminent domain will burden Chabad’s religious exercise by curtailing its outreach mission to the Jewish community and by eliminating its highly visible presence in the Village. Based upon the record evidence, and considering ‘the historical background of the decision under challenge, the specific series of events leading to [it], and the . . . administrative history,’ as well as statements made by community members, the Village’s acquisition decision was made in a manner intolerant of Chabad’s members’ religious beliefs and which would restrict Chabad’s practices because of its religious nature.  Thus, the Village’s acquisition decision was targeted and not done neutrally, thereby requiring the Court to apply strict scrutiny in deciding whether that decision is constitutionally permissible.”

Chabad of the Beaches purchased a property in Atlantic Beach, on Long Beach Barrier Island, to build a center for outreach to the Jewish community, known as a Chabad House.  The property was vacant and for sale for several years, but within weeks of Chabad of the Beaches’ purchase the property, and just two weeks after Chabad of the Beaches used the property to celebrate Hannukah, Village officials announced plans to take the property through eminent domain.  The Village made no effort to purchase the property during the time it was available.  Multiple alternative properties better suited to a community center and lifeguard operations facility, some already owned by the Village, were never considered.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Peyton Luke at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

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