Op-Ed: Facts on the Ground & Gedalye Szegedin
Gedalye Szegedin, the Village Administrator of Kiryas Joel, sent a myriad of emails to the Times Herald Record. In ‘Thoughtful planning can strengthen MW and KJ schools,’ he is quoted: “mass overflow of KJ residents…will change the face of the Monroe-Woodbury School District forever”; “You can still prevent this mass overflow if you stop fighting all the annexations now, but time is running out”; “The overflow move-out momentum in KJ is going forward in full speed to a degree I have never seen before.” He specifically identified developments “where residents of Kiryas Joel were seeking homes,” and cleverly left out others.
In his Photo News My View piece (3/3/16), Mr. Szegedin adamantly stated “the facts on the ground and are undeniable,” referring to Monroe’s ever changing landscape.
‘Facts on the ground,’ is a term used to describe the preservation of land for historical facts or a strategic military presence. In her essay ‘Facts on the Ground’, Nomi Maya Stolzenberg calls it the ‘term of choice’ to describe a settlers’ movement. She speaks to its implications on community, relationship to property, and the innumerable psychological and social effects of how these facts were created. She delves into the social and economic changes of land redistribution; changes in the demographic and cultural character; issues surrounding what is morally and politically controversial; and ‘other wrongful acts and consequences’. Szegedin was clear: to fight an annexation that will create one enlarged Village of KJ will be the causation of “the many new Hasidic villages that are just around the corner.” So how does an annexation, with no specific plans for development, demand high-density housing in an area with relatively lower density zoning?
Stolzenberg says sometimes establishing facts on the ground is not accidental but often a deliberate intended result to cause confusion about what is just and unjust; by ‘dispersing the responsibility to an actor or multiple actors, generating innocent parties (blameless children and good faith purchasers), interspersing them amongst the present day occupant, and embodying a mixed set of motives’. Shmarya Rosenberg cited facts on the ground (Town Approves Controversial Satmar Mikva) as the method used “to dramatically change the voting composition of the 400 population Village of Bloomingburg and take it over.” What are Mr. Szegedin’s motives? Blur the distinction between ‘morally culpable actions and actions that are justified by necessity’? Is he purposely confusing the distinctions between secular government and private religious authority by buying property and taking private power into the public sector? How is being able to vacillate between private and secular law allowable, knowing it severely blurs the lines between separation of Church and State? Thank goodness he confirmed his understanding of the Fair Housing Act and acknowledged you can’t stop sales of homes based on the religion or culture of the prospective buyer. This will hold true when Forest Edge, Vintage Vista, Lake Anne, ACE Farms, and the facts on Larkin Drive become privy to the open market.
Mr. Szegedin paints with a deceptively broad brush. His intent is to segregate, not by law, but by who owns and occupies the property. His ‘motivations’ cause rifts, create innuendos, and give false application to a very real form of racism. It’s agreed, you can’t tell anyone where they have the right to live and yes, the facts on the ground are undeniable. The direction of Mr. Szegedin’s moral compass is crystal clear, which is quite the opposite of a very large majority. But then again, he wouldn’t know this, so why would he care.
The preceding was a guest-submitted commentary. Views expressed are solely those of the writer. Responsible replies invited.