The odd case of Town of Monroe culture and politics took an interesting turn in the New Year.
In the recent three candidate race for Town of Monroe Supervisor, former town councilman Harley Doles won his controversial bid on the Democratic and Working Families tickets, earning roughly 375 votes from the entire town. Doles’ main opponent, United Monroe candidate Emily Convers, captured approximately 6,600 votes throughout the town.
But Doles locked down the Kiryas Joel vote, which accounted for 6,418 votes out of 8,378 registered voters — or a voter turnout of 77% for the tiny 1.1 square mile village that has a population of 21,000 (the Town of Monroe’s total population is 39,000, according to 2010 figures).
And then in a strange turn of events, Times Herald-Record writer Chris McKenna reported Tuesday, January 7, that the Town of Monroe received a petition from a “group of landowners” at the end of December 2013 “to annex 510 acres of residential properties and vacant tracts into Kiryas Joel from the Town of Monroe.”
Five days after the petition to expand the village boundaries landed in the town clerk’s office, wrote McKenna, newly ensconced Supervisor Doles wrote a letter to Kiryas Joel Mayor Abraham Weider in which Doles proposed that Kiryas Joel detached itself from the town.
“The last election crystallized the deep divide that exists in the Town of Monroe and it is my job to address this issue head on,” wrote Doles in his letter to Mayor Weider, citing fundamental differences in lifestyle between village and greater town residents. “Partitioning is the next logical step, the final chapter in Kiryas Joel’s 40 year struggle with Home Rule.”
The Town of Monroe is made up of the three villages that include Monroe, Harriman and Kiryas Joel.
McKenna’s report touched on a strategy discussed in 2006 by then Kiryas Joel Administrator Gedalye Szegedin for the village to eventually expand into the Town of Satmar — the village was settled by the Satmar Hasidic sect of Judaism and is part of the more theologically orthodox, often referred to as Haredim.
Doles wrote that he firmly believes that his proposal for Kiryas Joel to split from the Town of Monroe “is the fence that would make us good neighbors and will usher in an era of neighborly goodwill, peace and tranquility between our municipalities.”
Hema Easley covered the recent Town of Monroe election in The Photo-News, exploring the growing divisions within the town and its most populous village.
“The town is more divided than ever because Doles is KJ,” said United Monroe volunteer Frank Baldassare in Easley’s article. “Once they are a majority, Monroe will be known as Kiryas Joel,” Baldassare said. “Politicians will give them all they want.”