- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 28, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York’s environmental commissioner on Wednesday chose a Hudson Valley Hasidic Jewish village to lead the review of a request to annex roughly 500 acres of adjacent land.

Commissioner Joe Martens’ decision means Kiryas Joel will oversee the state-mandated environmental impact review on a politically controversial request to annex land from Monroe, about 50 miles north of New York City.

Leaders of the densely settled enclave of ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews say the village of 22,000 is bursting at the seams and needs more land to accommodate its quickly growing population.

Local opponents of the annexation request from out-of-village Satmar say they fear more congestion in the suburban area. They opposed Kiryas Joel’s request for lead agency status in the State Environmental Quality Review process, claiming the review would not be thorough or fair.

“This 507 acres, mostly rural landscape, if annexed, will become a high density, urban development which is in stark contrast to the neighboring communities who enjoy rural zoning and scenic ridge lines,” according to a statement from United Monroe chairwoman Emily Convers, who promised to fight the annexation.

Martens said the long-awaited decision was made after a thorough review.

“The village understands the magnitude of its responsibility and will comply with state law defining its role as lead agency,” village officials said in a statement. “Additionally, the village recognizes its responsibility to the public and will solicit input as to ensure that multiple perspectives and points-of-view are heard.”

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