More than a year after receiving a summons for violating a noise ordinance in the Village of Chestnut Ridge, Robert Godwin III had his day in court on June 14. He was facing a $5,000 fi ne for playing music too loudly at his home in the afternoon. Because the complainant failed to show, the charges were dismissed.
For Godwin, it became a year of frustration when trying to obtain more information on the excess noise complaint issued by Chestnut Ridge Code Enforcement officer Daniel Dodd. Dodd repeatedly refused to answer Godwin’s many calls to get clarifi cation on the complaint or the complainant.
“We’ve endured months of loud, unruly gatherings from a ‘house of worship’ that is actu- ally registered as a privately owned home,” the Town of Ramapo native said after leaving court. “I was facing a huge fi ne for playing Christian music during the day when I was not violating the noise ordinance. Sadly, it seems we natives are not entitled to the quiet enjoyment of our own homes. We have dealt with goats, chickens and young Hasidic boys literally passing out on the lawn from drinking or drugs right across the street. No one in charge seems to care about the non-Hasidic population. Why can’t I play Christian music during the day without being harassed and threatened with legal action?’
It’ a question no one seems able or willing to answer, particularly in the Town of Ramapo and its many villages. Since the Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) was passed in 2000, Ramapo has undergone largely unchecked growth, and thousands of violations have been overlooked—some resulting in tragedy. Add to that congestion from the hundreds of buses clogging streets at all times of the day and evening, the result of the explosion of yeshivas is causing hazardous conditions on the village’s narrow and winding roadways.
Godwin’s mother, who recently celebrated her 92 nd birthday, is saddened to see what’s become of the county she was born and raised in. “My family has been here for generations.
My late husband and I built this home with our own hands; I worked for the East Ramapo school district for many years…it’s gone from being one of the best school districts to the one of the worst in New York State.”
For her son, it’s a relief to have the charge against him dismissed, but the prospect of having to go to trial for playing music was beyond the pale.