This was a decision we waited three long years for. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York ruled last week that the Town of Jefferson, where Oorah’s TheZone Boys Division campus is located, does not have the jurisdiction to deny us our tax exemption on the property.
From the day we entered town, former Town Supervisor Dan Singletary made every effort to prevent us from getting the camp up and running. (He was voted out of office in November.) The town tried to deny us our tax exemption by calling our nonprofit status into question and by holding back our Certificates of Occupancy because of supposed building and fire code violations.
In neighboring Gilboa meanwhile, where TheZone Girls Division is located, we enjoy a very amicable relationship with the town and its supervisor, Tony Van Glad, and we show our appreciation every summer with a donation to the town.
Last week’s unanimous decision of the court is very clear: As a federally-recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit organization using our campgrounds in the furtherance of our charitable mission, the Town of Jefferson had no right to deny us our real property tax exemption. Nor could they use the excuse of alleged building code violations to hold it back either.
We are, understandably, thrilled with this outcome. As Rabbi Avraham Krawiec, TheZone camp director, put it, “The town was essentially trying to extort huge sums of money from the children who enjoy our camp each year. The long and difficult legal battle we endured was a mission we accepted on their behalf.”
Here’s what our attorney, John Privitera, had to say: “This decision is a victory against municipalities that seek to throttle charities and organizations they don’t like or follow religions they don’t embrace. By trying to impose the shackles of taxes upon a charitable organization, the governing body of Jefferson sought to challenge the very validity and values of Oorah and limit them from fulfilling their vision and mission. This landmark decision affirms the values we’ve chosen as a society not to take donated dollars from a charity…”
Read more about the Oorah case in the Daily Gazette, Watershed Post and Schoharie News.