The Long Island Power Authority and Verizon have filed a lawsuit on the heals of filed last week by the East End Eruv Association against the Town of Southampton and the Villages of Quogue and Westhampton Beach.
The action by the utility companies, according to John Bonomo, director of media relations for Verizon, has a different purpose than the one taken by the East End Eruv Association.
According to Bonomo, while the East End Eruv Association is seeking damages from the municipalities for allegedly violating their civil rights, the utility companies are “seeking clarification.”
In a joint press release to the media, Verizon and LIPA said, "Verizon and LIPA have filed a joint action for a declaratory ruling from US District Court concerning the proposed construction of an ERUV through the Villages of Westhampton Beach and Quogue and the Town of Southampton. Verizon and LIPA have been caught in the middle of a dispute between the East End Eruv Association and the municipalities involved and is requesting that the US District Court direct the appropriate action to avoid the imposition of fines or legal actions that would result without the Court’s intervention. Verizon and LIPA will work cooperatively with all parties upon resolution of the dispute and will take any action the Court directs."
Providing further clarification on the suit, Bonomo added,” Basically, our suit says that there is a dispute between the East End Eruv Association and the town and villages and we would like a court ruling on what is proper. Frankly, we are stuck in the middle.”
As previously reported, the East End Eruv Association is looking to create a around parts of Quogue, Westhampton Beach and the Town of Southampton in the form of lichis that would be places on utility poles.
The eruv, says the East End Eruv Association, will make it possible for Torah-observant Orthodox Jews to push strollers and engage in tasks otherwise not allowed on the Sabbath.
In Nov., the East End Eruv Association reached out to LIPA and Verizon, obtaining approval from both companies to install the lichis; however, when officials from Quogue, Westhampton Beach and Southampton learned about the plan, they put the brakes on. The municipalities claim that the utility poles are within their right-of-way and that nothing can be placed on them without their respective approvals.
Irate, the East End Eruv Association filed a lawsuit on Jan. 13.
In a release to the media, Marvin Tenzer, president of EEEA said, “These villages and town are violating our constitutional and civic rights by engaging in an active campaign to obstruct our ability to practice our religion.”
Spokesman for EEEA, Hank Sheinkoph, said that he would not comment on LIPA or Verizon’s suits, but said, “The eruv is no threat or danger to anyone. It won’t even be noticeable. This is all absolute nonsense.”
Mayor Conrad Teller, of Westhampton Beach and Mayor Peter Sartorius, of Quogue Village, both said that they could not comment on the litigation and that they would only confirm that they have been served papers.
Calls to Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst went unreturned.