NEW CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A crackdown on private religious schools started Thursday in Rockland County.

As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, the New York state education commissioner authorized the county to take over inspections from the towns and villages that used to conduct them.

And rolling in unannounced, the county started its takeover Thursday afternoon. The county conducted a spot fire inspection at a Jewish religious school.

The state has been unhappy with town and village inspections of yeshivas in Ramapo and Spring Valley, and thus, the county now has the job. Rockland County Executive Ed Day said his inspectors are incorruptible.

“They cannot and will not be bought off,” Day said. “They will not turn a blind eye and risk the lives of children and firefighters in the process.”

The inspection change comes in the wake of a noisy controversy in Ramapo, where Fire Inspector Adam Peltz was found to have signed off on yeshiva fire inspections without conducting them. There was no explanation.

Peltz was demoted recently, but was not fired.

State Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-New City) helped engineer the county takeover.

“We cannot have children in schools that are not inspected,” Zebrowski said. “New York state law needs to be enforced.”

In all, there are 49 schools to be inspected by the county. Most are in Ramapo, but not all are yeshivas. A spokesman for the Orthodox Jewish community said he is worried about a new inspection setup.

“I don’t want people from outside of Ramapo to come in and play politics against the Yeshivas,” said Yossi Gestener of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council.

But County Executive Day said action is necessary.

“We will move to the fullest extent of the law to insure the children are safe,” Day said. “If it means closing the school, we’ll close the school.”

One man, who identified himself only as the manager of a yeshiva, said he believes most yeshivas are scrambling to clean up any violations.

“I think they’re going to be pretty impressed when they’re done,” he said.

With four full-time inspectors supplemented by volunteers, Day said he expects fire inspections countywide to be finished by the third week in June.

The state recently complained that 23 schools had phony inspection certificates, and another 26 had never submitted the required paperwork with Albany.


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