Assemblyman Vito Lopez wins control of four upstate Hasidic summer camps
New York Post
by Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein
May 9, 2012
Assemblyman Vito Lopez emerged triumphant today in the holy war for control of four upstate Hasidic summer camps. The Satmar faction supported by the Brooklyn Democrat boss won a bitter fight to run the camps in Ulster County.
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein’s administration issued a long-awaited ruling, saying the county did not have the authority to divide the camps between the two warring Satmar factions.
The decision was a loss for Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, a Brooklyn Democrat who advocated spitting the camps between factions. Velazquez faces a tough primary challenge from City Councilman Erik Dilan, a Lopez ally.
At stake for the pols are thousands of votes from supporters of either Satmar faction -- one headed by Zalman Teitelbaum and the other by Aaron Teitelbaum
The brothers have been at odds for years over control of the Satmar empire, previously led by their father, Grand Rebbe Moses Teitelbaum.
The Zalman side, known as the Zalis, had run the summer camps for years. But this year, the so-called Aaronie faction asked Ulster County to run two of them. About 3,800 children attend the camps, mostly from Williamsburg and Borough Park.
“County Executive Mike Hein did what was right for thousands for children. We are very grateful for his rightful decision to issue the permits to allow our youth to have the wonderful summer they deserve,” said Andrew Moesel, spokesman for Zalis.
Abe Rubin, a spokesman for the Aaronies, said the group was “shocked.”
“And I don’t think it’s fair. I understand there was political pressure,” Rubin said.
Lopez, a long-time Zali supporter, visited Hein to convince him to maintain the status quo.
“It was an honor to be able to help resolve an issue that could have prevented thousands of children from having a great camp experience,” Lopez said in a statement.
Ulster County Attorney Beatrice Havranek noted in her decision yesterday there were numerous meetings and letters between the county and representatives of both factions over several months.
Havranek said the county did not want to “revisit this controversy on an annual basis.”
“This decision is not to be deemed a permanent one and it is respectfully suggested that your clients reach a resolution of this issue that will address future years,” Havranek said.