County, town and state officials are looking at whether a Thiells resident’s antisemitic and threatening comments at a recent land-use board meeting could bring criminal or hate crime charges.
Town Supervisor Howard Phillips called the comments, by the speaker who identified himself as Nick Colella, “disgraceful and hateful remarks regarding the Orthodox community … we want everyone to know this will not be tolerated.”
Colella made the comments during a Planning Board public hearing addressing a request to convert a single-family residence into a neighborhood synagogue.
State Attorney General Letitia James has called the town to see if her office could assist in in the probe in any way, Phillips said.
Haverstraw Town police and the Rockland District Attorney’s Office are discussing the probe. Colella’s comments were shared in a video on Twitter. Phillips said police are seeking another video of the Nov. 10 Planning Board public hearing.
Wilbur Aldridge, regional director of the Westchester/Mid-Hudson NAACP, said it was important for law enforcement to take Colella’s statements seriously. That someone believed such vile statements were OK, Aldridge said, “demonstrates the level of freedom that people who are antisemitic and racist feel they have.”
Police Chief Peter Murphy said the police had not spoken with Colella yet on Friday.
During his three-minute turn at the mic Wednesday night, Colella made several comments about the growing Orthodox Jewish community in the Thiells-Pomona-Garnerville portion of the town.
At one point, Colella threatened violence against the members of the Orthodox community by saying if they were walking in the road at night, not wearing reflectors, and if he was to hit them with his vehicle, he would “of course back over them again.”
The public hearing focused on a proposed site plan by Congregation K’hal Bnei Torah of Mount Ivy for 62 Riverglen Drive in Thiells, a hamlet in the town. The owners of the property, now a single-family house, have been seeking variances to convert the building to a synagogue.
The owners want to add a second floor to the 3,576-square-foot house, which is located on 1.217 acres. The expansion would bring the building’s square footage to 8,202. The plans also call for adding 27 off-street parking spaces.
Colella is registered as an owner of a home on the same street.
Like the streets in the surrounding neighborhood of mostly Colonial-style single-family homes, Riverglen Drive does not have sidewalks.
Rockland County Legislator Michael Grant on Friday lauded the actions of Planning Board Chair Salvatore Corallo, who shut down Colella during Wednesday’s meeting.
After Colella tried to continue, Corallo said, “No, no, you’re finished!”