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May 26, 2010

Ignoring building codes

One of the more common problems in hemishe neighborhoods, especially when the mayor and a large part (at least) of City Council is frum, is illegal construction. People add on to their houses without bothering to request permits and get plans approved.

The purpose of having city standards and requiring permits is so that the city can ensure a certain level of quality of life. The city should look a certain way, sidewalks should not be encroached upon by illegal construction, safety issues, etc. When people build without requesting permits, while some people might do so responsibly and make sure everything is safe an aesthetically pleasing, other people are also encouraged to build without bothering to get permits and they might be less concerned about aesthetics or about doing everything in the safest way possible.

In Bnei Brak they have recently begun to crack down harshly to put an end to illegal construction. They are knocking down additions and levying heavy fines on offenders.

According to Kikar Shabbos, a group of avreichim who have been hurt by the new measures have decided to fight against the mayor. They went to Rav Shteinman to try to get his support, as they complained about the brutal methods being used against simple residents who are just trying to add a few meters to their apartments.

Unfortunately for them, Rav Shteinman did not give them the support they were expecting. Instead he gave his backing to the mayor and his methods as he told them that the law must be adhered to.

When they further pressed him, he repeated and stressed again that the law must be adhered to stressed in a pleasant manner and peaceful way.

Anybody who does anything illegal, whether it is jaywalking, robbing a bank, or adding a room to your house with permits, is taking the risk of getting caught. The person has obviously weighed the options and decided it is worth the risk - maybe the chances of getting caught were very low (in his mind), maybe cost of permits was too high, maybe other considerations.

It seems strange to me that a person took the risk knowing he is still taking a chance and could get caught, and then gets caught and punished, and he still feels he has a right to complain. You took the risk and got caught, what right do you have to complain, unless your complaint is a legal one (such as selective enforcement, or that your particular situation did not require a permit or something similar)? To complain that the mayor is doing his job and enforcing building codes? That seems backwards to me. Building codes are for the benefit of the residents.

14 comments:

  1. How refreshingly novel, avreichim not being supported by their rabbis against the authorities. Ya mean the rules apply to them?

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  2. It's called being spoiled and thinking the world owes you everything.

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  3. Risa- yes, how strange to think that...

    Abbi - perhaps. very strange though to complain that the mayor should not be fulfilling his duties. heck, he is the mayor of the city and has to uphold the law. he is not the guy in charge of the coffee room in yeshiva debating whether to give you a little extra sugar or not!

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  4. (R not G)
    Wasn't it R Steinman that also rebuked the guy who came for a bracha for his driving conviction?

    Abbi, there are two things at work here:

    Firstly, there is unfortunately a strong correlation between extreme observance of divine law and total disregard for civil law. If it's not in my Shulhan Arukh then it doesn't obligate me.

    Secondly, the Haredi ethos is steeped in midrash and hasidic and other rabbinic stories all of which aggrandize the smart yid who outwits the goyim. Unfortunately Medinat Yisrael are the paritz and the hegmon who needs to be outwitted.

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  5. I want to comment regarding aesthetics. When a building of apartments is put up, it usually has to adhere to a set of rules regarding aesthetics, it has to look nice, otherwise it is an eyesore, and actually lower the value of the area.
    So how come in recent years I have seen in various areas of RBS Aleph, structures going up, that have remained without any sort of semblance of an aesthetic facade. I can think of two, the new Shul opposite the makolet in Dolev, and another Shul between Sorek and Lachish. maybe they don't have the money to finish, maybe they need donations, but how can they get away with using the structure, wheras for apartments, one has to wait for the finish?

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  6. Not to justify breaking the law.
    But if they want people to follow the law they need to reduce the cost and bureaucracy of obtaining permits.
    And regarding communal buildings such as shuls, they need to be more reasonable about allocating space to them from the many weed and dust filled empty areas that supposedly are supposed to be green eventually but aren't moving in that direction.
    And they need to stop with the proteksia and bribes. If there buddy can do what he wants, then others will feel like a friar if they wait and pay for a permit.

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  7. I dont know the rules, but as far as I know there are no rules that you have to complete construction within a certain amount of time. Perhaps such a law would be good, such as in the examples you cite, but as far as I know there currently are not any such laws.

    Regarding using them before they are finished, I have no idea, but somehow here in Israel the city generally allows shells to be used for shuls even though in the States you would not be allowed to and it is dangerous. For some reason they allow it here. Maybe they simply relax the rules for shuls, or maybe they just look the other way (until the first accident happens c"v).

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  8. if there is selective enforcement, or bribes or influence being used for friends, they can sue the Iryah.

    to simply go to the rav and ask for him to pressure the mayor to lay off is silly though.

    I agree, the costs and beauracracy can make someone decide it is not worth waiting. The cities should change their policy to make it easier for the residents, and that way more will be inclined to go through the proper channels. Reports a while back said Bet Shemesh is working on such a plan, though I have not heard any updates about that in many months.

    But in the meantime, it is still simply them deciding to take the risk because it is not worth going through the normal channels.

    My comment was not on the fact that they went through illegal means - I understand that even if I know it is wrong. But they took the risk and their response after being caught is the target of my comment.

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  9. Meir,

    Not sure what you want from the shuls - would you rather they remain empty until they have enough money to finish??

    Masaat Mordechet - the shul opposite the makolet on Dolev happens to be (at least by my calculations) the busiest shul in RBSA! They have six minyanim for Shacharit during the week and three on Shabbat alone [their shabbat shacharit minyanim pull in in excess of 300 men every week].

    If you want to complain about the aesthetics of these shuls, your complaint should be about those people that daven in them on a regular basis, but do not contribute towards upkeep or building funds.

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  10. I dont think he was complaining about the shul. They will use it as long as the iryah lets them, and if they dont have money to finish it, they will use it unfinished. His complaint was aimed at how can the city allow it.

    It is beautiful that so many people benefit from the shul, but the fact is that it is an eyesore. The problem with minyan factories is that they have few members who pay dues. Most people use it like a train station, lehavdil, and dont pay membership or make donations (besides the 1 shek in the tzedaka box during davening sometimes)

    If people daven there daily, perhaps they should feel obligated to contribute more. But it is not the nature of the minyan factory.

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  11. Rafi not G- Yes, I agree completely with your first point (and your second actually as well).

    Rafi G- I don't think it's silly that these avreichim were complaining about having to keep the law. I think it's deeply sad that this is what we've come to- they completely lack the hava amina that secular law should be kept- to the extent they they would go to a major rav and ask, without embarrassment, for a confirmation of their woldview! This only illustrates a massive lacunae in charedi moral education.

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  12. Ya know, somehow I managed to wait for my approval before adding on a room. Imagine that.

    What concerns me more than aesthetics is safety. Just drive through Bet on Yarden. It looks like every building is mutating. They turn mirpesot into rooms and then add mirpesot onto those rooms.

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  13. Interesting is how on certain issues there is a public pronouncement (kol koreih)before anyone asks for a general ruling and on other issues nothing is said unless a specific ruling is requested

    KT
    Joel Rich

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  14. Rafi,what about stealing taxs , misrad hadatot etc...i see that those that do also start stealig from indivuals...

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