Dix Hills condo complex agrees to allow mezuzahs

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A Jewish woman from Dix Hills who says her condominium complex discriminated against her by stopping her from displaying a 4-inch mezuzah on her front door has won a settlement after an investigation by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

His office probed the homeowners association at Stone Ridge Estates in Dix Hills after a complex resident, Patti Werner, said she was being discriminated against on religious grounds.

Cuomo's office said it investigated after receiving a complaint that residents were told to "either take down their mezuzahs or purchase a screen door costing between $300 to $500 dollars to conceal the object."

A mezuzah, considered extremely important by many Jews, is a small container holding a handwritten parchment with biblical passages. Many Jews display them on entranceways and other doors inside their homes.

Stone Ridge Estates bylaws "prohibited residents from changing or altering the exterior of their home without permission, which includes the affixing of signs, advertisements, or statuary," Cuomo's office said. Yet the complaint alleged that homeowners who exhibited larger objects, such as wreaths, were not asked to remove the displayed items.

Following the investigation, the association signed an agreement that calls for it to pay a $10,000 fine and rewrite its bylaws so they "do not discriminate against residents because of their religion."

"This country guarantees every individual the right to express his or her religious beliefs," Cuomo said in a statement. "The practices employed by the Dix Hills Homeowners Association went against the fundamental protections and promises of our laws."

Lawrence Gresser, Stone Ridge's developer and president of its homeowners association, did not return several phone messages seeking comment. Neither did the association's attorney, Patrick McCormick of East Meadow.

Werner declined to comment, but her attorney, Howard Rogatnick of Manhattan, said, "The right to express one's religious beliefs is fundamental. We are gratified by the results of this case."

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Some Stone Ridge residents said there was confusion over the entire episode but applauded Cuomo's action. "They have their right to have it [the mezuzah]," said one resident, who declined to be identified but said he is Roman Catholic.

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