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Officials Condemn Antisemitic Hate Speech At Haverstraw Planning Board Meeting

HAVERSTRAW, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Hate reared its ugly head this week at a public meeting in Rockland County.

It happened during a hearing over a proposed synagogue on Riverglen Drive in Haverstraw, CBS2's Kevin Rincon reported Friday.

A planning board meeting at Haverstraw Town Hall turned chaotic Wednesday night when Nick Colella, 45, went off on a hateful tirade against the Orthodox Jewish community.

The remarks were akin to what one might read on social media. But these were said out loud.

"Certain sect of people tend to walk in the street, and nobody is wearing any reflective gear. So if I run one of them over, and of course I'm going back over them again," Colella said.

It seemed Colella was being encouraged after the remarks as one person shouted, "Freedom of speech!"

"I was here that evening and I was totally thrown off by what was said publicly," said Collin Dunner, who moved to Haverstraw five years ago.

Dunner said what happened at the meeting does not reflect the broader community.

"It's a shame that one man makes so much noise and suddenly the focus is on the Town of Haverstraw because we really have been welcomed. We've been accepted," Dunner said.

Video of the meeting was shared by the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council. Co-founder Yossi Gestener said what wasn't said hurts, too.

"To me, the most concerning part of that speech is how so many people in the room applauded, laughed or remained silent as someone was out there spewing inflammatory hate, lies and generalizations," Gestener said.

"Call it ignorant or hateful. It doesn't really matter either way, frankly. It's not a good day for Rockland County because of someone with a big mouth, frankly" said County Executive Ed Day.

Day said they've tried to get communities together for years, not drive a wedge between them.

"We are not a county of hate, and when somebody does something like this and it gets spun as that, it hurts all of us," Day said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, in a tweet, called antisemitism "horrifying and unacceptable," and directed state police to investigate.

Attorney General Letitia James called the comments "appalling and unacceptable."

Haverstraw Town Supervisor Howard Phillips said hate won't be tolerated.

"Unless he comes in and apologizes for his statements and asks for forgiveness, he will not be allowed to speak at any of our meetings," Phillips said.

Town leaders said the video does not show the countless number of people who confronted Colella and said he's wrong.

CBS2's Kevin Rincon contributed to this report.

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