RAMAPO’S BUILDING CRISIS

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Community View by Robert I. Rhodes, Ph.D., Chairman, Preserve Ramapo

The Hillcrest chapter of CUPON (Citizens United to Protect Our Neighbors) met last Tuesday evening. Thanks to Micheal Miller’s presentation it was a most educational and shocking evening.

Micheal presented a long list of building projects in Ramapo. He estimated that when approved a total of about 3,000 new apartment units will be built. With an average of eight family members per unit we can anticipate a total increase in our population of about 24,000 residents. In other words the proposed projects will increase our town population by almost 20 percent!

Do we have the resources we need to support this population? These include water, sewer service, traffic, and financial demands on our community. Obviously this will be an environmental disaster for Ramapo.

And where are all of these people coming from? There is now an aggressive marketing campaign in Brooklyn. The message is simple: Move up to Monsey while housing prices are still reasonable. Right now there is a market boom in Brooklyn. Relatively affluent members of the Hassidic community can sell their valuable homes or apartments in Brooklyn, or at least escape exorbitant rent, by moving up to Ramapo.

As mandated by the state of New York, Ramapo has a master plan that specifies the maximum development that will be allowed in Ramapo and the environmental actions that must be taken to insure that we can responsibly support this development.

According to New York law spot zoning is illegal. That means that municipal authorities cannot target a parcel of land and allow development that exceeds the limits specified in the master plan. But most if not all of these anticipated developments exceeds these limits. So the obvious question is how can our planning board even consider applications that exceed these limits?

Under state law whenever a proposal exceeds the limits specified in the master plan the town is required to identify all similarly situated properties. It must then revise the master plan after first documenting the impact of the proposed changes, hold public hearings, and answer all questions raised at the public hearings. Only then can it finally vote on the proposed revised master plan, and begin the normal application process.

For years Ramapo has illegally approved project after project via spot zoning. How can it get away with this behavior? It is very simple. Our town board has closed its eyes. Citizens who wish to challenge spot zoning first have to go to court to prove that they have legal standing to sue. And then they can expect to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting their own elected representatives in court.

The stooges on Supervisor St. Lawrence’s town board know that mere incompetence (nonfeasance) is not illegal. So they simply close their eyes and make believe they have no idea what is going on. That is how, for example, they have escaped indictment while St. Lawrence has been indicted for criminal and civil bond fraud.
Today small groups of citizens in individual neighborhoods are going to meetings of our Ramapo planning and zoning boards to protest outrageous applications for new developments. This is a worthwhile but frustrating process because the members of these boards are stooges carefully vetted and appointed by St. Lawrence.

Unfortunately St. Lawrence’s criminal trial probably won’t start until next spring and even if he is convicted he will appeal the conviction and run for re-election a year from this coming November. We all know that if a majority of our secular and Modern Orthodox residents vote St. Lawrence can be defeated, but we also know that all too many members of our community like to complain but don’t bother to vote.

The machine also has a huge advantage because all too many members of our Black and Brown residents vote for St. Lawrence just because he is a Democratic. (Until recently Ramapo’s corrupt Republican machine also supported St. Lawrence. Thanks to the leadership of county executive Ed Day and a house cleaning in Ramapo we now have an honest Republican party in Ramapo.)

It took Mike Parietti and Robert Romanowski two years but the court finally forced St. Lawrence to hold a ward referendum. St. Lawrence’s stooges then conducted a fraudulent referendum forcing Mike and Bob to ask for a new referendum supervised by the Rockland Board of Elections.

We need six wards in Ramapo so that each member of our town board represents and is truly responsible to his or her neighbors. This will protect us from a town supervisor who is controlled by a handful of wealthy Hasidic developers. Even though Mike and Bob who are not lawyers receive no compensation for representing us in court we still have had and will continue to have court costs of thousands of dollars. We need your support. Please send your contribution to Preserve Ramapo, Box 325, Suffern, N.Y., 10901. Or use the donate button on our website Preserve-Ramapo.com.

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