BY MICHAEL RICONDA
Suffern – Amid a chorus of disapprovals from both elected officials and frustrated residents, the Suffern branches of Avon Cosmetics and Novartis Pharmaceuticals stand out as two groups with the political and economic clout to prevent any building near the former Tilcon Quarry site.
Tilcon gifted the quarry to the Town of Ramapo. Though it was initially slated as open space and parkland with drainage uses, Ramapo sold the property to Quarry Bridge LLC for $4.4. million.
Quarry Bridge had previously announced it would use the land to build housing units, but has had to scale back the number of units several times since the initial announcement in 2008. In response, Novartis Pharmaceuticals-which is adjacent to the quarry site-had threatened to sue to prevent any building at the quarry.
Former Suffern Mayor and current Democratic candidate John Keegan explained that if Novartis left the area, Suffern would face a tremendous economic setback.
“Novartis is paying a tremendous amount of taxes to the Village of Suffern. If Novartis decided all of a sudden, ‘You know what? There’s housing in there, we didn’t want it, we had enough and we’re getting out,’ we wouldn’t be able to live in Suffern because taxes would go up astronomically,” Keegan said.
Keegan added that Suffern residents had no say on the transference of the property to the Town of Ramapo and the overwhelming majority of commentators in the community opposed residential, commercial or industrial construction.
“There’s really been no public forum on it and there’s really been no public vote on it,” Keegan stated.
Roy Tschudy of Concerned Citizens of Suffern stressed that not only Novartis but also Avon have specifically challenged the quarry-owners’ ability to build ingress and egress for residential construction.
“Both Novartis and Avon have refused them that privilege,” Tschudy explained.
Flood remediation measures, however, have seen almost universal support and may be the one project all parties can agree upon. Keegan explained that flood remediation has been a priority for both residents and politicians, but has been attempting to contact Novartis owns part of the quarry to confirm their involvement in flood remediation.
This is all assuming the project goes ahead as anticipated. According to Suffern Planning Board Clerk Joanne Cioffi, the village had a meeting with Brooker Engineering in January. Since then, the quarry project has been “at a standstill,” with virtually no progress.
“They really didn’t even get far enough to come before the board,” Cioffi explained.
In contrast, flood remediation has seen some progress in the past few months. Brooker Engineering presented revised plans at a meeting with officials from both Ramapo and North Jersey in May. Their most recent plans include siphons which will move runoff to the quarry, where it will be diverted to a separate reservoir and incrementally released into the Mahwah River after flooding dies down.
However, the plan itself has hit significant snags. The Department of Environmental Conservation determined earlier this year that the town engineer’s permit was incomplete because the plans did not address issues such as sediment deposition.
Ramapo has also had problems contacting the Goldstein Family, which owns Quarry Bridge LLC, the group contracting Brooker to build the flood remediation structures. Without dialogue between the two parties and the Goldsteins’ approval, implementing a final design is impossible.
Novartis and Avon did not reply to requests for comment.