BULLDOZER BLUES FOR HISTORIC HAMLET OF RAMAPO

George Kozachenko rents the home he was born in.

Town of Ramapo to make hidden hamlet disappear, eviction notice sent to home-renters

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KATHY KAHN

Residents of the small community of the “Hamlet of Ramapo,” a dead-end street off Torne Valley Rd. in unincorporated Ramapo near the Village of Hillburn, have been told by the town to vacate the premises.

The property was purchased by the Town of Ramapo from the Ramapo Land Company during the tenure of former Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence. The town board has desired to convert the property to commercial use to increase revenue to the town’s coffers, a town official told the Rockland County Times.

Homes along Lake Street, a quiet dead-end street in the Hamlet of Ramapo

The homes, all rentals except for one, date back to the early 20th century, many occupied by multi-generational families. The Ramapo Land Company first purchased the land over 100 years ago. George Kozachenko lives in the house he was born in and has made several improvements to the cozy home he is now being asked to leave. He said, “[Ramapo town official] Tom Sullivan came around on Friday, September 29 with a typewritten letter on blank paper letting us all know the land had been sold and we’d all have to be out by November 30.”

Letter from Town of Ramapo notifying tenants to get out.

The letter from Sullivan, who is a third-party candidate for Rockland County executive, does offer residents extra time if they cannot leave by November 30. Another letter tenants received in  mail on Monday, October 2 (postmarked September 29) on Town of Ramapo letterhead and signed by Sullivan, officially notifying residents to vacate  by November 30.

Kozachenko put a call into Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, who sits on the Committee for Families and Children, and is waiting for a call back. He and other residents were told by Sullivan to stop paying rent, which was sent to his office directly each month. Sullivan told Kozachenko and others he would “push” for a March 2018 date before any evictions took place. “We don’t have that in writing, however,” said the lifelong resident.

Hamlet resident Tanya Cirincone said she often went to her great-grandfather’s house on Lake Street as a child. “This was more like family than a community,” said Cirincione, “and it’s still that way. My mom still lives in the same house I was born in. It’s hard to believe what’s happened to this town.”

The community is about a quarter mile from the Torne Valley Vineyard mansion, which is just across Torne Valley Rd. from the county’s garbage dump in Hillburn. The hamlet has significant history and has been featured in many Rockland Historic Society [RHS] events. At one time it was in the heart of the region’s iron industry, serving as a “factory village” for the formidable Ramapo Iron Works company.

In promotion of a 2013 “Walk Through History” event, the RHS described the hamlet as “a very historic area of Rockland County, which has remained in large part unchanged.” RHS did not return a request for comment before press time.

The hamlet is to be replaced by a site for self-storage, a town official told the Rockland County Times. The official said collectively the tenants of the hamlet owe the town $140,000 in back rent and also claimed many of the homes there were in disrepair, requiring expensive upkeep. A document showed that of the 15 tenants, six were in major arrears accounting for 98 percent of the $140,000 owed.

The new use for the property will have to be approved by the DEC because the state has used the area to study timber rattlesnakes, a protected species. A proposed power plant not far from the hamlet was rejected by the state 15 years ago because it would disturb the habitat of the poisonous snake.