Airmont Planners Consider Massive Religious Cemetery

Land leveled for homes in Village of New Square (Photo: Kathy Kahn)

Back in 1991, 9,000 town residents created the Village of Airmont to preserve their semi-rural neighborhoods from overdevelopment, traffic and pollution and to ensure enough water to sustain them. It’s one of many village and hamlets dotting New York’s landscape, and Rockland residents have a front-row seat to see how easily they can be swallowed up.

Residents on Hillside Avenue are deeply concerned over the fate of their well water. A Religious Orthodox cemetery is being planned for 10,000 graves— and as the Religious Orthodox bury their dead without embalming or a sealed casket, neighbors fear the water they get from their shallow wells will be contaminated.

“There are three cemeteries with a quarter-mile of the Intersection of Hillside and East Saddle River Road,” said one Hillside Avenue homeowner. “Ascension (Catholic), Mount Zion (Jewish) and Old Stone Church (Lutheran). They are clean and well-kept. The cemetery that’s being proposed is bigger than all three of the existing cemeteries combined. Hillside Avenue is a dead-end street and it’s already becoming a safety issue. We are extremely concerned about water, not just losing our wells to development but not being able to drink what comes out of it because there are bodies buried without a proper enclosure.”

Another bone of contention arising between residents and their Religious Orthodox neighbors. Central UTA (United Talmudical Academy) is planning a new yeshiva at 236 Cherry Lane. The plethora of rabbis who need their own schools is becoming a challenge for Ramapo residents, who are watching a number of school buses, taxis and minivans from within and beyond its borders growing around them.

The Planning Board is holding a public hearing next Thursday night, May 27 at 7:30, the eve of Memorial Day weekend on the Har Shalom Cemetery, as well as the proposed yeshiva on Cherry Lane. It is not known at press time whether the Board plans to resume in-person meetings. Residents who wish to participate in the public hearings can do so by going to the village’s website, www.airmont.org–search under “government” for the link to the Zoom meeting.