The Master Plan

 

In Brief:  The plan will provide apartments for thousands of families in downtown Monsey, but this is only the beginning.  The plan essentially destroys, or prepares the way for the destruction of all single family residences in unincorporated Ramapo.  It takes lots that are now zoned for single family homes on 15,000 square foot lots and rezones them for three families.  It also provides that homes may have "accessory apartments" under certain conditions.  We can be sure that these conditions will never be enforced.  Thus, we can expect that up to six households will soon occupy the land now occupied by single family homes. 

If this weren’t bad enough, the plan then provides that in all areas that now have larger lots the town may, at its discretion, allow multiple family housing as long as this housing is consistent with the "suburban" character of the community.  This "restriction", of course is just another phony limitation created for the truly gullible.

Finally, by approving sixteen apartments per acre within four single family residential zones for "Adult Student Housing" the town has made it clear that it will never oppose any apartment development anywhere within unincorporated Ramapo as long as some religious use can be attached to the development.

 

Statement before Ramapo’s Public Hearing

On Its Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement

Robert I. Rhodes  September 27, 2004

The State of New York has written careful laws to protect the rights of the public in the creation of, and changes in local land use. The Town of Ramapo has done its best to evade its responsibilities under these laws. At the same time it has tried to give the appearance that it is acting in good faith.

In 2003 Ramapo carried out a survey of public opinion. The survey found an overwhelming desire that Ramapo protect its suburban character. The Comprehensive Plan that was issued in January of 2004 ignored this desire. Who wrote it?

In a meeting with Ramapo village mayors Ed Friedman and David Stein, the two Town Councilmen who were the liaisons to the citizens planning committee, both denied that they participated in the creation of the plan. And at least two members of the committee have complained that the committee was basically ignored. So who did write this plan?

I have been told that the intent to create Ramapo’s new Comprehensive Plan was announced the day after the Patrick Farm property was purchased by the current owners. Is this true?

I have also been told that the day after the Comprehensive Plan was published that Christopher St. Lawrence, Ramapo’s town supervisor, was down at the county planning department promoting his plan. Why such urgency?

After Ramapo published its draft environmental impact statement the county planning department wrote a highly critical review. The review listed the many governmental bodies whose input should have been solicited by Ramapo. Ramapo has still not solicited the opinions of most of the governmental bodies listed by the planning department. Why not?

After the "Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement" was released over 1,000 angry citizens showed up at the public hearing and raised serious questions regarding the adequacy of our roads, sewers and water supply. Ramapo then spent seven months revising its environmental impact study. The "Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement" was several hundred pages long but, mysteriously, Ramapo gave the public only ten days to respond—the minimal legal requirement.

After reading this huge statement it was obvious to me why we were given only ten days to respond. The statement provided almost no new data to support the dubious conclusions of the first environmental impact statement.

The leaders of ten of Ramapo’s villages threatened to sue Ramapo. Ramapo then negotiated, or, rather, stalled the mayors for months and, finally, when only two weeks were left before the villages would have lost their legal right to challenge the Comprehensive Plan, seven villages were forced to start a lawsuit against Ramapo.

Just three weeks ago Ramapo released its "Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement." At the same time it issued its new final "Comprehensive Plan" and related documents. These documents which are technical and hundreds of pages long were released in the middle of the Jewish holidays, and the public was given only three weeks to review them.

Once again we see an obvious attempt by the town to rush a public hearing before the public has had an adequate opportunity to study what is to be discussed.

For the first time Ramapo implies that water is a truly serious issue and the plan recommends truly dramatic measures to protect our water supply. "This program will provide for recharge of ground waters from clean runoff from roofs into dry wells in appropriate areas, and from treated storm water runoff from under ground and ground level detention basin systems."

These measures, if implemented, will be incredibly expensive. Where are the engineering studies that would give us some idea of their cost, or whether, given the density of the proposed housing, these measures could even be implemented? Moreover, there can be no question that the addition of many thousands of new residents has to increase the demand on our water supply. So, given Ramapo’s pathetic history of code enforcement, and the difficulties involved, I suspect this stuff was really written to impress the court.

Not surprisingly the study does not recognize that United Water’s most optimistic projection of water demand in Rockland does not take into account the extremely rapid growth of our Hassidic community. Ramapo’s planners are delightfully unaware that United Waters population projections were made by a civil engineer who is a water expert, not a professional demographer.

The plan’s discussion of sewers is truly pathetic. In this section the town is finally forced to admit that "no records exist of sewer collection system overflows to document the extreme peak wet weather capacity problem…"

In May of 2003 the head engineer for the sewer district wrote a letter to the Ramapo Planning Board. He pointed out that eight of the collector lines in Monsey were already at their maximum capacity. Supervisor St. Lawrence who is also a sewer commissioner knew these facts when he asked his rubber stamp board to approve of the new Comprehensive Plan. And now we find that for some mysterious reason the sewer district has failed to maintain its remote overflow sensors. Is this a coincidence?

Our town is flying blind. It really doesn’t know what is going on in its own sewer system, and yet it continues to assure us that problems will be solved as we go along.

I suggest that the entire sewer commission should resign because of its failure to protect our sewer system.

Now we come to roads. Here Ramapo is in real trouble because we all drive and we all see with our own eyes how terrible traffic has become in Ramapo, and how rapidly it is getting even worse. The plan admits that "mitigation is necessary." What the plan does not recognize is that a road system is indeed a system, and that piecemeal mitigation will only dump more traffic into remaining bottlenecks. And the plan almost completely ignores intersections along routes 306, College/Forshay/Wilder, and 202.

Does anybody who drives a car in Ramapo really believe that "improvements at … intersections…providing appropriate turning lanes, modifications to traffic signals, including fine tuning, timing plans and upgrades pedestrian circulation" will do the job?

Ramapo still does not admit the existence of illegal housing. If every time a housing unit is built it ends up with twice as many families as allowed by the zoning, then we have to plan for much greater water, sewer, and road use than would otherwise be required.

How pervasive is illegal housing? In my critique of Ramapo’s "Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement" I proposed a highly reliable and relatively inexpensive method to measure the extent of illegal housing in Ramapo. All that Ramapo’s "experts" had to do was compare the "official" number of households in each census tract based upon the records of Ramapo’s building department with the number of households found by the United States Census Department in each tract. Not surprisingly, Ramapo has ignored my suggestion.

There are so many loopholes written into the plan that the Ramapo Zoning Board of Appeals can grant practically any variance requested. This alone suggests that the plan is illegal and should be rejected.

Once again I am recommending that Ramapo hire a professional demographer who could provide us with reliable population projections. Ramapo has no interest in doing this. If it did it would have to do a real environmental impact study. The results of such a study would be truly alarming.

I am presenting the Town Board with my original critique of the FGEIS since none of the objections identified there have been resolved. I am also presenting them with a copy of my letter to the Journal News with population projections for Rockland County. Our Town Board should not accept United Water Company’s wildly optimistic and incompetent population projections.

Finally, I request that the conclusion of this public hearing be put off for another month so that we have an adequate opportunity to study both the Comprehensive Plan and Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. I strongly object to this rush to judgment in the middle of the Jewish holidays. We have been denied our legal right to hold a public hearing before an informed public. Thank you.