Politics in Ramapo

 

“Every time I look at my local access cable channel and see Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence sitting at his desk with his microphone, trying to imitate Johnny Carson, hamming it up with his guests, I think about all the seniors who are cutting their medication in half trying to save money so they can continue to live in this wonderful county of ours.”

Ben Cirlin     8/19/05 Letter in The Journal News

The Rottenness of Rockland Politics!

Politicians count on the short memories of their constituents. Luckily for the voters
 though, there are some who remember what was said last time. Irv Feiner has
 that kind of recall. An activist in Rockland politics since 1959, Irv also follows
 votes and tracks the money. We have a copy of his public comments about the
 Legislature’s turnaround on the Committee recommendation for Joe Meyers. Irv
 has little patience for hypocrisy as he lines up "then and now" contradictions of
 the key players. He also has some interesting comments on where the money is
 pooling. Irv Feiner’s letter here.

[The most recent stories are on the home page]

Spring Valley trustee questions board's vote in illegal hire case (Aug 3, 2007)

"Spring Valley trustee (Betty Brown)who said she wasn't invited to a Tuesday village board
meeting questioned whether Mayor George Darden acted appropriately when he
voted to reimburse himself $925 for his cash payments to undocumented
immigrants who worked on a village project." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Rockland residents,
FAA collide over
flight plan (July 31, 2007)

"More than 1,000 Rockland residents
came out to protest a proposed
plan that would bring hundreds of
planes a day and more noise to the
county." [Story available only in Journal News archives]


Rabbinical college sues Ramapo over tax exemption
(July 31, 2007)

"Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov wants the state Supreme Court to
find that the 130 acres in Pomona should be exempt from property taxes. The
lawsuit comes after Ramapo's Board of Assessment Review granted Assessor Scott
Shedler's petition to seek taxes retroactive to one year." [Story available only in
 Journal News archives]

Open Space still leaking red ink

The cost to taxpayers for some of the open space purchases keep accumulating
long after the deeds are exchanged. Here a resident itemizes the red ink that
keeps pouring out of the Ramapo stables purchase: original price $1.75 million--
total cost to date $2.3 million and still counting. [Letter "Ramapo horse center nice
but costly"--available only in Journal News archives]

New house, same old rules

The County legislature is preparing to move into new digs improved with
$3+million in loans. What has not been improved in the public legislative
forum is the egg-timer rule for those who want to speak before the panel.
You have two minutes, no matter the gravity or complexity of the issue, and
the legislators are immunized from adverse political reaction with their rule
that the television cameras be turned off during the public participation. The
paneling in the new room might be nice, but isn't this supposed to be a
chamber of representative democracy? If the members truly believe the public
doesn't have much to say, perhaps some new, more open minds are needed.

Spring Valley will have to pay illegal workers
prevailing wage (July 21, 2007)

Mayor Darden's first explanation for hiring illegal immigrants for day labor
was that the federal government had not been able to do anything to address
the issue of immigration. Then he seemed to imply that he had been moved
by fairness and compassion. The state has decided the Mayor's compassion was
four times less what it should have been, and the village will have to
pay several thousand dollars in additional wages. [Story available only in
Journal News archives]

Spring Valley hires undocumented workers for
 project (July 18, 2007)

Mayor George Darden has possibly broken a federal law by hiring undocumented
workers to clean out a building that is scheduled to be demolished. The workers
found at the worksite said they were being paid about half of what would pass as
a fair wage for the kind of work they were doing. They were given $10 an hour,
which one worker explained "was a lot of work for little money."
[Story available only in Journal News archives]

Ramapo Councilman Harry Reiss dies
(July 16, 2007)

Mr. Harry Reiss was a member of the Ramapo Town Board
since 1994. He had not been active since suffering a
stroke in March of 2006. "Supervisor St. Lawrence said
that he would recommend Reiss' board seat remain unfilled until the November
 elections." Mr. Reiss is remembered by friends and co-workers in the Journal
News story [Story available only in Journal News archives].

Rockland residents not sold on FAA airspace redesign
(July 13, 2007)

Testing the credibility of those attending the meeting, two FAA officials said that
"hundreds of additional planes that might be flying over Rockland within four years
might be loud enough to interrupt a conversation, but they added that residents
shouldn't worry about excessive noise." For two who had no interest in listening
to our (Rockland) voices during the environmental evaluation stage, I guess
interrupted conversations are no big deal. And although many of the politicians
present at last night's meeting spent an inordinate amount of time thanking and
congratulating each other, there was no good explanation about where our
representatives were during the last six years of this process. When the protest
only begins after the plane is virtually already out of the hanger, it's time for
voters to start taking names. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Train idling may end by spring at Spring Valley's
Woodbine Yard (July 9, 2007)

"Raymond Werner, chief of the air programs branch for EPA Region 2, which
covers New York, said NJ Transit had agreed to halt idling as long as the
temperature was above 40 degrees." [Story available only in Journal News
archives]

Ramapo denies a property tax exemption to
Congregation Rabbinical college (July 1, 2007)

Tartikov will receive $331,000 between 2005 and 2009 to rent property to a camp.
Because of this, the town has denied a property tax exemption. "The finalization
of the town's tax rolls yesterday showed that the Pomona property was assessed
at $597,500, which meant that the congregation would owe about $100,000 in
upcoming tax bills. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Montebello plans to buy temple (June 4, 2007)

"Mayor Jeffrey Oppenheim said Friday that the 6,400-square-foot building
could have municipal, community and recreational functions. 'It's a place
where groups could meet, whether it's a senior citizen group or a Boy Scout
troop,' Oppenheim said of the building off Route 202."
[Story available only in Journal News archives]

Rabbinical college opposes Ramapo's denial of tax
 exemption (May 23, 2007)

"The assessor felt that there was inconsistent information that was provided,
and consequently they didn't meet their burden of proving their right to an
exemption." If the owner loses, there's a possible $200,000 owed in current
and back taxes. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Ramapo halts tax exemption for proposed
rabbinical college  (May 12, 2007)

"Assessor Scott Shedler said the property carried an assessment of $597,500,
which meant that Tartikov could face a tax bill of about $100,000 based on
the new tax levies." The decision begs the following questions. If Preserve
Ramapo was able to determine that Tartikov was not on federal tax
exempt lists for organizations, and we did this within weeks of the publication
of the site plans (here on the website), why did it take the Town this long to
come to the same conclusion? Further, are there other tax exempt properties
on the rolls that also have not been researched? How many?
[Story available only in Journal News archives] 

Sometimes you just have to throw some of
our money at a problem (April 3, 2007)

Christopher St. Lawrence met with the Hillcrest volunteers and fire chiefs. The
outcome was a little disturbing. It was decided that we will remediate the illegal
building practices in New Square, which the State Inspector called "probably the
worst example in our state’s history of noncompliance with the state codes."
That's we the taxpayers. And the volunteer firefighters will continue to risk their
lives until the violations are addressed. And the population in the Village will
continue to live in conditions the State finds dangerously unacceptable until the
the funds are found for the remedies. Story and press release here.

In Ramapo, tension could unravel community (April 3, 2007)

"In Ramapo a slow burn continues over development, fire safety issues and the
 perceived threat from the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons
 Act that some fear will usurp any local land-use control. Some residents in East
 Ramapo express fear that their school board, with most members from the
 private-school community, won't shepherd the district with the best interest of
 the public school children in mind. Last month, the Moleston Fire District used
 some brinksmanship to snap the county and town to attention over its frustrations
 with slow progress in fixing rampant fire violations in New Square. In both the
 general and religious community, extreme misbehavior has started to wear on
 those who were more moderate in tone." [Editorial available only in Journal News archives]

Ilan Schoenberger's hypocrisy (March 21, 2007)

About the recent zoning decision, the Wesley Hills village attorney explains
how "Mr. Schoenberger's deliberate and hypocritical misrepresentation of the
village's actions illustrate everything that is wrong in Ramapo politics today."
The complete text of Frank Brown's Community View in The Journal here.

Mayor Frankl answers Schoenberger's criticism (March 20, 2007)

"Ramapo's political leaders do not like people who embarrass them. Wesley Hills
 enforces its zoning code, Ramapo doesn't, so county Legislator Ilan Schoenberger
 is doing his best to muddy the record." Read the rest of Mayor Frankl's letter here.

Who is held responsible when loss of life is
due to negligent code enforcement? (March 2007)

A letter to the Journal recalls a tragedy.
Fire district has right to safety
"It was with great sadness that I read of the Ramapo Town Board's refusal to let the
 Moleston Fire District opt out of serving New Square. I grew up in Hillcrest, two
 houses away from the Steffens family. Although I was only a small child, I still
 remember the grief when their son, Bill Jr., was killed in July 1967, responding to
 a fire. I can only pray that no other family will have to undergo that suffering,
 this time at the hands of a town board that puts the interests of a voting bloc
 ahead of the safety of its bravest citizens."
   Beth Friscino  Congers

St. Lawrence to fire volunteers: Forget It--
There will be no public meetings about New Square (March 2007)

"The Moleston Fire District, which oversees the Hillcrest department, voted
 Monday to ask Ramapo to hold a public hearing on removing New Square from its
 jurisdiction. The answer came back as a resounding "No" from Ramapo Supervisor
 Christopher St. Lawrence. Read their drafted resolution and reasons for wanting out of covering New Square here.
["Ramapo refuses to let fire district cut service to New Square" story available only in Journal News archives]

Hillcrest Volunteers Want Out of New Square (March 2007)

"The violations in the village of New Square are
 probably the worst example in our state’s
 history of noncompliance with the state
 codes," and now the Hillcrest Company of
 volunteers have drafted a resolution to have
 the Ramapo Town Board exclude the Village of New Square from the boundaries
 of the Fire Department. Story and full text of the resolution here.

Foot-dragging kicks Ramapo

In a letter to the Journal, Leon Greenbaum writes,
"So remember when Clarkstown wanted to build a
golf course at the intersection of Routes 306 and
202? Instead, the Town of Ramapo (Board and Super-
visor), which dragged its feet long enough for the
idea to go away, will now host student housing, dense traffic and schools. Once
again, great job to the officials of Ramapo who know how to drag their feet at
just the right time." (For site plans for the alternate project--Hasidic "college"--click here.)

Safety in New Square is everyone's job (March 27, 2007)

"The state's Division of Code Enforcement and Administration is the key regulatory
 agency that can dictate what must be done. State officials have acknowledged
 the dangers posed in New Square, with one calling the village "the worst example
 in our state's history of noncompliance with state codes." Violations are being
 found, and variances are being sought. This is a positive move. Yet more
 oversight is needed, and the state must ensure firefighters are kept abreast of
 code violations and approved variances."
[Editorial available only in Journal News archives]

Journal comments on anonymous political attack (March 30, 2007)

There's good reason why editorial boards of newspapers don't accept unsigned
letters--they know cowards and liars prefer the cloak of anonymity. And there's
apparently good reason why this year's political campaign has already dropped
into the muck of anonymous personal attacks--the opposition would like to stay
as far away from the issues as they can. Overdevelopment, RLUIPA and ASH, failing
infrastructure in the form of overflowing sewers, D and F traffic ratings for
major roads, and a water company desperately seeking new sources of water for
a dangerously overgrown population--these are not exactly the accomplishments
you would want to point to as you seek reelection. Read "Political attacks garner
personal ones" here and Bob Rhodes' response to the attack here.
 

Slanderous attack on Robert Rhodes answered (March 22, 2007)

The politics of personal destruction have begun early this year--an election
year for Ramapo Town Supervisor and Board. In the past, anonymous attacks by
supporters of Christopher St. Lawrence generally restricted themselves to
accusing anyone connected with the Preserve Ramapo opposition party of
being anti-Semitic. There must be some panic in the ranks, because this year
they have begun much earlier and are much more vicious--though still too
cowardly to be anything but anonymous. Read Robert Rhodes' response to a
nasty personal attack on his family that was circulated in the form of an
anonymous letter on Thursday, March 22.--full text of the response here.

East Ramapo school board votes to sell land (March 22, 2007)

"The board voted 5-1 to sell the 20.7-acre property, which is adjacent to Lime
 Kiln Elementary School, to Leslie Edelman. Edelman plans to build four to five
 houses on "oversize" lots and to use one of the homes for a personal residence."
 [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Former Ramapo official threatens bias lawsuit (March 4, 2007)

After Ralph Bracco Sr. was removed from the Ramapo Housing Authority, he filed
a notice of intention to sue citing a violation of his civil rights. In the words of the
document filed, "[Christopher St. Lawrence and the Town of Ramapo] improperly
and unlawfully removed [Mr. Bracco] from the Town of Ramapo Housing Authority
[because he] did specifically challenge and otherwise object to the improper
position of housing to certain individuals that were affiliated with the Town of
Ramapo Housing Authority. [Bracco] expressed his concern that the operations of
[St. Lawrence and the Town] in providing residential rental use was contrary to
applicable law, rules and regulations. [Bracco] did otherwise exercise his rights
concerning the need for proper housing for all individuals without regard to
political and other connections. As a result of said exercise of his free speech and
other civil rights, [Bracco] was purportedly removed from the Town of Ramapo
Housing Authority." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Preserve Ramapo Protest at Town Hall (March 1, 2007)

About 200 Preserve Ramapo activists and
supporters gathered at Ramapo Town Hall
on the last night of February to call for the
repeal of the Adult Student Housing Zones,
RLUIPA, and to demand a building moratorium
until a serious study of the infrastructure in
Ramapo can be completed.
[Story available only in Journal News archives]

Ramapo board member absent for a year (Feb 23, 2007)

Harry Reiss's unfortunate stroke last March has left the
four-member Ramapo panel short one vote, but as with
any rubber stamp, the total number of votes is meaning-
less. Fellow board member, Harry Stein, admits, "I can honestly say that I
can't think of a single instance where it's presented a problem." As the Journal
notes, "The board rarely has dissenting votes, so Reiss' absence hasn't leaned
votes one way or another." A larger problem is hinted at in the brief article. One
resident questioned thought "the town seemed to be functioning well" though he
admitted not being closely tuned to local politics. The ASH urbanized zones set
up by this board and supervisor; the widespread down-zoning in Monsey, SV, Hill-
crest, and throughout unincorporated Ramapo; 3.4 million gallons of untreated
sewage in our streets; United Water's admission we have exceeded our resources,
that we were drinking arsenic and will soon drink the Hudson; one of the highest
tax rates for any town in the U.S.; the Brophy debacle--no, things are not going
well. And we need an informed electorate now more than ever.
[Story available only in Journal News archives]

Two letters demanding
accountability from elected officials (Feb 19, 2007)

One letter is about the RLUIPA tide that threatens to overwhelm Rockland, and
the second asks for the names of the politicians and enforcement personnel who
allow the continuing fire safety violations in New Square that endanger the
volunteer fire crews called to the fires there. The theme is the same in both
letters, and the solution is also shared. Get rid of the politicians who have
refused to fight RLUIPA and looked aside at what happens in certain districts of
the Town. The Town election is this November and the fix is in your hands. Both
letters here.

Ramapo under attack with zoning plans at
the worst time (Feb 19, 2007)

Bob Rhodes, Chairman of Preserve Ramapo, explains where we are right now.
With growth out of control in Ramapo, there are major failures of infrastructure,
urban-scale religious projects, and a Supervisor and Board looking after the
special interests of those intent on creating a megaburb. Read the complete
text of his Community View from The Journal News here, and then email the
piece to your friends or tell them to visit PreserveRamapo.org.

East Ramapo school district puts Wesley Hills
parcel up for sale (Feb 8, 2007)

"The district's minimum asking price is $6.5 million. It will accept bids until March
16.The bid specifications approved by the board last night differ from those
drawn up last summer. They now include a "restrictive covenant" that requires
that any development on the property abide by R-50 zoning standards. That
restriction, school officials said, would remain in effect even if the property
were to change hands after its initial sale."
[Story available only in Journal News archives]

Fire in New Square

An early morning fire gutted two buildings and displaced 12
families. Once again, questions about absent fire codes and
insufficient water pressure were raised by investigators.
"A letter from Roy Scott, (of the NY Dept. of Code Enforce
ment) the state agency's assistant director for regional services, to local fire
officials in November 2003 said that "the violations in the village of New Square
are probably the worst example in our state's history of noncompliance with the
state codes." The stories "Fire displaces 12 families in New Square"  and the Journal
editorial "New Square fire too close a call", and Bob Baird's comments in
"Tragedy averted again"
available only in Journal News archives]

St. Lawrence delivers State of the Town speech

Last night, Supervisor St. Lawrence handed out the tinted glasses to all
the town employees who faithfully showed up for his State of the Town
address. Rather than edit in the corrections, we have simply linked to some
recent stories as reality checks for some of the utopian or misstated claims.
Consider these links side trips back to reality. A most hopeful note in the
article was the fact that Robert Rhodes, Chairman of Preserve Ramapo,
was given space to offer another view of the current State of the Town.
Story here. When you click on a link, you can return to the article with
your back arrow.

Journal letter: Adult Student Housing creating monstrosity (Jan 8, 2007)

A reader warns about voting for those politicians responsible for the
Adult Student Housing projects in Ramapo. [Letter available only in Journal News archives]

The Voters Will Decide in the Fall (Jan 4, 2007)

 The evening began with residents of legislative
 district #12 demonstrating their support for Joe
 Meyers in front of the County Legislature Building,
 and it ended  with the legislators disregarding the
 voters’ choice. Instead, they selected legislator
 Ilan Schoenberger’s candidate, Patrick Withers,
 to assume the seat vacated by Ellen Jaffee’s
 successful run for State Assembly. [More]

  

    Audio and text of Meyers' comments and announcement of candidacy.

Preserve Ramapo website surpasses 1million hits

We had guessed that it would be toward the middle of the week, but a check
last night of the webstats showed this report: "LiveStats Service Provider Edition
6.2.7: Content created Mon Jan 29 12:01:15 2007 (Server Time)." The report, just
after midnight showed 1,003,919 hits. The program has been counting since
January 2005. The total number of visitors counted by the server is now
(Monday morning) 108,478. Thanks to all--newcomers and regular readers.

The Jaffee Replacement--The Committee's
Overwhelming Choice or Backroom Deal? (Jan 2, 2007)

At the Rockland Democratic Committee meeting, Joe Meyers of Airmont won a
no-contest majority 28 to 2. Chairman Vincent Monte assured the voting members
"one of the cornerstones of the Democratic party is to promote participation," and
that we "need to open up the process" to attract new people. The openness of the
process and the value of the Committee member's participation will be tested
tonight (Wed, Jan 3) at the meeting of the Rockland County Legislature. There is
word of a backroom deal that will disregard the Committee's recommendation
even though this has been the process for the last eight replacement situations.
 

Journal Editorial: Still time for special election to fill 12th District seat

The Journal News editorial page suggests the best solution would be a special
election. A solution that Joe Meyers has already made. The editor points out the
reason for strong opposition to Meyer's candidacy: "
The district's Democratic
Committee backed Airmont trustee Meyers. About half of the committee members
- and Meyers - support Preserve Ramapo, a political action committee that blasts
current town government policies, especially what they see as pliant zoning rules
and lax enforcement.
"
[Editorial available only in Journal News archives]

Our take: Look for Ilan Schoenberger to be at the center of any cabal
launched against Joe Meyers' nomination. Schoenberger has not been beyond
slandering Preserve Ramapo, and he appears to be Supervisor St. Lawrence's
designated hitter in the Legislature.

_____________2006________________________

Joe Meyers Wins as Democratic Committee
Promises New Openness (Dec 22)
Airmont trustee recommended for County Legislature vacancy

Airmont Trustee, Joseph Meyers, won a resounding vote (28—2) to be
recommended by the Rockland Democratic Committee for the Legislative position
left vacant by Ellen Jaffee’s election to the State Assembly. Democratic Chairman
Vincent Monte assured the committee members present that this process would be
part of a new openness in County government. The members will now wait to
see what the County Legislature will do with their formal recommendation.
[Story available only in Journal News archives]

Rocklanders weigh in on zoning violations (Dec 19)

Two strongly worded letters in The Journal News decry the dangerous and
destructive tendency of local politicians to look aside as zoning laws are
routinely violated in their communities. Robert Rhodes, of Preserve Ramapo,
explains how the violators are changing Ramapo as the infrastructure is failing,
and Thomas Hessian writes about the erosion of Spring Valley and Hillcrest due
to the illegal conversion of one-family homes. Full text of letters here.   

Building Codes are about Safety (Dec 18)

A Journal News editorial that restates the obvious: "Municipalities must
enforce their zoning and building codes, and residents must abide by
the rules." The consequences of neglecting the codes cost residents and
firefighters. [Editorial available only in Journal News archives]

Update: Illegal Ramapo home used as dorm
is vacated (Dec 12)

"Rooms were emptied of furniture, walls were stripped bare and blinds
had been removed."
[Story available only in Journal News archives]

Illegal dorms and schools in Monsey
and Ramapo:
Three stories

Inspection reveals temple to be used illegally as a school (Dec 11)
The single family house at 30 Forshay Road had been modified, without the proper
permits, and when neighbors complained to the Ramapo Planning Board, Building
Inspector Steve Conlee determined that the "applicant's intended use is most con-
sistent with a school of religious instruction" (not a permitted use). Rabbi Yaacov
Kaploun, one of the neighbors opposing the application, told the Planning Board
that he had been spat upon, cursed at, and his life had been threatened by those
trying to push through the application. The Ramapo Planning Board
meeting of Dec. 12 (Tuesday evening 8 pm at Town Hall) was to consider the
application as the first item on its agenda, but the applicant has asked for
a postponement to the Jan 9 meeting.[Story available only in Journal News archives]

Monsey house cited as illegal dorm (Dec 9)
 When asked by a reporter about use of the house as a dorm, Rabbi Mandel Porter
said, "I don't see the need for other intervention. We are dealing with (the town),
and we have a close relationship with them." The house at 45 Blauvelt Road is
listed as a single-family dwelling and has been cited for its illegal use as a
dormitory for boys."  [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Finding illegal schools often depends on neighbors' notice (Dec 9)
A short Journal piece on how illegal dorms and schools get noticed
and reported. In an age when there's a digital camera in almost every
home, the best way to document the comings and goings of school
buses would be to photograph, note times, and submit the proof to
officials. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Developer, Ramapo settling preschool case (Dec 5)

"The town is close to settling its case against a yeshiva developer charged
with running a preschool out of a trailer on its Grandview Avenue construction
site." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

It's Sunshine Week--send your favorite politician
or bureaucrat a FOIL request

This week is designated as the right time to shine some light on any shady
situation you see in local politics--it's National Sunshine Week. For a quick
review and list of resources click here.

Fate of Rockland Legislature seat still undecided (Nov. 30)

 The long-standing tradition of having the Rockland Democratic Committee vote
on a replacement to fill a vacant legislature seat has come to a sudden halt. This is
Ellen Jaffee's seat--she will be moving on to the State Assembly--and she has said
she would support Airmont trustee Joseph Meyers to replace her. And so have a
number of newly elected Democratic Committee members, who also happen to
be Preserve Ramapo supporters. Add the endorsement of the Preserve Ramapo
organization and you perhaps have the reason why the machine has suddenly
lurched to a gear-spinning standstill. We hope the Committee will return to the
Democratic principles of representative government and let the members of the
Committee decide. Wasn't this last election a referendum on open government
returned to the people? [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Many in Rockland want legislature vacancy to be filled by election (Nov. 10)

Elected to the State Assembly, Ellen Jaffee will leave her County Legislature
seat vacant to be filled by appointment or special election. One of those in-
terested in the position, Airmont Trustee Joseph Meyers, a Democrat, said
he would much rather the voters sent him to the county Legislature than a
select group of Democrats." A representative should be chosen by those he or
or she represents. Seems to make eminent sense to us. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Three Documents from the Ice-Cream-Maker Investigation (The Primary Election in Sept.)

We have three documents from the investigation: The ad in the Community Connections, the Sign-up sheet confiscated by the Sheriff's
Office, and the ballot marked with candidates. These were returned to us as part of a FOIL request. Images here.

Third State investigation of bloc vote begins (Oct 5)

The Journal News reports on a third probe into illegal activity involving the bloc vote in Monsey and New Square. The most recent investigation began when Preserve Ramapo turned over an example of gift cards handed out at a New Square voting site last fall in the Supervisor's race. A spokesperson in Monsey called the investigations into buying and coercing votes "pretty minor stuff." If violating election laws that safeguard one of the most fundamental rights in our democracy, the right to fair elections, is seen as pretty minor, there obviously needs to be much greater oversight of future elections. [Story available only in Journal News archives]
Update on ice-cream maker investigation:
We have been informed that the
printed materials promising a free ice-cream maker to voters in Monsey also
had the names of specific candidates. We will try to verify this information
and will keep you informed of the progress of these state investigations.

Feds file RLUIPA suit against Suffern (Sept 27)

 The controversy centers around a shabbos house on Hillcrest Road near Good Samaritan Hospital. Suffern says its zoning does not allow the use of the house as an overnight hostel. The U.S. Attorney's Office claims Suffern "unlawfully discriminated on the basis of religion." [Story available only in Journal News archives] Information on what an RLUIPA (Religious Land Use) violation is and the Constitutional controversy created by the law here.

Another Board of Elections Investigation (Sept 25)

Toward the end of last week, Preserve Ramapo sent documents to the Rockland Board of Elections that outlined charges of another serious
violation of election law. This time it was last fall’s Supervisor’s Race between Joseph Brennan and Christopher St. Lawrence and the fact that gift cards were handed out at a New Square polling place. The cards were to be redeemed in schools the next day. More
 

Primary incentive being probed (Sept 16)

This time it wasn't television time and ballots being looked at, it was ice-cream machines. The Sheriff was sent to the Northern
Metropolitan Nursing Home in Monsey, and the weekly publication, Community Connections in Monsey was said to have posted an ad that
offered a free ice-cream machine for the first 2,000 people who voted in Tuesday’s primary. This time, the District Attorney's office
is looking into the potential violation of election law. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Election Results:
Airmont/Preserve Ramapo coalition near perfect--take 24 out of 26 targeted County Democratic
Committee seats in Ramapo

During the summer, a grassroots coalition was formed by Airmont trustee Joseph Meyers and Preserve Ramapo. The purpose--win 26 member positions
on the Rockland County Democratic Committee. These were in 8 election districts, all in the heart of St. Lawrence-controlled Ramapo. Last night,
Chestnut Ridge and Airmont sent a message and will be sending 24 new members to the Rockland Democratic Committee. Margins in most of
the wins were impressive. More. 

Preserve Ramapo endorses slate of candidates for County Democratic Committee in Airmont
and Chestnut Ridge (Sept 10)

Preserve Ramapo is urging members who will be voting in Tuesday's primary to check the list of recommended candidates for the position of County Democratic Committee Member. You can look at an index of the street addresses in Airmont and Chestnut Ridge to see if your district has candidates. Check the index here, and then write down the candidates names. You will be able to vote for several names, so copy all the endorsements for your district. A copy of our e-mail explaining the importance of this campaign is here. 
 

New Monsey Park administrator has lawyer file against County (Sept 12)

"Election inspectors, sent last month to collect absentee primary ballots at the New Monsey Park Home for Adults, reported to Kelly and Republican Board of Elections Commissioner Joan Silvestri that residents there said they received slips of paper with the names of four candidates and were told to vote for them or lose their television privileges. Listed were Assembly candidate David Fried, county Legislature candidate Alden Wolfe, and County Court judge candidates Thomas Walsh and Charles Apotheker." This resulted in a County and State investigation, which later expanded with the State Department of Health looking into misuse of residents' funds at the home. The  administrator, Yizchok Ullman has filed legal papers complaining that the County "illegally discussed the investigation with the media." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Election probe into Monsey Park adult home widens (Sept 3)

It began last week with an investigation by the County and State Boards of election. It was alleged that administrator Yitzy Ullman 
had given residents at the New Monsey Park Home for Adults a list of candidates and told them to vote for those candidates or their
television privileges would be suspended. Candidates were David Fried, Alden Wolfe, Charles Apotheker and Tom Walsh--all Democrats.
Now it has been reported that the state Department of Health was investigating the conditions and services at the home, including the
potential misuse of residents' funds. [Story available only in Journal News archives]


Former Ramapo official gets deal in pot case
Judge Scott Ugell to Brophy--Let's just say it never happened (Aug 30)

No exaggeration. The exchange reported in the Journal went something like this: (Brophy) "Dismissal equates to it never happening, right?"
(Judge Ugell) "Yes."  So, now that it never happened (3 traffic violations, the pot, and the envelope with cash), I have three questions. If you were completely innocent and wrongfully charged, would you give up a $135,000 per annum job? Also, who gets the $6,400 in C-notes that were in the envelope--the court, the DA's office, Brophy, State Trooper Esteves? Or will some effort be made to return it to its original owner (maybe dust the envelope for prints or look for a return address)? And finally, one last, perhaps naive question: What would the outcome be for some poor minority kid who was in court facing the exact same charges--no harm, no foul? Somehow I'm not convinced.  [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Subverting the ballot? (Aug 30)

The Journal News offers its opinion on the investigation about possible coercion of voters at the New Monsey Park Home for Adults. The
editorial includes some history and comments on the psychology of the bloc vote in Ramapo. [Editorial available only in Journal News archives]

Monsey adult home residents may have been threatened to vote Democrat(Aug 29)

This story comes as no surprise to those who worked for the Preserve Ramapo campaign last fall. We received word of seniors who had
their section 8 housing status threatened unless they voted against the Preserve Ramapo slate. We also had campaign workers assaulted and
slanderous anonymous mailings circulated in certain districts. Democratic machine politics in Ramapo has become very dirty
and the District Attorney's office must exhaustively investigate this latest incident and be willing to prosecute. And it's not enough for the candidates to say they "are greatly concerned" or "had nothing to do with it." All those named on the list (David Fried, Alden Wolfe, Charles Apotheker, and Thomas Walsh) have to make strong public statements condemning this kind of coercion. [Story available only in Journal News archives] 

Spring Valley hires Ryan Karben (updated story) (Aug 25)

Ryan Karben has been hired to oversee Spring Valley's $43 million urban renewal plan. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Airmont Results: Valentine House purchase
            Yes 1,445    No 641

Airmont voters pass $4.7 million bond for new village hall

Large turnout produces
strong statement

Last night, a resounding majority of voters in Airmont decided to take back control of one corner of their village. About 70% of those
who turned out to vote chose to rescue an historic piece of property, the Valentine House, from developers who have come to expect
variances-on-demand from the Village's zoning and planning boards. The majority was clearly heard over the objections of Mayor Layne
and Deputy Mayor Spampinato--the two politicians who, ironically, had no trouble approving the Hillside Avenue application, which will place thousands of "adult students" in the middle of a rural Airmont neighborhood. The referendum also included low political drama with charges of interference by Christopher St. Lawrence (two attempts to control the outcome) and an election day radio interview done to the accompaniment of the mayor's car-horn jamming efforts. Congratulations to Trustees Meyers, Valenti, and Kay on their foresight, and to the grass roots of Airmont who have kept a part of their village green. [Story available only in Journal News archives]  

 

Christopher St. Lawrence accused of "outrageous interference" in Airmont

 In the middle of the discussion and a referendum vote for the Valentine House purchase in the Village of Airmont, a stealth automated phone campaign  was launched last Monday (Aug 7th) directing residents to oppose the initiative. After a quick investigation and assessment, Trustee Joseph Meyers sent  this e-mail to his constituents explaining the source and possible reasons for the phone messages.
 

Stonewalled Again

 If you have ever wondered what it takes to get information from reluctant public officials, this piece documents the year-long struggle
 we have had in trying to get some key information from the Sewer District, and more recently from United Water Company. The letter
 appeared earlier this week in Our Town. Full text here.

Cluelessness and favored status for developers cost Ramapo taxpayers (Aug 7)

Ramapo, the town with the most explosive growth in the county has the next to lowest building permit fees ($9 per $1,000
of estimated construction costs)--only Haverstraw is lower ($8 per). And, "unlike the other four towns, Ramapo does not
charge developers to plow streets before they are dedicated to the municipality." Sometimes for periods as long as 10 years or
more. "Ramapo is also the only town in the county that does not require developers to post a monetary security to ensure that
roads, sidewalks, sewers and drainage are completed." Supervisor St. Lawrence's explanation for developments like Bates Horton:
"Sometimes they fall through the cracks." Read Jim Walsh's "Ramapo picks up builders' snow tab" [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Ramapo building inspector Brophy back in court (July 20)

Clarkstown Judge Scott Ugell said that he would have a decision in a few weeks as to whether the criminal case against Brian Brophy would proceed. Brophy's defense remains steadfast: " What pot?  What Money?" And the ultimate question, which the court probably won't ask (" Why did you resign from a $135,000 post if you are innocent on all counts?"), still remains on the minds of many observers. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Karben transfers funds, files for political seat (July 18)

"Karben's July periodic campaign disclosure shows he made three large transfers totaling $460,000 to the the Hudson Valley Environmental Action Fund, a new political action committee. Also, Karben is making a move to get back into politics." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

SV amendment would bypass zoning regulations and allow bigger homes (July 18)

"The current Village Code allows for a landowner to build on 30 percent of the lot area. Anything more requires permission from the village's Zoning Board of Appeals.The proposed law would increase the percentage to 55, an increase that Levine said was partly a result of Ramapo increasing its ratio to 90 percent in 2004 for a small section of the town that borders the village." "Amendment would allow bigger homes"[Story available only in Journal News archives]

Journal letter on the very future of East Ramapo (July 17)

"The [East Ramapo School] board announced that it will entertain sealed bids of no less than $6.5 million for this land [adjacent to Lime Kiln School] and reserves the right to refuse any and all bids. However, it has set a time limit for all such bids of Aug. 15.

Now, what builder could have an engineering study started and completed in this time frame without having been given a head start? Worse, how could we reasonably expect the county or town to respond in such a short time frame to assess the value to their constituency and submit a bid from their "Forever Green" dedicated open space funds?" [Editorial available only in Journal News archives]

Journal editorial warns school board: Go slow on land sale--seek full public input (July 12)

"The Route 306 corridor is already threatened with too much growth. Monsey proper is extending in strong housing density north toward Route 202, and Ramapo’s new master plan ill-advisedly provides for housing density on the old John Patrick farm property near Route 202. Will any new housing on Lime Kiln Road, just off Route 306, be an incentive to connect the dots and build a virtual linear city of housing along Route 306, from Route 59 in Monsey to Route 202 in Ladentown? How could the water supply and sewer system support that? Does Ramapo, already hit with pockets of urbanization, want more?" [Editorial available only in Journal News archives]

The 'facts' on Wesley Hills (July 10)

The Wesley Hills treasurer corrects some of the reported "prohibitive" costs of forming a village. [Editorial available only in Journal News archives]

Protecting flood plains and taxpayer wallets, too (July 7)

"Drainage problems in Rockland relate to poor planning and overdevelopment that began in the 1950s and took nature’s wetlands and woods. According to Scott Vanderhoef, 'In almost every instance, close to 100 percent, it’s related to bad planning or development.'" [Editorial available only in Journal News archives]

East Ramapo board plan to sell land opposed (July 6)

There were two developments at last night's school board meeting. "Late last month, the district announced it was considering selling an unused 20.7-acre parcel adjacent to Lime Kiln Elementary School in the hamlet of Wesley Hills." The board voted to go ahead with the sale.
And. . .
"In a move that proved stunning to many at the meeting, the new board voted in a treasurer, former school board member Israel Bier of Monsey. He replaces James Rose, district’s director of business operations. Rose, who was not paid an additional salary for his work as treasurer, will continue to serve the district. Bier will be paid $25,000 for his services." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Trouble ahead in Ramapo (June 29)

"The Ramapo Town Board is slipping another piece of unjustifiable zoning legislation past our unsuspecting residents." Read Robert Rhodes' Community View here.

East Ramapo schools could sell land for millions (June 23)

"District officials are considering selling a 20.7-acre parcel of unused property in Wesley Hills, adjacent to Lime Kiln Elementary School." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

St. Lawrence and board ignore county concerns, OK bigger dormitories (June 20)

The three zoning changes were objected to by the county because the '"Increased density gives rise to concerns about traffic generation, storm water runoff, water supply and sewer capacity," Commissioner of Planning Salvatore Corallo said in a June 14 review.That was the same day the Town Board declared that the amendments would not have an environmental impact, and subsequently enacted them into law." [Story available only in Journal News archives]For a look at the stealth effort to get these zoning changes made, see Sandbagged immediately below. 

A greater emphasis on character (June 20)

Judah Lerer asks in a letter to the editor: "The question that must be raised at this point is what compelled this newspaper to endorse a candidate whose political character they questioned? What is the responsibility of this and other newspapers both to their readers and to the public at large?" Read the letter here.

Spring Valley stops taping public comments (June 15)

Spring Valley's Mayor Darden and the Board of Trustees have decided to no longer cablecast the public comment portion of their meetings. The reason: "Mayor George Darden, who introduced the resolution, said yesterday that he did not want the public comment part of the meetings to serve as a political platform for those seeking municipal office. He also said the cablecasts served to spread the "misinformed" messages of some residents." The other portions of the public hearings will continue to be broadcast. Does that mean the public can assume there will be no misinformation or politicking in what's broadcast from the rest of the meeting? [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Sandbagged (June 14)

We had heard that the June 14 Ramapo Board meeting would include three proposed zoning changes, so we checked online, but the Town website had no information about the meeting. The Journal is no longer the paper of record for legal notices, The Rockland County Times is, but it has no website and a limited circulation. On the day of the meeting, at almost five o'clock in the afternoon, an e-mail was sent out by the Town listing the items on the agenda. That evening, there were about 12 people at the meeting--only two were there for the zoning amendments. Read Bob Rhodes analysis of the changes and the damage they will cause as well as the shortcuts in the review process that kept the public out of the process.

Unbearable. . . (June 8)

File this under: "Just when you think you've seen everything."

Rockland Republicans announce their slate

Joseph Brennan named as Republican candidate for assembly (June 7)

Joseph Brennan, a former Suffern trustee, and the Preserve Ramapo candidate for Supervisor last fall was nominated for the 95th Assembly District. The seat was recently vacated by former Democratic Assemblyman Ryan Karben. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

PreserveRamapo.org (May 30)
3 years old today

The site was launched May 30, 2003 and has run continuously through two elections. Stats updating our current counts (hits, visitors, etc.) can be viewed here.

 

Monsey rabbi drops lawsuit against town (May 27)

"Rabbi Oberlander's attorney would not say what prompted the decision to end the dispute, which began in 2004 after the Town Assessor's Office eliminated a 100 percent religious-use tax exemption that had been in effect since 1995." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Look at the facts (May 25)

"Counties do have a legal right to do fact finding, and this is something that Rockland needs desperately. As I have reminded folks repeatedly in these pages, no government agency in Rockland, and none of our utility companies have hired competent demographers to make population projections for our county. No law prevents county government from doing this." Complete text of Bob Rhodes' letter.

Just one more chance (JN editorial) (May 22)

"The most important planning tool for Rockland in 2006 and beyond is to plan according to available resources, such as water, sewers, road capability, buildable land and the willingness of our present residents to accept any more change."

"Rockland must be a leader here, with stronger influence over towns and villages that sometimes go their own way to the detriment of the rest of Rockland. There must be planning cooperation, for no longer is a village just unto itself. What happens in one community can seriously and negatively affect others. By the same token, some of our communities offer excellent planning ideas that can be adopted countywide. Chestnut Ridge, for example, is a leader in property use and appearance enforcement, for its mayor and others realize that how a village looks affects the way it thinks about itself and even what growth it allows." [Editorial available only in Journal News archives]

State to inspect New Square house fire sites (May 18)

"Roy Scott, assistant director for regional services with the Division of Code Enforcement and Administration said the state had identified more than 80 buildings that failed to meet state fire and safety codes. The owners will have to appear before a state board of review to obtain variances." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

FBI's Focus on Public Corruption Includes 2,000 Investigations (May 10)

New York Times article on the shift of the FBI's attention to political corruption, nationally and locally. "In 2004 and 2005, more than 1,060 government employees were convicted of corrupt activities, including 177 federal officials, 158 state officials, 360 local officials and 365 police officers, according to F.B.I. statistics. The number of convictions rose 27 percent from 2004 to 2005." Story here.

As exemptions grow, religion outweighs regulation (Oct 8)

Part one of the New York Times' series "In God's Name." The article includes a section on zoning and religion. Story here.

School board shelves land sale but leaves its options open (Sept 21)

"The East Ramapo Board of Education voted unanimously last night to reject a controversial bid to buy a wooded parcel belonging to the
school district and build housing on it." However, the board cautioned this did not mean "that the board would not solicit bids for the
[Lime Kiln school] property." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Suspended Ramapo building inspector expected to resign
Brian Brophy, Ramapo Director of Building, Planning and Zoning to resign--many questions still unanswered (May 10)

Councilman David Stein said, "We have the resignation and that will end this chapter." Hardly. In fact, as Brophy is allowed to quietly exit Town Hall, there remain many serious questions. Chief of which is the 64-hundred dollar question. Where did the envelope with 64 one-hundred dollar bills come from? Was it a payment? Is it only a coincidence that a controversial building permit was issued on the day of the accident and consequent discovery of the envelope and marijuana in Brophy's car? Supervisor St. Lawrence promised "the town will continue to cooperate on any investigation--either federal or state." Is there a federal investigation as has been rumored? Why? Is there a state investigation? Where is the local DA's office in this? What about the building permit fee for the Grandview project that was raised only after a resident complained? Is underpayment of fees business-as-usual in the Building Dept., or is it reserved for certain cases? And how does a building inspector pull down an annual salary of $135,000? St. Lawrence as Supervisor makes about $120,000. And as for the Supervisor's promise that "the town will be an open government dedicated to securing the public trust," consider this. Last year, when we submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the Supervisor's daily calendar for a particular period of time we were told it doesn't exist--he doesn't keep one. A public official with meetings all week and no logs are kept. Open government? Hardly.  [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Karben faced sex probe (May 20)

Possible reason follows day after the announced resignation. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Karben resigns, no explanation offered (May 19)

Assemblyman Ryan Karben resigned his elected position in state government with five months still left in his current term. "Karben, 31, is known for his aggressive pursuit of publicity. But he announced his resignation in a three-paragraph statement yesterday morning and did not return several messages left on his cell phone." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Firefighters file complaint against New Square official (April 11)

   "The complaint was filed by 2nd Assistant Chief Kim Weppler and Molston Fire District Commissioner Herb Silverstein. According to the complaint, after dousing a fire on  Jefferson Avenue, firefighters saw two boys lighting fires between two houses on Bush Lane. The firefighters surrounded the boys and called Ramapo police.
 An unnamed community official told the firefighters that the boys were involved in a   religious rite and told the boys to go home.
 In the meantime, "a large group of residents was forming and becoming hostile towards the firemen," the report quoted Weppler as telling the police." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

 

  

 Airmont mayor asked to quit (March 29)

"Mayor John Layne's leadership was questioned last night by residents flanking the entrance to a village meeting with signs, some calling for his resignation." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Yeshiva to challenge town citation (April 30)

"The developer of a yeshiva with adult student housing this week will challenge a citation issued by the town for illegally operating a preschool out of a construction trailer." An order from the State was followed by a citation from the Town of Ramapo. The Grandview Avenue project will also fight an increase of the building fee. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

State orders yeshiva preschool on Grandview closed (April 4)

The preschool operating out of a trailer on the yeshiva construction site on the old Nike site (Grandview Avenue) has been ordered closed by New York State's Office of Children and Family Services. Dennis Lynch, attorney for the developer said the move by the State was "an attempt to suppress the religious education of my client." Brian Marchetti, a spokesman for the state agency said the inspectors would continue to monitor the site and that for the state, "Children's safety is always our utmost priority." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Airmont mayor's resignation sought (March 29)

If you have been at a recent Airmont Board meeting attended by the Mayor, you will likely understand the frustration expressed by residents in this attempt to remove him from office. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

State investigating school in trailer (March 28)

"Town Attorney Michael Klein said Ramapo was notified Thursday by Joseph Romano, an inspector for the state Office of Children and Family Services, that the operation of the preschool was being investigated by the agency." The preschool is in a construction trailer on the controversial Adult Student Housing site on Grandview Avenue. This is the second time within a few weeks that the Journal has reported state investigators inserting themselves in cases where the Town of Ramapo and other local agencies were supposed to be responsible for maintaining legal ordinances. Read Ramapo preschool investigated [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Ramapo supported in rejection of ward petition (March 23)

"The town continues to blatantly ignore the people," Lizanne Fiorentino said. "If they don't think it's a good thing or what the majority of the town wants, put it to a vote. At what point does someone start looking at the intent and spirit of it?"                Once again, petty semantic objections about the form of the application allow the judges to keep their heads down avoiding the real issue--that is, whether democracy is still functional in Ramapo? [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Airmont moves to buy new Village Hall

(March 23) "The Village Board, with Layne and Deputy Mayor Al Spampinato dissenting, voted 3-2 on Monday night to buy the property for $3.5 million." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

 

Ramapo yeshiva project faces charges

Nike site construction trailer used as a preschool is shut down, and the developer is ordered to report to Ramapo Justice Court on March 20 to answer charges. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Update (March 21): Ramapo yeshiva developer case adjourned until May "The developer of a yeshiva with adult-student housing will be in Ramapo Justice Court in May to answer a violation for using a construction trailer for a preschool program." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Update (March28) Ramapo yeshiva developer contests increased town fees. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Suspended building inspector pleads not guilty to pot charge
Director of Building, Planning, and Zoning for the Town of Ramapo appears in court--Pleads not guilty on traffic and drug possession charges (March 7)

Brian Brophy pleaded not guilty to all charges filed against him, and was rescheduled to appear before Clarkstown Town Justice Scott Ugell on March 16.  The charges include three traffic violations and a pot possession charge, and there also is an open-ended, sixty-four-hundred-dollar question (an envelope with 64 one-hundred dollar bills was found in the town vehicle Brophy was driving when he got into the accident). [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Update: Brian Brophy will return to Clarkstown Justice Court at 9:30 a.m. May 11 to answer the marijuana charge. He was granted an adjournment when he appeared with his attorney before Justice Scott Ugell on March 16. Brophy has pleaded not guilty to three traffic violations and the marijuana violation. His attorney F. Hollis Griffin said a court date for the traffic charges has not been set. No further information has been released on the envelope with 64 one-hundred dollar bills found in his car at the time of the accident.

A Double Standard for Violations (March 11)

It’s been an open secret for years—the zoning and fire regulations are not applied uniformly throughout Ramapo. Why that’s so should be a matter for investigation, but it hasn’t been. The result—disasters waiting to happen in areas such as New Square. According to Roy Scott of the N.Y. Department of State’s Division of Code Enforcement, "The violations in the village of New Square are probably the worst example in our state’s history of noncompliance with the state codes." (Complete story here.) All of which begs two questions: 1. How do you go about fixing this? 2. Who has looked away, and would they be criminally negligent in the case of a fire, building collapse, or some other catastrophe? [Editorial available only in Journal News archives]

 

Ramapo Director of Building and Planning faces drug charges (Feb 17)

Brian Brophy, Director of Building, Planning, and Zoning for the Town of Ramapo, is facing drug possession charges and numerous traffic violations resulting from an accident that he was involved in on Jan 30. A quantity of marijuana was found in the Town vehicle Mr. Brophy was driving, along with an envelope containing 64 $100 bills. State Trooper Daryl Polite who responded to the accident said Brophy was charged with possession of marijuana. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Brophy was the subject of another Journal story last week when his office had to refigure the cost of a building permit for the Grandview yeshiva on the Nike property. Robert Rhodes of Preserve Ramapo pointed out in a letter to Brophy that construction costs submitted by the developers were far below what was realistic. The developers estimated $6 million and Mr. Rhodes calculated $16 to $20 million. Brophy accepted an updated figure, and the permit fee went from $54,046 to $75,617. It would seem the Building and Planning Office might benefit from periodic audits if this kind of miscalculation is common. The ASH site on Grandview will include 28 four-bedroom townhouses and 32 two-bedroom units for adult students of the yeshiva. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Update: Building inspector investigated (Feb 22) [Story available only in Journal News archives]


Election 2005--A Summary

Not a vote of confidence--A letter to the Journal expressing disappointment both in the voter turnout and the paper's endorsement.

Election tallies in town stress the importance of voter turnout--[Story available only in Journal News archives]

Comment on Slanderous Attacks During the Campaign--Read Ruth Lehmann's letter from the Community View section in The Journal News

____________________________________________________________________________

A Ramapo Ward System is Inevitable

"The three sets of petitions have containing a combined total of more than 15,000 signatures asking that the ward system be placed on the ballot have been rejected for various technicalities by the Town of Ramapo. It is understandable that the block vote would oppose such a system. However, it is not so clear why incumbent town politicians should fight rather than embrace a more representative form of government." [Editorial available only in Journal News archives]

____________________________________________________________________

Work to start on Ramapo Equestrian Center (Nov. 7, 2005)

As tenants remove boarded horses, the expenses to repair rotted roofs and dangerous pathways are estimated to cost the town $397,000. "Some people who operated the facility when it was privately owned wonder why the town was paying for any upgrades. They were especially chagrined that Ramapo Riding Inc. pays an annual rent of only $1,000. Emanuel Termini, the operator between 1998 and 2002, had rental payments of $10,000 per month, and Jo Ann Cosgrove, who operated it for part of 2003, paid up to $15,000 per month." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

St. Lawrence Open Space Promotional Campaign Continues to Unravel (Nov. 3, 2005)

The first mailings and brochures that the Supervisor's volunteers handed out were very specific lists of 19 open space "parcels." And then as properties were identified as county purchases or land donated decades ago, the list suddenly became very vague. Notable among the mystery parcels was the 700 acres in the Torne Valley. In today's Journal News (Nov 3) former Airmont mayor Ray Kane expresses his own doubts in a Community View piece. "Why does the town claim 1,621 acres of recent open-space purchases, when it has apparently purchased only 346 acres in the last five years, after the county, solid waste, Mitch Miller property and the Torne Valley "dedicated parkland zone" acres are subtracted?" Read the entire article.

A Pattern of Misrepresentations (Nov. 2005)

Christopher St. Lawrence’s pattern of misrepresenting the truth is so systematic and pervasive that it comes as absolutely no surprise he claims a Harvard degree but can’t produce a diploma. While this lie about his education is embarrassing to Mr. St. Lawrence, he has told countless other lies that have much more severe consequences to the people of Ramapo. More.

Land Signs Misleading, residents say

"Rockland bought the 28 acres for $3 million in 2004 under its farmland preservation program.

'They can put up whatever they want to,' Martha Erickson said of the sign, as well as others in the town that have been posted, 'but it's untrue. It's lousy politics.'

Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, whose name looms large on the signs, along with the names of town board members in smaller print, was not in his office Friday when a reporter called.

His assistant, Phil Tisi, said he believed the signs did not indicate the town had bought the land."  [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Follow-up letter from the Ericksons

"As for the sign, when we were in business, if a business advertised with untruths, the business was fined. What happens when politicians do the same?" Read the letter.

Update: Supervisor's Bio Removed from Town Website  (Story here)

 

 

It's a Question of Honesty 

The biography on the Ramapo website says the Supervisor earned a degree in government from Harvard. Read the Journal story Harvard Says Ramapo Supervisor received no degree [Story available only in Journal News archives].

____________________________________________________________________

 The Low Cost of Town Hall Ownership

What does it take to control the Town Board and Supervisor? Not much, as long as you can count on voter apathy. As Alan Zamore points out in a letter in The Journal News, "In essence, the majority of voters (34,000 out of 55,000), by not participating in the election, allowed a well-organized, small minority of about 3,000, voting as a bloc, to take over the Town of Ramapo." Read Alan's letter Bloc voting corrupts process.

Ramapo 'hideous' billboards rile Airmont official (Oct 19)

"It's blatant self-promotion," Trustee Joseph Meyers said of the signs advertising Camp Scuffy's purchase by the Town Board as a preservation of open space. "We don't want billboards in residential areas. You don't preserve open space by putting a hideous billboard on the open space." [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Mayor Explains Constitution to the Supervisor (Oct 18)

"In my hometown of Ramapo," Mayor Frankl writes, " 'we the people' has become 'I the people,' with the supervisor controlling everything with an iron fist. We need a more representative government, one that includes all of the diverse communities that our leaders seem so proud of. We do not need a town government that is controlled by just a few individuals who have created for themselves a realm that is impregnable." Read the entire letter.

Ramapo town clerk rejects ward system petition (Oct 17)

Ramapo's own "gang of four" once again has come up with the flimsiest of excuses for denying thousands of residents the right to vote on the Ward Petition in this election. Led by the appointed town clerk, Christian Sampson, the others who decided to block the vote included Hershy Itzkowitz, Chaim Tessler, and Jacob Weiss (all residents of Monsey). [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Ramapo opposed to more time for Ladentown
St. Lawrence stands with developers against Ladentown

The residents of Ladentown have asked for a 90-day extension to file an appeal for their petition to incorporate. Opposing the extension is Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence who had his attorney, Janice Gittelman, join the attorney for two developers, Aron Lebovits and Abraham Moskovits, who also are against giving the residents more time. The interest of Lebovits and Moskovits derive from the fact that they own the 200-acre Patrick Farm property and plan to develop it as one of the areas downzoned by St. Lawrence and the Board. The property could potentially hold up to 118 single family homes,192 apartments, and a school. [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Big Government and Increased Taxes (Oct 2)

A Journal News editorial points out the disadvantages of growing Town and County governments.  "Both New Hempstead and Chestnut Ridge, villages formed later in the last century to control zoning and quality of life issues in Ramapo, have watched their own taxes so well that it can be argued their residents now pay less than if they had remained in Ramapo."

"And Chestnut Ridge has added to community appearance by watching litter, for example. That might not have happened under town government, in Ramapo or elsewhere in Rockland, because by design, town hall is not as close to the people as village hall."

The paper also suggests "Eliminating patronage posts, from village hall to town hall to the county."[Editorial available only in Journal News archives]

In It From the Beginning (Sept 25)

In a letter to the Journal News, Mike Parietti corrects a misconception about the Preserve Ramapo slate. He writes to "clarify the apparent misconception that the Preserve Ramapo candidates for Supervisor and Town Board decided to run as independents only after petitions to place them on the Republican line were disqualified. Nothing could be further from the truth." Read the letter.

 

 

 

Ramapo petitions to change form of government being reviewed (Sept 7)

Back from vacation, Ramapo Town Clerk, Christian Sampson, will perhaps take his third shot at keeping the Ward Petition off the fall ballot. Objections to the petitions made by three Ramapo citizens were waiting on his desk, which invites the question, are they the same who objected the last time? The total then would be the three plus Sampson, plus the Supervisor and the Board--nine against, and 3,892 for letting the residents vote on the system. In a functional democracy you would assume no contest, but nothing can be assumed. Frivolous technicalities were cited in the last two refusals. This despite the overwhelming numbers who have petitioned to have the right to decide themselves.

             

On the Ballot

 On Wednesday morning, Preserve Ramapo presented its petition to place Joe Brennan (Supervisor), and Michel Vilson and Herman Friedman (Town Board) on the November ballot. The number of signatures required (1,365) was far exceeded by the total 3,364 collected. By getting more than twice as many signatures as needed, the group has delivered a message about the strong support that exists for the candidates and the platform. The entire petition campaign was completed in under five weeks. (Pictured above are Joe Brennan and Michel Vilson at the County Board of Elections.)

 

Getting a Voice in Town Government

September 1, Ramapo  It was the third time that Preserve Ramapo had submitted a petition bearing almost four thousand signatures asking that the Ward System be added as a referendum on the fall ballot. The change would divide the Town of Ramapo into six wards, each with its own representative on a newly created board of six members. Currently, there are four members who are at-large and who do not represent any neighborhood or village. In fact, a review of their voting record would lead you to the conclusion that they basically represent the current supervisor. And it is Christopher St. Lawrence, Preserve Ramapo charges, who has almost single-handedly dismantled zoning in the Town to allow higher density building with little regard to environment, safety, and future economic costs to the citizens in the form of higher taxes and infrastructure failures. St. Lawrence’s appointed Town Clerk Christian Sampson has blocked the petition on frivolous legal challenges in the past.

The Face of Real Discrimination  (Aug 19)

When the Department of Justice filed its Fair Housing lawsuit against Airmont, the mayor and board were told that the federal prosecutor would not have to prove instances of bias. The DOJ assumed an "in effect" bias because the prosecutor did not see the kind of religious housing he wanted to see. When this same group was asked to look into and deal with a de facto example of bias in the recent vandalism of a house in the exclusionary community of New Square, the prosecutor didn't seem concerned.

A reader's letter in the Journal News further explores this legalistic hypocrisy. The title that appeared in the online Journal was changed by the editors but we have used the original. "The Face of Real Discrimination" not only describes the DOJ's unfair view of fair housing, it also exposes Christopher St. Lawrence's sad attempts to buy the votes of the special interest bloc. Read the letter here, and if you missed what the Supervisor had to say about Airmont, scroll down two stories.

Update:New Square house vandalized [Story available only in Journal News archives]

Supervisor St. Lawrence to Airmont: The federal prosecutors are here to teach you a lesson. (July 15)

Airmont residents, according to St. Lawrence, are “doing everything they can to keep [Orthodox Jews] from coming into the community, and the federal government has had enough. I’ve spoken with the federal prosecutors,” he said, “and they’re ready to teach Airmont a lesson.”

These inflammatory words were uttered by the current supervisor in a newspaper article in The Jewish Week titled “Whiff of Foul Air in Airmont.” You can read the article and an analysis with notes and corrections here.

Ramapo Needs a Ward System (July 14)

"Last year, 3,700 people in Ramapo signed a petition to have the right to vote on this proposition, more than twice as many as required by state law. They were turned away by the appointed town clerk because the wording on the petition did not satisfy some trumped-up technicality.

These folks were denied their right to redress their government and are now in the unenviable position of appealing his capricious action."   Read Robert Frankl's letter to the Journal News.

Fuzzy Math and the Census Figures (June 11)

In an unusual convergence of opinion, Bob Rhodes' letter and a Journal News editorial echoed the same complaints on the same day (7/11) about the recent "census"  addressing growth in Rockland. Both agreed that the numbers for Kaser and Spring Valley are obviously out of whack, and both attributed building without permits as a likely reason for incorrect stats. Both explained the serious consequences of undercounting in an environment of uncontrolled development, and both called for a realistic count. Bob's suggestion is more specific though, explaining "an urgent need to hire a competent demographer." Both pieces are presented here, including the full version of the letter Bob sent with the cuts underlined. The Journal editorial is Improving census figures [Editorial available only in Journal News archives]; Bob's letter is 'Census' seems off the mark.

Ramapo ignoring the People's will (April 21)--Community View

    "It is no wonder that Ramapo is now being sued by four of its own villages, or that for the first time in a generation a Democratic Supervisor is facing the possibility of defeat in the next election." [Editorial available only in Journal News archives]

St. Lawrence Is No Houdini--Letters

"Ramapo Supervisor Chris St. Lawrence hopes that when he runs for re-election he will prove to be a worthy successor to the legendary magician Harry Houdini."

Everything in Ramapo is Political--Even Putting Out Fires--Letters

"For years our volunteer firemen have been complaining about Ramapo's failure to enforce its own zoning and building codes."