Rocklanders weigh in on zoning violations

(Original Publication: December 19, 2006)

Zoning violations don't just happen
In recent weeks, The Journal News has reported the existence of several apparently illegal schools and school dormitories in the Town of Ramapo. These reports are just a recent acknowledgement of a most alarming trend.

Zoning violations don't just happen. They multiply in communities that already have a reputation for looking the other way when it is politically convenient.

It is true that zoning violations are not always easy to prove without search warrants. The Department of Health can obtain warrants where there is a reasonable basis to believe that health and safety are at risk. But someone has to have the guts to make the request!

Increasingly these illegal (and sometimes legal) schools and dormitories are not even fulfilling the needs of our own community. Real estate in New York City has become so expensive that religious leaders and religious entrepreneurs are looking for relatively cheap real estate outside the city.

What better place to look than Ramapo? Our politicians are dependent upon a small but well-organized religious community, and older homes can be purchased and converted for a fraction of the cost of a similar facility in the city.

Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence tells us that there is nothing wrong with our sewer system, has ignored our limited water resources, and has pushed legislation through our town board that encourages apartment houses and school dormitories.

We are destroying our residential neighborhoods, undermining our tax base, and our population is racing ahead of our ability to provide water and safe sewer service.

Take a look at the evidence presented at www.PreserveRamapo.org and then ask yourself how long this can go on before our beautiful community becomes an overtaxed and underfinanced slum.

Robert I. Rhodes

Suffern

The writer is chairman of Preserve Ramapo.

Zoning violations occur everywhere
After reading The Journal News one would be led to believe that all of the zoning violations in Rockland County are perpetuated by members of the Hasidic community. As a 56-year resident of Rockland I can assure you that this is far from the truth.

Many years ago a large number of private one-family homes in Spring Valley and Hillcrest were illegally converted into apartments. This is evidenced by the fact that once-green lawns had been paved over and turned into parking lots. Because local politicians have been unable to provide funding for low-income housings they have permitted this dangerous situation to continue. Needless to say, this practice of not enforcing the zoning law has caused a lot of human misery.

Just last year an illegal "flop house" was discovered just down the street from our home. One of the police officers at the scene told me that there were about 40 people living there, sleeping on mattresses that were filthy and soaked with urine. The toilets were clogged up and overflowing. No one should have to live like this.

As I observed the evicted tenants standing outside, I noticed that there was not one member of the Hasidic community among them.

I think that perhaps it would be a good idea if the building inspectors would spend a little bit more time, as well as the taxpayers' money, on checking up on residences such as these. People's lives are in danger.

This type of selective reporting is not only journalism at its worst, but it is a deliberate attempt to instigate hatred and intolerance in our community.

Shame on you, Journal News!

Thomas F. Hessian

Spring Valley

[Editors note: We agree with Mr. Hessian and, further, believe that the owners of these "flophouses" should be investigated and prosecuted as slumlords who are endangering the lives of their tenants.]