Supervisor highlights Ramapo's strengths in State of Town speech

By James Walsh
The Journal News
(Original Publication: January 11, 2007)

(The links are reality checks: PR Editor)

RAMAPO - Residents can expect more recreational opportunities and safer streets in the upcoming year, Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence said last night in his State of the Town address.

More than 100 people, mostly town employees and Democrats in the area, were present for the 43-minute speech, which included reminisces by the supervisor of how the town was in his childhood nearly a half-century ago, and what it became.

St. Lawrence opened with thanks to three newly retired employees - Police Chief Ed Dolan, Highway Superintendent Tom Howard and Ed Lockwood, the director of parks and recreation - who cumulatively gave more than 100 years of service to the town.

Likewise, he thanked residents who volunteered or otherwise helped efforts to aid their neighbors, including a child in need of a bone marrow transplant.

"We should be working together and volunteering," he said, "for a better community for all of us."

As for the town's efforts, St. Lawrence emphasized open-space preservation by the town and county, which keep more than half of Ramapo as dedicated parkland.

His oft-repeated theme was to "act locally, think regionally" when working to meet municipal challenges such as water purity and land preservation. At times, these ventured across the state border to New Jersey or between the town and its dozen villages.

In Airmont, St. Lawrence said, a county sewer district project was recently completed to halt sewage overflows on South Monsey Road.

St. Lawrence's optimism was not shared by everyone.

Robert Rhodes, chairman of Preserve Ramapo, an organization opposed to the town's land planning and the construction of multifamily developments in single-family neighborhoods, was concerned about urbanization of the town.

"I recognize the inevitability of growth," Rhodes said before the meeting, "but it has to be controlled, and we have to be responsible to the people who moved here to be in the suburbs."

Preserve Ramapo views zoning for religious schools with dormitories for adult students and their families as expanding the congestion of the Monsey area to other neighborhoods.

"We have the worst of all worlds," Rhodes said. "On one hand, St. Lawrence is destroying land use and planning, and on the other, he denies that there's any problem."

St. Lawrence noted that Ramapo was again selected by Money Magazine as one of the best places to live in America, based on crime rates, employment and recreational opportunities.

Recreation could get a boost Jan. 24, when the town's acquisition of 261 acres of High Mountain in the Torne Valley is commemorated by Carol Ash, the new state parks commissioner.

"This complements our purchase this year of 37 acres along both sides of the Ramapo River between the New York State Thruway and Route 17," St. Lawrence said.