This letter from Robert I. Rhodes first appeared in The Journal News.


Letters to the Editor,

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.

Houdini in one of his most famous acts would bring an elephant on stage and then make it disappear. What he really did was hold his audience spellbound while an assistant walked the elephant off of the stage.

In St. Lawrence’s case the "elephant" is Ramapo’s new comprehensive zoning plan and his board’s unanimously approved "adult student housing" zones.

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.

After the initial expansion in Monsey most of the new development will take place in Hillcrest where houses are modest in size, quite old, and relatively inexpensive. Or in other words, the first population that will be pushed out of Ramapo as this expansion continues will be the hard working Black and Asian communities that are concentrated in this neighborhood.

Houdini distracted his audience while the elephant was walked off the stage. In a similar manner St. Lawrence will attempt to distract his entire community by pointing to all of the vacant land that he bought to preserve open space in Ramapo. Unfortunately for us, the purchase of land that (we hope really) will be dedicated as park land will not protect us from the disastrous consequences of overdevelopment.

St. Lawrence will not be able to hide the immense costs that will be incurred when, on an emergency basis, Sewer District Number 1 has to dig up streets throughout Monsey in order to relieve the constant overburdening of our sewers. And he will not be able to hide gridlock on Route 59, or Rockland’s growing water shortage.

He will also have a hard time "disappearing" the lawsuits brought against his "elephant" by seven of the villages within Ramapo.

Even Houdini would have a hard time surviving St. Lawrence’s audacious theatrical performance.

Robert I. Rhodes was a Trustee in the Village of Wesley Hills from 1983 to 2005. His e-mail address is