A Pattern of Misrepresentations

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. Then when pressed he cavalierly dismisses the whole matter as a "glitch." If there truly is a "glitch," as St. Lawrence claims, let him prove it.

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. Yet, he speaks with such conviction that unless you closely follow Ramapo politics you might not even know his "facts" are fallacies. And like many politicians the world around, he uses these "facts" to further his own political agenda and career.

One need look no further than the ‘Adult Student Housing’ (ASH) law to see how St. Lawrence abuses the truth. Contrary to what he would like us to believe, there is absolutely no legal precedent or Constitutional basis that requires the Town to enact ASH. This ill-conceived piece of legislation allows land parcels of four or more acres to be rezoned for adult educational and housing use and inflicts high-density housing upon single-family residential neighborhoods. It was simply the town’s back-door scheme to support favored developers and enact additional downzoning St. Lawrence was unable to ramrod down Ramapo residents’ throats during the Master Plan process.

St. Lawrence will tell you the town was required under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person’s Act (RLUIPA) to provide such zoning. Yet while every municipality in the United States is governed under RLUIPA, no other town in the United States except Ramapo has enacted a law similar to ASH. In protest four Ramapo villages sued the Town to stop ASH and the courts issued an injunction to stop all ASH-related development. But in a move that shows St. Lawrence’s loyalties are with developers and not the citizens of Ramapo, the Town has sued these four villages. To make matters worse, we taxpayers are funding this lawsuit.

The "facts" St. Lawrence throws around regarding open space are particularly egregious. Not only are some of his acquisition claims outright lies; he is using these bogus claims to promote his re-election bid. As reported in the Journal News, a number of billboards recently appeared highlighting St. Lawrence’s claim to have protected properties such as Erickson Farm in Monsey and Johnsontown Road in Sloatsburg. In fact the Rockland County Legislature made these purchases. St. Lawrence also repeatedly takes credit for preserving the Mitch Miller property that abuts his home in Wesley Hills. In fact, the Miller estate left the property to the Town of Ramapo for "general municipal purposes" 30 years ago.

Open space is a wonderful thing when it’s done in a proper planning context, but buying wetlands that cannot be developed anyway and calling it ‘open space,’ as St. Lawrence did with the property on Grandview and Spook Rock, or riding on the coattails of dedicated, hard-working environmentalists and then claiming the victory for himself, as he did in Torne Valley, does not make him a champion of the environment. It makes him an opportunist. To then use our tax dollars to erect billboards three weeks prior to the election to tell us about these acquisitions makes him the worst kind of opportunist.

St. Lawrence’s pattern of misrepresenting the facts is well documented when it comes to the sewer woes in Ramapo. Three years ago when we first started fighting the Master Plan, St. Lawrence conveniently ignored his own sewer district engineer’s report that any high-density development in central Monsey would be a problem because the sewers were already "at their theoretical maximum capacity." When confronted with this, St. Lawrence acknowledged he was familiar with the report but then ignored it.

And now it gets worse. Recently before an audience in Hillcrest St. Lawrence trotted out Gary Wren (Supervisor of Sanitary Sewers for Ramapo) to refute Preserve Ramapo reports that over 800,000 gallons of sewage have overflowed due to sewer problems. Wren says the figure is only 2,000 gallons and there is no problem. As a member of the Sewer District Commission Mr. St. Lawrence should have a better handle on the truth, since it was the Sewer District Commission that quoted the 800,000-gallon figure in a report provided to Preserve Ramapo on July 20, 2005. (To look at a spreadsheet of the spill reports click here. We have the FOIL documents if anyone in his office would like to see them. There are 90 reports.)

Partial truths, half-truths and outright lies are the facts of St. Lawrence’s administration. To say that I take everything Mr. St. Lawrence says ‘with a grain of salt’ would be giving a grain of salt a bad name. St. Lawrence has bandied about so many bogus "facts" for so long now that I’d wager even he believes himself at this point. But if we believe him, it could have dire consequences for the people of Ramapo.

 

Amy Helck

Pomona, NY