“Micheal Miller faced down snarling dogs and armed police as a teenager during civil rights marches and sit-ins while growing up in North Carolina in the 1960s.
Miller said police arrested him 26 times for his civil disobedience.
So, the founder of Rockland’s grassroots movement against illegal development and over-development is not easily intimidated.
“When you have faced police and dogs and taking on bigots, you become immune to nasty name-calling and the wishes and powers of the establishment,” the 73-year-old civic activist said.
Miller has his sense of right and wrong, and he’s tried instilling those beliefs earned on the civil rights battlefields to members of Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods — known as CUPON.
Started in Hillcrest around 2015, CUPON now numbers 11 chapters across Rockland, with others forming in New Jersey.
The core principles remain constant: Ensure legal development that meets local zoning and fire safety codes.
Each CUPON has its own issues, but combating over-development remains the core goal, whether in Ramapo and its villages or in Nyack and Clarkstown.
Most recently, the proposed sale of Grace Baptist Church in Nanuet to a New Hempstead-based girls school spurred the formation of a CUPON chapter, with hundreds attending an inaugural meeting held in January at Nanuet High School.
Neighbors’ concerns have centered around potential traffic and overcrowding from the addition of a 450-student school so close to the public school campus. But the fact that the applicant is a yeshiva with a spotty compliance record has been seized upon by some opponents.
The CUPON of the Nyacks was formed late last year on the heels of a slew of proposals that could add more than 450 new housing units in the coming years.
Co-founder Mark Dery said the impact of the 135-unit Pavion Apartments at Cedar Hill Avenue at Franklin Street and criticism of its approval process was among his chapter’s chief concerns.
Spring Valley residents formed a CUPON chapter a year ago to monitor land-use boards and the Board of Trustees.
“Our goal is the same as other CUPONS,” said Steve White, an activist who heads the village chapter. “We have helped people to be more aware of what is happening. We have documented the actions of the boards and communicated our observations to state level officials and the news media.”
White said the village chapter has an added twist, given the rental population of Spring Valley.
“Unlike other CUPONs, we also have addressed issues that affect renters, including attending Rent Stabilization Board hearings,” he said.
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