The verdict “Guilty!” was read out loud 20 times in the Westchester courtroom on Friday, May 19. By Monday, the Journal News reported: “The glass window welcoming people to the Ramapo supervisor’s office in Town Hall was nameless, and all references to St. Lawrence had been removed from the town website, making him a persona non grata.” The most destructive Supervisor in Ramapo history was gone, yet his corrosive influence remains seated at the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, composed of a majority number of Monsey representatives who are overwhelmingly non-compliant with the State regulations written for their positions.
The members of the Ramapo Town Board are elected to their seats, but the members of the Ramapo Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals are appointed, historically, in Ramapo, by the person who had held all the strings of power—the now-convicted Christopher St. Lawrence. They’ve scraped his name from the office window, but the way he engineered Monsey control of planning and zoning matters remains firmly in place.
Consider these numbers.
According to the New York Dept. of State, “Planning board and zoning board of appeals members make decisions of major importance to their communities and to all New Yorkers. These decisions can affect the function and appearance of communities for decades to come while impacting property interests important to individual New Yorkers.” There are 8 members on the Ramapo Planning Board and 6 members on the Zoning Board of Appeals. St. Lawrence selected all of them from unincorporated areas of Monsey and Spring Valley. Planning has 6 members from Monsey and 2 from Spring Valley. Zoning has 4 from Monsey and 2 from Spring Valley. These numbers produce a crushing majority of 75% for the Monsey vote on the Planning Board and an equally insurmountable 67% majority for Monsey on the Zoning Board.
Overall, Monsey holds absolute control of both boards with a combined 71.4% majority vote. Monsey–the most reckless unincorporated area in Ramapo when it comes to planning and development. This is not just the residual thumbprint of a criminal administration, it’s the entire fist. There are 12 villages in Ramapo, and 100% of them have no voice on either of these boards. The most crucial decisions related to building are left to Monsey where three-story buildings out to the curb have become the rule.
The exclusion of most of Ramapo on these boards is only half the problem. Take a look at both panels below and note how many are compliant—that is, they meet the State and local requirements for being members of these kinds of boards.
RAMAPO PLANNING BOARD
RAMAPO ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS
The numbers here are as equally damning as the bloc monopoly on these boards. More than ¾ of them,79% of the combined board members do not legally qualify to be seated on these boards, according to New York State Law and/or Ramapo’s Municipal Code. The three laws that establish the legal requirements are:
- Members shall be required to attend training classes and receive certification from the Rockland Municipal Planning Federation within one year of appointment.
- Recertification of all members shall be required every two years thereafter from the date of initial certification.
- New York State requires a minimum of four hours of training per year for each planning and zoning board member throughout the state.
This deplorable record shows a complete disregard for the law, and it continues and actually worsens when you look at the 2017 record for these boards. In 2017, members are required to fulfill four hours of training according to state law. It is October and only two members have completed the required training for this year—Ariel Dahan and David Leiman. Leiman still has not completed his required certification courses, so unless this changes, by year-end these two boards will have gone from 78.5% non-compliant with the law to a near-perfect 92.86% non-compliance. We will report at the end of the year about any progress made by these 93%, and at that time, we will include the text for Article 42-7, the Removal for Cause in the Town’s municipal law.
An interesting side note to this situation concerns two others who have graduated from these boards to the general Town Board. Currently, there are two graduates on the Town Board, Michael Rossman and Brendel Logan-Charles. There had been three. Samuel Tress had moved on up from the ZBA to the Town Board, but that didn’t last long after his arrest and conviction for crimes he had committed as a Zoning Board member. Not surprisingly, both Rossman and Charles have the same scofflaw profile as the majority still sitting on the boards today. Brendel Charles completed only one session of the three required, so she never was certified, nor re-certified, and she didn’t bother with the State’s demand for four hours training each year. Rossman was even worse; he’s zeros straight across—not one session, no certification, and zero of the follow-up training sessions. Traditions in Ramapo can get pretty rancid.
There’s no way of mistaking that these are still St. Lawrence’s boards, both of them. And if you thought the corruption had been removed the day the court dragged him out of Town Hall, please take the time to attend a Planning or Zoning Board meeting and take a look around.
Finally, here’s an interesting experiment testing the much heralded “new transparency” of the current administration. Go on the Town’s website and find the names of anyone serving on either these two critical boards (www.ramapo.org). Either board, or just one. Half a dozen names, or maybe just one name. Find just one of the names of these individuals who are currently driving the development in Ramapo. Just one. Good luck.
The name of the supervisor has been scraped from the window of his office, but his ghost boards continue to guide the urbanization of the town. There’s an election in November and you might do well to remember that there’s no worse infection than incumbency in a corrupt political environment like Ramapo’s.