“Three of the developers allegedly given breaks on permit fees by Anthony Mallia, Ramapo’s building inspector, were major donors to the campaign committees of Mallia’s boss, town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence.
Mallia was indicted last week on charges that he bilked the town of $150,000 by falsifying records so that he could reduce the permit fees on 39 projects from late 2014 through 2015. He also allegedly overcharged the Moleston Fire District in Ramapo by tens of thousands of dollars on its permit fees for the new Hillcrest fire station. Mallia has been suspended since his arrest in the case in October.
Prosecutors have not publicly identified the projects which they accused Mallia of aiding. But the indictment included building permit numbers, which The Journal News/lohud.com crossed checked against records obtained from the town through Freedom of Information requests to determine which projects were referred to in the indictment.
Twelve properties were part of the Viola Estates development across from Ramapo High School that is the subject of a civil lawsuit by neighbors. They contend that illegal accessory apartments were included for each of the two-family townhouses in the project – and that Mallia had turned a blind eye to their inclusion.
The developer, Shimmy Galandauer, built a $200,000 extension on Mallia’s Airmont home, according to village records, and contributed $18,000 to the supervisor’s committees, Friends of Christopher St. Lawrence and Leadership That’s Working.
The principal of Viola Gardens LLC, Ephraim Grossman, also contributed $1,000 to St. Lawrence.
Four of the permits – two for 56 Suzanne Drive and those for 34 and 36 Old Nyack Turnpike – were for homes built by corporations linked to Berish Feldman, a resident of 6 Ruzhin Road in Kiryas Joel. One of the companies, Ruzhin Corp., donated $15,000 to St. Lawrence between July 2014 and September 2015.
Another permit that was allegedly under-charged was for 31 Decatur, whose developer, Berel Karniol, is linked to more than two dozen new multi-family buildings in Monsey in recent years. Karniol contributed $19,000 to St. Lawrence’s committees between September 2014 and November 2015.
In nearly three quarters of the projects that Mallia allegedly gave breaks, the owners were assisted by Construction Expediting. The Monsey firm, run by Mayer Jacobowitz, submits building applications and appears before town boards and committees They are hired not just by novice property owners, who are unfamiliar with the building process, but also by seasoned developers who don’t want to get bogged down by the process.
Ever since Mallia was arrested, District Attorney Thomas Zugibe has said there was no evidence that the building inspector personally profited from the scheme. That has raised questions about Mallia’s motivation for helping developers if he was getting nothing in return.
Michael Castellucio, of the group Preserve Ramapo, suggested the permit breaks were a result of Mallia’s ties to St. Lawrence and the supervisor’s dependence on the Orthodox Jewish bloc vote.
“We think he was put in that position to maybe help leverage Chris’s connection with the bloc with these kinds of favors,” Castellucio said. “You don’t know if he personally benefited but that addition to his house by one of the biggest donors to St Lawrence’s campaign and recipients of permit breaks extended to Galandauer makes that relationship very suspicious.”
The residence with the largest construction cost cited in the indictment, $1.3 million, was 8 Ash St., owned by RYMSSG Holding. On a dead-end block with stately homes, only the foundation remains from work that began nearly two years ago.
The application was obtained by the contruction company, Prestige Builders, whose principal Yehuda Weissmandl, is president of the East Ramapo Board of Education. Weissmandl declined to speak about the project or about the DA’s contention that the project got a break from Mallia.”
Read the complete Journal News story here.