Susan Shapiro Environmental Attorney

Why Ramapo is being sued over parkland sale near baseball stadium

“The town’s sale of 25-wooded acres of designated parkland in New Hempstead to a developer is being challenged in court as illegal by neighbors and open space preservationists.

Susan Shapiro Environmental Attorney
Susan Shapiro Environmental Attorney

The lawsuit argues Ramapo illegally transferred ownership of the Pomona Road property to a quasi-governmental economic development agency for the subsequent sale to a developer. The lawsuit also argues the town illegally changed the property’s use from parkland to commercial development to facilitate the sale to a developer. The parkland sale and conversion to a commercial status never received the needed approval from the state Assembly and Senate, the lawsuit argues. “Through these two land transactions, the town improperly extended ($4 million) of its credit to a private corporation, wasted public property and assets, and the public was denied any opportunity to challenge the sale through a permissive referendum,” according to the lawsuit.

The 81-page legal action filed in late March outlines the history of the property and the plaintiffs. At one point, a hotel and businesses were planned for the acreage, located near the town baseball stadium off Route 45. 

The multi-million-dollar sale was an integral part of the federal corruption case against former Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and the Ramapo Local Development Corp., a quasi-governmental agency. 

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The LDC, led by St. Lawrence, was the engine behind the development of the $60 million baseball park now called Clover Stadium, land sales and housing. The stadium’s bonding and the agency’s phony finances became the focus of the corruption investigation that led to St. Lawrence being sentenced to 30 months in March 2018.

The sale of the 301 Pomona Road parkland occurred to raise money to make bond payments on the stadium. The lawsuit asks the court to force Ramapo to exercise its right to reverse the sale and return the property to the public.

Attorney Susan Shapiro, whose firm filed the legal action, said the town used subterfuge when flipping the land to the LDC and changed its use. The LDC was unauthorized to sell the 25 wooded acres to Parkway Gateway Development for a quoted price of $5.7 million  

“Plaintiffs are aggrieved as they relied upon their town officials’ affirmative confirmations that 301 Pomona Road was dedicated parkland, and they are injured by the unjustified and unauthorized loss of public parkland assets in violation of the Public Trust Doctrine,” the lawsuit states.

Supervisor Michael Specht didn’t comment specifically on the lawsuit. He said he had not read the legal action or heard back from town attorneys.

The principles of Parkway Gateway Development remained unknown. Shapiro said she’s been unable to get their names. The Department of State’s corporation website gives the company’s mailing address as 12 Baker Lane, care of Faye Cohen. She could not be reached.”

Read the complete Journal News coverage here.