On the same day that Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence was convicted of 20 felony charges in federal court, the County Executive, Ed Day, and the Deputy Ramapo Town Supervisor, Yitzy Ullman, both sent releases to the press that were surprising, and potentially very consequential.
Day’s media advisory announced that the County Executive would announce new measures on Monday to promote responsible development. An executive order will put in place penalties for those building projects that are not in line with municipal law. Penalties will include:
“Under this Executive Order, failure of a town or village to comply or explain why will result in the County not issuing permits for such uses as water and sewer connections, well permits, rooming house permits, drainage permits, road opening permits, issuance of new addresses and others.”
The full explanation of the executive order will be spelled out Monday afternoon, but the timing of this advisory notice is significant in that it was sent out within hours of the conviction of the architect of chaotic development in Ramapo. (You can read the complete text of Day’s Notice at the end of this article.)
The second public notice was even more noteworthy coming from the acting Deputy Supervisor of Ramapo, Council member Yitzy Ullman. It began with the announcement of the funeral arrangements for the St. Lawrence Ramapo legacy (“Mr. Christopher P. St. Lawrence is automatically disqualified from continuing to serve as the Ramapo Town Supervisor”), and then offered eight radical paths to be taken now by the Ramapo Town Council and Deputy Supervisor.
Briefly, these include:
1. Abolish the Ramapo Local Development Corp (RLDC).
2. Amend the Town Code to prevent the Supervisor from ever again serving as Director of Finance.
3. Enact a moratorium preventing any new modular structures or trailers to be used as temporary schools.
4. Consolidate sectors patrolled by Ramapo Police to help control the staffing needs and costs of the police department without jeopardizing public safety.
5. Abolish the Office of the Receiver of Taxes and consolidate its functions with the Office of the Town Clerk.
6. Discontinue the Ramapo Equestrian Center—too few use it to justify its expenses.
7. The Building Inspector should no longer be the administrator of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. The Planning Department should be administered separately from the Building Department.
8. Conduct a review of each department to make sure the staffing needs are adequate, and not excessive, and to evaluate if services provided by outside contractors can be done “in-house”. The Department of Public Works and the Office of the Town Attorney should be reviewed, in particular.
This looks like either the beginning of a completely new administration, or the start of a reform movement that could produce some sorely needed change. Time will measure the sincerity of these intentions, but meanwhile there are three critical items that should be added here.
9. Order and begin a complete forensic audit of the Town of Ramapo’s finances to get an accurate picture of where we now stand.
10. Put the Ward System questions on the ballot this fall and allow the voters to decide whether they want a more equitable system of representation in Ramapo.
11. And finally, stop scheduling Thursday morning Town Board Meetings. These are “public meetings” only for those who are not gainfully employed. They were instituted when St. Lawrence needed to hide the first bond vote after he lost the permissive referendum. That morning board meeting was given advance public notice of 45 minutes. How ironically fitting is it that it will be at 10:30 am on a Thursday morning (Sept. 28) when, in a public meeting in White Plains, our ex-supervisor will given a personal, long-term commitment that also will have to be funded by the taxpayers–his sentencing.
The full text of the Ramapo Press Release is included below, and that is followed by the Press Advisory from County Executive Ed Day. The more detailed Press Release from Day is scheduled to be published Monday afternoon at three right in front of one of Ramapo’s more notorious building fiascos across from Ramapo High School.
Ramapo Press Release
Town Board: Deputy Supervisor Yitzchok Ullman, Councilman Patrick J. Withers,
Councilwoman Brendel Charles & Councilman Michael Rossman
For Immediate Release
As a result of his criminal conviction of a felony as determined by a jury earlier today, Mr. Christopher P. St. Lawrence is automatically disqualified from continuing to serve as the Ramapo Town Supervisor. As Deputy Supervisor, I am now responsible under law to fulfill the duties as Supervisor. I will dedicate my efforts to do so openly, competently and effectively. And I will do so until the vacancy in the office of the Supervisor is filled either in this November’s election, or sooner by appointment of the Town Board.
The Town of Ramapo has been in existence for 226 years since 1791, and it will continue to provide essential municipal services for many generations to come. Through its history, Ramapo residents have lived through times of tranquility and times of strife. For about four years now, we have worked under a cloud of a federal investigation arising from the financing of the baseball stadium by the Ramapo Local Development Corporation and the Town. This investigation has now culminated in the criminal conviction of Mr. St. Lawrence. While an appeal of the conviction may continue in the courts for years, the time is now for us in the Town of Ramapo to close out this chapter of our history and move on. But we must move on learning from this bitter experience, and recognizing that the mistakes of the past should not be repeated.
With these thoughts in mind, I will urge my fellow Town Board members to join me in promptly taking the following actions:
1. The Ramapo Local Development Corporation should be abolished. I will direct the Town’s Finance Director, the Town Attorney and the Parks & Recreation Director to promptly develop a plan to transition the operations of the Palisades Credit Union Park from the RLDC to the Town. This will avoid a duplication of services and place the control and responsibility for the sports facility under the direct auspices of the Town. Although local development corporations are permitted under state law, the NYS Comptroller has criticized their use and Ramapo should heed the Comptroller’s advice.
2. The Ramapo Town Code should be amended to prevent a Town Supervisor from also serving as the Town Director of Finance. These must always be separate positions to insure that an effective system of checks and balances is in place. Last year the Town replaced Mr. St. Lawrence with an independent minded CPA to head the Finance Department, and we should continue to do so at all times. I will ensure-No demand that the audited financial statements for the 2015/2016 be ready and made available publically on our website within the next few weeks
3. A moratorium should be enacted preventing any new modular structures or trailers to be used as temporary schools. The Town Board, the Planning Board and the Town’s Planning Consultant should use the time while the moratorium is in place to hear the concerns of our residents, and either abolish or amend the temporary modular law.
4. We should reconfigure the sectors in those areas of the Town patrolled by the Ramapo police department, and eliminate one sector, and at the same time ensuring that the police continue to reach out to minorities for recruitment efforts. While Ramapo is consistently recognized as one of the safest communities in the entire country, it also has among the highest police salaries. The consolidation of sectors will help control the staffing needs and costs of the police department without jeopardizing public safety.
5. The Office of the Receiver of Taxes should be abolished and its functions consolidated with the Office of the Town Clerk. This consolidation has worked well in the numerous Towns saving taxpayers money and avoiding unnecessary costs. It should be an effective cost savings measure in Ramapo as well.
6. The Ramapo Equestrian Center should be discontinued. This facility is used by too few Ramapo residents, and the costs to maintain the facility even with a private operator have proven to be too expensive to justify. The property should simply be available to residents as a passive park and recreation area. I will direct the Town’s Finance Director, the Town Attorney and the Parks & Recreation Director to promptly develop a plan to phase out the equestrian use.
7. The Building Inspector should no longer be the administrator of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. The Planning Department should be administered separately from the Building Department. While we should strive to consolidate services whenever possible, this consolidation has not worked well. The Building Inspector should concentrate his efforts on the enforcement of the Zoning Law and the NYS Fire Prevention and Building Code, and on the review and processing of building applications.
8. A review should be conducted of each department to make sure the staffing needs are adequate, and not excessive, and to evaluate if services provided by outside contractors can be done “in-house”. The Department of Public Works and the Office of the Town Attorney should be reviewed, in particular.
The Town of Ramapo is one of the largest and most diverse towns in New York State. It is a community of hard-working families who cherish the opportunities that Ramapo provides. We have safe streets, great parks and vast areas of open space, public and private schools to educate our children, low rates of unemployment, a growing tax base, cultural activities, senior centers and places of worship for persons of almost any faith. The misdeeds of Mr. St. Lawrence should fade as a billboard, together with all the signs along a highway as we drive into our brighter future wiser because of the difficult roads we have crossed.
Date: May 19, 2017
Subject: Rockland County Executive Ed Day to Announce New Measure to Promote Responsible Development
Ed Day, Rockland County Executive
May 19, 2017
Contact: Jane Lerner, Director of Strategic Communications
Office of the County Executive (845) 638-5645
Rockland County Executive Ed Day to Announce New Measure to Promote Responsible Development
WHAT: Rockland County Executive Ed Day will announce that he has signed an Executive Order that will prohibit County departments from issuing permits for developments that have not complied with General Municipal Law.
General Municipal Law requires towns and villages to comply with the findings of the County Planning Commissioner or file a reason why a decision has been made not to comply.
Under this Executive Order, failure of a town or village to comply or explain why will result in the County not issuing permits for such uses as water and sewer connections, well permits, rooming house permits, drainage permits, road opening permits, issuance of new addresses and others.
WHEN: 3 p.m., Monday, May 22
WHERE: Sidewalk opposite 415 Viola Road, Ramapo (near Ramapo High School)
Director of Strategic Communications
Rockland County Executive Ed Day
Allison-Parris County Office Building
11 New Hempstead Road
New City, NY 10956