Ramapo Land Company II Opens for Business
June 18, 2008 On Monday evening, the Ramapo Town Board approved the sale of 65 acres in Suffern to one of the most powerful developers in the area, Jeffrey Goldstein. At the center of the deal was the man who brokered the sale, Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence. The land had been donated to the people of Ramapo by Tilcon New York, and St. Lawrence engineered the sale to Goldstein who plans to build a complex of 440 condominiums on the Suffern site.
A number of problems immediately present themselves concerning this transaction. Foremost is, what is the Town Supervisor doing brokering real-estate deals that will create high-density housing in Suffern?
Perhaps the answer lies in the relationship between the Supervisor and this particular developer. Goldstein is the head of Arco Management. Arco contributed $3,000 to St. Lawrence’s campaign, securing for himself the distinction of third highest donor right behind another local developer Michael Tauber, the Tartikov "college" developer who has sued Pomona using the RLUIPA statute. Tauber gave St. Lawrence $3,500 and he owns second place.
Then there’s the question of the price. The Journal News reported that the sale price was $4.4 million for 65 acres, on which the builder feels he can put 440 condos. What would you imagine you would be worth if you owned 65 acres in Suffern? It certainly wouldn’t be $4.4 million.
Preserve Ramapo is currently researching the sale of two lots in Monsey that sold for $3.2 million. The combined size of the two adjacent properties is 1.81 acres. Less than 2 acres for $3.2 million in Monsey compared to the deal cut by St. Lawrence which is 65 acres in Suffern for $4.4 million. Something is ridiculously out of whack. Incidentally, until last Monday, you, as a resident of Ramapo, actually did own 65 acres in Suffern. It was given to us, at no cost, by Tilcon. That is, we owned it until it was offered at a pittance to a favored developer.
The third question relates to the terms of the deal. When offering a property as large as this at such a reduced rate, you would think the leverage would all be on the side of the broker. Think again. The purchaser demanded from Ramapo the right to build high-density housing totaling 440 units. And even though Ramapo does not control the zoning in Suffern, agent St. Lawrence wrote an escape clause into the contract that releases Goldstein if Suffern doesn’t approve the building. To make matters worse, if this does get built, Goldstein offered a bounty of $10,000 a unit, payable to Ramapo, for every condo over 440 that he is allowed to stack on to the total, and St. Lawrence accepted the rider.
There’s also the problem of the density of this development. Suffern has a population of about 12,000. 440 condos would add 1,320—1,760 to the population if the new residents average 3-4 members per family. Didn’t St. Lawrence recently step over the Suffern officials and host a public meeting where he insisted that Suffern keep its water and not sell it to United Water? And yet with this sale, he has scheduled a potential 10-15% increase in the overall population of the village, which will further stress the local aquifer. And he has done this unilaterally, we have been told, without consulting with Suffern. Has Christopher St. Lawrence formally declared war on Suffern, or does he intend this to continue on as a guerrilla campaign?
In the last political campaign, Preserve Ramapo warned that the Town of Ramapo was accumulating open space properties through multimillion-dollar purchases and was not securing them from future sale by formally dedicating these properties as publicly owned in perpetuity. To date, we have seen no change, even though there were some mutterings from St. Lawrence and his team (Ramapo Town Board) that maybe they would dedicate some more of the properties. Only one property has been formally dedicated.
It’s the Mitch Miller property that surrounds the Supervisor’s home in Wesley Hills appearing in the photo above.
And so we arrive at the final question. With the Town of Ramapo claiming to be the largest single landowner in the township, has the Real Estate Agency of St. Lawrence, Friedman, Stein, Yeager and Hunter officially opened its doors to the public (or rather to those select developers with whom they already have a relationship and estimable affection)?