August 6, 2008 Last night, at a Suffern workshop called to address a plan to put 496 condos on the Tilcon Quarry site, the man who put the deal together sat silent throughout the entire meeting. Ramapo Supervisor St. Lawrence had no comments. He had sold the open space property that had been given to the people of Ramapo by Tilcon to one of his biggest donors—the developer Jeffrey Goldstein. Suffern had not been part of the negotiations—our sources say the mayor of Suffern had not even been told about the deal—and last night the Supervisor adopted a godfather-like demeanor throughout the entire proceeding.
What he said
On October 3, 2007, Supervisor St. Lawrence wrote a Community View published on the editorial page of The Journal News. He was indignant over the charge by Preserve Ramapo that almost every one of the open space properties gifted to and purchased by Ramapo were unprotected from future sale.
He wrote: "I am shocked and dismayed at recent petty political attacks questioning the town's truly historic program of land acquisition. It has been falsely stated that since the town board has not passed a resolution dedicating most of these land parcels as open space, they may be sold at the town's whim for private development. This is utter nonsense!"
"Utter nonsense!" he fumed. And a mere 10 months later he sells the 65 acre quarry site that had been given to the people of Ramapo on December 20, 2006.
St. Lawrence closed his polemic in the newspaper with these lines: "I am proud of the fact that the Town of Ramapo is one of the leading communities in the metropolitan area in preserving dwindling greenspace. We will continue to be pro-active in acquiring additional properties."
Last summer, Preserve Ramapo submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for a list of all open space and dedicated parklands in Ramapo, along with any documentation proving the formal dedication of any of these properties. Only one property had been protected from future sale, and that was the basis of our appeal to the supervisor and town board to dedicate the rest of 24 properties.
Below is the third page of the list of open space and parklands returned by the Town of Ramapo. Tilcon will not appear, we assume, in future FOILed lists of open space.
In the Spring of 2007, a brochure called "Around Town" was sent out by the Supervisor’s office. It proudly announced the Open Space, Parkland, and Historic Preservation properties. If you still have your copy, you should cross off item number 16. It now belongs to the Goldstein developers, a group that wrote the third largest check to the St. Lawrence campaign.
How quickly will the other sites be offered to favored developers? Who knows, but the Quarry should be a lesson learned and remembered by Ramapo residents. What was touted as protected open space has been sold, and Suffern now is looking at thousands of new residents on the hill and annual engineering maintenance bills for the pumps that will divert water to and out of the quarry.
There is only one open space property that has been formally dedicated by the Town Board, and that is this property (below).
It is listed as item number one on the printed list above. It’s called the Mitch Miller property. It was donated to the residents of Ramapo in 1977, and it became the only open space formally dedicated as parkland in a board session on October 15, 2003.
Incidentally, that house you see in the middle of the 150 acres of protected open space is the home of Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence.
If anyone is shocked by the sale of the Quarry despite all of the promises, they shouldn’t be. The pattern of discrepancies between what is said and what is true goes back to the beginning of the Supervisor’s tenure in Ramapo. In 2003, when St. Lawrence was running for Supervisor against Kathryn Ellsworth, the mayor of Montebello, he filled out his bio for the newspaper and some of the information was "utter nonsense." Here’s what appeared on the editorial page of the Journal on October 26, 2003.
Here’s a close-up of the St. Lawrence info.
He claims that he graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and holds a master’s degree from the same Ivy League institution.
Two years later, acting on information provided by Preserve Ramapo, the Journal News reported on October 7, 2005, "Harvard University has no record of Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence's receiving a degree, despite a claim on the town's official Web site that he graduated from the nation's oldest college."
The article continues: "St. Lawrence's biography on the Web site says that "he graduated from Harvard University with a degree in government," but that appears to be untrue."
"He definitely did not get a degree from the college," said Rachel Lund of Harvard College's Registrar's Office."
This is a screenshot of the Web bio that was scrubbed from the Ramapo town website when the public learned that the Supervisor had only a high school diploma.
He has no bachelor’s degree from Harvard or anywhere else. He has no master’s degree. And with his willingness to lie on the job application to voters, he has no credibility.
The empty promise to protect open space sites from the developers shouldn’t come as a surprise. You can now probably expect another Community View by St. Lawrence vibrating with righteous indignation. And maybe town attorney Michael Klein will again claim that legal precedents protect these open space properties (and, again, will likely refuse to cite specific case law to prove the point). The truth—they are up for sale. One no longer belongs to us. It is in the hands of a favorite developer, and that developer wants to build 500 condos on the hill.
Remember the lies—they are destroying Ramapo—even when the perpetrator shows up and just sits silently in the background.