Election Divides Monsey

Are more yeshivos, mikvaos, kollelim, shuls, etc., good for the town, or bad for the town? As they gear up for an election that has its residents divided, Ramapo voters are split down the middle on that question.

On Nov. 3, elections will be held for Ramapo Town Supervisor as well as two seats on the Ramapo Town Board. (Monsey, New Square, Kaser, and Spring Valley are all part of the Town of Ramapo.) The city seems to be split along religious lines; the religious Jews are wholeheartedly voting for and promoting Christopher St. Lawrence for Town Supervisor and Samuel Baruch Tress and Councilwoman Brenda Logan-Charles for seats on the Board.

Many well-respected Rabbanim and community leaders say that votes for St. Lawrence, Tress, and Logan-Charles are votes for both safety and growth. They credit St. Lawrence, Tress, and Logan-Charles for the many mosdos all over the Monsey area, and for the availability of affordable housing for growing families.

One Monsey resident put it this way: “When our shuls and yeshivos need assistance, Supervisor St. Lawrence is always there to help. The only reason why any shul or yeshivah has been built or worked on in the last 15 years is because we have had a partner in Christopher St. Lawrence as our town supervisor. He is someone who has been supportive of our community and our needs at times when others were trying to push us out. Supervisor St. Lawrence has built numerous affordable housing units. He began and continues to work on Ramapo Commons, an affordable housing development near Elm Street in Spring Valley, and is working on the Horizon housing complex on Main Street. Units are being sold at affordable prices.”

Supervisor St. Lawrence has been a fierce defender of zoning laws which allow for the building of Jewish institutions. This is while others have been trying to place restrictions on the law in ways that would make Monsey less desirable to the Jewish community.

Then there’s the other side of the coin.

Running against Christopher St. Lawrence for the post of Ramapo Town Supervisor is Michael Parietti, who is the candidate of the organization known as “Preserve Ramapo.” Parietti is regularly accused of anti-Semitism by many of his opponents. Parietti writes, “… those in power have continuously slandered Preserve Ramapo with the most base of accusations; that we are anti-Semitic. This is simply not true and has never been true …”

Parietti appeals to many non-Jews in the Monsey-Ramapo area by implying his agreement with them that living side by side with an insular, fast-growing and heavily Orthodox Jewish community has too many disadvantages, and if elected he has promised to do things (such as changing zoning laws) that would make Monsey inhospitable to that very population.

What are the complaints against the fast-growing Jewish population?

First, there’s the noise. Large families and overflowing schools, kollelim, and shuls create a lot of noise, and while to many this is the most beautiful sound, there are many who prefer peace and quiet.

The second is the mess. A playground that just had 500 children in it doesn’t look quite as pristine as one that hosts 50 per day, as it used to do before the growth of the Monsey Jewish community.

The third complaint is the traffic.  “I don’t get into my car between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.,” says a 30-year Monsey resident and ardent supporter of Christopher St. Lawrence. “The streets are filled with schoolbuses, with all their stops and starts. But even this problem can be dealt with, if one has creativity and the right attitude. Mr. St. Lawrence, a true friend of the Jews, is working on a plan to alleviate the traffic situation, a situation which upsets many old-time Ramapo residents. I believe we can live in peace with one another and even appreciate one another…”

St. Lawrence’s supporters are adamant that it’s not as if Supervisor St. Lawrence, Samuel Baruch Tress and Councilwoman Brenda Logan-Charles were only busy protecting yeshivos. They have been working hard to improve life for all residents. During their tenure in Town Hall, they have purchased record amounts of open space and historic sites throughout Ramapo as part of the most ambitious open space program in the entire Hudson Valley. They have done this to protect the environment and preserve it for future generations.

St. Lawrence and his team repeatedly fought the rate hike proposals that would increase utility bills.

St. Lawrence’s supporters point out that he has established award-winning parks and recreational facilities, and expanded opportunities for seniors, families and children to improve the quality of life for all Ramapo’s families. Ramapo is known as one of the safest towns in the U.S., and many residents credit Supervisor St. Lawrence and his wise policies.

One St. Christopher supporter warns, “Do not let the empty rhetoric and baseless attacks from Michael Parietti, Robert Rhodes, and Preserve Ramapo fool you. St. Christopher is our friend and he is the best friend any resident of Ramapo could wish for.”