In May 2006, a developer with deep political and business ties to this eastern Sullivan County village of about 400 signed a secret agreement to be the front man for a development of "at least 400 units of town houses" on some 200 acres. That's the same development that is now the target of virulent protests because it is slated to become a new Satmar village that will dwarf the existing 420 residents of this small New York State town.
Shalom Lamm is a son of Rabbi Norman Lamm, the former chancellor of Yeshiva University. In 2006 when Shalom Lamm started this scheme, his father was still active and healthy – although there is no indication that he knew what his son was doing.
The Times Herald-Record reports:
In May 2006, a developer with deep political and business ties to this eastern Sullivan County village of about 400 signed a secret agreement to be the front man for a development of "at least 400 units of town houses" on some 200 acres. That's the same development that is now the target of virulent protests and outright fears, in part because it and its proposed private girls' school may become Hasidic.
But in that same month, that developer and former Mamakating Supervisor Duane Roe — who signed that "Confidential Retention Agreement" with developer Shalom Lamm and his partner, Kenneth Nakdimen — told a completely different story to the Bloomingburg Village Board, and whomever would listen.
It would be a development of 125 second homes, Roe recalls saying today. Scores of others also recall him saying that.
"The proposal is for upscale second home town houses in a golf course setting," says Roe in the minutes of that May 2006 Village Board meeting. "A gated community of upscale seasonal homes" with a golf course, pool and pond.
For the first time, a member of the Hasidic community has confirmed that the Villages of Chestnut Ridge will be a Hasidic development - and he wants to assure Bloomingburg that its residents will be good neighbors.
Joseph Waldman, a leader of the dissident community in Kiryas Joel, called the development "a golden opportunity" for Hasidim in Brooklyn, where rents are steep and apartments are crowded.
When they discovered that the development was already approved and under construction, the Brooklyn residents considered it an "ideal'' place to settle, said Waldman.
He - and members of that Hasidic community - are aware of the controversy often surrounding Kiryas Joel.
"These people (coming to Bloomingburg) are the most law-abiding citizens and never create problems," said Waldman, who was part of an unsuccessful lawsuit to dissolve Kiryas Joel. "They don't want anything to do with KJ.”…
"They (the locals) shouldn't worry. Everything they do, they will do in a peaceful law-abiding way.”…
[Roe] did not say he would be paid $1.4 million when the project was approved — money that was never paid when, in 2009, Lamm sued Roe for some $10 million and their partnership dissolved.
"He had credibility, authority," says Lamm, explaining why he chose Roe to be his front man.…
"The massive, overwhelming inquiries have been from the religious community, and we wanted to prepare for it," [Lamm] said about that proposed school last week, adding no homes have been sold.…
An examination of available official documents and interviews with scores of residents tell a more complex story of how and why the project was approved – a story not only of apparent deception, but also of citizen apathy and, perhaps, the lack of attention of officials.
It begins with Roe, who freely admits he told anyone who would listen that he wanted to be build 125 homes with at least one golf course, even though he had that signed agreement with Lamm for those 400 homes.
Questioned last week, Roe said at first that he didn't really read the contract as well as he should have. He also mentioned how the project changed when the golf course was nixed because of wetlands and endangered species. Plus, even though he only mentioned those 125 homes, he now says, “There was always going to be the expansion (from 125 homes) from Day One. Why would you build a 325,000-gallon sewer plant for just that?”…
The piece goes on to show that Lamm and Roe deceived town officials (except, most likely, for one or two key officials) got the number of houses raised to 395 and didi the deal with Satmar's Zalman faction.
Read the much longer investigative piece here.