RAMAPO – A state judge has kept alive a citizen group’s legal fight to quash the city’s approvals for Pascack Ridge, a planned 224-unit high-density housing development project on nearly 30 acres in the border of Spring Valley and Clarkstown.
Supreme Court Justice Paul Marx has rejected Ramapo’s request to dismiss the lawsuit filed in November by Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhood of Hillcrest, known as CUPON, and six local residents. Marx released the decision on Wednesday.
CUPON asked the court to overturn Ramapo City Council’s approval in 2020 of the developer’s zoning request to more than double the number of housing units.
CUPON claimed the development would create separate housing, be one-time zoning for the benefit of the developer’s profit margin, fail to provide affordable housing as required, and violate state procedural and environmental laws.
Pascack Ridge Decision: Judge Paul Marx keeps CUPON lawsuit against Ramapo real estate development alive
CUPON legal action: Civic group asks state court to overturn Ramapo approvals for 224-unit Pascack Ridge development
Audience of Pascack Ridge: Ramapo’s zonal change hearing draws hundreds in stormy public hearing
Lawyers for the developer, veteran builder Alex Goldberger, argued that CUPON and residents lacked the legal capacity to challenge city council’s rezoning.
Goldberger’s attorneys said residents challenging the zone change did not live close enough to the property, failed to show how the accommodation would hurt them, and raised general grievances such as segregation and zoning ad hoc which were speculative and premature.
They argued that the issues raised could be determined by the city’s land use planning process and potential sales.
The judge rejected CUPON’s claim that the city’s decision amounted to localized zoning for Goldberger’s benefit. Point zoning involves selecting plots of land for a different use from surrounding plots.
Marx gave both parties until October 27 to react to his decision.
CUPON satisfied with the decision
Micheal Miller, the leader of CUPON-Hillcrest and founder of what has become a regional movement, said the organization and residents were happy with the decision.
Miller said the biggest issue was Ramapo and his land use councils had approved large real estate developments aimed at growing and expanding Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities. He noted that Pascack Ridge is located within a diverse racial and religious working class community.
âThe big problem is housing discrimination,â Miller said. “The city of Ramapo is still not ensuring that developments in Ramapo are sufficiently integrated. We have raised this in front of the members of the city council and their land use councils. They just ignore you, in general.”
Ramapo supervisor Michael Specht and city special advisor George Lithco of Jacobowitz and Gubits, LLP, were not immediately available for comment on Friday.
Ramapo rezone the property
Ramapo City Council rezoned the 27.6 acres in February 2020 to allow Goldberger a maximum of 12 units per acre, a maximum of 290 units in the area. The previous zone reached a maximum of 100 units in total – 56 two-family units and 44 single-family units.
Goldberger’s concept plan envisions 224 units in 32 three-story townhouse buildings, along the hilly landscape with overhead power lines adjacent to residential areas consisting primarily of single-family homes. The property contains a stream and wetlands.
Goldberger’s concept could include six-bedroom apartments, two-bedroom units and three-bedroom apartments, according to its draft environmental impact statement.
Goldberger’s attorney Daniel Richmond of Zarin and Steinmetz said Pascack Ridge will be open to everyone and the law requires everyone to have the opportunity to live in development. Goldberger has built homes in Spring Valley and other parts of the county for a diverse clientele.
The five-member city council overturned or disagreed with the findings of the Rockland County Planning Department that Goldberger’s multi-family housing development did not meet zoning standards and did not match the character of single-family homes in the area immediate. Some collective housing exists in Spring Valley.
CUPON does its business
Marx ruled on CUPON lawyer Susan Shapiro’s 162-page lawsuit known as Article 78 to overturn the change and city council area approvals. The lawsuit names the city; Monsey Lumber, owned by Goldberger; Union Collins Realty Corp .; and Christa Lynn LLC.
Shapiro said the council changes required a new environmental review and that problems remained regarding traffic planned by the development.
The legal action specifies:
- The approval could create an all-white development in one of the most racially diverse neighborhoods in the city and county.
- The development lacks affordable housing, although the stated purpose and benefit of changing to higher density area was to provide such housing.
- Ramapo violated the state’s Environmental Quality Review law, including the city council refusing to include environmental agencies in the monitoring process. The property is limited to more than 50% by steep slopes and Pascack Creek has a history of flooding.
- The approval was equivalent to an illegal one-off zoning since the only dezoned lots belong to Monsey Lumber.
Shapiro also argued during the public hearing that the city council’s zoning change is a wonderful gift for Goldberger, giving him more units and greater profit. She said the change of area offered no benefits to the community, such as open spaces and affordable units. She said the council’s action bordered on ad hoc zoning.
During the public hearing, residents pointed out that Goldberger contributed $ 2,500 in March 2019 to the re-election of Specht, Assistant Supervisor Brendel Logan-Charles and City Councilor Michael Rossman. All three supported the change of zone with David Wanounou and Yehuda Weissmandl, who is also a member of the East Ramapo school board.
Steve Lieberman covers government, breaking news, courts, police and investigations. Contact him at email@example.com. Twitter: @lohudlegal. Read more articles and biography. Our local coverage is only possible with the support of our readers.