NEW HEMPSTEAD — The owners of Fairview Oval have asked a state judge to block a Ramapo land sale designed to bring a park to the village and additional land for the development of a private school.
The lawsuit filed in the New York State Supreme Court argues that Ramapo sold a city-owned park in New Hempstead without the approval of the state legislature. A park cannot be arbitrarily sold for development without legislation declaring the land no longer a park.
The 22 wooded acres surround the Fairview Oval development of single-family homes. Ramapo acquired the property as part of the city’s approval of the New Hempstead Road development in 1972.
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Ramapo City Council declared the property surplus in April and approved the sale of the land in New Hempstead for $1.35 million. The city approved the price even though the land was valued at $3.4 million five years ago.
As part of the deal, New Hempstead would separately sell over five acres for $1.2 million to the Greater Monsey Yeshiva at nearby 667 New Hempstead Road. As part of the sale, the yeshiva agreed in principle to fund access to New Hempstead Road from the park and improve the curve near the intersection with Pennington Way, officials said.
Yeshiva president, developer Joseph Kazamovsky, plans to develop hundreds of homes on the former 130-acre Minisceongo Golf Club property in Ramapo and the former 34-acre Matterhorn Nursery property in New Hempstead. Under Ramapo’s updated zoning for the area, developers must seek city council approval to build on property exceeding 20 acres before going to the city’s land use boards.
As for Fairview Oval, three residents – Stanley Iskowitz, Susan Iskowitz and Zvi Raskin – want to block the sale and keep the property as a wooded open space. Their Article 78 was developed by activist Deborah Munitz and attorney Bruce Levine.
The lawsuit asks a judge:
- to overrule the city council declaring excess land on the grounds that it was arbitrary and capricious and lacked state approval to sell a park;
- to rescind the approval for failing to meet the requirements of the state Environmental Quality Review Act to identify and investigate any environmental and neighborhood impacts.
Levine, a former county lawmaker representing Ramapo, said Monday they were concerned about the clearcutting of trees and the impact on the water system. He was also involved in blocking a 477-home development at Patrick Farm with Munitz, a member of grassroots environmental organization ROSA.
The plan “feels like a preconceived deal pushed by a developer with no regard for history, land, or local residents,” Levine said. “I hope wiser heads will prevail both in the courts and among the leadership of New Hempstead.”
Munitz told a public hearing in April that city officials added the resolution to declare surplus land at the last minute and did not give residents time to consider the matter and the city to follow its own rules on the sale of taxpayer-owned property.
“For this reason, this land cannot be considered willy-nilly as surplus land and sold,” she said. “If the land were to be surplus, it would have to be sold in a way that ensures the best return to the taxpayers of Ramapo and there would also need to be a process for that.”
City Attorney Itamar Yeger said Tuesday the city should review the lawsuit, noting that residents had filed 49 documents and hundreds of pages, including a 63-page petition.
“We will review submissions and record comments, if any, after thorough review,” he said.
Yeger, a village resident, said the concept calls for the development of more than 16 acres in parkland including a walking path and various sports fields, “which would improve the quality of life for all residents of New Hempstead and Ramapo. , instead of a handful of residents in the immediate vicinity.
“Thus, if this lawsuit is successful, it would have a negative impact on all the inhabitants of the city and the village,” he said.
Ramapo supervisor Michael Specht called the land sale “a positive outcome for everyone”. He said the city was getting $1.33 million, had no use for the land, and would get a park in New Hempstead.
New Hempstead Mayor Abe Sicker said the village’s original plan called for using 14 to 15 acres for a community park with play facilities. He said a village hall could one day be built on the property to replace the crowded building on Old Schoolhouse Road. The old building has been used since residents voted in 1983 to break away from Ramapo and incorporate as a village.
Steve Lieberman covers government, breaking news, courts, police and investigations. Join it at email@example.com. Twitter: @lohudlegal.
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