Ramapo Wants to Buy Property from Bais Shraga for $2.5M


bais-shragaThe Record reports: A historic piece of land that has been at the center of a bitter fight over a proposal to build a yeshiva could become town property if a deal announced yesterday is finalized.

Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence said yesterday that he “shook hands” with the rabbi who leads Mesifta Beth Shraga, owner of the former Burgess Meredith estate off Camp Hill Road, on a deal for the town to buy the land.

The town hopes to purchase the 7.37-acre site bordering the village of Pomona for $2.5 million. The historic buildings on the property include a home where the actor lived until the 1980s. Historians say Revolutionary War soldiers used the land, including Gen. Gilbert du Montier Lafayette, who helped defeat the British at Yorktown.

“We are buying a jewel,” St. Lawrence said, adding that the agreement had not yet been signed.

He wants to preserve the historic buildings on the land and allow arts and civic groups to use it for meetings. St. Lawrence also said that he would like to see an “environmentally sustainable” cluster housing development built on the property and then sold.

“We want to return value to the taxpayer,” he said. The details of how many homes would be built have not been decided yet, he said.

St. Lawrence, who is running for re-election in November and faces two opponents in primaries Tuesday, said the timing of the announcement was not politically motivated.

Supervisors serve two-year terms, he said. “It’s a constant campaign,” he said.

His opponents said the announcement so close to the primary was suspicious.

“He’s being pressured to take issues that rile people off the table so he can get re-elected,” said Bruce Levine, who is running against St. Lawrence on the Democratic ticket in Tuesday’s primary.

Levine, a village attorney in Spring Valley, warned that because there was no written agreement, the proposal was not a done deal. “Reality is in the details,” he said. “We don’t know what the nature of this agreement is.”

Robert Romanowski, who is also running against St. Lawrence in the primary on the Republican ticket, said the announcement so close to elections raised questions.

“He’s just trying to get votes in the Pomona area,” Romanowski said.

The site is owned by Mesifta Beth Shraga, which operates a religious school in Monsey. The school proposed a plan more than two years ago to build a 34,430-square-foot yeshiva, a 14,515-square-foot dormitory and four 2,764-square-foot houses on the land.

Neighbors fought the proposal, maintaining it clashed with the single-family area and would destroy a property that has roots dating to the American Revolution.

The town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals voted to allow the project, despite petitions signed by nearly 1,000 residents against the plan. After the zoning vote, the town ruled that it needed a supermajority of votes for approval and denied the school permission to build.

The school filed a lawsuit in July against the town.

St. Lawrence said yesterday that he hoped the purchase is completed before Sept. 18, the next court date.

Terry Rice, attorney for the yeshiva, said he had not been instructed by his client to drop the zoning litigation. He declined further comment.

An appraisal done at the town’s request showed the property was worth $2.58 million, slightly more than the $2.5 million the town offered, St. Lawrence said. The yeshiva has invested $3.5 million in the property, he said.

The supervisor said he met with yeshiva officials and convinced them that they should sell the property to the town.

David Saraceno, who lives near the Burgess Meredith estate, said he was worried about how many homes would be built on the land.

“I’d like to see it left as open space,” he said. “Just like it is now.”

“I’ll feel better … when it’s a done deal,” said Jerry Fox, who also lives nearby.

{The Record/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. I don’t get it.

    He’s offering $2.5 million, when the Yeshiva invested 3.5 million in it? And that is supposed to be good news?