What Happened in Bloomingburg, NY?
See FLOW CHART
What happened in 2006? The massive 396-unit high-density housing development that is being built in the 400-resident village of Bloomingburg, NY was initiated and executed by developers Duane Roe, Shalom Lamm, and Kenneth Nakdimen, and approved by the boards of the Village of Bloomingburg and Town of Mamakating. The developers signed a confidential retention agreement (1 of 3) (2 of 3) (3 of 3) in 2006 that required Roe to garner land approvals and “cause” the Town of Mamakating to annex property to the Village of Bloomingburg for a housing development in the Village “of at least 400 units.”
After the developers signed the confidential retention agreement, Roe proposed a very different building project to the Village and Town boards in 2006 – a 125 luxury townhome development for an over 55 community that would include on the property a golf course, a restaurant, and community and public trails. Despite fierce opposition by local residents, the Village and Town boards passed an annexation which gave the Village of Bloomingburg charge over 241 acres and allowed it to become lead agency for the 125 luxury townhome project. After the annexation (see newspaper article) Roe started to acquire property – a charge for him as stated in the confidential retention agreement. The annexed property was owned by then Bloomingburg Mayor Everett Saunders and his wife and then Town Deputy Supervisor Regina Saunders, the Town of Mamakating, Peter Pavel Blejec, and Frank and Debra Raymond.
What happened in 2008? In 2008, Mark Berentsen won the Bloomingburg Mayor election over Everett Saunders by one absentee vote (see newspaper article). Saunders ran unopposed throughout the campaign however at the last minute, Mark Berentsen came in as a write-in candidate. The following year, Mayor Mark Berentsen bought property with his wife Susan Berentsen and parents Morris and Emma Berentsen from Sullivan Farms III, a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) whose principals are Shalom Lamm and Kenneth Nakdimen. This real estate deal was driven by a developers’ agreement between Mayor Mark Berentsen (who signed the agreement on behalf of the Village Board), and principals of Sullivan Farms III, Shalom Lamm and Kenneth Nakdimen.
What happened in 2009? In 2009, Duane Roe informed the Village of Bloomingburg Board that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) would not allow for the building of a golf course on the property so he proposed a very different building project that included high-density housing for families in the form of “at least 400 townhomes” - the same building project described in the 2006 confidential retention agreement between the developers (see newspaper article). Some Bloomingburg residents foiled for the correspondence from the DEC to the Village which would have reported the denial of the golf course, but there was no such document.
The property Mayor Berentsen purchased from Sullivan Farms III (LLC) in 2009 is referenced in the developers’ agreement, which states that the mayor’s properties will be connected to the central water supply system of the high-density housing development “after the Village of Bloomingburg approves the new building project." See newspaper article. See another newspaper article.
What happened in 2010? In 2010, the Village Board approved a 396-unit development known as Chestnut Ridge and was required to complete a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) on the Chestnut Ridge project however it appears that the SEQR was not representative of the real impact on the community. See actual SEQR.
What happened from 2010-2012? The Village of Bloomingburg Planning Board approved the building of the 396-unit Chestnut Ridge development in 2010 however construction did not begin until 2012, and at that time local residents were still under the impression that the golf course and 125 luxury townhomes were being built. So residents started to ask questions and soon discovered that the 125 townhome development was never the original plan. A very concerned community formed a grass –roots group called The Rural Community Coalition (RCC).
The RCC foiled for thousands of documents. Through property searches and investigations, the RCC began to discover the plan for the development and its members started to communicate that plan to the larger community.
Subsequently, the RCC made contact with and mailed letters to the New York State offices of the Comptroller, Attorney General, and Governor Cuomo; and other elected officials. The letters asked that they investigate the Town and Village governments’ perceived violations of laws and ethical conduct. Despite the thousands of letters sent to New York State public officials, not one of them has responded to the concerns raised by local residents.
Following that, the Chestnut Ridge development was advertised for the first time in the Times Herald Record and then shortly after that, a 16-page advertisement insert appeared in DER YID, a Yiddish newspaper. See newspaper article.
The RCC presents to the Pine Bush School District. See presentation.
Then, an all-girl school was proposed by Learning Tree, a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) whose principal is Shalom Lamm. It submitted an application to the Village of Bloomingburg’s Planning Board for a 16-room- all-girl non-pubic school located in the Pine Bush School District. The application reports that 400 girls are anticipated to attend the school, roughly the same number of residents in the Village of Bloomingburg.
What happened in 2013? The Village of Bloomingburg Board continues to move forward with the 396-unit Chestnut Ridge project and approved additional zoning changes which will serve a portion of the development.
Sullivan Farms II and Sullivan Farms III are buying up the Village of Bloomingburg and have acquired thousands of acres of property adjacent to the development and in the surrounding communities of Crawford, Wallkill, Mamakating, and they continue to buy homes and properties.
As Bloomingburg residents argue that municipal law, among others, have been violated, Pine Bush School District faces accusations of anti-Semitism. See newspaper article. The Pine Bush School District reports that it has been very responsible in dealing with these allegations and clarifies to the public that they are "allegations." Pine Bush School District Superintendent Joan Carbone is outraged that Pine Bush School District was mentioned during Cuomo's important speech (in January 2014) and invites Governor Cuomo to Pine Bush schools. See newspaper article.
In December 2013, the Village of Bloomingburg Planning Board voted down the all-girl – non-public school. See newspaper article.
A lawsuit has been filed against Mayor Berensten and is expected to be brought before the Appellate Court in Albany, NY in January 2014. The lawsuit calls for the removal of Mr. Berentsen and would void all contracts he has executed as mayor, which includes the developers’ agreement.
Subsequently, the Village Board holds an emergency meeting on December 24, 2013 to pass a resolution that could protect its employees from litigation.