From 'golf course' to Trojan horse
Instead of hiding in a Trojan horse, Shalom Lamm gained entrance into Bloomingburg under the guise of a developer pitching a golf course community.
Beware of developers bearing gifts.Once inside, Lamm sounded more like a street hustler playing Three-Card Monte, switching up the gated community of 125 "upscale second home town houses in a golf course setting" to pushing a 396-unit high density townhouse development called Chestnut Ridge.
When it was clear that he was marketing the development as a complete Hasidic community that would severely change the landscape of their village, residents reacted in justified anger.Were they mad because Hasidic Jews were moving in?Some were.But most in Bloomingburg were frustrated that they had no say in what turned out to be backroom deals by elected officials, allowing their village of 400 to suddenly become a population of 2,400.They felt cheated by those they had entrusted: a spineless village board that showed incompetence and a total disregard for open government by month-after-month canceling meetings instead of answering mounting questions about the proposed development.It all fueled rhetoric of hate, cries of bigotry and the open signs of anti-Semitism that filtered through social media, municipal meetings and everyday conversations when folks talked about what was going on in Bloomingburg.To the public and media, Lamm played the role of victim, lamenting that he was a man persecuted not for his building plans but for his religious beliefs. He argued that these homes would be available to all people regardless of their religion.But as we now know, Lamm had rehearsed his part for years. Those plans were nothing but a ruse for what Lamm had conspired to develop all along – not just build in Bloomingburg but to grow so much that he could rule it.Talk about chutzpah.With building partner, Kenneth Nakdimen, the two systematically laid out their real plans for Bloomingburg, in secret documents titled, “The Villages of Chestnut Ridge Executive Summary – Very Highly Confidential.”Dated Jan. 14, 2013, Lamm, as one of the developers, detailed how he had “worked for 7 years in complete secrecy to achieve a fully approved project … a secure, affordable, growing Hassidic community that will ultimately accommodate thousands of families.”It’s all in the secret plans: 5,000 homes over the next 15 years, shopping facilities and girls and boys schools. Pitched in 2012 as a community clubhouse and maintenance building was really plans for a shul and a mikvah.Lamm was clear, “the owners of Chestnut Ridge will effectively control the local government, its zoning and ordinances,”In 20 years Bloomingburg could be a quarter the size of all of Sullivan County.Legal minds are deciding if this is fraud.Sullivan County District Attorney Jim Farrell said he is reviewing the documents.People here need help.As was noted in an earlier Times Herald-Record editorial, it’s time for the state of New York, the attorney general, the Department of Environmental Conservation and any other agency able to figure out who should be held accountable. Our state legislators need to be leading the charge.It’s time we find out what other secrets are hiding in that Trojan horse.