Bloomingburg Dogged by Fraud Claims as 'Hasidic' Development Backers Face Voters

100 Register To Boost 396-Unit Plan — But Do They Live There?

Unwelcome: Developer Shalom Lamm says he faces anti-Semitism.
martyna starosta
Unwelcome: Developer Shalom Lamm says he faces anti-Semitism.

By Michael Kaplan

Published March 06, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The last election in the quiet, one-stoplight village of Bloomingburg brought out only two dozen voters.

But that was before a bitter feud broke out between locals and an Orthodox developer over a 396-unit housing development being marketed to Hasidic Jews that would likely more than double the village’s population.

With the pro-development Mayor Mark Berentsen facing a spirited challenge, more than 100 new voters have registered to vote in the March 18 contest, many of them using addresses of buildings owned by Lamm in the village.

Community members opposed to the development accuse Shalom Lamm, the developer behind the project, of trying to influence the outcome of the election to ensure Berentsen stays in power.

Berentsen’s challenger, Frank Gerardi, and his slate of candidates from the Rural Heritage Party, are opposed to Lamm’s development in Bloomingburg. Earlier this year, a member from the same party won an election for town supervisor in the Town of Mamakating, the town which Bloomingburg sits within.

Lamm filed objections to the nominating petitions for Gerardi and his fellow candidates last month, but a Sullivan County Supreme Court Judge dismissed the objections, the Times Herald-Record reported earlier today.

Some opponents of the development countered by accusing Lamm of voter fraud and are skeptical as to whether the newly registered voters live in Bloomingburg or have lived there for the 30 days necessary to be eligible to vote. Community members, including a Rural Heritage candidate, have filed challenges of 39 of the new voters, the local paper reported.

In one two-story building, more than 20 people are reportedly now registered to vote. “For the amount of people that are registered, very few new faces are in town,” said Bloomingburg resident Teek Persaud, a member of an anti-development group called the Rural Community Coalition.

Lamm blasted the accusations of voter fraud as “false and offensive.” In an email to the Forward, he wrote, “Anyone visiting Bloomingburg will see many new families living in multiple locations in the Village. Instead of harassing these new residents it would be wonderful if these ‘activists’ would work together with the whole community to make Bloomingburg better.”

Lamm has asserted that the harsh opposition to his development project is rooted in anti-Semitic bigotry. Last week, a small group of protesters held a demonstration outside of a proposed girls school, which the Times Herald-Record said opponents now claim is being used illegally as a mikveh.

“It is a sad day that in 2014 Jews cannot move somewhere and practice their religion without threats of disruption and harassment from ill-intentioned people,” Lamm said in a statement issued to the paper.

Yet many residents say they are concerned with the impact the new development could have on the area and what they say are violations of law, not the religious identity of those moving in.

The Rural Community Coalition, a group founded to oppose the development, has not been involved in the election campaign and has not endorsed a candidate. But Persaud, also an owner of the local diner, says that this month’s election could have a strong impact on the future of the development.

“Considering that the developer has bought up [so many of the properties], these elections are very important,” he said.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels.
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.