Shalom Lamm Says 'Faith in America Is Shaken' After Bloomingburg Vote Debacle

Developer's Ballot Challenged Amid Hasidic Feud

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By Michael Kaplan

Published March 19, 2014.
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Shalom Lamm, the Orthodox developer behind a controversial project in the upstate New York village of Bloomingburg, has denounced a local election after his right to vote in the hamlet was challenged along with more than 100 other voters.

Incumbent Mayor Mark Berentsen, who backs Lamm’s plans for a 396-home development marketed at Hasidic Jews, was badly trailing an opponent after an Election Night tally — but it could be weeks or more before ballots that could shift the outcome are counted.

“Today, my faith in America is shaken,” Lamm read in a statement outside of Village Hall, according to the Times Herald-Record. “I have lived in Bloomingburg for more than two years and yet I was not permitted to vote like every other American. I am sad and disheartened. No matter what the outcome is today, I hope, I pray, and I will work so that we can all come together and heal to make Bloomingburg a better place to live.”

Challenger Frank Gerardi, an opponent of Lamm’s development, currently leads Berentsen by an 81-to-25 margin.

Many of Berentsen’s supporters, which presumably include many Hasidic newcomers, have had their votes challenged by opponents who argue they have not lived in the one stop-light village for the required 30 days.

Supporters of Lamm’s development have also filed their own challenges against dozens of Gerardi’s supporters.

Julia Philips told the local paper that she, a long-time resident, was angry that Lamm’s supporters have challenged her vote. “Come on,” she said.

Thomas Cawley, an Assistant County Attorney to the Board of Elections told the Forward that the involved parties, including Sullivan County Supreme Court Judge Stephan Shick, hope that all disputes will be resolved by April 7, but he said there’s a chance that might not be the case. “The parties will still have a right to seek appeal, there are several actions going on here,” he said. “They have rights beyond the local Supreme Court.”

Cawley added that there were no reported incidents during yesterday’s heated election, though the sheriff was on the scene just in case. Two commissioners from the Board of Elections were also present given the high tensions surrounding the development.


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