The upstate New York village of Bloomingburg heads to the polls today for a contentious election that could determine the future of the one-stoplight village.
Amid a bitter brawl over a planned 396-home Hasidic development, the election has become a battleground for both the Orthodox developer set on seeing through his large-scale development and fired-up residents who argue that the development would dwarf the local village.
Current Mayor Mark Berentsen, the target of a lawsuit by anti-development activists over an alleged conflict of interest for signing off to the development plans, is going up against Frank Gerardi, an opponent of Lamm’s development who has garnered considerable grassroots support.
Gerardi, a member of the Rural Heritage Party, has vowed to put a wrench in Lamm’s plans. “Uncontrolled growth has to cease,” Gerardi told the Times-Herald Record, adding that the 90 units that have already been built should remain. Another member of Gerardi’s party was recently elected town supervisor in Mamakating, the town that Bloomingburg sits within.
Lamm had challenged the nominating petition for Gerardi, but local courts dismissed his challenge. Opponents of the development believe that Lamm has been trying to influence the outcome of the election to ensure that Berentsen stays in power.
140 new residents living in properties owned by Lamm around the village have registered to vote, yet many long-time residents allege that the newly registered voters have not actually been living in the village for the required 30 days or are not actually live there at all.
“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.
Last week, FBI agents raided the small village as part of an “ongoing investigation,” presumably into the allegations of voter fraud. Lamm has blasted the accusations of voter fraud as “false and offensive” and told the Forward that many new residents are living in the village.
A state court in Monticello has ruled that any challenged votes will be sequestered until a judge determines their validity, according to CBS New York. If the votes are tossed, it could mark a major win for the development’s opponents.
“If they’re thrown out, I have a very good chance,” Gerardi told the Times-Herald Record.