The mayor of a tiny upstate New York village who supports a massive development aimed at Hasidic Jews trails far behind a challenger — although many ballots were challenged and have yet to be counted.
Bloomingburg Mayor Mark Berentsen, who backs the sprawling development, got just 25 votes in the election, compared to 81 for challenger Frank Gerardi, who vows to oppose the plan, the TImes Herald-Record reported.
But the election to run the tiny one-stop light hamlet in Sullivan County for the next two years is far from decided despite the lopsided count.
Some 157 newly registered voters were forced to vote by affadavit ballots after they were challenged at the polls.
Many of them are thought to be new residents or supporters of developer Shalom Lamm’s planned 396-home Hasidic development.
A judge plans a hearing today on whether to count the disputed votes.
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.
Gerardi’s two allies also led Berentsen supporters in votes for village council by lopsided margins. 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.
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.