No sign of the controversy that has swirled around Monsey’s embattled Viola Gardens condominium development was in evidence at the last Town of Ramapo Planning Board meeting when the complex’s new owner, veteran local builder Yossi Herskowitz, submitted a revised site-plan for the 44-unit project which had morphed under its prior owner into a behemoth potentially 5 times its approved size.
“Viola Gardens will be going ahead — as a code-compliant project of no more than 44 single-family units,” one of its former opponents said. “We are standing behind it now, thanks to Mr. Herskowitz’s determination to address local homeowners’ grievances – and his willingness to show us, after so many failed attempts with the previous developer, that Viola Gardens will be built and sold as the single-family homes it was approved for.
With the guidance of daas Torah, the neighbors mounted a lawsuit over a year ago against the original developer, his builder and the Town of Ramapo’s chief building inspector (who is now under federal indictment) when it was discovered that the approved 44 units were being built and marketed as multi-family units.
The agreement that ended the lawsuit required a costly series of steps to retrofit the units in accordance with code and safeguard them from being reconverted into multiple units. Extra boilers were ripped out, as were extra kitchens, electric meters and exterior side doors that provided access to accessory apartments. Parts of the property which could serve as entries to even more apartments were re-graded to block access to back doors — and those doors removed as well. Walls and ceilings were opened to remove piping, gas lines and wiring.
Herskowitz agreed to reimburse legal costs incurred during the suit and to preserve the integrity of the surrounding neighborhood with a three-sided fence and a restrictive covenant granting rights of enforcement to property owners within 500 feet.
A neighbor involved in the lawsuit emphasized that “this was never against any particular person or about stopping development.
“To the contrary, we agreed with the prior owner to allow for increased density from 9 to 44 units. But when that was brazenly blown through, and there was no one to talk to, we were left with no choice.”
“Look at what they did,” said a resident concerned with the unbridled growth in Ramapo. “For years, everyone was resigned to thinking that nothing could be done in this town. The town and the developers were just too cozy, and local residents all suffered as a result.
“It’s a welcome wake-up call to others around Ramapo.”