Saturday, January 11, 2014

Agitated crowd packs Bloomingburg meeting 

A ticked off, standing-room-only crowd that shouted its anger over everything from dog poop on the sidewalks to the 396-unit apparently Hasidic town house development, packed Village Hall Thursday night for the first regular meeting of the Village Board since August.

The board — which did hold an apparently illegal emergency meeting at an hour's notice at 8:30 a.m. on a recent Monday to protect itself from legal action — tried to conduct routine business.

It set March 18 for village elections and appointed election inspectors. It also said it needed an operator of the new sewer plant that must be complete before anyone can move into that much-protested Villages of Chestnut Ridge development.

But it kept getting interrupted by the crowd that was riled up over the lack of meetings and the ongoing construction of the development they fear will overwhelm this eastern Sullivan County village of 400.

So when new board member Larry Arnold spoke about trying to get some oversight of the unfinished roads in the development, he was greeted by shouts of "Put a stop work order in. That's why we wanted a meeting in the first place."

When Arnold — whose security work at the development drew protests — spoke of the need to remove snow and ice from the village sidewalks, a crowd member shouted "Get Shalom Lamm to do it." That was an apparent reference to the fact that the developer of the Villages at Chestnut Ridge is buying many properties in the village.

But when development opposition leader Holly Roche asked Mayor Mark Berentsen how the village paid its bills when the state open meetings law requires a full board meeting to do, Berentsen remained silent. Which further angered the crowd.

"You're a disgrace to the village," said John Kahrs.

A few minutes later — after the crowd questioned Arnold's appointment to the board by Berentsen and the lack of monthly meetings — the 35-minute meeting, the first regular board meeting in four months, was over. And the crowd filed into the cold January night, as frustrated as ever.

"It was short and sweet, but they didn't do anything," said Teek Persaud.


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