Friday, December 28, 2018
More than six years after construction began on the controversial Chestnut Ridge development, more than half of the first 113 townhouses to be built sit empty, no homes have been sold in the last 14 months, and the developer left prison in November with an uncertain future for his project.
Shalom Lamm was sentenced in federal court a year ago and served 10 months for fraudulently registering voters who didn't live in Bloomingburg in order to gain a Hasidic voting majority in the tiny Sullivan County village to elect candidates for mayor and trustees in 2014. He was released on Nov. 15, according to federal prison records.
Lamm didn't respond to phone messages left at his Long Island home and the Wurtsboro Airport, which he owns, to discuss his plans for Chestnut Ridge.
His company, Sullivan Farms II, completed more than a quarter of the 396 approved townhouses by 2017, but has sold only 51, according to Sullivan County property records and a lawsuit filed this year to challenge the homes' tax assessments. Three other units are being used as a synagogue.
The remaining 59 townhouses are unoccupied, including whole rows of homes that are enclosed behind a chain-link fence with locked gates.
Sullivan County records show that Sullivan Farms II transferred ownership of all of those empty homes, plus the 283 undeveloped building lots, to an entity called SFII Properties LLC on Nov. 26, shortly after Lamm was released from prison. Lamm has been connected with SFII Properties in the past, according to court records, but the entity is now based in Lakewood, N.J., and Yitzhok Gross signed the deed transfer on its behalf.
One side in the split Satmar Hasidic movement initially viewed Chestnut Ridge with excitement as the potential start of a Catskills counterpart to Kiryas Joel, the long-established village 25 miles to the south that is controlled by the other Satmar branch. But after a series of court fights over the project and Lamm's arrest, interest clearly petered out. Most home sales took place in 2016; the last was in October 2017.
Bloomingburg issued no certificates of occupancy at the development this year, and has no pending applications for building permits there.
The mayor, Russell Wood Jr., didn't respond to a message left for him at Village Hall to discuss the project.
Nine contractors who supplied materials or worked on Chestnut Ridge's townhouses filed liens on the homes in February, alleging that Sullivan Farms II owed them a combined $438,423 for tiles, hardwood floors, electrical wiring and other services and supplies.
Chestnut Ridge townhouses are listed for sale at either $325,000 or $345,000, which are high prices for attached homes in Sullivan County. All units are 2,500 square feet and have three bedrooms.
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