Rockland County, NY – Just days after Anthony Mallia, the former Ramapo building inspector, was indicted on charges that he cheated the town out of $150,000 by falsifying records in order to reduce the permit fees on 39 building projects, comes word that three of the developers involved contributed more than $50,000 to campaign committees benefitting the town’s supervisor, Christopher St. Lawrence.
St. Lawrence, Mallia’s superior, was arrested in April and charged with multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy as previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2l3K5mX).
Among the projects that have come under scrutiny are 12 houses that are part of the Viola Estates development, reported The Journal News.
A lawsuit filed by Orthodox Jewish neighbors against the project, the first instance of Orthodox Jewish Ramapo residents challenging Orthodox Jewish developers, alleges that Mallia turned a blind eye to illegal accessory apartments included in the plans, quadrupling the number of units.
Building fees in the town are based on construction costs and Mallia is accused of fudging the permit costs to benefit developers. Properties in the Viola Estates project were charged a permit fee of $3,241 per building, based on a construction cost of $350,000. But with records showing the homes at more than 5,500 square feet each, the actual construction cost would be in the $550,000 range, which should have translated into a permit fee of $5,041 on each of the 12 homes in question.
Mallia’s own home in Airmont boasts a $200,000 addition that was done by the developer of the Viola Estates project.
Ramapo town policy dictates construction costs of $100 per square foot, but permits for several other buildings under scrutiny were also issued at lesser amounts. A permit for a $240,000 square foot office building currently under construction on Route 306 and Second Street in Monsey’s business district lists construction costs at $1 million, while under the town’s building formulas the construction should have been listed at $2.4 million.
Another inequity that surfaced involves a firehouse currently under construction in Hillcrest, adjacent to New Square. A permit issued to the project called for a fee based on a $9.9 million construction cost, while a 2014 permit issued to the United Talmudical Academy in Spring Valley, a building estimated to be five times the size of the firehouse, listed construction costs at only $5 million. It is unclear if Mallia overestimated the fees on the firehouse project or underestimated the amount on the yeshiva property.
No property owners or developers have been charged with any wrongdoing and district attorney Thomas Zugibe has maintained that there is no evidence that Mallia received any personal benefit from his actions. But Michael Castullucio of Preserve Ramapo, which has come out strongly against development in Ramapo, said that there is a direct link between the breaks awarded to developers and the Orthodox Jewish bloc vote that has consistently turned out in support of St. Lawrence.
“We think he was put in that position to maybe help leverage Chris’ connection with the bloc with these kind of favors,” said Castellucio.