ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. -- William Cuomo has lived in the same house on Lake Street for the past 35 years and is worried about where he will go now that the entire street has received eviction notices from the Town of Ramapo.
The eviction of the residents from 15 homes wasn't an overnight decision or an easy decision to make, city officials say.
The homes, most built in the 1850's, are owned by the town, which collects rents each month and has to maintain the structures. Many have major code violations and the fire inspector says the neighborhood needs a second roadway and a bridge to make sure that firefighters can access the area.
The land and homes were purchased in 2009 by former Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence as part of a larger purchased from the Ramapo Land Company. The purchase became part of St. Lawrence's fraud trial in which he was convicted of securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 27.
Ramapo sent the tenants eviction letters in late September, giving them until the end of November to move out of the homes, in which many have lived since they were children.
Acting Supervisor Yitzchock Ullman said the town is committed to helping the tenants find new homes and that the residents don't have to pay their last two months rent to help cover moving costs.
“We completely understand the disruption this will cause the residents, which is why we sent a representative to meet with each one and committed to working with all of them to help find new housing, Ullman said. "This site was purchased nearly a decade ago under the previous supervisor. The unfortunate reality is that even under the best circumstances the town was losing money each year renting these properties out."
Ullman added that the town is facing repair costs of close to one million dollars.
"The town taxpayers simply cannot afford to keep these properties, which is why we have decided to subdivide the property, rezone it as a commercial space, and convert this money-losing property into a taxable site that can reduce taxes for everyone in town," he added.
Cuomo, 70, describes the street, also known as the Hamlets of Ramapo, as one where all the neighbors know each other and help one another. All of the families have lived there for years, and many are trying to figure where to go and what to do.
"The winter is coming and my wife and I are just stressed out about this," he said. "I thought I would live the rest of my life here."
The former machinist for a dog food plant and a school custodian, calls the other residents shell-shocked and many don't have the means to pack up and move.
"The town is just hard-hearted when comes to getting us out," he added. "I would like to get a mouthpiece (an attorney) who can help us fight, but none of us can afford one and know where to find one."
But town officials promise no one is going to be left sitting on the curb. They plan to help the residents as much as possible to find new places to live.
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