Pitchman cometh ... and stayeth

More flood 'mitigation relief' planned in Spring Valley/Ramapo section of Union Road, perhaps an expensive folly.

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Remember the TV pitchman who wanted to sell you “unbelievably inexpensive” land in Florida? Standing before a blown-up, wondrous picture of the golden opportunity, his body obscured ever-sinking swampland. So, a sucker is born every minute. In my part of the universe, that’s been happening since at least 1950.

When I was a young fellow in Spring Valley, N.Y., then still a 5,000-person country village, the push was on for post-World War II suburban housing. One of the first developments to rise was the Valley View Estates, pre-fabricated two-bedroom ranch homes off Union Road at $9,990 per. The group of perhaps 50 homes quickly became known as “Sunken View Estates” since they “rose” on a floodplain only to have their bottoms sink into the natural flood waters of the Pascack Brook, a major tributary of the great Hackensack River running from Rockland County’s mountains into New Jersey. Many municipalities are along its route.

Bad place to build -- my father could have told village and Town of Ramapo “planners” that, as could anyone else who ice skated on the marshland in the 1930s. But in the early 1950s, and from then on for perhaps evermore, land speculators often sold municipal officials a bill of goods, promising tax ratables. Sure, culverts were installed at Sunken View to run some of the water off, and those worked until the next big storm, which in the day were not as frequent as they now are. But quickly enough, more development was added, filling in additional floodplain along the Pascack. Today, construction along Union Road includes many hundreds of units, including apartment houses, schools and multi-family dwellings. And flooding continues unabated in a village with a population now of about 32,000. Why was so much more growth allowed in this area?

The flooding goes on despite very expensive “mitigation,” including a wider bridge over the Pascack that took years to build. The next sucker punch will hit all taxpayers in Rockland, not just those in Ramapo and Spring Valley, who will pay for even more flood “control” after authorization by the County Legislature to borrow  $10 million. The hope is that at least 80 homes will be spared frequent flooding. That’s about $125,000 per house. Perhaps instead the money should be offered as a buyout for the most seriously affected homes and at least part of the land restored to what nature intended.

The only true “mitigation” along this area of the Pascack, already compromised both upstream and downstream in two states by other unwarranted, ill-advised development, is to return the land for a floodplain.

Not going to happen. Instead, the taxpayer, which could include federal ones at some point, will be on the hook to bail out those who should never have bought in floodplains; to remove any responsibility from developers who should not have built there; and to absolve municipal planners who don’t even visit floodplains before construction approval is given.

I bet, too, that there will be even more construction is this heavily populated area.
Ah, a sucker is born every minute, and the clock is ticking.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

art gunther III January 10, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Yes, the " 'approval' process for building ... is just a small part" of the special-interest control of government big and small today, with greed usually the motivation.
Watchdog January 10, 2013 at 02:24 PM
Yes Art, greed in both the private and public sector however the "greed" in the private sector would go unfed without the "help" of our collusive, corrupt government. We cannot control the past but we are aiding and abetting the continuance of this corruption. The Press would rather have an article about Rosies third "wife" than to investigate the collusive dealings in Towns like Clarkstown and Ramapo (Stadium, Patrick Farm, BLOC voting) which is destroying our way of life.
art gunther III January 10, 2013 at 02:51 PM
As a 42-year newspaperman who worked during some of the glory days of local journalism when a full list of subscribers and mom & pop advertising combined to pay a decent staff of go-getting beat and investigative reporters as well as true “Front Page”-type bellowing but brilliant editors, it is sad to see the watchdog role dwindle. My fellow newspaper stiffs helped put some politicos in jail and secured government reform. Some of that probing, ink-stained tribe still exists, and they do try to undercover wrongdoing, but there are not enough of them. They cost money, which is not there in the subscriber/ad base. The free press is and was never “free.”
Watchdog January 10, 2013 at 03:12 PM
Thanks for pointing that out. However the endorsements usually go to those supporting an Agenda and transgressions go un or under reported. The undoing of the subscriber base is a direct result of this Agenda driven " mainstream" media, no where more apparent than this latest posting of maps of gun owners, one of which is " located" in a home I purchased in 1987 from a person who is now deceased. No one in my family ever owned a gun yet a home owned by us is listed and mapped.
art gunther III January 10, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Well, "the undoing of the subscriber base" is way beyond any criticism of "mainstream media" (probably as too "liberal," a vague and loose word). When I began at The Journal-News in 1964, almost every new suburban family immediately subscribed to my paper, so much so that our circulation increased by about 40 percent in the last few years of the 1960s. But by the mid-1980s, even before the Internet and quick "word bites," newer generations mostly did not read newspapers. And too few Rocklanders even cared about local news, which we were reporting well unless it was crime reports. The morphing of suburbia brings us to even fewer readers and questioners.


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