Orangtown Supervisor Paul Whalen reacted strongly Sunday to comments made by Allan Ryff, his opponent in Tuesday’s Republican primary.
Ryff took out a full-page add in last week’s issue of the Our Town, half of which was questioning Whalen on issues such as bonds, the use of outside attorneys by the town and the Orangetown Commons project.
“I don’t mind anybody challenging me or feeling they have a better way to do things,” Whalen said. “I say don’t tell me what you are going to do, show me what you are going to do. Show me what you’ve done.
“What’s so offensive to me is that in the political arena, people use character assassinations. They use incorrect facts. They are offensive. One reason we have such a crisis today in political leaders is most people that are capable and have the ability to make a difference don’t want to get in the middle of the mudslinging.”
Whalen and Ryff are facing off in one of the Republican primaries that could have a major impact in Orangetown when the polls open at 6 a.m. Tuesday. In another, incumbent District 16 Rockland County Legislator John Murphy, who has held the position since 1971, is being challenged Andrew Wiley of Pearl River.
Ryff, 65, did serve on the town council in 1990, is a former director of Human Services for the Bergen County Department of Family Guidance. He left for the private sector, working in real estate for A&P Supermarkets, eventually becoming director of real estate before retiring.
“I think I have the balance between having been in the public sector as well as the private sector,” Ryff said. "The reason I’m running is I feel that the Whalen administration said it was going to take a business approach. What we have is a caricature of the emperor’s new clothes.
“I would never try to demonize Paul. He’s a genuinely nice person. This is just a policy disagreement.”
Ryff had actually worked on Whalen’s previous campaign for supervisor. Whalen said that Ryff only came to one meeting, while Ryff said they met weekly. According to Whalen, he even wrote words of support for Whalen in a letter asking the Republican Committee for its support in his bid to run for the Orangetown Town Council this year, praising Whalen and Councilmen Denis Troy and Tom Diviny for their pursuit of “clean industries to strengthen our tax base.”
Whalen also said that in the letter, Ryff said he would not force a primary if he was not chosen. The Republican Committee gave its support to Paul Valentine and Thomas Morr for the two open seats on the Orangetown Town Council.
“He says that and then he comes in with 450 signatures on a petition to try to force me out of office,” Whalen said. “Does that make sense? It’s bizarre.”
Going into the primary, Ryff says he know he is the underdog.
“I don’t have the support of the party," Ryff said. "But in terms of the primary, I wouldn’t be in this if I didn’t think I could win. It’s all based on how you get people out.”
“People should know that every day I am here in the town hall, the decisions I make are for the people of Orangetown and not my own political gain," Whalen said. "I don’t have any interest in being a great politician. I have worked hard since I have been in office. I enjoy what I do. I appreciate the residents of this town.
“There are no finer people than those who live and work in Orangetown. It’s a pleasure and an honor to work on their behalf. That’s why I want to stay as supervisor, to continue to make a difference and to make sure the taxpayers and residents always get the best outcome in town hall.”
Ryff is only on the ballot for the Republicans, while Whalen is also on with the Conservative and Independence lines, so if Ryff were to win Tuesday’s primary, there would be three candidates on the ballot in November – Ryff, Whalen and Democrat Andy Stewart.
“I would expect Paul to do the right thing if I carry the Republican banner,” Ryff said. “I would expect him to urge people to vote for the Republican.”
Whalen said that will not happen.
“I have to stay in the election,” Whalen said. “Andy Stewart, my Democratic opponent, would become the new town supervisor. A Republican, because there are such a small amount of them in Orangetown, cannot win without the Independence and Conservative lines.”
Ryff said he did not believe that, but it is clear there would be a three-way race if Ryff wins Tuesday.
Ryff explained his change of heart as a reaction to what he sees from Whalen.
“What started it was the lack of transparency he promised,” Ryff said. “Things would show up on town board agendas that would be added at the last moment.”
Points of Contention
Ryff complained in an advertisement that, “Why did Supervisor Whalen tell us taxes increased at the lowest rate in 10 years, but didn’t mention that millions were taken from the “rainy day” fund to do it.” Whalen said using reserves is nothing new for the town council.
Another point of contention is bond debt. Ryff has pointed to the town’s bond indebtedness increasing to nearly $75 million during Whalen’s two years in office.
“How much has been bonded since I’ve been here? $1.6 million for the Clarkstown landfill that the town was liable for,” Whalen said. “We could have been stuck for $6 million. But we have great attorneys, so it is only $1.6 million for dumping that we did there from 1955 until it closed in 1985. That is the only bonding we’ve done since I’ve been here.”
Ryff also criticized the decision to use outside attorneys to deal with labor relations rather than the town attorneys. Whalen said he felt it was more important to have attorneys who specialize in labor negotiations do the work.
“He said that a company relocating here and bringing in employees is not job creation?” Whalen said. “What does that mean? If they bring 20 people here and hire 40 more, that isn’t bringing jobs here?”
Ryff claims that FedEx was actually a project of former Supervisor Thomas Kleiner, not Whalen’s.
He also claimed that Whalen and the town council should not take credit for keeping Pfizer or Verizon in town. He said those were corporate decisions. Whalen argued that both would have pulled out of Orangetown entirely if not for his and the town board's intervention.
The town board granted Orange & Rockland a temporary license to build on town land so it’s substation project could continue while approval went through the state Legislature. Whalen said that Verizon would have left for Littleton, CO, if the project did not continue because Verizon needed the additional power.
“We would have lost Verizon,” Whalen said. “I signed a document to allow them to use park land prior to state approval. Don’t tell me that was just a corporate decision.”
Ryff has also accused Whalen of taking campaign contributions from vendors doing business with the town, but the largest dispute seems to be over the Orangetown Commons project. Orangetown Commons is a proposed development on Route 303 that would include at least one hotel and two retail outlets, including a Stop and Shop Supermarket.
Ryff was among those who criticized the town council for not approving a request to change the plan for Orangetown Commons in July to get the long-delayed project moving forward. The entire board was against the move, citing the need to fully examine the new plan and the desire to hold a vote in the fall rather than the summer, when many people are away.
“I’m doing my due diligence,” Whalen said. “These are board members who work part-time. Until they completely understand it, how can you ask them to vote for it?
“The owner of the property owed the town $550,000 and finally paid. As soon as they paid, they want to know why we can’t get things done overnight. You should have paid us four years ago. They write a check and now they think they can change documents and do what they want. I work for people. I don’t work for builders or special interests.”
Whalen questioned Ryff’s own interests a supermarket is part of the plan for Orangetown Commons, though it is a Stop and Shop and Ryff worked for A&P.
“He is a supermarket executive for A&P and there they are running full-page ads to attack me,” Whalen said. “I wear it as a badge of courage. I was elected by the people to protect their interests. If it means losing the election, so be it.”
While Ryff has criticized Whalen for a lack of transparency in the town council, something that has been brought up by other critics, Whalen has responded questioning Ryff’s honesty.
“It’s all lies,” Whalen said. ”It’s all deception. That’s what is really sad. I don’t worry about my own election. The people will judge me on my merits.”
Polls Open: 6 a.m.
Polls Close: 9 p.m.
Republican Party Primaries
Orangetown Supervisor: Incumbent Paul Whalen of Nanuet, Allan Ryff of Tappan
Rockland County Legislature, District 16: Incumbent John Murphy of Orangeburg, Andrew Wiley of Pearl River
Democratic Party Primaries
Orangetown Town Council (select two): Elijah Reichlin-Melnick of Nyack, Robert Dell of Tappan and Gerald Bottari Sr. of Blauvelt
Rockland County Sherriff: Tim O’Neill of Stony Point, Louis Falco of Blauvelt.
Family Court Justice: Ed Kallen of New City, Karen Riley of Suffern, Sherri Eisenpress of Valley Cottage, Itamar Yeger of Spring Valley
Editor's note: Candidates are listed with town mailing addresses.
Polling Locations In Orangetown (with election districts)
Pearl River 10965
- Pearl River Public Library, 80 Franklin Avenue (9, 17, 20, 28)
- St. Margaret’s Church, Toner Hall, Summit (10, 29, 34, 54)
- Pearl River High School, Pirate Cove, Holt Drive (19, 23, 30, 53)
- Evans Elementary Park School, 40 Marion Place (24, 43)
- Nauraushan Presbyterian Church, 51 Sickletown Road (25, 45)
- St. John’s Catholic Church, 895 Piermont Avenue (1, 14, 33)
- Depew Manor, 60 Depew Avenue (2, 7)
- Grace Episcopal Church, 130 First Avenue (8, 15)
- Nyack Community Ambulance Corps., 251 N. Midland Avenue (18)
- BOCES – St. Ann’s School, Religious Ed. Room, 33 Jefferson Street (5, 46)
South Nyack 10960
- Living Christ Church, South Broadway & Voorhis Avenue (11, 48)
- Hilltop Administration, 13A Dickinson Avenue 32 (also C-49)
- John Paulding Engine Co. #1, 520 Route 340 13, 42, 47
- Thorpe Village, All Purpose Room, 6 Thorpe Drive 16
- St. Catharine’s School, 517 Western Highway 3, 22, 26, 40, 41
- Esplanade Palisades, 640 Oak Tree Road (12, 50)
- Orangetown Town Hall, 26 Orangeburg Road (55, 56, 57)
- Rockland Psychiatric Center, Bldg. #58, 140 Old Orangeburg Road (36)
- William O. Schaefer School, 140 Lester Drive (21, 39, 49, 51)