By Jennifer L. Warren
NEW WINDSOR – Edie Johnson lovingly recalls coming to the Cornwall area as a teenager, falling in love with the enrapturing, mountainous backdrop and lush landscape. Later in life, she returned, and chose for the past 24 years to make Blooming Grove her home for those very reasons, along with the passion she has for the nearby wildlife who share her piece of Hudson Valley heaven.
However, all of that was disrupted in May, 2022, when the Clovewood Development 708 acre property Project, seeking to nearly double the 4000 South Blooming Grove population with its 600 new homes, set to be built at the former Lake Anne Country Club Site off Clove Road on 208 set up shop. Johnson, along with many of her surrounding neighbors, soon developed and began to adamantly express tangible concerns about the profound environmental and quality-of-life impacts such a project would produce.
Those worries quickly evolved into serious fears, as it was discovered that the developer, Keen Equities LLC, lacked the required permit coverage ensuring it had taken the necessary steps to prevent soil erosion and muddy runoff from cleared property during heavy rains. As a result, “Stop Work” orders (for all pre-construction activity at the site until required permits had been secured) were mandated by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) but blatantly ignored. Five more “Stop Work” orders-tracing back to May, 2022 – have since been put in effect with the same result. The mounting refusal for the developer to recognize any of these requests along with follow-up letters sent by political officials, including Hudson Valley Senator James Skoufis, has now forced the need for more pressing measures. Skoufis spoke about the insistence upon an even firmer approach Thursday afternoon at the Schunnemunk State Park Trailhead, about five minutes away from the project site.
“We are really going to now be advocating for the DEC to implement fines,” stressed Skoufis regarding the noncompliance as he was surrounded by the picturesque, mountainous backdrop. “We plan on being relentless about making sure these laws are enforced.” Regarding Keen Equities, he added, “They are certainly very aware of the actions being taken, including our meeting today; they should be caring a lot more than they do.”
What is not at doubt is how many people care about the serious issues enveloping this controversial building project. Many of those residents have been regularly sending letters to the DEC as well as to Skoufis’ office (something he encourages continues); still others were in attendance Thursday, wanting to do whatever they can to assist with justice being carried out.
“My main concern is our wildlife and environment is at a precipice,” said Johnson. “This area grew because of the beautiful setting it has, and we are now at risk of losing it, and I would like to see proper oversight, smart planning and fair transparency from all involved.”
Kate Ahmadi, who has resided in Blooming Grove for 55 years, and has seen up-close photos of the aftereffects of the pre-construction activity being carried out without permits, points to the whole story of the situation embedded in these images.
“The Schunnemunk Mountain and all of the trees are being denuded by this project,” said Ahmadi. “The pictures tell you the entire story and how it’s so wrong for them to even proceed.”