Your Anecdotal Census: Rockland County

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tim Henderson, data analyst for The Journal News, discusses the changing demographics of Rockland County over the last ten years.  Then Renold Julien, executive director of the Konbit Neg Lakay, a Haitian-American community center based in Spring Valley, talks about the Haitian community there.  Marla Cohen, editor of the Rockland Jewish Reporter, joins with changes she has noticed in the secular Jewish community of Rockland County over the past decade.  Later C. Scott Vanderhoef, Rockland County executive, talks about the policy implications of demographic changes in Rockland County.


Marla Cohen, Tim Henderson, Renold Julien and C. Scott Vanderhoef

Comments [32]

Steven White from Spring Valley

The show could have been a lot more informative and lively if the guests weren't all folks whose livelihood is in peril if they tell the truth. The result is a whole lot of gushing about how wonderful things are and nothing about the grinding poverty and brooding hatred that characterize the changes of the past 20 years.

Jul. 25 2010 10:26 AM
Tim from Nyack

I'm not jewish, I'm not haitian. I hardly recognized the Rockland I've lived in for over 50 years on todays show. There is more to Rockland than Monsey, New Square and Spring Valley.

Jul. 23 2010 01:23 AM
Charles smith

the Haitian/American community is lucky to have a community center as Konbit Neg Lakay in Spring Valley. Konbit Neg Lakay has taken the Haitian American community to it's level. Thank you Konbit

Jul. 22 2010 12:09 PM
dboy from nyc

"Others" often suffer to some extent, large or small at the hands of the majority in these exclusive communities...

Jul. 22 2010 11:54 AM
Naomi from New City

I'm kind of sad that they spent the entire show talking about the demographics of the county and race and religion, and mostly negative changes or perceived negative changes. There are positive things happening in Rockland, like the expansion of community-supported agriculture that I mentioned below, an effort which includes and spans all the demographics of the county and actually brings these disparate communities together.

Jul. 22 2010 11:52 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

Pete, I also have a friend (maybe the same one?) who teaches in Ramapo, and I have heard the same thing.

Jul. 22 2010 11:52 AM
dboy from nyc

Is it just me or, does anyone else find isolationist communities, based on strict racial or religious criteria, irksome???

What's up with this?

Jul. 22 2010 11:51 AM
Pete from brooklyn

My friend is a teacher in Ramapo, and most of the kids are Black and Hispanic, but ironically a lot of the members of the school board are orthodox so there is some disjunction between the board and the students which has caused some inequities in funding for those students. I don't think it's intentional at all, but arises from the fact that that the orthodox community doesn't have the same personal investment of having their children enrolled.

Jul. 22 2010 11:45 AM
Navi from Spring Valley

I love rockland, but ask anyone in rockland what's happening to the east ramapo school district and they will tell you its a trajedy

Jul. 22 2010 11:45 AM


it would be sooo nice when people will stop paying attention to race and religion..
we are all The Creators children,,many have callled to say its a friendly place
is it not that , that is more important?

Jul. 22 2010 11:43 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

The scuttlebutt that I hear from relatives and friends who work in the Clarkstown schools and send their kids there is that it ain't what it used to be. But it's still riding on the reputation from its glory days, hence the outrageous taxes.

Jul. 22 2010 11:39 AM
Hillary from Nyack

I grew up in New City and remember learning pretty late on in childhood that not everyone was jewish. Such a different experience from other non-orthodox jewish children just miles away. All the jews in the neighborhood would go to the one house with christmas lights to enjoy-- as a kid i didn't even realize that this meant my friend who lived there wasn't jewish. My old neighborhood is now mixed-religion, but predominantly jewish still, i suspect.

Jul. 22 2010 11:38 AM

I grew up in New City and remember learning pretty late on in childhood that not everyone was jewish. Such a different experience from other non-orthodox jewish children just miles away. All the jews in the neighborhood would go to the one house with christmas lights to enjoy-- as a kid i didn't even realize that this meant my friend who lived there wasn't jewish. My old neighborhood is now mixed-religion, but predominantly jewish still, i suspect.

Jul. 22 2010 11:38 AM
Ellen Hughes from Pearl River

A big change in Rockland County has been the change in political representation. After the 2000 census, the county was divided into three congressional districts, rather than the one district it had been part of prior to that. We lost our great Congressman Benjamin Gilman and are now represented by three people -- all of whom have less seniority than Gilman did. My congressman, Eliot Engel, represents Rockland, parts of Westchester and the Bronx. Rockland continues to be the "bastard" step-child of the New York Metropolitan area.

Jul. 22 2010 11:38 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

I know that when I was growing up there (in the 70s and 80s), a huge number of my friends were from families who were originally from NYC (especially Brooklyn and the Bronx) and who fled the city for the suburban life and especially the better public schools. I wonder if that is still true?

Jul. 22 2010 11:31 AM
Irene from Blauvelt

Rockland county is filled with people who wish it never changed from the closed of, country side place it was in the 60's when they first moved there. They're against the mall, the deteriorating Tappan Zee Bridge and other changes. They don't realize that Rockland is changing and having malls, a possible direct train link to NYC on the new bridge and new development would only make Rockland an economically better place and bring in new young people to live there, who now don't even know where Rockland is

Jul. 22 2010 11:30 AM
Ron from Monsey

Apropos of political conflict, it is worth noting that the Orthodox Jewish population has "captured" the East Ramapo school board, even though the Orthodox Jews do not send their children to the public schools. (They send their children to yeshivas, Orthodox Jewish day schools.) The Orthodox-dominated school board has been starving the district of money and dismantling its educational infrastructure. This has harmed the black community mostly, leading to strained relations between the Orthodox and black communities.

Jul. 22 2010 11:29 AM
Maria from Piermont

Much of Rockland, including the town where most of my family resides (Piermont) is completely unaffordable for young renters. I have seen MANY young people move in with their parents or migrate to other regions of NY (especially upstate) where rent and the cost of living is more reasonable. Towns such as Piermont and Nyack have lost much of their appeal as uber wealthy city dwellers have moved from NYC and fostered higher prices all around. The strong sense of community so important to the history of the river towns has diminished substantially due to these changes.

Jul. 22 2010 11:29 AM
Steve Ryba from Westchester

A major issue that no one is mentioning for these towns is that many residents of the of the larger jewish communities, such as Kiryas Joel, are exempt from property taxes but utilize town services. They do not pay property taxes because the homes & land are seen as religious use areas.

Jul. 22 2010 11:27 AM
Boruch from Boro Park

Regarding the question about marrying only religious, as opposed to having a civil license as well, I do not find it to be common at all in my (the Chasidic)community. This is not to say that it never happens, but I am not aware of any such cases in my friends, family, or acquaintances.

Jul. 22 2010 11:27 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Actually, both Joseph & Michael originally come from Hebrew too!

And Brian, I'm sure you did it for the alliteration, but I'm also sure you know that not only aren't all Jews Orthodox (as Ellen just pointed out in her call), but not all Orthodox Jews are Chassidic either. Can you ask Mr. Henderson (btw, it's great that the Journal-News has a demographics reporter!) how much of the Jewish population in Rockland belongs to each branch of Judaism?

Jul. 22 2010 11:20 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

I was working in the Clarkstown town hall more than 20 years ago (summer job while I was in college) during the time the fight over the Pyramid Mall was in full gear, when many people were fighting it - seems many of their worst fears have been realized.

Jul. 22 2010 11:19 AM
john from office

The Hasidic towns are tax drains because the are all section 8 housing, a gift from the clintons. They are do feed of the public pocket book and dont add in taxs.

Unfortunatly, it is becoming Williamsburg and the Bronx.

Jul. 22 2010 11:19 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

Michael, I think you are speaking only of the orthodox Jewish community. As an earlier caller mentioned, there is also a very large reformed Jewish community, and they definitely do attend the public schools.

Jul. 22 2010 11:18 AM

the scuttlebutt is that the orthodox only marry religiously not civilly and are all on welfare - true?

Jul. 22 2010 11:18 AM
Michael from ny

A problem is that the homogeneous Jewish communities vote as a block, especially on school budget issues. Also, they do not send their kids to public schools but they feed at the public trough for special needs funding.

Jul. 22 2010 11:14 AM
Marielle from Brooklyn

My brothers' names are Joseph and Michael - go figure.

Jul. 22 2010 11:12 AM
michelle from Brooklyn

I grew up in Bardonia and went to the Clarkstown schools. I always said that everyone I knew was either Irish, Italian, or Jewish. If this caller is correct, that hasn't changed yet, but it sounds like it may . . .

Jul. 22 2010 11:10 AM
Tim from Nyack

The Tappan Zee Bridge brought my family to Rockland over 50 years ago, now they are talking about a new bridge. I wonder how that will change the county... My fear is that South Nyack will be doomed (again). The biggest change is the pandering by the local and state politicians to the orthodox bloc vote in Ramapo.

Jul. 22 2010 10:57 AM

Having lived in Rockland for the past 20 years the most obvious change has been an surge in development beyond demand.
In my development there is a street which was obviously once a cul-de-sac, but is now leads into a developments of McMansions.
While I like to think that these ornate houses will boost real estate values in adjoining developments, the reality is that a lot of these house lie vacant because people can't afford them but there still knocking down trees.

Jul. 22 2010 10:22 AM
Naomi Camilleri from New City

There has been an amazing change in Rockland in the last few years: sustainable community-supported agriculture! Having been raised in Rockland in the 70s, left in '82 and returned in '97, I have witnessed the rather sad rise of housing developments and the loss of open space and farmland that made this county so wild and beautiful. But there is now an organized, concerted effort to turn this around and to preserve some of the farmlands that once serviced Manhattan, for our local community here. John McDowell and his wife Alexandra started the first CSA in Rockland County, now in its second year, and then formed
the Rockland Farm Alliance. The RFA just acquired 5 acres from a former farm (thus preserving it from future development) to start another CSA to service more community members. We are bringing farms back to Rockland, and this time it is by the community and for the community.

Naomi Camilleri
Member, Board of Directors, Rockland Farm Alliance

Jul. 22 2010 10:09 AM

Rockland had a great thing going for 3 years with the Riverspace Arts Center. Then the folks running it decided to abandon the arts mission to focus on a real estate scheme. That's was a horrible decision for the arts in Rockland.

Jul. 22 2010 08:42 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.