Monsey Memories: Suzanne Lake
By: Yitzy Fried
Suzanne Lake holds many memories for Monsey residents over many generations. Decades of strolling around the lake, and performing tashlich there during the Yomim Nora’im, and having an attractive body of water in the midst of a residential neighborhood.
But not many are aware of the history of this manmade lake which is so intertwined with the history of the area itself
Around 1940, Mr. Jay Ellish (namesake of Ellish Parkway) was one of the largest landowners in the area. One property of about eighty-five acres contained within it a swampy section which is today the lake, and Ellish decided to develop the property, building a large number of homes all around the lake.
He called the development Fanley Woods, due to the nearby Fanley Avenue, and named a couple of streets within it for himself and his family members—and this is what they continue to be called to this day.
In order to raise the value of the homes, he erected a water dam which would raise the water level, and create a real lake where it was previously just swampy land.
While the lake remained privately owned by Mr. Ellish, he allowed the residents to use it for boating and swimming in the summer, and skating in the summer. A number of years later, residents brought sand to the edge of the water in order to create an artificial beach for the swimmers.
A major halachic dilemma was presented with regard to describing the name of the lake when writing a get—something that Rabbonim from Monsey and beyond have grappled with decades ago, in the early days.
However, the incredible amount of filth that ran into the water made swimming unsafe. No matter how much cleaning they did, it was still never enough. During those years, the area struggled mightily with the accumulated filth and debris—a far cry from the originally-intended natural attraction.
Throughout the 1980’s, many repairs were made, after the dam fell into disrepair. The Ramapo highway Authority also contributed to cleaning up the lake, and in recent year, a multi-million dollar project has been proposed to beautify the lake—ensuring that it will be an natural oasis in the center of a rapidly-growing Monsey community.