FEMA Center in Piermont
Following lobbying from public officials including Senator Chuck Schumer, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has opened a second disaster recover center for Rockland County in the Village of Piermont.
Residents can visit the center to learn about making claims for damages sustained during Hurricane Sandy. Residents can also get information about low interest loans for repairs to homes and businesses from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The center is located at Village Hall, 478 Piermont Ave, and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The center will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.
Shooting in Nyack
A 31-year-old, Village of Suffern, man was shot through the leg this past week in Nyack. The incident occurred on Sunday in the early morning hours, around 3:30 a.m.
The victim got into an argument in a parking lot off of Main Street in downtown Nyack. The man had been out at several bars with friends before the shooting happened. After the shot, the victim’s friends took the man to Nyack Hospital for treatment. According to police, the investigation is ongoing.
Prostitution Ring Busted
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced today the unsealing of a 180 county indictment against 19 people and one corporation involved in a complex prostitution based money-laundering scheme.
The indictment is result of a 16-month joint operation with the New York Police Department and the Attorney General’s office. The operation also rescued two women in the scheme who were victims of human trafficking. They are now both in safe havens.
According the indictment, the illegal operations were being run out of the offices of Somad Enterprises, Inc., an ad agency based out of Manhattan.
The defendants are facing charges of money laundering, falsifying business records, promoting prostitution, A-II felony narcotics possession and B felony narcotics sales. If convicted they could each face up to 25 years in prison.
According to the Town of Ramapo Police, A tree cutter, Leslie Branch, 44, of Spring Valley is facing a charge of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, following an accident involving a tree limb that he was removing earlier this week.
Unemployment in Rockland County
Rockland County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, according to numbers released by the New York State Labor Department this week.
In total the state has added more than 133,000 private sector jobs since October 2011. During the same time frame, the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance in the state decreased by 8.2 percent, from 102,041 to 93,645.
Currently in Rockland County the unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent.
Lawmaker’s Pay Hike Blown Away by Sandy
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the last thing most people are thinking of is a pay raise for state lawmakers.
These lawmakers’ salaries have not changed since 1999, though a special meeting was supposed to have been held after the election to address a potential pay increase. Governor Cuomo decided not to call this meeting, focusing instead on repairing the damage done by the storm. Now, it is not likely that a meeting will be held any time prior to the end of this year.
Polls taken prior to Sandy showed that approximately 80 percent of New Yorkers were against a pay raise for lawmakers. Now that millions, possibly billions, of dollars are going to be put toward recovery from the storm, the number of people opposed will likely go up.
Due to the postponement of the meeting, and a law in the state Constitution, the salary cannot be raised until at least 2015. Lawmakers are not allowed to increase their salary during their two-year terms of office and term ends on December 31 for all senators and assemblyman.
Governor Cuomo’s meeting was also going to address a possible increase in minimum wage and the introduction of publicly financed elections. These issues are expected to be addressed in January. A rumor that Republicans in the Senate are working with the Independent Democratic Conference to gain control of the Senate has been denied, and Democrats are split when it comes to choosing their majority leader.
Documentary Claims O.J. Simpson may be Innocent
Glen Rogers, an American serial killer who murdered between 70 and 80 people, may also be the one responsible for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.
Rogers bragged to his brother, Clay Rogers, about killing 50 people, though Clay only took him seriously after finding a rotting corpse in a building on family property in Minnesota. Already on death row for other murders, Rogers told a criminal profiler that he was the one responsible for the murders of Simpson and Goldman.
There seems to be evidence supporting his claims. In an ID documentary, he claims to have been partying with Simpson and told his family over the phone, “[I’m] going to take her down.” There are receipts showing that Rogers was doing construction in the area at the time. Rogers was also able to give an exact account of the way the murders happened, filling in details that police and prosecutors had not been able to work out.
OJ Simpson knew the killer, but did not report him prior to arrest or during trial because doing so may have incriminated him further. Rogers says OJ paid him to steal a $20,000 pair of earrings he had given to Simpson as a gift, adding that he should kill her if necessary.
Unlicensed Contractors Cleaning Up after Sandy
As home improvement companies work to repair the damage done by Hurricane Sandy, the Rockland County consumer protection department is sorting out the issue of unlicensed contractors coming to help out.
The rise in unlicensed contractors is not unexpected, as workers file in from other counties to assist in the removal of trees and the reparation of damaged homes and buildings. Still, however, the department has had to issue many summonses.
Licenses for home improvement contractors are valid for two years and cost $650 to obtain. Though criminal penalties are rarely enforced for not having a license, it can be counted as a misdemeanor charge. Normally, there is a fine of up to $3000 per offense after the first time, which carries a fine of up to $1000.
Other areas do not require licenses, so workers coming into Rockland are unaware of the law. Licensed contractors are becoming frustrated, as they have to collect he required sales tax, while those without a license do not.
The consumer protection department is offering temporary licenses, as they understand it is an emergency circumstance, and are encouraging people to report any unlicensed contractors.
Rockland County Sheriff’s Officer Suspended
A Rockland County Sheriff’s officer was suspended without pay after losing his gun during an encounter with two men, sparked by road rage, on November 10 in Ramapo.
Officer James “Garrett” Clapp has been suspended for at least 30 days, as the investigation into the incident is still ongoing. He awaits a disciplinary hearing, where he will face possible dismissal.
The department has already filed the following violations: gross misconduct, conduct unbecoming an officer, failure to identify himself as an officer, and failure to safeguard department weapons. The results of the investigation may add more charges to that list.
Clapp has served as a police officer for 14 years, working as part of the mounted unit as well. In those 14 years, there have been no known issues aside from this one.
At around 2:58 a.m. on November 10, Clapp left his vehicle to confront two other men, Jose and Gregory Lopez of Haverstraw. The men had been flashing their high beams, and sped around his car multiple times on Route 45. During the struggle between the men, Clapp lost possession of his gun, Jose and Gregory driving away with it. Clapp followed, phoning the police, and Stony Point police on Route 210 stopped all three.
Neither group pressed charges after being brought to the Ramapo police headquarters for questioning.
Timeline for Possible Summit Park Given by Lawyers
At Wednesday’s meeting of the Rockland County Legislature Budget and Finance Committee, the Harris Beach law firm presented a plan for the creation of a Local Development Corporation (LDC), which would help with the sale of the Summit Park Health Facility.
C. Todd Miles and Shawn Griffin proposed a public hearing for the December 4 meeting of the Committee, which is required before the facility can be transferred to the LDC. The legislature would also be expected to vote that day. If approved, the transfer would be completed by the end of this year, and the LDC will be known as the Rockland County Health Facilities Corporation.
The LDC would only take over the facility of Summit Park while looking for another buyer. The best proposal will be chosen and a contract negotiated in the early months of 2013. Once this is done, the buyer must then meet the approval of the NYS Department of Health. The purchase would not be complete until the beginning or middle of 2014, as gaining approval could take between 12 and 18 months.
Legislators are being pushed to vote in favor of this transfer, because they would no longer need to worry about the loss of money from the nursing home. The building would no longer be their responsibility. No one is going to be removed from his or her place at Summit Park, though the county and the LDC will be looking at ways to maximize the value of the building.
New Grant From Cuomo for Hurricane Relief
On November 19, Governor Cuomo announced a grant from FEMA that would assist those areas most affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The $8.2 million grant was requested by the State Office of Mental Health, which will set up something known as “Project Hope.” This project will provide a Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program for New Yorkers. Those in New York City, Long Island, and the Lower Hudson Valley will receive educational services and crisis counseling to combat the mental and emotional effects of the storm.
The program will be a collaboration between FEMA and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and state and local governments. Nearly 1,000 crisis counselors and nearly 100 Office of Mental Health staff members will work together to assist those in need.
Anyone who is experiencing emotional distress caused by the storm is encouraged to call LifeNet for free, confidential crisis counseling, available 24/7. Their number is 1-800-543-3638.
Annabi Receives 6-Year Sentence
A former Yonkers City Councilwoman was sentenced on Monday to six years in federal prison on charges of conspiracy, extortion, and bribery. The former city Republican Party leader received a four-year sentence on the same charges.
Sandy Annabi, 42, and Zehy Jereis, 40, were found guilty in March, prior to the sentencing given by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan’s Federal Court. McMahon denied requests from the defense, who were free on bail, to remain free while appealing their convictions. They must begin serving their prison terms by March 4.
Annabi and Jereis were also both sentenced to two years of supervised release, and must pay back over $1 million in legal fees, loans and bribes, portions of their salaries, etc.
Jereis is accused of having given Annabi almost $200,000 in exchange for her vote on crucial City Council issues, including the Ridge Hill development and attempts to turn what was the Longfellow School into upscale housing. Voting in favor of these two things went against Annabi’s personal view of what was best for the people of Yonkers.
Gifts were also included among the bribes, the jury not believing they were merely tokens of Jereis’s love for Annabi.
In addition to the charges of extortion, bribery, and conspiracy, Annabi was charged with three counts of making a false statement to a bank and two counts of filing false tax returns. Jereis was charged with making corrupt payments.
Pearl River Man Charged After Alarming Phone Calls
A man from Pearl River was arrested Friday, accused of making anti-Israeli phone calls to synagogues and a Jewish community center.
James Schroeter, 24, called these places to share his disapproval of Israel’s current role in the conflict in the Middle East, where rockets are being launched against them from Gaza. He did not make any direct threats.
The synagogues targeted by Schroeter are both located in Upper Nyack, the Congregation Sons of Israel and Temple Beth Torah. The community center, JCC Rockland, is located in West Nyack.
After his arraignment, Schroeter was sent to the Rockland County jail on $3,000 bail. He is due to appear in Clarkstown town Justice Court at 1:30 p.m. Monday, facing a misdemeanor charge of second-degree aggravated harassment.