Suffern Commuters Complain to NJ Transit about Homeless Issue
The presence of homeless men sleeping in Suffern train shelters has prompted several Rockland commuters to speak up on the matter, urging NJ Transit to resolve the issue. According to a recent Journal News piece, homeless men often sleep on the glass shelters’ heated floors, leaving trash behind and making commuters nervous. Passengers have asked NJ Transit and Suffern Police to investigate for years, but complaints have often gone unaddressed. The issue had been addressed to some small extent by Suffern Police, who according to commuter Gediah Friedenberg had previously worked with NJ Transit to bring the homeless into contact with local shelters. The police might also have the authority to merely remove the men from the space, given railroad regulations limiting occupancy of the shelters strictly to passengers. In response to the article, NJ Transit vowed to investigate the issue and take further action as needed, but did not provide specifics on potential solutions or a timetable.
New Census Report Shows 1 in 3 U.S. Counties are Dying
Estimates from the 2012 Census released Thursday have highlighted jarring demographic shifts in U.S. migration and population, with one in three U.S. counties effectively “dying off” from population loss. The figures suggest that many rural and urban areas have experienced a “natural decrease” in population where deaths outpace births. New York City had perhaps the biggest shift, taking the top spot for both outward-bound young residents and inward-bound recent immigrants. Overall, Recession-era slowdowns of migration seem to be ending, but population growth remains low. Immigration seems to have played a big role in stabilizing populations, with recent migrants coming in as young people move out for work and the elderly pass on. Regionally, the Northeast was subject to an overall population decrease of 0.3 percent and the Midwest saw a 0.25 percent decrease, while both the West and South each saw population increases of just over 1 percent.
U.N. Arms Treaty Sets Sights on Arms Transfers
U.N. negotiators will convene this week to continue work on a new treaty regulating weapon transfer agreements and regulate arms distributors, continuing a push stemming from a previous agreement on arms transfers failed to gain traction in July, rhe current draft resolution would prohibit ratifying countries from approving transfers which would violate U.N. embargoes or provide guns which may be used in atrocities, organized criminal activities, or terrorist acts. The ratifying country would bear the responsibility of verifying an arms purchaser’s intent.Though it would not affect most gun owners, it has come under strong criticism by weapon lobbies, second amendment advocates in Congress, and the National Rifle Association, among other entities. U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R – Pennsylvania) and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R –Kansas) have already introduced bipartisan resolutions in the House and Senate opposing the law.
Nine State Coalition Demands New Leadership over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley joined a nine state coalition calling for the removal of Federal Housing and Finance Agency (FHFA) Acting Director Edward DeMarco, who oversaw Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the lead up to the recession. Schneiderman claimed DeMarco opposes principal write-downs which would function as a limited loan forgiveness program for struggling homeowners. Schneiderman went on to explain his support for loan modifications which would lighten the continued effects of the mortgage crisis and argued that policies such as DeMarco’s function as an “obstruction” to state efforts. Support for loan modifications is not a new development for Schneiderman, who participated as lead negotiator of the joint state-federal National Mortgage Settlement, which required the five leading mortgage servicers to pay a $25 billion penalty in the form of homeowner relief efforts, principal reductions, and underwater mortgage refinancing programs.
New York to Increase Minimum Wage to $9 Dollars
New York State came to an agreement to raise the minimum wage from the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour to $9 on March 18, becoming the twentieth state to do so. The deal, which was brokered by negotiators in both the House and Senate, will create an incremental increase, with the minimum wage rising to $8 in 2014, $8.50 in 2015, and reaching $9 in 2016. Meanwhile, in a measure pushed by Senate negotiators, tipped food service workers will retain a smaller minimum wage at $6.21 by 2016. Policy groups have largely supported the measure, which they claim will not only enhance the financial stability of low income families but will also create jobs and anticipate inflation’s impact on minimum wage spending power. The Senate brokered the deal in the hopes that it would slow down and drop the cost of cost-of-living increases which they approved two weeks prior.
Police Avert Would-Be School Shooter at University of Central Florida
Following a failed attempt to commit a school shooting, college student James Oliver Seevakumaran, 30, was found dead in his dorm room in an apparent suicide. Seevakumaran’s roommate alerted police after the suspect pulled a gun on him, prompting a rapid response police credited toward preventing the suspect from harming other students. Seevakumaran had pulled a fire alarm to prompt a mass exodus of about five hundred students from the dorm when police closed in. Police explained Seevakumaran was armed with two handguns and explosives as well as a hundreds of rounds of ammunition and had apparently planned the attack for some time in advance, sketching out a detailed plan and timetable for the botched attack which was derailed at the last minute. No motive is apparent, but according to university spokesman Grant Heston, Seevakumaran was being removed from the dormitory due to a failure to register for classes in the upcoming semester.
Old Tappan Police Bust Bergen-Rockland Shoplifting Ring
Police announced on March 18 that they had caught a man and woman suspected of operating a large-scale shoplifting ring in Bergen and Rockland Counties. Three suspects were spotted by a CVS employee at the Bi-State Plaza on Old Tappan Road. Following a brief chase by car and on foot, Michelle Taylor, 43, of Hempstead, Long Island and William Clinton Wade, 50, of Queens were arrested. Despite establishing a perimeter, the third suspect managed to get away. The three are suspected of shoplifting more than eight thousand dollars worth of goods from area pharmacies. Anybody with information on the remaining suspect is encouraged to contact the Old Tappan Detective Bureau at (201) 664-1221.
New Study Suggests Global Poverty in Decline
A new study by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative revealed that global poverty as indexed by a variety of factors has been in decline and may be eliminated within a matter of decades. The study analyzed 1.6 billion people living in impoverished conditions in twenty two countries. Oxford researchers concluded that eighteen of these countries saw an overall improvement, with Bangladesh, Rwanda, and Nepal making the greatest strides. If current trends continue, the researchers estimate it would take ninety one years to completely eliminate multidimensional poverty in all surveyed countries. The study’s aim was to provide a complete picture of multidimensional poverty, examining not only income but also a broad variety of environmental and economic factors including child mortality, nutrition, asset ownership, and access to drinking water, electricity, schooling, and housing.
GOP Plans to Subpoena Benghazi Survivors
GOP members have announced intentions to subpoena survivors of the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks in an effort to obtain more information on the Obama Administration’s response to the attack. Following the revelation survivors were recovering from their ordeal at Walter Reed Medical Center, House GOP members have threatened not only the subpoena but also a stalling of any new nomination to the position of Libyan Ambassador by Obama. Republicans have been pushing for further inquiry into the response to the attack, which killed three Americans including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, but the administration has pushed back against requests until the completion of an Accountability Board review and FBI investigation.
Tax Foundation States New York Taxes Among Nation’s Highest
The Tax Foundation released its annual report this week, ranking New York as among the most taxed states in the nation in twenty five categories. The report listed New York as first in state and local income taxes per person, gasoline taxes and cigarette taxes. New York also ranked particularly high in other figures such as state and local corporate taxes per person, lottery revenues per person, and state and local sales taxes per person.
Jawonio Joins Disability Advocates for Statewide Advocacy Day
Rockland County member of Jawonio joined a Statewide Associations vigil in Albany on March 18 to protest $120 million in proposed cuts to developmental disability-oriented nonprofit groups. The group was joined at the vigil by representatives of the Inter-Agency Council, New York State Cerebral Palsy Association, disability service recipients, and parents and family of disabled New York residents. Together, they handed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s communications staffer Leo Caruso one thousand letters urging a reconsideration of the proposal. On the Assembly floor, Jawonio representatives were also given a chance to speak against the cuts and met with various representatives to discuss issues posed by the upcoming budget.
Nanuet Street Name Changes Approved by Clarkstown
Owner Simon Properties, Inc. has been cleared to rename two private roads in the upcoming Shops shopping center in Nanuet as “Market Street” and “Fashion Drive.” The Town of Clarkstown passed a resolution at a meeting earlier in the month on March 5 approving the street names for locations which will alter most of the addresses for businesses in the shopping center, which will include 24 Hour Fitness, Regal Cinemas and TD Bank locations.
Democratic Senator Feinstein: No Assault Weapons Ban in Upcoming Bill
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (D – California) said on Monday that an assault weapons ban would not be included in an upcoming bill which is expected to reach the senate floor in April, much to the chagrin of Feinstein and other Democratic senators pushing for the bill. Feinstein explained she found out in a meeting with Senator Harry Reid (D – Nevada) that the ban would not be included in a version of the bill, possibly reflecting a line many congressional Democrats must walk between party line gun control proponents and red state Democrats with pro-gun sentiments. The development makes the passage of an assault weapons ban unlikely. The inclusion of the ban as an amendment to the bill is the only short-term option for Feinstein’s Democratic contingent in the near future.
Monsey Man Convicted of Abusing 14 Year Old Boy, Receives 10 years probation
Monsey resident Moishe Turner, 59, was sentenced Tuesday to ten years of probation for sexually abusing a 14 year old boy, skirting jail time while continuing to insist his innocence. Turner admitted several times to having sex with the boy and pleaded guilty to a second-degree criminal sexual act on January 18. However, he continually maintained his innocence by attempting to characterize the boy as sexually aggressive. Despite Supreme Court Justice William Kelly’s belief that Turner’s statements cast serious doubt on his sincerity, the boy’s family would not allow the boy to offer open court testimony, limiting prosecutors’ options and leading to a plea deal for probation.
Rockland Police Forces Share Data on Drug Arrests
In an effort to curb the illegal drug trade in Rockland County, local police announced an effort to share arrest data between municipalities and better pinpoint drug operations for the purpose of arrests. The data, which stretches back to January 2012 and includes figures from ten separate municipalities, the Sheriff’s office, state park police, and various task forces, would allow street-level investigators to cross-check the activities of individuals against records encompassing the entirety of the county.
East Ramapo Parent to go to School Board with Attorney Complaint
Charlene Williams-Pulakos has stated she will pursue an ethics complaint against East Ramapo attorney Albert D’Agostino for cursing at her son after a contentious East Ramapo School Board meeting. Williams-Pulakos had previously consulted the state’s Grievance Committee, which found no need for an investigation but recommended she pursue the matter with the school board or law enforcement. Though Williams-Pulakos said she would not seek criminal charges, she expressed a belief the matter is within the board’s purview and explained inaction on the part of the school board would be tantamount to condoning D’Agostino’s conduct.
Citations for inappropriate relationships levied on Pearl River Psychiatrist
Pearl River psychiatrist Dr. Kendon W. Smith, 77, was cited on by the state Department of Health on March 19 for inappropriate relationships with clients over the course of 25 years. The Board of Health alleged that Smith, who works at the Queens Child Psychiatric Center, was involved with patients inappropriately or committed “boundary violations.” He also stands accused of inappropriately providing prescriptions. In response to the allegations, Smith turned over his medical license last week.
Nanuet Teen Charged with Assault, DWI
Nanuet resident Ryan Barron, 19, has been charged with a series of charges stemming from alleged involvement in a crash in the parking lot of Wald Pavilion on Middletown Road at 10:15 a.m. last Saturday. Barron hit a parked car, smashing it into the next car and a Pearl River man, 59, who was standing between the two. According to police, a witness followed him to the Nanuet train station, where he boarded a southbound train. Police found him on the train and arrested him without incident. Following an alcohol breath test, Barron was taken to Clarkstown Police Headquarters to await arraignment. He stands accused of five misdemeanors including driving while intoxicated and third-degree assault.
Upper Nyack Loan Shark Arrested for Preying on Immigrant Businesses
Upper Nyack resident Amir Landsman, 45, was arrested in Englewood, NJ on charges linked to his offering of loans with unlawfully high interest rates. According to Bergen County prosecutor John L. Molinelli, Landsman, who owned and operated Teaneck-based H Capital, offered loans to Bergen businesses at high interest rates. The probe revealed that a significant number of his clients were immigrants. Upon obtaining search warrants and investigating his Upper Nyack home and Teaneck office, they discovered a trove of financial documents, computer records, and $100,000 in cash. Bail for Landsman has been posted at $150,000.
Grand View Man Charged in Domestic Assault
Bruce Masters, 49, was arrested on Sunday night on charges related to a domestic dispute at his Grand View residence which resulted in minor injuries to a single victim. Masters was arraigned in the South Nyack Village Court and charged with third-degree assault and second-degree harassment. His bail was set at five hundred dollars.
U.S. Department of Justice: No Fundamental Right to Home School
The U.S. Department of Justice has declared home schooling not to be a fundamental right for the purpose of emigration, according to a recent case before the U.S. Court of Appeals’ Sixth Circuit. The case involves the Romeikes family, which moved to the U.S. from Germany, and involves a fundamental question of whether asylum can be granted due to Germany’s ban on homeschooling for religious purposes. The Department of Justice argued the case of the Romeikes family was not unfairly determined by German courts and is hence not grounds for political asylum claims.
Colorado Corrections Chief Killed in Home
Colorado Chief of Corrections Jeff Clements was murdered on the night of March 19 when he answered the door to his home and was shot by an unknown assailant. Police have not determined a motive, but have not ruled out the possibility that his position might have something to do with his death. Local investigators are receiving aid from the FBI in the case and are currently searching for a single driver in a dark-colored, “boxy” car with which was seen running and leaving the scene after the shooting. Clements began work for the Department of Corrections in 1979 and worked in prison and probation services for thirty one years before his death. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
Clarkstown Schools Cut Summer Vacation to Accommodate Snow Days
Due to heavy snowfall in the 2012-2013 school year the Clarkstown Central School District decided to shorten students’ summer vacation. To maintain the required minimum of 180 days, at least one vacation day would be removed from the beginning of the summer instead of previous plans to remove a day from the spring break. In addition to Clarkstown, the shortening would also occur in Westchester and Putnam schools. The move came in a year with significant weather-related closures including Superstorm Sandy and several heavy snowfalls, which limited travel and prompted frequent closures.
Iraq War Turns 10
As of Tuesday, it has been ten years since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Despite ousting Saddam Hussein and the ruling Baath Party from power, the nation continues to struggle with sectarian fighting and continues its efforts to rebuild the war-torn country. According to figures from the U.S. Department of Defense, some 4,488 U.S. military were killed in the conflict. The Iraq Body Count organization tallies the number of civilian deaths at somewhere between 112,017 and 122,438, though casualties in all areas are now much lower than figures from the mid- 2000s, when the war turned particularly bloody.
Magazine Size Law in SAFE Act to be Reversed
In a turnaround from a previous decision, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that New York would partially reverse a provision in the New York State SAFE Act to allow the carrying of ten bullet magazines. According to Cuomo, the reversal will not impact the seven bullet maximum, which will still be in effect except at shooting ranges and competitions, where ten bullet maximums will be enforced. No notice was given as to whether or not the law would impact handguns carried by law enforcement, which typically carry over seven rounds. The change came amid criticism that the limit would effectively ban most handguns, given that seven round magazines are not made.
Clarkstown Police Investigate Wave of Burglaries
Clarkstown Police have issued a warning to homeowners that a recent rash of burglaries has put police on watch for further break –ins. The burglaries have taken place in New City and Nanuet. Police advised residents to lock doors and windows, keep lights on or set timers for the lights, hide valuables, maintain active burglar alarms. If burglarized, residents are advised not to touch anything and call police immediately. If residents have been victimized or have information pertaining to the recent crimes, they are encouraged to call Clarkstown Police at 845-639-5800.
State Budget Deal Might Include $350 Middle-Class Rebate
State lawmakers negotiating a final budget agreement announced on Tuesday that a $350 rebate might be sent to middle-class homeowners with children. Checks could be sent out as early as 2014 to homeowners with incomes between $40,000 and $300,000. The rebates would be part of a $700 million tax relief package, which functions as part of a $2 billion tax relief program pushed by Senate Republicans. Rebates occurred until 2009, when the state cut them to deal with the fiscal crisis. Anticipated tax revenues in 2014-2015 fiscal year from increased taxes on high earners are expected to allow the rebate spending to begin once more.