DEC orders Tilcon to address Haverstraw Quarry issues
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has ordered Tilcon to pay a fine for operational lapses the state identified at its Haverstraw quarry site an address longstanding concerns over dust.
Tilcon received a consent order from the DEC in January to develop a remediation plan to control stone dust at the site. The issue has troubled Haverstraw and Clarkstown residents who have seen dust build on windows and cars, prompting air quality and health concerns.
The company will also pay a $125,000 fine for seven environmental fines racked up since October 2014. They will also have to pay an additional $25,000 if they do not comply with the terms of the agreement.
Normally, byproducts of on-site rock-crushing are piled up and watered down to prevent the wind from carrying it off until it can be trucked off to buyers. However, in times of low market demand and high wind or dry conditions, it can pile up and disperse faster than it can be sold, leading to pollution in nearby areas.
Rockland women arrested on heroin charges in New Jersey
Two women from Rockland County were arrested by police in New Jersey on Friday after they were found to be in possession of heroin.
Police stopped Danielle Barboni, 21, of New City and Cheyenne Libero, 37, of Nyack, as they traveled down Locust Street in Elmwood Park around 2:30 p.m. The women, who were allegedly under-the-influence when police stopped them, were found to be in possession of 10 bags of heroin, a syringe and other paraphenalia.
The women, who were released on court summonses, were believed to have been traveling back from Paterson, New Jersey a well-known heroin distribution hub in the Tri-State Area.
Fire in Spring Valley leaves 50 homeless
A fire at a Spring Valley apartment complex left 50 people homeless on Sunday after it ripped through eight apartments and rendered 40 others uninhabitable.
The fire began in a first-floor apartment at the Robert Pitt Drive complex at around 3:30 p.m. With help from gusty winds, it spread upward to the second floor and across the roof, causing serious fire damage to eight units.
About 100 firefighters from surrounding towns and villages worked to put out the blaze, taking control of the situation within an hour. Though nobody was injured, the fire and complex were deemed suspicious and remain under investigation. Illegal rooms and walls were found in some apartments, prompting likely penalties for building violations as well.
About 40 people were left homeless by the fire, mostly due to smoke damage and Orange & Rockland’s decision to turn off power to the 48 affected apartments. The American Red Cross is working with 31 residents seeking aid, though that number is expected to change.
Tappan Zee Constructors win $7.3 million labor dispute
The group responsible for the construction of the Tappan Zee Bridge was handed a victory in a federal court in March when a judge concluded it was allowed to use carpenters rather than dockbuilders for pile-driving work.
U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Carter ruled that Tappan Zee Constructors was within its rights to use the carpenters after arbitrator J.J. Pierson reversed his decision granting the contract to the dockworkers and awarded it to the carpenters instead. According to Pierson, he had mistakenly concluded there was no prevailing trade or local practice to award such work to dockworkers.
After going with Pierson’s revised conclusion by opting to use carpenters for 400,000 hours of work installing pile caps for the new bridge, TZC was taken to court by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. The carpenters make $70.11 an hour in wages and benefits while dockworkers make $90.11, meaning TZC stood to save $7.3 million from the decision.
Though Dockbuilders Local 1556 and Carpenters Local 279 agreed the work should go to the dockworkers,TZC opted to go with the carpenters anyway as part of its design-build plan to complete the work at the lowest possible price.
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners plans to appeal the decision.
Ambulance collision causes injuries in Ramapo
A crash between an ambulance and a minivan in Ramapo on Sunday resulted in hospitalizations but no serious injuries.
The collision occurred at around 12:15 p.m. when a EMStar ambulance heading south on College Road struck a minivan heading east on Carlton. The crash caused the ambulance to flip onto its side, trapping the driver inside and forcing first responders to close the intersection until 2:18 p.m. The ambulance was not transporting anybody for medical reasons at the time of the crash.
The driver was eventually freed by Monsey firefighters and Rockland paramedics. He was taken to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla after complaining of chest pains, while the driver of the minivan and one passenger were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern for observation.
Rockland resident shot to death in New Jersey
A Rockland County resident shot on Sunday at his New Jersey business passed on Monday, leading New Jersey police to open a homicide investigation.
Richard Zarriello, 51, of Chestnut Ridge, was shot Sunday night at Clean Sweep Chimney Depot at 480 Route 46 West in South Hackensack. He was still breathing when taken by paramedics to Hackensack University Medical Ceter, but died at 3:45 p.m. on Monday
According to a source close to the investigation, seven shots were fired, one of which struck Zarriello in the head. Though police are still in an early phase of their investigation, they do not believe the shooting was the product of a botched robbery.
Since the examination of the scene, investigators have taken their search beyond Bergen County to Jersey City and Monmouth County.
Clinton, Paul, Rubio announce presidential runs
A crowd of presidential hopefuls threw their hats into the ring last week, announcing their candidacy for the highest office in the nation and touching off an early campaign season.
The highest-profile candidate, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, made her announcement over the weekend with the launch of a campaign website and a video announcement, confirming a widely expected second attempt at the White House after her unsuccessful 2008 primary run against Barack Obama. Clinton, a centrist Democrat who is recognized as the most established political player in the running, also launched a series of low-profile campaign stops.
On the Republican side, Kentucky Senator and libertarian favorite Rand Paul announced his candidacy on April 7, the second Republican to join the race after Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who is expected to campaign with more support from values-voters and Tea Party conservatives. On Monday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio launched his campaign and will likely run as a center-right candidate.
Others are expected to enter the race as the weeks progress. Among Republicans, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Florida Governor Jeb Bush are expected to announce their candidacy.
The Democratic pool is expected to be far less competitive, with a smaller pool of lower-profile names which include Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Virginia Senator Jim Webb.
Pope Francis stokes controversy over Armenian Genocide statements
Pope Francis stirred longstanding controversy in Turkey over his decision to use a Sunday mass at St. Peter’s Basilica to commemorate the 1915 Armenian Genocide.
The statement was meant to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the mass killings and a visit by Armenian President Serž Sargsyan and Armenian clergy. The Pontiff used the opportunity to refer to the historic bloodshed, which involved the deportation and murder of about 1.5 Armenian Christians by Ottoman Turkey and Kurdish tribal groups, as an analogue to broader indifference toward other historic genocides and current atrocities against Christian communities.
Though both John Paul II and Benedict XVI both explicitly referred to the events as “genocide,” Francis’ statements were no less politically fraught. Turkey quickly condemned the statement as inflammatory and has since recalled its ambassador to the Vatican.
Though historians broadly accept the 1915 killings were a genocide, Turkey has long held an attitude of denial. Owing largely to concerns about compensation and national pride, Turkish officials and citizens often argue the deaths were the product of civil war rather than an organized campaign of ethnic cleansing.
FAA allows Amazon to test delivery drones
The Federal Aviation Administration announced this week that Amazon has been cleared to explore drone technology for package deliveries, a potentially lucrative market for the online giant and other retailers.
Amazon was the first company to receive approval through the FAA’s summary grant process, a new, streamlined process of federal approvals. The clearance will allow the company to research, develop and test drones within applicable FAA standards, meaning Amazon’s aircraft will be limited to a 400 foot altitude and a 100 mile per hour speed restriction. The drones will also be restricted to daytime use on private property within an operators’ line of sight.
If current restrictions are relaxed, the use of drones presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs in a variety of areas such as photography and retail delivery. The FAA announced expansion of the program would take place on a case-by-case basis.
Disability benefits for non-English speaking Puerto Ricans prompts rule change
A loophole in social security law which allowed the dispersal of disability benefits to non-English speakers from Puerto Rico has drawn the scrutiny of auditors with the Social Security Administration.
Non-English speakers are typically qualified for benefits under existing social security regulations on the basis that non-fluency limits their opportunities in the job market to low-skill or unskilled work. However, the SSA’s inspector general raised concerns this month over benefits given to Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico, where the language is spoken by 95 percent of the population and is not an apparent hindrance to professional prospects. At least 218 such cases were identified between 2011 and 2013.
Heeding the inspector general’s report, the SSA appears poised to respond. The Administration has announced plans to explore the question with further research to determine the scope of the problem, public comment and potential rule changes.
Nobel Prize-winning author Günter Grass dies at 87
Günter Grass, the celebrated but controversial German novelist who played a pivotal role in post-WWII literature, passed away on Monday at the age of 87.
Grass, who is best known for his 1959 novel “The Tin Drum,” is often credited with allowing his country to reflect upon and begin to atone for the complacency of ordinary Germans during World War II and the Holocaust. The work was informed largely by his own support for the Nazis and service during WWII, including a stint as a tank gunner for the infamous Waffen SS which, though it involved neither combat nor Nazi war crimes, left Grass wracked with guilt for years thereafter.
Though the revelation of his role in the war led some in the German political and art world to disown an distance themselves from Grass, he continued to find success as a novelist and social critic, publishing well-received follow-ups which elaborated on themes of war, historic memory and post-WWII German atonement. Grass also pursued a career as a public intellectual and liberal activist, targeting environmental destruction and militarism, in particular.
Clorox draws ire over allegedly racist tweet
Bleach manufacturer Clorox sparked an online backlash on Twitter last Wednesday after the company posted a tweet many perceived as racially insensitive.
The company jokingly tweeted on Wednesday that Apple’s new set of 300 emojis, little symbols that can be inserted into texts and status updates, should have included a bottle of bleach. The comment created a furor among many who perceived it to be an attack against a few of the new, racially-diverse cartoon faces represented among the emojis and a perceived suggestion the bleach could be used to lighten their skin.
Though Clorox did receive some support from Twitter-users who did not believe the offending tweet was intentionally malicious, it deleted the message and apologized, stating it meant to reference new emojis depicting common household cleaning objects, not the cartoon faces.
One dead, three injured in incident at Sullivan Correctional Facility
One inmate was killed and three correctional officers were injured on Monday morning after an unspecified incident at Sullivan Correctional Facility.
Though investigators have released very few details on the events which transpired at the Fallsburg facility, it was confirmed by the New York State Corrections Officers Police Benevolent Association that one of the injured officers was taken to an urgent care center with unspecified injuries while another two were brought to Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris, where they underwent treatment for head injuries and a possible broken arm.
The attack came less than four months after another assault at the facility which involved an inmate who punched a guard in the face. The Corrections Officers PBA has argued such incidents represent part of a 50 percent increase in assaults on staff and can be addressed by more hiring.
Top NASA scientist: Evidence of alien life likely by 2025
NASA’s chief scientist revved up space enthusiasts on Tuesday when she made the case that scientists were likely to discover evidence of extraterrestrial life within the next 10 years.
Speaking as part of a panel on water in the universe beyond earth, Ellen Stofan stated that it was likely that scientists would find evidence of extraterrestrial life by 2025. She added definite confirmation of that evidence could occur sometime between 2035 and 2055.
“We know where to look. We know how to look,” Stofan said. “In most cases we have the technology, and we’re on a path to implementing it. And so I think we’re definitely on the road.”
Stofan added evidence of life likely was not likely to indicate the existence of popular depiction of aliens as humanoid creatures. Instead, the life discovered by researchers would likely be in the form of microscopic organisms.