Timelines 9/29/16

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NBC Reveals Clarkstown and D.A. Office Ran Background Checks on Local Black Group

NBC’s I-Team revealed a confidential police intelligence report to members of a local community group showing the Strategic Intelligence Unit (SIU) ran background checks on them through a criminal database. The SIU is a team run through the Clarkstown Police Department and the Rockland County district attorney’s office. NBC showed the reports to three members of We the People, a local community group that meets in Spring Valley, 13 members were included in the report. The report included any criminal histories and police interactions. We the People has no history of violence, the group has previously sponsored cleanup days for kids. Last year the organization helped sell tickets to a Haverstraw play called “A Clean Shoot,” about one officer shooting another officer. The Clarkstown Town Board hired William Harrington in July to review the situation. “If the police are given license to conduct an investigation with respect to any group without evidence because they possibly, might be inciting violence, then there’s going to be chaos,” Harrington said.


Three Charged with Selling Elephant Ivory in Manhattan

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) announced that Irving Morano, 46, Samuel Morano, 48, Victor Zilberman, 62, and Metropolitan Fine Arts & Antiques Inc. (MFAA) are charged with two counts of Illegal Commercialization of Wildlife. “The worldwide elephant population is hanging in the balance,” Basil Seggos, Commissioner of the DEC, said. “With today’s action, we are sending a strong message to poachers, traffickers, and dealers that we are committed to stopping this heinous activity.” The press release explained MFFA has been selling elephant ivory articles since 2007 and in November 2015 undercover DEC officers purchased an elephant ivory carving from Zilberman who claimed it was mammoth ivory. A search warrant executed at MFAA revealed approximately 126 elephant ivory articles exceeding $4.5 million in value.


Proposal for Nyack Hospital Renovations Angers Residents who Want Parking

Nyack residents are concerned over Nyack Hospital’s $22.2 million expansion plan because of the consistent parking issue in the neighborhood surrounding the hospital’s campus. Kyle Ryan, who has been living across from the hospital for almost a decade, explained hospital patients, employees and visitors who don’t want to pay $2 for parking will use side streets. The village adopted rules to restrict street parking before 11 a.m. three days a week, but that hasn’t stopped non-residents from using it and creating increased congestion the other days of the week. Ryan believes parking has always been an issue with the hospital and only wants the expansion to occur if parking is included. But the renovations plan doesn’t include a new parking fixture – instead it includes a redesigned emergency room and a “medical village” outpatient facility. According to hospital spokeswoman Lauren Malone, the renovations “will result in the same or fewer patients…the goal is to reduce unnecessary emergency department and inpatient admissions.” In June several neighbors expressed opposition to the hospital’s pitch to acquire MacCalman Field, a school district owned baseball field across the street, to turn it into a parking lot. Due to negative feedback from the community, Nyack school district decided not to move forward with the proposal. On Oct. 3 the village Planning Board will review the new renovation proposal, and if approved, will be the largest project in the hospital’s 121 years. Around $17.7 million in project funding came from the state and the balance comes from a hospital fundraiser.


Smells Coming from NJ Transit in Pearl River

Commuters heading toward Manhattan from Pearl River have recently been greeted with an unappealing smell at the station. Locals and commuters complained to the NJ Transit about trains dumping something that smells a lot like human waste. “It’s gotten pretty unbearable,” Paul Zagaroli, a Tappan resident, said. Zagaroli now waits in the parking lot or Southbound Café and Bar to escape the stench. A NJ Transit spokesman, Jim Smith, said whatever commuters are smelling isn’t raw human waste. He explained it is “treated water,” which the railway has been able to leak from trains since the 1970s. “People cross those tracks,” Zagaroli said. “People just walk across the tracks. Now it’s on the bottom of your shoes, now it’s in your living room. You can’t have that.”


Thruway Saw an Increase in Toll Avoiders

The New York State Thruway has seen a spike in toll violators over the past five years. The state Thruway Authority claims the amount of uncollected tolls jumped 23 percent between 2013 and 2014, and records show around $11 million went uncollected between 2011 and 2014. Violations occurred most on the Tappan Zee Bridge, which in April switched to a cashless toll system. While some state assembly members want to change things, the Thruway officials stand by their efforts to increase penalties. Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the NYS Department of Motor Vehicle the ability to suspend the registration of drivers failing to pay five tolls, fees and other charges over an 18-month period. “For far too long, these scofflaws have skirted their responsibility of maintaining the state’s transportation network and placed the burden on the backs of law-abiding motorists,” he said.


Marriott Buys Starwood

On Friday Sept. 23, Marriott International closed its $13 billion deal to purchase Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, creating the largest hotel chain in the world. Marriott now surpasses Hilton Worldwide’s room availability. According to the Associate Press now 30 hotel brands belong to Marriott. “We’ve got an ability to offer just that much more choice,” Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson said. Members of either hotel’s guest loyalty programs will be able to link their accounts together giving gold elite members in one program gold status in the other, and so on. In April 2015 the Stamford company went up for sale. Marriott outbid China’s Anbang Insurance Group. Purchasing Starwood will give Marriott more leverage for corporate travel departments and more power over online travel agencies.


Avalon Gardens Sold, Tax Assessment to Go Up

The 504-unit rental apartment community known as Avalon Gardens in Nanuet was sold for $147 million, indicating the property is worth almost double the value listed on the town’s tax roll. Harbor Group LLC and Azure Partners LLC jointly bought the property, making it the biggest real estate transaction in recent years in Rockland. “This property is one of the largest in the county and provides investors with significant upside,” Jose Cruz, senior managing director of HFF, a commercial real estate brokerage firm representing Avalon, said. Clarkstown Town Assessor Scott Shelder said the existing property assessment wouldn’t change unless a town-wide revaluation process takes place. The community will be renamed “The Peaks of Nanuet Apartment Homes” and features varying sized apartments with multiple amenities.


NY Attorney General Schneiderman

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman released a statement on Sept. 27 about the criminal charges Wayne Isaacs faces. Schneiderman’s statement explains beginning on July 4, his Special Investigation and Prosecutions Unit investigated the death of Delrawn Small. “We conducted a thorough investigation and, as I have always pledged, followed the facts where they led, without fear or favor,” he said. The unit determined the evidence was sufficient to present to a grand jury, which came back and indicted NYPD officer Wayne Isaacs on charges of murder in the second degree and manslaughter in the first degree. Isaacs was taken into custody and arraigned on Sept. 27 in the Brooklyn Supreme Court. His bail was set at $50,000 and required to surrender his passport and firearms.


Ramapo Superintendent Suggests Savings on School Taxes

Douglas Adams, superintendent of the Ramapo Central School District, wrote an opinion piece for LoHud. In it, Adams suggests having school districts collect their own taxes. He explained when school taxes are collected, a one percent collection fee is charged, equating to roughly $900,000. “…The fact is that the entire collection fee is charged, collected and kept by the town,” he wrote. Adams wants the town to permit the school district to collect their own taxes. “We estimate that if given the opportunity to collect our own school taxes we could save our taxpayers between $500,000 and $600,000 annually,” he wrote. Adams is urging supporters to contact Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass a law enabling school districts to collect their own taxes.


Teenager Opens Fire on South Carolina Elementary School

A homeschooled teenager from South Carolina went to a local elementary school playground and opened fire. The unnamed teen shot two students, one in the leg and one in the foot, and a teacher in the shoulder after shooting and killing his father on Wednesday. One of the students from Townville Elementary was in serious condition while the other student and the teacher are less seriously injured. The less injured ones were treated and released.The suspect was apprehended around 1:45 p.m. Superintendent Joanne Avery credited the “quick response by the principal, teachers and staff [that] kept this horrific tragedy from being much worse.” Townville Elementary has a total of about 300 students, from pre-k to sixth grade ages. Classes will be canceled for the remainder of the week.

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