TIMELINES — 2/9

Rothschild of Monsey to be sentenced in fraud case

Federal prosecutors have recommended that former Monsey Fire Commission President Nathan Rothschild is sentenced to 27 to 33 months in prison. He was sentenced on Tuesday for trying to orchestrate a real estate fraud to pay off a debt of $125,000 to two of his former business partners. Fifty-four-year-old Rothschild, who is the ex-fire district chairman and also the former president of the East Ramapo Board of Education, confessed that he did suggest that his former partners purchase some property for $700,000, assuring them that he would make sure the fire district in turn purchased the land from them for anywhere between $1.2 to $1.3 million. The property was of interest to the fire district because it would have served to house a new fire station and housing for volunteers. In July, Rothschild pleaded guilty to engaging in a mail fraud scheme against the fire district. He is currently seeking probation from the judge and arguing that he acted under mental illness. He also says that his creditors came up with the idea, and claims that his family will suffer if he does prison time. Prosecutors then accused Rothschild of trying to “con U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Karas” and “called his acceptance of responsibility laughable.” Rothschild was caught on an audio tape proposing his plans to potential purchasers, who, unbeknownst to him were working with the feds.

 

Thief steals car, eight-year-old girl still inside

Haverstraw police are searching for a man who stole a car, and for a short time, the little girl who was in the car. The thief is reportedly in his teens, and according to police, saw the car running idle on Sunday morning on Benson Street in West Haverstraw. He got into the car, a Toyota sedan, and drove off. According to police, the teen drove several hundred feed before realizing that there was an eight-year-old girl in the back seat. The teen then pulled over, jumped out of the car, and ran away. As soon as the thief exited the car, the little girl did as well. She ran back down the street to her older brother, who was exiting the building he had entered when he left her in the car. Police searched for the teen thief, utilizing dogs and scanning the neighborhood with a helicopter. As of Sunday evening, they were snot successful in finding him. He was reportedly unarmed.

 

Rockland County asks for competitive bids for bus service

Rockland is trying to find a company to operate and maintain the two major bus services utilized in the county. The Department of Public Transportation is looking for an operator for Transport of Rockland (TOR) and Tappan ZEExpress buses through competitive bidding. Rockland has to award the contract to the lowest responsible bidder. This is a change from the previous attempts the county has made when it issued requests for a proposal. In the past, it had much more discretion to choose a bidder. Rockland has been accused of favoring specific competitors in the past, and has even been taken to Supreme Court over such matters. Justice Francis Nicolai ruled that “the county did not act properly in its search and ordered it to use the objective, sealed nature of competitive bidding to obtain the best work at the lowest cost to protect taxpayers and eliminate the appearance of corruption.” Last Wednesday, Rockland released its request for bids. They are due by March 16, and the five-year contract will reportedly be awarded no later than June 30.

 

West Haverstraw firefighter to continue volunteering after severe burns in village house blast

Ken Patterson, 48, who is one of two West Haverstraw firefighters injured in the January 16 gas explosion, was recently discharged from Helen Hayes Hospital, where he received physical therapy among other assistance. He suffered six broken ribs and burns to his head, face, and hand. He has been taking pain medication for his conditions, and treating his back and neck which were also injured in the blast. Investigations into the blast, which was caused by workers from Verizon FiOS, are currently underway, to see if there was possible wrongdoing that led to the explosion. Patterson, who was in serious condition after the blast, was at Westchester Hospital’s trauma intensive care unit for a week before he was transferred to Helen Hayes. Patterson was rescued from a fire in an illegally converted building in Haverstraw about a year ago, and was also in serious condition after that incident. But both of these experiences have left him feeling thankful to be alive and have not changed his love for volunteering. Patterson gives props to his fellow volunteer firefighters, thanking them for their team effort in both situations. He plans to continue volunteering, despite his two close brushes with death.

 

Ramapo’s ballpark to cost $12 million more than town anticipated

Ramapo’s ballpark is now estimated to cost $12 million more than what town officials initially said, according to the state Comptroller’s Office. The town estimated the cost at $15 million, but the state estimates that costs for everything, including site work and clearing the ground and installing walkways should in fact amount to about $27 million. This is significant, considering the comptroller’s warning that taxpayers will likely be liable for the costs. Construction for the stadium, which has more than 3,500 seats, was completed in June 2011 and was financed by a $35 million bond taken out by Ramapo Local Development Corp., but the town paid for additional work on the grounds that surround the structure. The town hired contractors to pave parking lots and roads in the park, install curbs and sidewalks, playground equipment, test the soil and construct a maintenance building, as well as a variety of other things. This was all additional money covered strictly by the town, according to auditors in the state Comptroller’s Office. These “improvements” brought the grand total up to $27 million, as of May 2011, although town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence estimates the figure to be about $12 million less. St. Lawrence maintains that the total cost of the site work was about $15 million, as he had originally cited. St. Lawrence also insists the ballpark will earn enough money to pay back more than its debts. No revenues for the team’s first year have been released at this time.

Tree law in Montebello ruled unconstitutional

A village law that regulated the cutting down of trees on private property in an effort to maintain the rural character of the small village of Montebello, has been ruled unconstitutional by a town justice. Ramapo Justice Rhoda Schoenberger ruled this law unconstitutional, but her ruling is likely to be appealed by the village. The law came into effect when Montebello attempted to prosecute two residents on violation charges of cutting down too many trees on their property without village permits and approvals. The couple’s lawyer, Michael Diederich, asked Schoenberger to rule the village ordinance an unconstitutional “invasion of the family’s right to maintain their property.” Last week, Schoenberger dismissed the violation summonses and ruled the law unconstitutional. This is reportedly the first time she has ruled a law unconstitutional in her 12 years on the bench. Mayor of Montebello Jeff Oppenheim said that the tree law was received with a great deal of approval from the Board of Trustees, as it helped keep Montebello’s property values among the highest in the county. According to the mayor, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the National Arbor Association have both supported the village’s law and also recognized Montebello as “The Tree City” (the only one in Rockland with this title). Oppenheim says the village tree law is constitutional and also is within the laws of New York State.

 

Clarkstown high school students raise funds for Hi-Tor

On Superbowl Sunday, a group of Clarkstown High School North students were outside the PetSmart store on Route 59 in Nanuet. They collected money, pet food, bedding, and supplies to help the Hi-Tor Animal Care Center in Pomona. The center, which cares mainly for cats and dogs, is facing financial challenges that may force it to close before the year is over. The group of students, passionate about animals, also sought signatures on a government petition supporting Hi-Tor.

 

100th Anniversary of Grand Central Station to be celebrated

Although it’s still a year away, plans for the celebration of Grand Central Terminal’s 100-year mark are in the works. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York along with Metro-North Railroad, together recently released a statement about a combined effort to plan public events for the celebration. The first events, scheduled for February 1, 2013, will focus international attention on the Terminal’s 100thbirthday, officials say. Music and other performances, an array of public activities, and a formal rededication ceremony will lead up to a spectacular gala event. February 1st will also kick off a six-week exhibition which will be held in the Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall which is rich with history. The exhibit will feature artifacts, archival material, and both moving and still photos from the museum’s collection as well as some loaned from private collectors. In addition, there will be a year-long celebration which will entail various events, publications, exhibitions, programs, and educational initiatives. Funds for celebration activities come from private sources.

 

NY elected officials and religious leaders urge Legislature to restore equal access rights in public schools

Recently, New York State elected officials and state religious leaders urged the New York State Legislators to pass legislation which would allow religious meetings to be held in public schools or on school property when they are not in use for school purposes. The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to review a lower-court decision to ban a Bronx Evangelical church congregation from holding its Sunday services at a local public school. They had been held at Public School 15 since 2002. As a result of this decision, New York City’s Board of Education is currently in the process of evicting about 60 churches that have been renting public school facilities for their weekend services. The churches have been ordered out by February 12. State Senator Martin Golden and Assemblyman Nelson Castro have worked together to introduce legislation that would restore these churches’ rights to utilize the school facilities. The proposed bill would also prevent school districts from banning specific groups from renting their property based on the religious content or viewpoint of the groups. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

 

Feds deny Indian Point’s requests for 100 fire safety exemptions

Recently, The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) agreed with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and decided to reject Indian Point’s request for over 100 exemptions from fire safety requirements. Last year, Schneiderman filed a petition in regard to Indian Point’s continued failure to comply with federal fire safety regulations, which were established to keep nuclear power plants secure in the event of an emergency. In March 2011, Schneiderman filed a petition with NRC, encouraging it to act against Indian Point because of its failure to comply with fire safety regulations. He noted in his petition that the plant currently violates already-established federal fire safety regulations, and is also seeking approval from the NRC for over 100 exemptions from these regulations. Two months after he filed the petition, NRC accepted it. Although NRC’s most recent rejection of Indian Point’s request for exemptions was not necessarily associated with Schneiderman, it reflects his desire stated in the petition. A copy of the petition is available on the Office of the Attorney General website. A 1300-page report was released last Tuesday by the NRC, the federal Department of Energy, and the Electric Power Research Institute, where government revealed significantly higher earthquake risks in the central and eastern United States. The earthquake risk greatly affects nuclear power plants and safety regulations, as the nuclear power plants in the region were designed to withstand much different scenarios when they were constructed decades ago.