Timelines: August 2, 2012

MTA Updates Plan for Financial Future
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) released its 2013 Preliminary Budget and July Financial Plan for 2013-16.

In 2010, the MTA demonstrated the most aggressive cost cutting in its history. The plan released now builds on those same cost cutting initiatives.

These efforts have generated $686 million in annual recurring savings for 2011. This figure is expected to grow to $1.13 billion by 2016.

Still the MTA has a fragile budget. It is counting on continued receipt of dedicated taxes as projects, continued success of the MTA’s savings initiatives, three years of net zero labor cost increases and continuation of biennial fare and toll increases. If all that goes according to plan, the MTA expects it will break even for the year 2012 with a balance of less than half of one percent of the operating budget and $46 million will roll into 2013 to cover expenses.

Despite successful cost-cutting efforts, the MTA continues to deal with large deficits due to increases in non-discretionary expenses, pension obligations, employee and retiree health care costs, paratransit and debt services. To help meet these needs, the MTA asks for a toll increase in 2013 and 2015.

Ex-Rockland DA Returns as Attorney
Michael Bongiorno, former Rockland District Attorney, is now opening his own private practice as a defense attorney.

Bongiorno served as district attorney from 1995 to November 2007. He lost a close race to Thomas Zugibe.

Bongiorno, a Republican and married with two sons, targeted violent criminals, repeat felons and drug dealers with serving as district attorney.

After leaving, he spent several years working for the state Attorney’s General’s Office Organized Crime Task Force in White Plains.

His new office, Law Office of Michael E. Bongiorno, is located at 455 Route 304 in Bardonia.

Horse Miraculously Survives “Unicorn” Head Wound
A 30-year-old retired race and show horse survived a freak accident where a nine-inch wooden board got embedded in his head.

Danny, the horse, has been dubbed “The Miracle Unicorn Horse” by his owner, Tommasina Ashley.

No one is sure how the horse, who was grazing in a paddock at Amelia Acres in the Hudson Valley, managed to get a large wood chunk straight into the middle of his head from his forehead through to his mouth.

Ashley’s owned Danny for 20 years and was away at her sister’s bridal shower in New York City when the incident occurred. By midnight, she got a call from Dr. Susan Murray at Rhinebeck Equine to say they’d managed to remove the wood piece.

Post-surgery treatments are costing Ashley $400 a day and the medical bills have already topped $10,000. She has started a “Danny, the Miracle Unicorn” Facebook page and as of this publication more than 7,600 supports have “liked” the page

Firefighters Enraged with Illegal Housing and Low Penalties
Firefighters who recently put out a blaze at an illegally converted four-family Valley Cottage home are outraged that the property owners only have to pay a $750 fine.

The homeowners of 61 Lake Road are Virginia and Dr. Sylvester Almiron, who is a member of the parks and recreation commission. They pled guilty to renting the house out to four separate units without a certificate of occupancy, which is a violation. The criminal charges were then dropped and the case withdrawn after a payment of $750.

The maximum sentence is $1,000 fine and one year in jail.

Local firefighters are angry because illegal housing like that is very dangerous for the residents but also for the firefighters trying to do their jobs. Often the illegally renovated homes have hallways that are too small and they must navigate through homes that were not designed to code.

John Kryger is the deputy fire coordinator and vice chairman of the Rockland County Illegal Housing Task Force. He said the fine is too small given the danger it puts people in. “We could have been pulling out dead bodies,” he told a local paper.

They are also angry because as Dr. Sylvester works for the Town of Clarkstown he ought to know better then to have his property illegally renovated and ought to be penalized more strictly.

More Rockland Workers Laid Off
An additional 64 Rockland County workers were laid off this Friday, making the total 74 since January.

These 64 workers were union workers with the Civil Service Employees Association.

The layoffs are attempts by the county government to cut expenses and address a budget deficit of $95 million.

Another 23 full-time workers had their hours drastically cut.

According to acting county Finance Director Stephen DeGroat, these job cuts will add up to about $2 million in savings. And another 45 vacant jobs eliminated in the overall layoff plan will further cut expenses by $3.2 million.

Ron Paul Succeeds in Push for Federal Reserve Audit
Congressman Ron Paul has finally passed in the House his long campaign for a Federal Reserve audit. It was also approved by a bi-partisan vote of 327 to 98 and sent to the Senate.

Though there are no plans yet to bring it up in the Senate.

Paul began his quest for an audit about a decade ago. Years ago an audit was passed, but it was a watered down version and Paul was against it. The audit passed now is the kind Paul was seeking. People today are becoming more aware of how errors of monetary policy are responsible for the Great Recession.

For some time now Chairman Bernanke has been vehemently opposed to an audit. Last week, he told Congress that an audit like this is risky because, for one, it could become part of the closed-door meetings and open the Fed to meddling in monetary policy.

Sentencing Postponed for West Haverstraw Explosion
Fidel Padilla, the contractor involved in the January 16th natural gas explosion in West Haverstraw, is considering withdrawing his plea and therefore his sentencing was postponed until next month.

Padilla pled guilty to a felony charge of first-degree reckless endangerment. His company, FGC Communications, pled guilty to first-degree assault.

This consideration of withdrawing from the plea deal is a response to the state Public Service Commission’s notice of probable violation to Orange and Rockland Utilities.

PSC issued two citations on June 15th. One to FGC for failing to use proper equipment when excavating and one to O&R for failing to properly place a mark-out of underground utility lines in the area. Each company faces penalties of about $8,500.

The new court date is August 27th, but Padilla needs to decide by August 13th if he plans on moving forward with the plea or vacating it.

Former New City Little League Treasurer Gets Six Months
Joyce Bidnick, a former New City Little League treasurer, admitted to stealing more than $400,000 from the organization and was sentenced to six months in jail and five years of probation.

Bidnick, 58, was treasurer from 2003 to 2011 where she stole $480,000 and returned $220,000 before she was arrested in May 2011.

Since her arrest, she has made payments to the league and has finally finished paying back all the money she stole.

Initially, she was looking at a year in jail but because she paid back the money her sentence was decreased.

Obama Canceled Bin Laden Raid Three Times, Says Book
According to a new book scheduled to be released on August 21, President Barack Obama canceled the raid to kill Osama bin Laden on three different occasions because of his senior advisor Valerie Jarrett’s urging. He finally approved the May 2, 2011 Navy SEAL mission.

“Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors who Decide for Him” by Richard Miniter describes how Obama canceled the mission in January, February and March of 2011.

Spring Valley Mother Gets Six Months for Fraud
Patricia Alexandre of Spring Valley was sentenced to six months in county jail and five years of probation for fraudulently taking more than $5,000 in government public assistance. The 32-year old mother of three must repay the money as well as part of her sentence.

Alexandre hid her employment and submitted false information in order to apply and receive public assistance. Between August 2008 and May 2009, she illegally received $1,740 in Medicaid and $3,948 in food stamps. During this time she was working for Advanced Eye Care Center in Chestnut Ridge.

She was offered the chance to pay back all the money to the department directly and keep the case out of court, but when she refused to it was filed as a criminal case.

Woman Hit By Car on Broadway in Nyack, Seriously Injured
A woman was struck and injured by a car while crossing South Broadway near Burd Street in Nyack on Tuesday afternoon.

The accident occurred just before 5 p.m. and police closed part of South Broadway for about an hour.

She was taken to the hospital and suffered serious injuries, said police.

Before police arrived, passersby helped her by making sure she remained conscious and no one moved her from her position on the ground.

Police have not released any names or more information and are still investigating the incident.

Tappan Zee Bridge Report to be Released this Week
Talk of rebuilding the Tappan Zee Bridge has gone on for more than a decade and finally this coming week New York State plans to release the final environmental impact report.

This report is bound to evoke more discussions and debates.

The major issues at hand remain: mass transit, bridge alterations including a tunnel or refurbishing the existing bridge, and minimizing the impact of the Hudson River.

A final study is required according to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970. This ensures that community and environmental concerns are addressed before major projects are allowed to continue. This final study will result in a 1,800-page report responding to 3,000 comments from the public.

Spring Valley Community Center Opens
Construction is complete and equipment is ready for the new community center in Spring Valley, which officially opens this Sunday at 4 p.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The space, located in Memorial Park, is being dedicated to the late Rockland County legislator, teacher and activist William Darden.

Darden taught in the East Ramapo school district, was active in the NAACP and many other organizations. He died in 2010 at the age of 65.

The $800,000 center was built at no cost to the village as part of a deal with contractors who were destroying the old community center in order to build an apartment complex.

This new community center is 6,000 square feet and has a dance studio, meeting space, flat-screen TV, kitchen, concession stand, computer room, exercise room, arts and crafts room and outdoor deck.

The village used a $30,000 grant from the Health Department to purchase treadmills, exercise bikes, weight-lifting equipment, a Wii Fit, outdoor sports equipment and dance studio supplies.

Instructors to teach art, computer literacy, tennis and more are needed.

Rockland County and CSEA Finally Reach Deal
Rockland County and the Civil Service Employees Association, the county’s largest worker union, have finally reached a deal for a new labor contract. After negotiating since December 2010.

The deal includes deferred paychecks, salary freezes, health care contributions and a ban on layoffs based on budgetary reasons.

The contract must still be looked over by the CSEA’s almost 2,200 workers and go through a final approval in the Legislature.

But the two sides are finally feeling good about the agreement and feel it’s fair.

Court Dismisses Schmitt’s Case
A decision was announced this week by the Albany Supreme Court that a lawsuit filed by Colin Schmitt—alleging that Mayor of the Village of Goshen and Republican candidate for the 99th Assembly District, Kyle Roddey, collected signatures for his campaign that contained inconsistencies—was dismissed after its filing on July 24. Justice Eugene P. Devine, who presided over the case, stated that Schmitt’s “petition lacks any merit.”

The ‘invalidating petition,’ filed by the opponent, was accompanied by an ‘emergency’ affirmation. The court, however, dismissed the petition within a matter of days, and an award of costs was granted to the respondent.

The judge stated the following in his written decision:

“Clearly, the respondent received well above the required number of valid signatures and exercised due diligence in doing so. Therefore, as this court now finds and determines that the petition lacks any merit and must be dismissed, the court will also award costs to respondent [Roddey].”