Lawmakers praise Rockland County Times coverage
BY ROBERT KNIGHT
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
Their names have been broadcast in bright daylight. Undercover officers, some who pose as “bad guys” that should not be allowed to have a pistol permit, outed by their own local newspaper.
Orangetown Police Chief Kevin Nulty joined a growing chorus in blasting The Journal News. “I think The Journal-News went overboard on this,” he said, noting that in his opinion the listing of names and addresses of gun permit holders jeopardizes their health and safety, and clearly jeopardizes the safety of all local undercover officers regardless of the department for which they work.
Joining Nulty and the County of Rockland Tuesday evening, the Orangetown Town Board publicly criticized the gun map of the Rockland County Journal-News, saying the newspaper’s recent publishing of a map listing the names and addresses of all gun permit holders endangers the lives and safety of all police, correction, undercover and investigative officers, from local town and village departments to federal security agencies.
The strongly worded resolution, which was approved on a 4-0 vote with one abstention, was introduced by Republican Councilman Paul Valentine of Blauvelt and seconded by fellow GOP member Denis Troy of Pearl River. It was quickly supported by fellow Republicans Thomas Diviny and Thomas Morr.
“Resolved that the Orangetown Town Board condemns The Journal-News for publishing the names and addresses of legal gun permit owners in Rockland County,” the motion drafted by Morr read. “This reporting was unnecessary and potentially dangerous,” it concluded.
Abstaining on the vote was Democratic Supervisor Andrew Stewart, who said he was unaware his GOP compatriots were bringing the matter up, and wanted more time to study the issue, and the wording of the actual resolution. “I want to reserve judgment on this resolution for the time being,” Stewart said, noting that he is both loathe to criticize the news media on their reporting efforts and a strong believer in freedom of the press and transparency in government.
Because he also wasn’t prepared to vote against the resolution, which he claimed was “sprung” on him by the Republican-dominated council, Stewart said he would abstain from voting instead.
The vote came after audience members lauded the resolution, including Pearl River resident and frequent board attendee Michael Mandel, a retired New York City police officer.
Police Chief Nulty also commented, when asked for his opinion by council members curious as to the views of the town’s highest-ranking officer.
“I do not agree with their (The Journal-News) doing that,” Nulty said. To begin with, the chief noted, “25 percent of the list they published was incorrect.” It contained the names of many deceased permit holders, and others who moved out of Rockland County years ago, he said, citing a neighbor of his in Pearl River who was listed but who “died several years ago.”
As an example, he said the list included most of the correction officers at the Rockland County Jail in New City. Because their names and home addresses were listed, and they must wear name tags while on duty, the inmates now know exactly where each guard lives, and they have been harassing and threatening those guards ever since the list appeared.
The inmates also know when the guards work, meaning they know when their families at home are alone and unprotected, and thus most subject to home invasions, kidnapping and assault. The inmates have been threatening the guards with this information since The Journal-News published the list, Nulty said, telling the guards that they have friends and family on the outside who can easily visit their homes when the guards are at work.
The chief went on to say that hundreds of people on the published list work undercover, and are not supposed to have their names and addresses made public. They include not only local village and town police here in Rockland who are detectives and on various undercover task forces such as narcotics, intelligence and organized crime, but county detectives in the Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s office, in addition to hundreds or even thousands of New York City police officers who live here.
Additionally, Nulty said the northern suburbs of Rockland and Westchester Counties are home to many federal undercover officers, whose identities are also supposed to be confidential, for their own safety and to safeguard their investigations. They include agents working for the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service and all four branches of the military. As law-abiding citizens, if they carry guns, which most do, the chief said they apply for and receive local carry permits. Until The Journal-News published this information, however, their identities had always been kept secret.
Nulty, Mandel and others noted that the interactivity of the map published by the newspaper allows browsers to click in on each individual permit holder and pull up a photograph of their house, often complete with their car sitting in the driveway and a clear view of their license plate number.
Sophisticated computer uses can also go to other sites and learn the names, ages and other data of all family members, as well as occupations, employers, schools and other information, endangering not only the officers but their families as well. In an unusual turn of events, Troy also praised the Rockland County Times for its continuing series of articles critical of The Journal News policy in the current gun controversy.
Troy normally takes turns criticizing all local media, including the Times, The Journal News and Our Town, for publishing what he terms inaccurate, biased or misleading articles. Tuesday he went out of his way to praise the Times, and particularly its Dec. 27 listing of the names, addresses and telephone numbers of top Journal News editors and publishers.
“The Journal News never warned people for months that we were headed for the fiscal cliff in America, yet they feel it is appropriate to list the names and home addresses of legal gun owners as if they are criminals,” Troy said. Regarding that newspaper’s hiring of armed security guards at its West Nyack office because of the ongoing controversy, Troy wondered aloud if the paper would publish their names and home addresses as well.
The Rockland County Legislature reportedly passed a similar resolution Tuesday evening also criticizing The Journal News. Wording of that resolution was distributed to town board members after their meeting.
In other business at Tuesday evening’s town board meeting the council voted to:
- Delay increasing the annual permit fee for a hawking and peddling permit from the current $250 to $300. Town Clerk Charlotte Madigan said there are currently 78 licensed vendors who normally work the street crowds at large public events such as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Pearl River selling flags, balloons, snack food and other trinkets. Almost all are from outside of Orangetown, she responded to questions from council members. After unanimously approving a series of preliminary resolutions regarding this measure, the council suddenly reversed position when it realized during a brief discussion that it had no background knowledge of the subject. The board then requested Mrs. Madigan to supply it with a full list of the current vendors, where they live and what they sell, and pulled the item from the agenda until this information is at hand.
- Approve allowing all elected town officials and department heads to attend the annual New York State Association of Towns four-day convention in Manhattan next month, at town expense, with Receiver of Taxes Robert Simon designated as the town’s official voting delegate. Supervisor Andrew Stewart is the alternate delegate.
- Agree to sponsor a public hearing on the 2013 Rockland County Community Development Block Grant Program at 8 p.m. on January 29 at the Town Hall. The funding for the program comes from the federal government, passing through the Rockland County CDBG consortium which divides it up among the county’s several towns and villages. Because the money is awarded based on a community’s level of poverty, Orangetown usually gets nothing, or very little, compared to Nyack, Spring Valley, Haverstraw and Ramapo, which get the bulk of the funding. Orangetown usually applies for sidewalk improvements in its only census tract with a high poverty level, along Route 340 in Sparkill where there are two subsidized senior housing projects, two colleges, a Catholic convent and nursing home and the main campus of Camp Venture. Sister Peggy Scaringe of the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill is the chairperson of Orangetown’s CDBG committee, and is expected to give that group’s recommendation for funding at the Jan. 29 hearing.
- Agree to sign a memorandum of understanding with Rockland County whereby the town will assign one of its police officers to work full-time for the newly created Rockland County Regional Investigative Resource Center. The county will reimburse Orangetown the salary and benefit costs of the officer. Previously the county had two such task forces, one for narcotics and the other for intelligence, and Orangetown had provided an officer for each of them. When the county stopped reimbursements last year, however, the town withdrew. Other towns and villages reacted similarly, and the task forces were about to be abolished. At the last minute, the county switched gears and combined the old task forces into a single new one, and agreed to reimburse towns and villages for loaned officers once again, but for only about half the total number of officers involved.
- Agree to extend the annual agreement to hire Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker LLP for another year to serve as Orangetown public relations agency in Albany as the town negotiates with state agencies over procurement of what is left of the Rockland Psychiatric Center campus in Orangeburg. The town will pay the firm $4,000 a month, plus out of pocket expenses, as it continues its effort to acquire the former children’s psychiatric center off Convent Road, Staff Court off Old Orangeburg Road, and the power plant complex at mid-campus. The land and buildings total more than 100 acres, in addition to the 348 acres of former RPC campus the town acquired a decade ago for $6million. The town is still trying to figure out how to redevelop the majority of that land ten years later, but feels it can better market the land and buildings if it is one large contiguous parcel rather than scattered sites. The town is attempting to secure the new land at a reduced price, or for free, and is using the powerful lobbying firm to assist it in negotiating with a variety of state agencies, including the Department of Mental Health, the Department of General Services and the state legislature.
- Re-appoint Patricia Castelli to the Zoning Board of Appeals for five years and appoint Michael Bosco to the same board to complete the two-year remaining term of William Mowerson, who resigned, and appoint Len Feroldi as an alternative member, for one year. Daniel Sullivan’s term on the ZBA was corrected to show an expiration date of Dec.31, 2015, and he was also named chairman of the board for this year.
- Re-appoint William Young to the Planning Board for seven years, correct member Bruce Bond’s term on that board to end Dec. 31, 2017 and appoint member Kevin Garvey as board chairman for 2013.
- Re-appoint Jill Fieldstein to a new three-year term of office on the Architectural and Community Appearance Board of Review and correct the term of office of ACABOR member Blythe Yost to end Dec. 31, 2014.
- Not appoint ACABOR member Paul Papay as board chairman for the coming year, when no Republican council member would second Supervisor Stewart’s motion for the appointment. None would provide any explanation for their lack of action, and when Stewart asked how the board would function without a chairperson, councilmen said they would discuss it privately with the supervisor at a later date and the issue would eventually be resolved. Stewart expressed surprise and even shock at the board’s action, but indicated he would go along with their request “for the time being.”
- Re-appoint Elizabeth Mattison to a five-year term on the Board of Assessment review.
- Agree to release a $24,870 performance bond posted last year by Nolan Monument Co., after members agreed the company had done an excellent job restoring an abandoned gas station on Route 303 in Orangeburg, and converting it into an attractive monument store.
- Receive and file various legal documents submitted to the town by the developer of 155 Corporate Drive in Orangeburg, so that re-development of that commercial site can proceed.
- Accept with regret the retirement resignation of Orangetown Police Lieutenant Joseph Holahan, effective Jan. 22.
- Approve the issuance of bingo licenses to St. Margaret’s Catholic Church and School Auxiliary and Beth Am Temple, all in Pearl River, allowing all three entities to conduct legal fund-raising bingo games at their premises this year.
- Authorize Town Clerk Charlotte Madigan to accept and file ten documents in her office, submitted by various internal and external agencies and departments.
- Adjourn the meeting in memory of Patricia Maher, mother of Orangetown Detective Peter Maher; Mary Fitzgerald, mother of police officer Stephen Fitzgerald; Maria Luciano, mother of town employee Frank Luciano and life-long Pearl River resident and businessman Ronald Beckerle.