Timelines 1/16/14

Congers resident accused of stealing almost $779,000 from teachers union
A Rockland County resident and Westchester school principal was arrested last Tuesday on charges related to embezzlement of funds from a teachers’ union to pay for his two homes. Frank Gluberman, 66, was arrested by Greenbugh police and stands accused of writing checks to himself and his two daughters to pay for homes in Congers and Wesley Hills. Gluberman allegedly drew the money from a common teachers’ union fund set up to assist members with medical and life insurance, legal fees and other expenditures. Gluberman has been placed on administrative leave from his position and has been jailed on $50,000 bail. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

New condominium complex planned for West Ramapo
A New Jersey developer has announced plans to build a 384-unit condominium complex on 54 acres of land just south of Sloatsburg on Route 17. The complex, known as Woodmont Hills, will be built on a parcel of land in unincorporated Ramapo. It has already been before Ramapo’s Community Design Review Committee, which seems receptive to the idea, and is set to go before the Ramapo Planning Board next month. The project is not without its critics. According to Sloatsburg Mayor Carl Wright, the new development could exacerbate flooding and traffic in the area and bring in school children the school district is ill-equipped to accommodate. Environmentalist Patsy Wooters of Suffern, who heads the Torne Valley Preservation Association, also mentioned the project could disrupt a major foraging area for timber rattlesnakes, a threatened species.

Clarkstown gets $7.4 million in state funds for flood remediation
Clarkstown received three grants from New York State totaling $7.4 million on Monday, funds which will be used for flood remediation projects throughout the town. The money has been allocated toward three projects. The largest $3.46 million grant was received through the Launch Coastal Protection projects, will be used to update a Hackensack River levee near Klein Avenue in West Nyack, where flooding has been a frequent problem. A second $1 million grant from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation will go to the West Nyack Wetlands Restoration Project, which will restore wetland environments, set up educational resources and prevent flooding near the West Nyack Hamlet Green Pocket Park. The third and widest-ranging grant came through the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program. It will pay for $3 million in reconstruction and prevention programs throughout the town.

Tappan ZeeExpress, TOR buses to switch over to fare boxes
Fare boxes will be installed within a month on buses managed by the Tappan ZeeExpress and TOR lines in a move which transportation officials hope will help improve the efficiency and speed of public transportation. The $1.3 million project will allow riders to drop their fares in boxes rather than handing them over to the driver. The boxes take bills up to twenty dollars and coins as low as dimes, though quarters are recommended. If riders do not have exact change, the box will generate a slip which is good for an equivalent deduction on future fares. The county is hoping to phase out the use of SuperSaver tickets in favor of electronic cards by the Spring. Until then, other cards and vouchers such as SuperSaver tickets and Metro-North Railroad UniTickets must still be shown to the driver.

Department of Justice recommends race-based quota system for school punishments
In a memo released on Wednesday, the Department of Justice outlined recommendations for schools to correct disproportionately high penalties for minority students with what appeared to be a quota system. The memo, which was co-released by the Department of Education, argued certain “zero-tolerance” policies were illegal because they effectively impacted minority students more than white students. Such policies include mandatory suspensions or expulsion for certain offenses and citations for relatively minor infractions such as tardiness or the use of a cell phone. Education experts have criticized the statement as unrealistic, counterproductive and ignorant of the needs of both educators and students. Among other concerns are a lack of discipline resulting from lax enforcement, disproportionate impact on schools with smaller minority student bodies and penalization of schools for essentially equitable policies.

Bloomberg donates $2.5 million to Senate Democrats
Shortly after the end of his three-term tenure as New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg made clear he was remaining busy with politics with sizable donation to a Democratic super PAC. Bloomberg donated $2.5 to Senate Majority PAC, which is dedicated to helping Democratic senators retain control of the senate in the upcoming midterm elections. The Democrats are facing a critical juncture in 2014, with 21 of their 35 seats up for grabs in November. The former mayor is not unfamiliar with throwing his weight behind politicians who share his goals, particularly in the area of gun control. Bloomberg founded and supported Mayors Against Illegal Guns during his time in office and pumped $5 million to Independence USA PAC, which assisted politicians in Chicago who pushed for greater gun restrictions. According to Bloomberg’s advisor and former chief spokesman Stu Loeser, Bloomberg may also finance Republicans with whom he sympathizes.

Supreme Court refuses to hear bid to re-instate Arizona’s abortion ban
The Supreme Court rejected a request by the state of Arizona that it evaluate a lower court’s ruling which struck down the state’s abortion ban last week, striking down one of the most restrictive abortion regulations in the country. On appeal, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law, arguing it clearly went against precedent regarding accessibility of abortion services for women. With the rejection of an appeal to the Supreme Court, the law is effectively nullified. The law, which was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, is considered one of the toughest in the country, even among conservative states which have recently pushed to restrict abortion. The law banned the termination of pregnancies beyond 20 weeks.

State Assemblyman resigns over sexual harassment allegations
Democratic State Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak, 62, resigned from his position on Sunday in response to claims that he had been sexually harassing female staffers. The alllegations came to light a month ago when seven legal complaints were released detailing claims that Gabryszak had harassed female staffers by pressuring them to stay the night with him in hotels or apartments, requesting they go to massage parlors with him and commenting on their appearance. Gabryszak had also been under investigation by the Assembly’s ethics committee since the allegations were made. According to at least one of the staffers, his resignation would not affect her case. Though the Assemblyman explained he would resign his seat to tend to his family and prevent distraction in the state legislature, he has denied the accusations.

Minnesota families receive settlement for unlawful retention of their childrens’ DNA
Following a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Health, 21 Minnesota families won a settlement for the Department’s storage of blood samples and genetic data on the parents’ newborn infants. The genetic data and blood were gathered as part of an attempt by the Department of Health to create a “bio-bank” of information which was sold to drug companies and medical equipment manufacturers for research. However, parents were not notified of its use when they participated in the state’s Newborn Screening Program. Following the discovery, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that the data was legally inaccessible without written, informed consent from families. The current settlement now requires the state to comply with genetic privacy laws by destroying all collected blood samples and genetic test results.

Study suggests brain exercises might help slow dementia
A study published in the Journal of Geriatric Psychology on Monday suggests exercised designed to train the brains of the elderly could produce lasting benefits by helping to stave off dementia. The 2,800 person study-the largest of its kind-used both paper-and-pencil and computer tests to improve mental performance in seniors. Participants with a median age of 74 had 10 sessions lasting 60 to 70 minutes each, with some participating in follow-ups with additional exercises. The results were encouraging, with almost three quarters of participants retaining the mental benefits of the program ten years later. Though the exercises seemed to postpone dementia rather than prevent it, it is hoped the research might be applied to help seniors retain their independence longer by preserving their mental faculties.

Southwest flight grounded for landing at the wrong airport
A flight bound for one airport landed at another one nearby in an apparent mistake which left the plane grounded and is forcing Southwest to investigate the incident. The flight, bound for Branson Airport in Missouri from Midway International Airport in Chicago, mistakenly landed at nearby Taney County Airport at 6:11 p.m. on Sunday. According to Southwest spokesperson Brad Hawkins, the landing was executed without incident and the passengers and crew are all safe. This is the second such incident in two months, the first being the landing of a Boeing 747 at the Col. James Jabara Airport when its intended destination was McConnell Air Force Base 9 miles away in Wichita, Kansas.

NY SAFE Act ammunition checks postponed
A provision in the New York State SAFE Act which was supposed to begin on Wednesday has been postponed due to technical issues. The provision would have required background checks for ammunition purchases. However, the database meant to collect purchaser data is not ready and the deadline has been pushed back with no replacement date set. While the ammunition checks will not go into effect, others are now in force. Included among them are gun retail licensure for online retailers and a requirement that gun owners get rid of or modify magazines which carry more than 7 rounds.

Accident kills one and injures three on Route 202
A car accident in the Ramapo section of Pomona resulted in one death and three injuries early Wednesday morning. The accident, a collision between a van and a car at 7:24 a.m., was bad enough that it required 45 minutes for firefighters to rescue the occupants of both cars. Three individuals were sent to Good Samaritan Hospital with serious injuries and one was later pronounced dead. The crash was likely caused by icy road conditions. The scene of the accident on Route 202 was closed until 11 a.m. when the cleanup was completed.

A-Rod files suit against MLB and players’ union over performance enhancers
Alex Rodriguez filed suit against Major League Baseball and its players’ union to overturn a previous judgment which found him to have used at least three performance-enhancing drugs. In the lawsuit, A-Rod’s attorneys argue the Major League Baseball Player’s Association “completely abdicated its responsibility to Mr. Rodriguez to protect his rights” when it represented him at an arbitration meeting. The third baseman is seeking to avoid a season-long suspension which was imposed by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz as an alternative to a longer 211 game suspension. Rodriguez admitted to the use of performance enhancers from 2001 to 2003 but claimed he has stopped since. However, following an MLB investigation, it was found that from 2010 to 2012, Florida-based anti—aging clinic Biogenesis of America supplied A-rod with human growth hormone, testosterone and insulin-like growth factor-1.