TIMELINES 3/13/14

Preserve Ramapo accuses Town of favoring Orthodox groups for nonprofit funding
Four former candidates for seats in the Town of Ramapo accused the town of unfairly favoring Orthodox charities for nonprofit funding, a claim the Journal News said was confirmed by town records. Michael Parietti, Betty Carmand, Weldon McWilliams IV and Hiram Rivera accused Christopher St. Lawrence and the town of rewarding political supporters in the Orthodox community with funding while slashing support for secular nonprofits. The Journal News corroborated the claims with data gathered through a FOIL request which showed almost 80 percent of the town’s $309,000 in 2014 nonprofit funds going to locations in Monsey, New Square and Kaser. The biggest winner in the contest for funds was Kaser-based Rockand Opportunity Development Association, an aid organization for elderly and low-income residents. The Association received $105,000 in 2014, or over 25 percent of total funds. Such a contrast has been visible through the years, but was never as dramatic as the 2014 figures. From 2011 through 2013, Orthodox organizations received 60 percent of nonprofit funds.

Poll results show NYC voters diskile DeBlasio’s job performance
A Marist College poll released Thursday shows New Yorkers overwhelmingly dislike Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s current job performance, with only one third of them expressing a favorable opinion. Thirty nine percent of polled voters rated DeBlasio’s job performance as “good” or “excellent,” while 57 percent rated it as “good” or “poor.” This is a significant contrast to a Quinnippiac poll released in mid-January which showed 53 percent approval and 13 percent disapproval. The poll was not exclusively bad news for DeBlasio who seems to separate the job from the man. 63 percent of NYC voters said the mayor was fulfilling his campaign promises, 58 percent said he was a good leader and 59 percent had a favorable view of him as a person.

Metro-North employee struck and killed by train
Metro-North employee James Romanstoff, 58, of Yonkers, was struck and killed by a passenger train while he was working near 106th Street early Monday morning. Romanstoff, an eight-year eployee of Metro-North’s Power Department, was working on a set of tracks near the Park Avenue viaduct which had lost power. He was struck by the northbound train at around 12:54 a.m. Metro-North President Joseph Giuletti explained the railroad was working with the MTA Police Department, the Federal Raiload Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the incident and review Metro-North’s procedures.

State Comptroller: Homeowners and renters saw sharp increase in costs since 2000
A new report released by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on Monday pointed to sharp rises in homeowner and renter costs relative to income between the years of 2000 and 2012. The report used U.S. Census Bureau data to show that 3 million households across New York State pay more than the federal affordability threshold, which is measured as 30 percent of household income. The percentage of rents above the threshold jumped from 40.5 percent in 2000 to 50.6 percent in 2012. The percentage of homes paying an amount above the threshold increased from 26.4 percent to 33.9 percent over the same period. 28 percent of renters and 15 percent of homeowners had expenses greater than 50 percent of their household income. Costs have risen even as incomes have been in decline. Median housing costs increased 18.6 percent for renters and 9.9 percent for homeowners, while median household income dropped from 1.6 percent for renters and 7.1 percent for homeowners.

Bill providing oversight for part-time ER passes State Assembly
A bill proposed by State Assemblyman James Skoufis and approved by the State Assembly will require additional review procedures for hospitals wishing to reduce hours for full-time emergenncy departments. The proposed law will require hospitals to obtain a fulll certificate of need review and approval by the State Public Health and Planning Council before reductions in hours can occur. The hospital’s financial need, character history, competence and legal standing will be taken into consideration when a decision is made. Skoufis introduced the bill in response to a decision by St. Luke’s Hospital in Cornwall to close its emergenncy department between the hours of 10 p.m.

Cuomo’s Moreland Commission on corruption hits legislative opposition
Optimism in the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, a body put together by Governor Andrew Cuomo to root out misconduct in state government, has dwindled as governmental interference might signal its death knell. Though the Commission began with Cuomo’s assurances that it would get to the bottom of corruption in Albany, state legislators have balked at requests for information on their outside income. Cuomo has been accused of defanging investigations by reducing the number of subpoenas sent out, though the governor’s representatives argued the office was merely providing input. In two high-profile examples, the Commission declined to issue subpoenas to the New York Reaal Estate Board and the State Democratic Party. Both of these groups gave substantial sums of money to Cuomo’s campaign. Cuomo’s office is still pursuing a package of re-worked anti-corruption measures which was rejected by the legislature in its original form. State Republicans have expressed skepticism toward a public financing option for campaign contributions, but a compromise could also result in limited reforms while sparing legislators from potentially damaging investigations.

Congress set to approve 18 percent cap on flood insurance hikes
With support from Hudson Valley legislators representing districts still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, a new federal measure capping flood insurance hikes at 18 percent has passed the House of Representatives and is expected to be approved this week. Democratic representatives from the lower Hudson Valley, including Rockland representative Nita Lowey, voted for the measure, which passed 306-91. It is expected State Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand will vote for the legislation once it reaches the Senate. Previously, flood-damaged homes had been slow to rebuild due to burdensome premiums and no phase-in for higher insurannce rates. The new law would allow a phase-in, buying time for homeowners struggling to get back on their feet. The cap will also allow Congress to push for FEMA to work with local communities in drawing up new flood maps and partially repeal a 2012 law which drastically reduced premiums in some areas to sustain federal flood insurance programs.

Search continues for missing Malaysia Flight 370
Malaysia Flight 370, which disappeared on Saturday, remains missing as authorities widen their search and questions are raised about inconsistenncies and clumsy investigation on the part of Malaysia. The plane’s disappearance is now being investigated by eight countries. Most recently, India was wasked to join the search in the Adaman Sea, which the plane might have reached after crossing the Strait of Malacca. The flight disappeared from radar screens off the Gulf of Thailand, after which its location and direction became unknown. Even more puzzling was the lack of distress signals from the aircraft. Military radars picked up an unidentified object over the Strait of Malacca, but have not confirmed that it was the flight. A pair of Iranian nationals who boarded the flight with stolen passports are believed to be asylum-seekers and not involved in the disappearance. The Malaysian government has aided in the searche effort, but critics have chastised them for inconsistency and a lack of tramsparency. Malaysian Civil Aviation Director Azharuddin Abdul Rahman had said earlier in the week that there was information which could not be released to the public, while Air Force Chief Gen. Rodzali Daud denied remarks, later confirmed by another high-level military official, that the unidentified craft was Flight 370.

Feds OK Indian Point’s 2013 safety record
A safety assessment conducted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded this week that Indian Point’s reactors had no major safety issues in 2013. The report means the NRC will provide a normal level of oversight to the plant in 2014. Indian Point’s reactors 2 and 3 were deemed to be safe in 2013, with each receiving a green rating. A 20 year contract renewal with Entergy is still under consideration by the NRC. Though the plant has largely been given good reviews by regulators, Governor Andrew Cuomo has previously stated he intends to allow the contracts to expire.

Schoenberger pledges to amend legislation for timely payment of county obligations
Legislator Ilan Schoenberger is sponsoring a bill during the next legislative session which will require timely payment of county obligations to vendors and has pledged to work with County Executive Ed Day in crafting a final version of the law. Schoenberger’s plan originally required payment of contractors within 30 days of the approval of paperwork, but with an executive order from County Executive Ed Day, the requirement was relaxed to 60 days. Schoenberger did not contest the order and explained he was willing to compromise by amending his resolution to conform with the 60 day limit set forward by Day. The county is required to pay vendors, contractors and others with whom they do business within 90 days of the approval of paperwork. Due to bureaucratic errors, however, the county often fails to follow this guideline even when they have a check written out.

Jobless rate hits lowest point since 2008
Between December and January, New York State returned to pre-recession emploment figures according to new, preliminary figures from the Department of labor. The current 6.8 percent unemployment rate is the highest since 2008. Based on a payroll survey of 18,000 New York employers conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor”s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state added 5,400 jobs to its private sector, boosting the overall number to 7,529,200. New York saw a decrease in unemployment from December to January from 7.0 to 6.8. Unemployment is still higher than the national average of 6.6, but is falling faster, with national averages dropping only 0.1 percent during the same period.

Massive explosion in Harlem leaves two dead
An explosion and fire in East Harlem Wednesday morning caused the collapse of two buildings and the deaths of two people. The rubble of the two buildings, a piano store and Evangelical church, are being combed by firefighters searching for bodies and possible survivors. 18 people were injured in the blast and more casualties are expected. Three of the 14 patients treated at Mt. Sinai Hospital have been listed as being in serious condition. The cause of the explosion is not yet clear, but a gas leak was reported in the area 15 minutes before the blast. Following the explosion, utility workers dug down to gas lines in order to shut off its flow to the buildings.

Banker suicides could stem from intense pressures on modern bankers
A New York Post editorial by Jonathon Trugman points to a rash of recent suicides within the global financial industry as evidence the field has experienced both external pressure and internal strain since the 2009 financial crisis. Trugman points to continued bank layoffs and closings and explains modern finance is a fearful environment where job security is uncertain. He also blames negative perceptions of the banking industry in politics and among the general public as alienating to employees who might have had little to no involvement in the financial crisis. “If you’re a banker today, many who once looked up to you as a success now think you’re evil,” Trugman wrote. Trugman also explained modern bankers often earn significantly less than they once did, with average compensation falling as work hours balloon to 60-80 hours per week.