Timelines 6/12/14

Religious day camp begins construction of pools without permits
A religious day camp in Chestnut Ridge is currently building four swimming pools as per a lease agreement, though they are proceeding without the proper permits. Teaneck-based Camp Shalom began work earlier this week and was ordered to cease construction, but by the time code enforcement officials could act, the construction had already been completed. According to Chestnut Ridge Mayor Rosario Presti Jr., the camp initially told him they would not need permits because it was school property. Nonetheless, the camp’s attorney Ryan Karben promised all legally-required permits would be secured for a set of concrete pads which will form the foundation of the above-ground pools. Along with zoning board approval, the camp must also receive two separate approvals from the County Health Department. The East Ramapo Central School District leased the Chestnut Ridge Middle School property to the camp in February. The two-year lease is expected to net $125,000 for the school district and might be extended as long as five years.

Man drowns in Harriman lake
A 20-year-old man died on Tuesday after he drowned in Pine Meadow Lake in Harriman State Park. According to police, the man was with friends. He attempted to swim the length of the lake when he cramped and went under. First responders reached the lake at around 6 p.m., but could not rescue the man. The deceased man’s name has not been released. Swimming is not permitted at Pine Meadow Lake and most other bodies of water in Harriman due to a lack of lifeguards and unseen conditions such as current changes. The incident is similar to two other drownings at Hessian Lake last summer, where swimming is similarly not permitted.

Legislature shows support for state anti-fraud office
The Rockland County Legislature passed a resolution last week supporting the creation of the Enterprise Program Fraud Office, a new state entity dedicated to investigating and curtailing fraud. The Office would work under the supervision of the State Inspector General to identify fraud, waste, and abuse of public funds. It would monitor databases which track payouts from public funds such as Medicare, workers compensation and unemployment. “The use of technology to coordinate data across agencies and programs would increase efficiency, speed up investigations, and potentially result in millions of dollars in cost-savings to the State,” The county bill’s sponsor Leg. Barry Kantrowitz said. Much of the Fraud Office’s activities would take place in a digital realm, with the use of advanced analytical software to cut down on errors and improper claims.

Water resources management task force proposed
With efforts ongoing in both the office of the County ExecutiveRockland County might see the creation of a task force on county water needs. The County Legislature’s Environmental Committee is set to discuss the formation of a 19 member body tasked with developing a long-term water supply plan. The task force, which was first proposed in October 2013, will likely focus on demand-side principles and means of making the most efficient use of existent resources as possible. Members of the task force will likely include representatives from the County Executive’s office, the Legislature, county departments, town, village and school bodies, the scientific community, and United Water.

Bernard Charles Jr. resigns from current town position, gets another
Bernard Charles Jr., the husband of Ramapo Town Board member Brendel Charles and a former Spring Valley Mayoral candidate, resigned from his current position as the Director of Parks and Recreation for another position with the town. Charles was also terminated from a controversial $5,000 per year public affairs consulting gig on March 30. Critics accused Charles of winning the position due to nepotism, but he managed to hold onto it until he got his new position as an assistant recreation activities coordinator. The assistant recreation activities coordinator position had been vacant for five years until Charles was chosen from a pool of three applicants. Pending his passage of a civil service exam, Charles will receive almost $46,000 annually from his new position.

New anti-heroin legislation passes State Senate
New York’s Senate passed new reforms targeting a perceived rise in heroin usage in the state, clearing its way for passage in the State Assembly and the Governor’s signature. The package of 23 bills are the product of recommendations from the Joint Senate Task Force on Heron and Opiate Addiction, which held a series of 17 forums across the state to gather input. The Assembly is preparing to hold its own roundtable meetings on the bills and one bill expanding access to the anti-overdose drug naxolone has already passed both houses. The bills cover a broad range of medical, drug treatment and criminal concerns related to the proliferation of heroin and prescription opiate abuse. Individual areas of focus include expanding the quality and availability of drug treatment programs both inside and outside the criminal justice system, limiting pharmaceutical distribution of painkillers, boosting public education on drug abuse and stiffening penalties against drug traffickers.

Derek Fisher hired as New York Knicks head coach
Derek Fisher will accept the New York Knicks’ head coaching job, according to Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck. A press conference could be held as soon as Tuesday, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. Fisher will receive a five-year deal for $25 million, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. That’s the same contract that Steve Kerr received to coach the Golden State Warriors. Kerr was team president Phil Jackson’s top choice to coach the club, but chose the Warriors instead.

Study: 93 percent of Kiryas Joel residents receive Medicaid
New data recently released by Orange County shows about 93 percent of its residents to be on Medicaid, a figure activists hope to use in their argument against further expansions of the village. The figures show 20,000 people enrolled in the program, about 11,000 more people than older data sets had shown. The high enrollment is also reflected in tax records for the village’s Ezras Choilim Health Center, which recorded 80 percent of its $18.3 million in 2012 revenue as coming from Medicaid. Kiryas Joel’s enrollment is significantly higher than other areas of Orange County, as well. Newburgh has a 33% enrollment rate, Middletown has a 36% rate and Port Jervis has a 31 percent rate. The percentage of residents enrolled countywide is 24%. Kiryas Joel ignited controversy with efforts to annex about 507 acres of nearby land into the village. Activists against the annexation claim the move would drive up taxes and social service costs.

State PSC seeks comment on Time Warner-Comcast Merger
The New York State Public Service Commission is currently seeking comment on the proposed merger between telecommunications giants Time Warner and Comcast. The PSC is using its authority to conduct an investigation into the transaction, which will entail an exchange of 100 percent of Time Warner’s equity for Comcast Class A Shares. Time Warner currently provides cable television, internet and telephone services to 2.6 million subscribers in Dutchess, Westchester and Putnam Counties. Though the decision has been pushed by the telecom companies as a way to improve services, critics contend the merger would reduce competition to unacceptable levels and give Comcast, which is known for poor customer service, too much leeway to do as it wishes without threat of competition. Prior to the PSC’s decision, the public can present its commentary before an administrative law judge at public input sessions in New York City, Buffalo and Albany. The New York session is to be held at the NYS Department of Public Service at 90 Church Street at 7:30 p.m. An informational forum will begin shortly beforehand at 6 p.m. Commentary can also be provided by emailing secretary@dps.ny.gov or calling the PSC’s toll-free opinion line at 1-800-335-2120.

Attorneys for embattled officials condemn notorious Monsey informant
Speaking for clients in a wide-reaching corruption case which snared state and local officials alike, attorneys lambasted Monsey real estate developer and FBI informant Moses “Mark” Stern as liar who is only testifying to avoid punishment for his own crimes. Attorneys for former State Sen. Malcom Smith, former NYC Councilman Dan Halloran and former Queens Republican Leader Vincent Tabone spoke out against Stern, with Smith’s attorney Gerald Shargel telling jurors “had no conscience” and only cooperated as a last resort. Stern was accused of defrauding Citicorp out of $126 million before agreeing to wear a wire for the FBI while he allegedly helped broker deals between Smith and Republican leaders so the former senator could run for mayor of New York. Stern pled guilty to unspecified charges and awaits sentencing. Stern also assisted the FBI by arranging a fake deal with former Spring Valley mayor Noramie Jasmin and her Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret. Stern arranged for a payment to Jasmin in exchange for her support for a Jewish catering hall in the village.

Four shooting sprees occur within the past week
Four shooting events occurred across the United States within the past week, prompting renewed focus on the threat of active shooters. Two of the shootings seem to be linked to individuals with anti-government sentiments. On June 8, a married couple with a history of support for the right-wing “patriot movement” shot two police officers and one civilian to death in Las Vegas before the woman killed her husband and herself. Two days earlier, a man with ties to the “Sovereign Citizens” movement stormed a courthouse in Forsyth County, Georgia, wounding one officer with an AR-15 assault rifle before being shot to death. In two other instances, the shooter had less overt motives. On June 5, Aaron Ybarra was pepper sprayed and disabled by a building monitor after killing one student and injuring three others at Seattle Pacific University. Another gunman at Reynolds High School in Portland, Oregon killed one student and wounded a teacher. The shootings come as the country continues to discuss the recent massacre perpetrated by Elliot Rodger, who killed seven people and injured 13 near Santa Barbara, California.

Cuomo calls for fiscal monitor in East Ramapo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling on the state Education Department to install a fiscal monitor for the troubled East Ramapo school district in Rockland County. Cuomo’s office told Gannett’s Albany Bureau on Tuesday that the governor will recommend that Albany attorney Hank Greenberg, a former counsel for Cuomo in the Attorney General’s Office, be appointed by the Education Department to the role. The move comes after local officials have pressed for state intervention in the school district, which has been plagued by turmoil, budget woes and a divided community. Oscar Cohen, a retired school administrator who chairs the education committee of the Spring Valley chapter of the NAACP, said he was pleased to hear that Cuomo would be stepping in. In April, religious leaders called on Cuomo to help resolve the district’s difficulties. But Cuomo had previously maintained that his role is limited: the state Education Department and the Board of Regents oversee the district. Cuomo’s intervention would undoubtedly increase pressure on the state Education Department to act. There was no immediate comment from Education Department or the school district. The district has been criticized for financial mismanagement and budget cuts that have slashed art and music programs, sports and hundreds of teaching positions.

Obama to endorse Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s student loan overhaul
President Barack Obama is expected to support a proposal drafted by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) aimed at alleviating increasing burdens associated with student loan debt. Warren’s Senate proposal would allow debtors to refinance their high interest rate loans in exchange for low interest rate loans offered by the Education Department. The new loan interest rates could be as low as 3.86 for student borrowers and 6.41 for parents who took out loans for their children. Obama was initially reluctant to support the bill, but reversed his position under increased pressure from the ascendant populist wing of the Democratic party. Now, the bill is part of a larger “Fair-Shot” agenda aimed at rallying the left around Democrats prior to the November elections. Nonetheless, the bill has little chance of passing in the Senate. Republicans have balked at both the proposal and funding mechanisms which consist largely of taxes on the wealthy and will likely have enough votes to either stall the bill or filibuster it. After home mortgages, student loan debt makes up the biggest form of consumer debt in the United States. About 40 million Americans currently hold about $1.3 trillion in student loans.

 

Golden Dawn sees resurgence, shows more overt signs of Nazi sympathies
Golden Dawn, Greece’s major ultra-nationalist party, has grown in visibility and outspokenness over the past week, adopting openly neo-Nazi and fascist imagery in its protests and rhetoric and shocking a country typically known as the birthplace of Democracy. Reports of Golden Dawn protests at the Greek Parliament included accounts of protesters who openly sang the German SS’s Horst Wessel song and gave Nazi salutes as they railed against the prosecution of Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloiakos for murder and assault. The displays have confirmed fears the party had not strayed from its violent and extremist roots, even as it continues an attempt to soften its image to draw Greek voters outside of the political fringes. Golden Dawn saw something of a resurgence in recent months. Following the murder of a left-wing hip hop artist and activist by a Golden Dawn supporter and police crackdowns on the group’s leadership, its popularity ratings dipped. However, they still made a strong showing at the ballot box, boasting 9.4 percent of European election turnout.