Timelines 6/19/14

Ramapo approves new apartment complex on Route 17

The Town of Ramapo’s Planning and Zoning Board approved the Woodmont Hills Apartments in a unanimous vote on what is certain to be a contentious issue.

The project consists of 384 one and two building units in 16 three-story buildings which will run about half a mile from Auntie El’s farm market to the entrance to the New York State Thruway. Though a public hearing was scheduled for February, the public comment period took longer than anticipated when residents and Sloatsburg officials voiced concerns over traffic and safety hazards.

Among the strongest critics was the Sloatsburg Fire Department. The SFD maintains the complex was a fire hazard not only because of its congestion near an already crowded roadway, but because SFD is not properly equipped to handle three-story apartment fires in a town consisting primarily of single-family homes.

Now that it has been approved by the Town, the development must weather reviews from the State Departments of Environmental Conservation and Transportation.
Bridge scour program proposed to update and strengthen bridges with federal funds

A $518 million bridge scouring program affecting 105 bridges within the state has been proposed and might soon receive significant federal funding.

The bridges would be improved thanks to the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), a FEMA-approved program designed to assist local agencies with infrastructure improvements. Much of the repairs will focus on restoring foundation materials affected by bridge scour, which erodes the materials and weakens bridge support structures.

Governor Cuomo requested FEMA’s review of 51 bridges last month and an additional 54 last week. The repairs, which will take place in 30 counties throughout the state, might see as much as $388 million in federal assistance.
Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn dies

Famed San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn died on June 16 at the age of 54 after a long battle with cancer.

Gwynn, a National Baseball Hall of Famer with a batting average of .338, was widely known as the best player in Padres history. After a two decade career with the team, he retired in 2001 and began coaching baseball for San Diego State University.

Though he is best known for baseball, Gwynn was also an accomplished basketball player who played for the Aztecs for four seasons and earned all-Western Athletic Conference performer status in both sports. He is the only player to accomplish the feat in two separate sports.

Astorino accuses Cuomo of evading property taxes

The campaign to get Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino elected as governor took an acrimonious turn last week when representatives of Astorino accused Governor Andrew Cuomo of evading property taxes on his Westchester home.

Astorino campaign spokeswoman Jessica Proud pointed to a Journal News investigation which found property taxes on a New Castle home shared between Cuomo and television chef Sandra Lee were set to jump 29 percent for the $1.2 million home. Though the home was purchased at that price in 2008, the assessment temporarily dropped to $936,000.

The changing value of the home was characterized as suspicious given that renovations were conducted on the home without permits. Proud argued there was an attempt to hide the property’s true value and that Cuomo refused to allow a tax assessor into the home to review the interior.

The governor responded by stating he did not know the assessor had been barred and was under the impression all that was needed for an assessment was an exterior inspection of the house.

Orange County teacher files suit after being fired for Newtown conspiracy comments

A Fox Lane High School teacher who was fired for discussing conspiracy theories regarding the Sandy Hook shooting is now suing the Bedford School District.

Adam Heller, 35 of Pound Ridge, came to the attention of law enforcement after an online acquaintance reported he had espoused beliefs that the government was responsible for the tragedy in Newtown. The acquaintance, referred to as a “medium” in court documents, alerted the FBI, who then alerted local police.

Police monitored Heller’s online and offline activities until January 18, 2013 when they observed him purchasing a .22 caliber rifle. He was questioned by police, involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment and eventually terminated from his employment in May.

Though Bedford Superintendent Jere Hochman argued in his disciplinary charges against Heller that the teacher had made false statements and continued to refuse treatment for mental illness, Heller claims in his suit that was neither mentally ill nor uncooperative.
Following public disclosure, religious camp applies for building permits

A religious summer camp in Chestnut Ridge reversed a position they took last week, applying for building permits with the Village in spite of claims it made that permits were not required for the avove ground pools they intend to construct.

According to Camp Shalom’s attorney Ryan Karben, the camp reached an agreement with the village which allows the camp to fulfill its goals while providing the information the Village needs. Pending a review by the Village, building permits for the pool plans may soon be approved.

The controversy began when the camp, which paid $125,000 to lease the property from the East Ramapo Central School District, hired workers to begin preliminary work on the pool, including the installation of electric meters for pool filters. After a stop-work order was submitted by the Village on June 4 and the refusal to apply for permits went public, Karben stated all necessary permits would be obtained.
Stony Point domestic dispute leads to arrest

A domestic assault incident which allegedly included acts of violence resulted in the arrest of a Stony Point man last Friday.

Francisco Tejada, 29, was arrested on charges of third degree assault, criminal mischief and second degree harassment after police responded to a report of a domestic dispute at a Debby Lane home. According to police, Tejada attacked a victim by hitting her and destroying property at the location.

Tejada was released on $500 bail and issued an Order of Protection. He is due back in court on May 17.


U.S. Patent Office cancels Redskins Trademark

In response to a federal lawsuit filed by five Native Americans, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled the trademark on the name of the Washington Redskins football team.

The Office canceled the trademark due to a policy which disallows the use of trademarks which disparage particular individuals or groups. Though the team’s name does not need to be changed, it does financially impact the team by limiting its ability to retain exclusive rights over merchandise and imagery associated with the team’s brand.

The decision is a victory for Native American groups and their supporters, who argue the name is a racial slur. They have succeeded in gathering broad support for a name change among not only civil rights groups but also among U.S. Senators with the Democratic Caucus and even some within the NFL.

In spite of the challenge, the Redskins’ attorney Robert Raskopf stated the ruling will not affect the Redskins’ use of the name, which will remain under trademark through the appeal process. A similar challenge to the trademark met with success to the team’s name in 1999, but was overturned after a 2009 federal court ruling.