Tarrytown woman safe after Tappan Zee suicide threat
A 37-year old Tarrytown woman is undegoing psychiatric tratment after she was found walking the Tappan Zee Bridge during what is believed to have been a suicide attempt. The woman was spotted by a New York State Thruway emergency truck crew walking along the bridge in the early morning hours. A state trooper subsequently found her on the bridge and took her into custody without further incident. The incident this past weekend is the most recent in a recent spate of non-fatal bridge-walking cases. On Saturday, emergency services went looking for a woman who parked her car on the bridge with a suicide note, but safely returned to the car after a short walk. The night prior to the Tappan Zee incident, another man was found walking along the bridge, though police reported the man mistakenly believed the bridge was open to pedestrian traffic.
Sheriffs openly defy extended detention policy for immigrants
A recent federal court ruling in Oregon has prompted Sheriff’s Offices around the country to release undocumented immigrants held beyond their sentenced time during deportation proceedings. The ruling, which was handed down earlier this Spring, held that without probable cause, police could not hold an immigrant beyond their sentence solely at the request of the Department of Homeland Security, a process known as a “detainer.” Fearing further legal action on Fourth Amendment grounds, sheriffs offices began releasing the detainees. This places local law enforcement at direct legal odds with the Obama Administration, which expanded these “detainers” to streamline immigration policy and enforcement. California has seen a particularly strong debate over the policy, with federal officials alternately lobbying against and ignoring state efforts to make its own policy in line with the court ruling. Adding to the confusion are mixed signals from the administration itself. Though the Administration initially stated compliance with the policy was voluntary, it has since mandated the detainer policy.
Clarkstown to see $6 million budget gap
A recent report from Clarkstown Comptroller Edward Duer revealed a startling $6 million budget shortfall which could impact Clarkstown in the coming years. According to the report, expenditures are expected to surpass revenues by $6.17 million in 2015, $6.76 million in 2016, $6.71 in 2017 and $6.68 million in 2018. The revelation places renewed pressure on the Town to cut expenditures and increase revenues, even as they are limited by the state’s two percent tax cap and climbing wages, employee benefits and utility expenses. The town must also grapple with revenue woes. Reductions in mortgage recording taxes and temporarily elevated permit fee revenues managed to bring in some extra money, but it is not expected the extra sales tax revenue from the Shops at Nanuet will close the gap.
West Nyack man charged in violent group home sexual abuse, attempted murder
The Rockland County District Attorney’s Office confirmed on June 25 that a suspect had been charged in the sexual assault of a woman at a Clarkstown halfway house and the attempted murder of at least 13 others. According to prosecutors, Ethan Jimenez-Colon broke into the room of another resident of Lukens House in West Nyack on May 28 and attempted to forcibly rape her. The following night, he entered her room again through the unlocked bedroom door, physically assaulting and sexually abusing her. Colon then went to the kitchen of the halfway house, turned on the gas for all of the stoves and attempted to set the building on fire. Colon has been charged on 23 counts, including 13 counts of attempted murder, three counts of first degree sexual abuse and one count of first degree attempted arson. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 25 years in prison.
Commissioner of Planning and Public Transportation Tom Vanderbeek resigns
Tom Vanderbeek, an appointee of former County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef who acted as commissioner of the county’s Planning an Public Transportation Departments since 2011, resigned on June 5 to seek opportunities elsewhere. Vanderbeek served as commissioner through the beginning of the new Tappan Zee Bridge project and acted as a representative for the county on the Tappan Zee Bridge Mass Transit Task Force. During this time, he advocated for an expansion of Tappan ZEExpress bus services and infrastructure improvements, incorporating them and the new bridge to create a new regional system. Vanderbeek also presided over the awarding of $70 million in county bus contracts to Brega Transportation Corp., a case which resulted in litigation over the lowest responsible bidder to the contract. Among his last acts were the inclusion of electronic fare boxes on buses and a recent hike in bus fares on the TOR, Tappan ZEExpress and TRIPS bus lines. For the time being, Vanderbeek has been replaced by acting Commissioner Douglas Schuetz. The search for a permanent replacement has not yet begun.
Ted Cruz calls for probe into voter fraud in Mississippi primary race
Following a contentious primary race between two Republican candidates in Mississippi, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) joined the fray by criticizing the tactics of incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) and calling for a probe into allegations of voter fraud. Cochran won the June 24 runoff against Tea Party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel due in part to his efforts to court Democrats, especially in predominantly black districts. Mississippi voters do not register by party and are allowed to vote in the Republican race as long as they do not vote in the Democratic primary and do not plan to vote for a Democrat in the general election. Though Cochran won, McDaniel has not yet conceded. Lashing out, McDaniel’s campaign suggested the incumbent’s 6,700 lead might have been the result of voter fraud and refused to concede until the matter had been resolved. Tea Party backers have already announced they found at least 800 suspicious votes. Cruz did not accuse Cochran of fraud, he did acknowledge McDaniel had made dire claims which required investigation.
New York medical marijuana program signed into law
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the state’s comprehensive medical marijuana bill into law on July 7, allowing some of New York’s sickest residents access to the controversial medical treatment. The law limits use of the treatment to those with certain serious conditions including HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, inflammatory bowel disease, Huntington’s Disease and certain other neuropathic conditions and injuries. Prescribing physicians must be qualified to treat these diseases and will be required to register with the Department of Health, while patients will receive registry identification cards. Administration of medicine and distribution is also strictly regulated. Patients will only be allowed to purchase a supply maximum of 30 days’ worth of doses, which will be available at a small number of state-licensed dispensaries. Smoking is prohibited. A seven percent excise tax will apply to all medicinal marijuana purchases. The bill will sunset in seven years.
Pope promises bishops “will be held accountable” for overlooking abuse
Pope Francis I reiterated the Catholic leadership’s apologies toward victims of clerical sexual abuse on Monday and went a step further by vowing bishops who ignored the abuse will see justice. The comments were made during a private mass with six victims of clerical sex abuse. Francis explained the church’s archbishops had neglected the church’s duty to protect its most vulnerable members and endangered others as a consequence. “This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk,” he said. The comments did not go far enough according to some. Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) President Barbara Blaine argued the comments did nothing to affect real change and that stronger action was needed. Francis has been at the forefront of a new “zero tolerance” policy toward the priests who abuse children and the leadership which protects them. Last week, the Pope made news by announcing the defrocking of Polish Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, who was found guilty of sexually abusing minors.
Boehner: The time has come to sue Obama
In an effort to compel President Barack Obama to comply with the U.S. Constitution and abide by the separation of powers Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) has promised to introduce legislation later this month which will bring legal action against the White House. According to Boehner, the president has actively sought to bypass or undermine the efforts of Congress by ignoring a number of bills passed by the legislative branch and thus violating his oath to the U.S. Constitution. “In the end, the Constitution makes it clear that the President’s job is to faithfully execute the laws,” Boehner explained in his CNN op ed. “And, in my view, the President has not faithfully executed the laws when it comes to a range of issues, including his health care law, energy regulations, foreign policy and education.” Obama has already responded to Boehner’s warning, calling it “a stunt” and suggesting Congress should do less to undermine his actions and more to prevent its own obstructionist tendencies and pass laws.
13 Long Island beaches closed due to bacteria concerns
A total of 13 beaches in Long Island were closed over the holiday weekend due to concerns over abnormally high bacterial levels. The beaches are mostly located in Nassau County, where 10 North Shore beaches and one South Shore beach were closed on Saturday. In addition, Suffolk County saw the closure of two beaches at Heckscher State Park in East Islip. The two Suffolk County beaches were reopened later that day. The closures were caused by recent heavy rains which swept storm runoff into the sea. Storm runoff can often sweep bacteria into the sea and cause pathogen levels to temporarily spike.
Lower East Side bank robbed during Forth of July celebrations
The Lower East Side’s Popular Community Bank on Delancey Street near Essex was subject to an audacious robbery on the Fourth of July, making off with $290,000 while fireworks boomed over the East River. The robbers accessed the second story of the bank via a nearby construction site and sawed through a section of the roof to get inside the building. Once inside, they managed to break into a vault to steal some money, but failed to get into another larger vault. The entire heist was estimated to have taken about an hour. It is believed the perpetrators committed the crime around 9 p.m. so the fireworks show would mask the sound of sawing and hide their activities.
NYC sees 12 shootings within five hours during Fourth of July weekend
New York City recorded a surge in gun violence over the holiday weekend, with 12 shootings occurring over the space of five hours from Saturday night into Sunday morning. The incidents occurred in all boroughs except Manhattan. They included three fatalities, two of which occurred in Staten Island and one of which took place in Brooklyn. The shootings are the latest in a particularly bloody summer which saw 36 people shot-5 fatally-within the past two weeks. Shootings have been up 8 percent, with 521 incidents this year compared to 482 last year.
Tensions mount as Israel ramps up airstrikes
The progressive breakdown in relations between Israel and Hamas heated up early this week as both sides launched salvos of rockets into enemy territory and the Jewish state called up 1,500 reservists for an invasion of Gaza. About 29 Palestinians have died in rocket strikes since Monday night and 160 targets were struck by Israeli rockets, while two Israelis were wounded in counterattacks on Tuesday. According to Israeli military officials, 118 concealed military facilities and rocket sites were among the targeted locations. An Israeli invasion of Gaza might also be on the horizon as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced mounting pressure for a ground attack on a military structure rebuilt in the area since Israel’s last campaign in the area in 2012. Israeli-Palestinian relations have been considerably undermined in recent weeks with a breakdown in American-led peace talks, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and a retaliatory kidnapping-murder of one Palestinian teen.
Washington retail outlets begins sale of legal marijuana
The State of Washington became the second state to allow the legal sale of marijuana for both medical and recreational use on Tuesday, 20 months after a voter referedum effectively legalized the sale and purchase of the substance without a doctor’s note. Washington issued licenses to 24 separate retail outlets on Monday and sales began the next day. Consumers are now permitted to purchase up to an ounce of the dried plant and various other quantities of cannabis-infused foods and liquids, or concentrated cannabis products such as oils or hashish. About 100 individuals have also been approved to grow the plant in the state, a small fraction of the 2,600 who submitted applications.
Fate of Spring Valley summer camp hangs in the balance
With the pressure on from Spring Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme, the fate of Spring Valley’s summer camp remains uncertain even as the Village Board pushes for its security. The Board voted to restore the village’s summer camp, which had been put on ice after the village neglected to file necessary paperwork with the County’s Health Department to certify the camp. Though County Health Department summer camp supervisor John Stoughton stated the village could still receive certification if it filed the necessary paperwork, plans to allow the camp’s operation have not yet been finalized. Delhomme has been in a conflict with Camp Director Sonia Barton over a missed Health Department deadline, with both sides blaming each other for failing to file the necessary paperwork to certify the camp. The move comes shortly after the Village suspended Barton, a Village employee for unspecified “wrongdoings.”
Hudson highlands see low grade earthquake
Residents of the Hudson Highlands experienced a shock on Saturday when a magnitude-2.5 earthquake created a loud boom but no property damage or shaking. The quake occurred at around 10:46 a.m. in a wooded area 13 miles southeast of Newburgh and 23 miles northwest of White Plains, far from any known faultlines. The U.S. Geological Survey listed the quake as a Category 5, which is typically accompanied by mild tremors and little to no property damage. Though nobody was injured and no property was damaged, the quake rattled residents who heard a loud boom and scrambled to figure out its cause until finally learning that it was seismic in nature. Residents further south in the Lower Hudson Valley were too far from the epicenter to experience any effects.
Congers fireworks accident leads to three injuries, charges against homeowner
A fireworks display gone wrong resulted in injuries to three people and charges against one Congers homeowner for reckless endangerment on Friday. The incident occurred when a lit firework fell on its side during a local show. The firework fired into a crowd, causing burns and contusions to three. Two of the victims required hospitalization for their wounds, but none of the injuries were deemed life-threatening. Police arrested Alon Hahn, 46, for fourth degree reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. He was released from custody and is due back in Clarkstown Town Court for a hearing on July 14.
New Orleans mayor sentenced to 10 years
On Wednesday, Ray Nagin, former Mayor of New Orleans, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being found guilty of charges relating to fraud and bribery before and after Hurricane Katrina. He was convicted of accepting bribes from businessmen who wanted work from the city and support for hurricane recovery projects. He is ordered to report to federal prison on September 8 and pay restitution of $82,000. The government argued that Nagin tried to cover up his crimes in his testimony during the two-week trial. He was found guilty on 20 of 21 counts.