TIMELINES 8/7/14

New law prohibits sex offenders from joining volunteer fire companies
A law signed this week by Governor Andrew Cuomo will set up safeguards against the participation of registered sex offenders in volunteer fire companies and volunteer ambulance services. The law, which also terminates the membership of current volunteers with a history of sex offenses, allows fire chiefs to search existing public records and conduct background checks on candidates to verify their records. It is modeled after similar legislation passed in 1999 which enables fire chiefs to weed out arson suspects from applicant pools. The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York lauded the law. FASNY President James Burns argued it was a critical part of instilling public trust in emergency personnel. “Volunteer firefighters frequently interact with children and individuals who are in vulnerable situations,” Burns said. “Our volunteer firefighters are trusted members of the communities they serve and they require the legal tools necessary to ensure they maintain the integrity of their members and the well-earned trust of all those they interact with.”

New York Medical Examiner rules Garner death “homicide,” PBA president fires back
The New York Medical Examiner’s Office announced last week that the death of a Staten Island man who died while being subdued by police qualified as a homicide, prompting an angry response from the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, who claim the officer had violated no laws and was merely doing his job. PBA President Pat Lynch challenged the Office’s finding that the death was related to a chokehold Garner was allegedly placed in by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Instead, Lynch argued the officer was attempting to bring Garner to the ground. He also called the findings in the Medical Examiner’s report “political” and lashed out at public figures such as Mayor Bill DeBlasio and the Rev. Al Sharpton for politicizing the case and characterizing the actions of officers charged with arresting Garner.

Sheet pile driving halted in South Nyack
Assenting to suggestions from Nyack residents, the State Thruway Authority ordered Tappan Zee Constructors to cease sheet pile driving in South Nyack which exceeded agreed upon noise levels and disturbed village residents. The pile driving was recorded to be in excess of he contractual limit of 90 decibels. According to Special Advisor to the Governor Brian Conybeare, work would not resume in that particular area until mitigation measures were in place to prevent excessive noise from bothering residents. “We have been very clear that, the contract allows the Thruway project manager to stop any work that exceeds the contractual noise limits and that is exactly what we are doing,” Conybeare said. Nyack has experienced friction between residents and workers brought in for the project. The Village recently announced it was recording the license plates of workers who improperly parked on Nyack streets rather than designated work areas and has left open the possibility that workers who do not abide by contractually-agreed upon rules might be removed from the project.

No charges in death of Spring Valley child
No charges are expected to be filed in response to the death of 20-month old Dominic Mero, who was struck and killed by a truck which was backing up in the parking lot of his family’s Lottie Gardens apartment complex. Calling the incident a “tragic accident,” Spring Valley Police Chief Paul Modica stated the police concluded there was no fault after speaking to eyewitnesses, the child’s parents, the 33-year old Pomona man who drove the truck and others at the scene. According to them, the driver did not see Mero as the child ran out the door and into the lot. Police also concluded the parents were not negligent and that Mero was properly supervised. The death bound the community together in mourning, even prompting a fundraising drive to cover the family’s funerary expenses. Though there was one theft of a jar holding $300 in donations, locals were able to raise a significant sum of money. About $2,250 was raised by the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council alone.

Woman in critical condition after Palisades Parkway accident
A Queens woman remains in critical condition after a sedan in which she was a passenger flipped and struck a tree on the Palisades Interstate Parkway in Stony Point. The woman was traveling southbound in a Nissan Altima driven by a friend. At around 12:20 p.m., the driver lost control of the vehicle after what witnesses and police described as a possible tire blow out. The car rolled for a time before striking a tree and settling on the parkway’s median. Both women, who were described as being in their 20s, were hospitalized. The driver was taken to Nyack Hospital for serious but non-life-threatening injuries, while the passenger was listed as being in critical condition with multiple fractures and possible internal injuries. Though the driver was able to escape the wreck herself, the passenger had to be extracted from the car by emergency personnel and airlifted from Anthony Wayne Recreational Area to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla.

Orange & Rockland to use new paint technology to fight wire theft
Orange & Rockland Utilities announced on Monday that it is working with a technology firm to mark its copper wiring with a special paint it hopes will deter thieves. To combat the problem, O&R is currently working with DataDot Technology to spray identifying marks on the wires with invisible paint which cab be seen only under UV light. This will allow investigators to identify the source of the stolen property. The new technology will likely supplement other laws which target wire thieves. New York State requires copper recyclers to photograph anybody who sells more than $50 worth of scrap. Copper wiring is commonly stolen and scrapped, especially by drug addicts who see the wire as a quick source of cash. The problem has been persistent, particularly when copper prices go up. 13 thefts were reported in 2013, with some incidents resulting in arrests.

New Square sexual abuse suspect rejects plea deal
A New Square man who stands accused of repeatedly molesting a young boy rejected a plea deal which would have given him an unspecified amount of time in state prison in exchange for a guilty plea. Moshe Taubenfeld pled not guilty to the charges on July 8. Last week, Taubenfeld indicated through his legal counsel that he did not intend to strike a deal with prosecutors. If found guilty, he faces two to seven years in state prison. Taubenfeld was accused of sexually abusing the son of a family friend only known as “Laiby” beginning when the boy consulted the educator for counseling after the September 11 terror attacks a the age of 8 and onward until the boy was 13. Laiby initially informed religious authorities in New Square’s ultra-orthodox community, but they discouraged him from going to secular authorities. Taubenfeld’s brother Hershel has been in similar trouble for sexual misconduct. After another young man accused Hershel of sexual abuse, the brother pled guilty to misdemeanor forcible touching and was classified as a low-risk offender.

Cuomo received $650,000 from tax break recipients
A review of state data has shown Governor Andrew Cuomo received tens of thousands in campaign contributions from industrial firms which benefited from state tax credits meant to clean up industrial sites. The savings, known as Brownfield tax credits, cost taxpayers over $1 billion since 2006. Though they are meant to fix properties blighted by industrial waste, most have gone toward the re-development of properties rather than pollution clean-up. Only 6 percent of the funds went toward cleanups. However, this discrepancy has not stopped recipients from funneling over $650,000 into Cuomo’s campaign war chest. Among the largest contributors were Related Cos., a Time Warner Center-controlled entity which donated $262,700 and Pyramid Companies, a holding of the Congel Family which donated $143,250. Cuomo has advocated for reforms to Brownfield credits as part of his promise to clean up Albany, a subject which became a political liability when the New York Times released a lengthy investigation into alleged interferences of the governor’s top staff with the Moreland Commission’s anti-corruption investigations. Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzoparrdi denied any connection between the donations and tax credits.

New York Congressional candidate demands release of Moreland emails
Republican Congressional Candidate for New York’s 4th District Bruce Blakeman has joined others calling for more disclosure on the short history of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Commission by requesting the release of official emails held by his opponent, who happened to be one of the Commission’s co-chairs. Blakeman requested that his opponent, Kathleen Rice, release emails from her time on the Commission. According to him, Rice, who serves as Nassau County’s District Attorney, has a legal obligation to disclose any illegal or unethical conduct. “If Kathleen Rice knew that crimes were being committed or at the very least allegations of unethical conduct, she as a prosecutor had an absolute, non-delegable legal obligation to disclose that conduct immediately to the State Attorney General or the United States Attorney,” Blakeman said. “She did neither.” Rice publicly announced on Minday that she is “assisting” a federal investigation into the Moreland Commission, but did not elaborate on her exact role. The investigation, which is being conducted by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, is examining whether or not aides of Governor Andrew Cuomo interfered with anti-corruption investigations on the Commission.

Ebola death toll in Central Africa rises to 932, American patients to return to U.S. under quarantine
The death toll from the recent African epidemic of ebola, a hemorrhaging illness with a high rate of death, has climbed to 932, according to World Health Organization figures released on Wednesday. The deadly outbreak, which is believed to be the largest ebola epidemic in history, include a Saudi Arabian man who died Wednesday morning and a nurse who was treating a Liberian-American man named Patrick Sawyer who flew to Nigeria without knowing that he had the disease and died shortly thereafter. Now, Nigerian authorities are scrambling to secure their country-and particularly the 21 million people residing in the city of Lagos-by attempting to identify passengers on the same flight with Sawyer. Authorities have already set up tent camps in every Nigerian state to monitor and treat ebola patients. Meanwhile, two American missionaries who contracted ebola while caring for other patients have been returned to the U.S. under quarantine and are expected to undergo experimental treatment. Nancy Writerbol and Dr. Kent Brantley are currently being held at Emory University Hospital and have already been administered ZMapp, an experimental serum. Doctors report the two have shown signs of improvement. Though ebola is highly lethal, it is also relatively difficult to contract. Infection typically occurs through contact with infected bodily fluids.

U.S. general killed in insider attack at Afghan military academy
One U.S. Army general was killed and 15 others were injured in Kabul on Tuesday in a suspected insider attack on a military academy. The incident occurred when the suspect, whom Afghan Gen. Mohammad Zair described as a terrorist disguised as an Afghan soldier, opened fire on individuals at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University in the Qarga District of Kabul. The shooter, who had been with Afghan security forces for about two years before the shooting, had used a light assault rifle to conduct the attack before he himself was shot and killed. The only fatality was Army Major Gen. Harold J. Greene, the deputy commanding general of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan in Kabul. Another German brigadier general was seriously injured but was not killed. The shooting comes at a delicate time for U.S. forces in Afghanistan as military leadership attempts to transition security duties from American to Afghan forces in preparation for U.S. withdrawal. Following a proposed draw down of combat troops in December, a small force of 9,800 Americans will remain for training and counter-terrorism operations.

Two alarm fire reported in Spring Valley 
A two-alarm fire in Spring Valley damaged 20 rental units at 12 Lunney Court but resulted in no injuries to the residents impacted by the blaze. The fire, which is believed to have been caused by a young girl playing with a barbecue lighter, began in one of the first floor apartments and spread quickly, destroying eight units, seriously damaging four units and causing a partial roof collapse. The damage was so severe that part or all of the building might have to be demolished. The heat that day was so high that crews had to be called from all over Rockland. Volunteer fire personnel from Spring Valley, Nyack, Congers and New City cooperated to put out the fire in about 40 minutes. A reception area was also set up by Spring Valley Police American Red Cross, who used the area to assess the needs of those impacted by the fire. The Red Cross stated it registered 21 people for assistance in the form of emergency funds, food, clothing, emotional support and health services. Temporary housing was provided to 16 people.