Timelines 6.3.15

Catholics rally for school tax credits

Rockland Catholics rallied on Wednesday in favor of a state bill which would grant tax credits for donations to private and religious schools.

The activists, who came from Sacred Heart School in Suffern, demonstrated in front of the Pearl River office of New York Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee. If passed, the new law would compensate donors for up to 75 percent of their contributions, reimburse teachers for school supply purchases and establish a tax credit for low-income families who wish to enroll their children in private schools.

The local support mirrors high-level support from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who personally lobbied for the bill in Albany on Monday. Though the bill has the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who toured the state with Dolan to build support for the plan, broad Democratic opposition in the State Assembly makes its passage unlikely.

The tax credit is controversial outside of Albany as well. A recent Siena poll found that only 44 percent of New Yorkers support the plan, with strong support among Catholic and minority groups in the city contrasting against the wariness of upstate residents.


Bomb Squad inspects suspicious object in Spring Valley

The County Sheriff’s Department dispatched its bomb squad early on Sunday after reports came in about a suspicious object found in the parking lot of the Spring Valley Target.

After the store was evacuated, the Bomb Disposal and Explosive Protection Unit appeared on the scene, suiting up in bomb disposal gear to inspect the object. The Bomb Disposal Unit quickly determined the object was not explosive and declared the area safe.

Though reports of suspicious packages and inspections by the Bomb Disposal Unit are not uncommon, few if any are deemed legitimate threats. Similar incidents have occurred at Felix Festa Middle School in West Nyack in April 2014, Ramapo Town Hall in May 2014 and the County Executive’s Office in New City in November 2013.

FIFA president resigns amid bribery scandal

Two days after his re-election as president of FIFA and four days after his arrest on charges of corruption, Sepp Blatter indicated he would resign from his post as head of the largest professional soccer organization in the world.

Blatter had been embroiled in a public relations crisis since May 27 when the U.S. Department of Justice indicted 14 men on charges related to bribery and corruption, including seven arrested in pre-dawn raids by Swiss authorities. Though Blatter is not under investigation by Swiss authorities, a criminal probe has been opened into bidding votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup.

Though Blatter had initially attempted to deflect questions on the scandal-scarred soccer organization and managed to win re-election in a landslide vote against challenger Prince Ali of Jordan, he eventually opted to step down, ending a 17-year career at the helm of FIFA. The decision was met with wide agreement from colleagues in the soccer community.

Elections are expected sometime between December 2015 and March 2016. Until a successor is named, Blatter will remain in his current role.


Rockland Social Services reports results in welfare fraud crackdown

New figures released by the Rockland County Department of Social Services revealed the fruits of an ongoing effort to minimize fiscal losses from welfare fraud.

According to DSS, investigators identified 291 fraudulent applications in 2014, saving taxpayers $1.4 million by shutting fraudsters out of public benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps. The figures are up from 2013, when DSS discovered 250 fraudulent applications to the tune of $864,000 in savings.

Though most losses were merely prevented with “front end” prevention that aims to identify suspicious applications before accounts are opened, recovery of lost funds was also pursued. About $304,000 was recouped from completed cases of fraud.


Developers propose new residential development for Nyack waterfront

A preliminary proposal was issued in late May to seek permission for a new set of residential units at 55 Gedney Street, a former superfund site along the Hudson River which has undergone extensive environmental cleanup.

TZ Vista, the limited liability company which submitted the plans to the Nyack Village Board, is requesting permission for variances so it can build three six-story glass and steel complexes with underground parking. As an alternative, it has also requested permission to build a smaller trio of four-story wood and brick buildings with surface parking.

In exchange for their preferred plan, developers with TZ Vista will grant greater public access to the waterfront, a major concern given public dissatisfaction with the visual obstruction of the river by the Clermont condominiums at the foot of Main Street. Clermont was constructed with assistance from Helmer-Cronin, a company whose principal William Helmer also signed off on the present request.

Gas production undertaken by Nyack Gaslight and Fuel Company took place between 1859 and 1965. During this time, coal tar, a byproduct of the extraction process, seeped into the soil, leading to a 1996 consent order between the State Department of Environmental Conservation and Orange & Rockland which required the utility to clean up the site. The final stage of remediation began in 2013.


NYC to spend $733K to counter excrement-flinging Rikers inmates

New York City plans to spend over $733,000 next year on new tools to investigate and charge Rikers Island inmates for splashing bodily fluids on corrections officers.

The issue of inmates who hurl feces and urine at corrections officers is disturbingly common, with reports of 179 incidents last year. However, felony cases for assault with bodily fluids are difficult to prosecute without testing the substances themselves to confirm they are more than just water.

The new expenditures, already outlined in Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s proposed budget, will seek to remedy the issue by paying for tests on uniforms soiled by the thrown substances. Also included in the budget is a $40 million allocation spread over three years for new employee locker rooms outside of security checkpoints, an amenity administrators hope will prevent guards from smuggling in contraband.

Violence has been on the rise at Riker’s Island, with the incidence of serious injuries to inmates rising 17.5 percent over the first four months of 2015. The facility is also grappling with a Department of Justice lawsuit alleging civil rights violations of younger inmates and recently dispensed with its longtime healthcare provider Corizon over longstanding allegations of prisoner neglect.