Two more men have pleaded guilty to charges connected to the violent scheme in Monsey that involved eight men torturing Orthodox Jewish men to force them into granting religious divorces to their wives. Avrohom Goldstein and Moshe Goldstein, brothers from Brooklyn, both pleaded guilty in Federal Court, to charges of traveling in interstate commerce to commit extortion, and admitted to restraining and injuring a man in 2011. The Goldsteins face up to twenty years in prison and fines of $250,000 dollars. They will be sentenced in June.
Rockland County officials have begun discussions of the possibility of having its own water authority. Supervisor of the town of Ramapo, Christopher St. Lawrence, announced that he will be holding a public session on Thursday night at 8:00 at the Ramapo Town Hall to get residents’ thoughts on a not- for- profit authority having control of the water supply, rather than United Water New York, whom he stated has not been doing a good job for the county. Debra Rizzi, spokeswoman for United Water stated that the county government will feel more stress and a private company has more success managing water supply with greater efficiency. Preserve Ramapo members have been critical of the idea of creating a county owned water authority, Robert Rhodes stated that he believes St. Lawrence knows there is no money for the county to act on such plans and is calling it a publicity stunt. The company has spent about fifty million dollars to build a water treatment plant in Haverstraw that would use desalinized water from the Hudson River and have requested that the state approve a rate hike of $144 a year, along with a $60 yearly surcharge. St. Lawrence stands by his statements that the company has been overcharging residents and ignoring the many protests against the desal plant, particularly from the Rockland Water Coalition who argues the necessity of the plant.
New York State Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski proposed a law that would make it a felony charge to illegally renovate a building into subdivided apartments or schools. Many advocates for tougher housing laws support the motion, stating that changing the internal structure of buildings without obtaining the proper permits puts emergency service officers in danger when responding to calls. According to the chairman of the Rockland Illegal Housing Task Force, John Kryger, conditions have not improved for firefighters over the years, many times volunteers still find themselves faced with walls and rooms not on the original building plans, potentially trapping them within smoke filled structures. Kryger also stated that officials’ current actions of filing violations with state officials and inspectors are not working, and there likely won’t be a change until the owners receive jail time.
State Supreme Court Justice Margaret Garvey ruled on February 28 that the East Ramapo School District does not owe 1.3 million dollars to the Orthodox Jewish congregation that has leased Colton Elementary School since 2009. The Congregation Bais Malka and the Hebrew Academy for Special Children filed a lawsuit against the district saying that they are owed credit towards the 6.6 million dollar purchase of the building that was agreed upon. Garvey stated that the tenants would only be entitled to rent credit if they had enacted first refusal, which they did not because they placed the highest bid. Paul Savad, who is providing legal representation for the congregation stated that though disappointed his clients will be continuing with additional claims. The suit continued in court yesterday.
Investigations into a robbery that occurred in August at a Suffern jewelry store has led Suffern police and the Rockland Sheriff’s Department to the arrest of a Sloatsburg man. According to Suffern Police Chief Clarke Osborn 32- year old Jonathan Burrell was arrested Tuesday after the investigation team tested blood that was found on a broken window that the suspect had apparently cut himself on when entering the store. Osborn stated that Burrell became a suspect after he was arrested and charged with grand larceny for stealing a woman’s purse two days after the store was broken into. Burrell iis being held at the Rockland County Jail on $15,000 bail.
A house fire in Monsey led volunteer firefighters to discover a commercial kitchen in the residence. According to Fire Chief Richard LaGarde no one was injured in the fire and a woman working in the kitchen put out most of the flames with a hose from the sink. LaGarde and officials believe that two rooms in the home were converted for commercial use as a kitchen, inspectors found wheeled carts that seemed to be used to distribute food. Ramapo Building Inspector Anthony Mallia stated that it was probable that no one had approved the kitchen to be built. According to LaGarde the flames spread quickly and residents were left temporarily without a home.
As Nyack Hospital gets closer to offering mental health programs Rockland will begin closing down the Inpatient Mental Health Care Unit and Crisis Service this year. According to the Rockland County Mental Health Commissioner Mary Ann Walsh- Tozer the transfer of facilites makes sense because patients have to be transported by ambulance to be approved for medical treatment at Good Samaritan or Nyack Hospitals before they can be treated at the mental health unit. By moving the treatment center patients will be able to gain medical care at the same location. The process will also save the county one million dollars this year and an expected two million next year. Lauren Malone, a hospital spokeswoman, stated that about 93 county workers will lose jobs, though interviews have taken place fro 50- 60 positions at the new location. Legislator John Murphy has stated that Nyack Hospital has yet to obtain a license from the state Health Department and he thinks that they should wait to lay people off until then. According to County Executive Ed Day there is a plan B to have the county continue care if something goes wrong, though the new unit is expected to be opening in mid April.
On Friday Judge Kenneth Karas decided that former Mayor of Spring Valley, Noramie Jasmin, would be prosecuted seperately from the three New York City officials who are facing charges in connection to a bribery scheme that took place last year. Jasmin was arrested for allegedly accepting a bribe, along with Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret, in exchange for allowing the building of a kosher catering hall on village property. In January Desmaret pleaded guilty to accusations that he accepted $10,500 from an FBI informant, Moses Stern. He will be sentenced to up to nine years in prison on May 22. Jasmin is accused of wire fraud and extortion charges after allegedly demanding fifty percent of the ownership of the catering hall. She will be seen in court after Senator Malcolm Smith of Queens, former Republican Chairman Vincent Tabone, and Republican Councilman Daniel Halloran sentenced during their trial beginning June 2.
According to the Rockland County Sheriff’s office they are taking stricter steps to help prevent issues with trains shipping crude oil and other hazardous materials. Recently Governor Cuomo ordered that companies and local government review their emergency plans, since shipments of crude oil have significantly increased in recent years. On Tuesday a train derailed in Kingston, New York, that had passed through Rockland County. The train had only been carrying sand, but in December a train car carrying oil was hit by a truck in South Nyack, which didn’t derail. According to Sheriff Louis Falco this incident is what caused him to want to regulate train traffic within the county more. Oil is transporte dby about eighty to one-hundred cars on two trains travel through Rockland daily and Sheriff Falco stated that he would like to keep track of that, informing police, fire officials, and ambulance workers incase of a spill. Since last week the Sheriff’s office has been using radar checkpoints to register the speed of locomotives as they pass through, at the request of assistant director of Rockland Office of Fire and Emergency Services, Dan Greeley, who stated that the speed limit fifty miles per hour, but should be much less. Senator Charles Schumer agrees with Greeley, stating that they are pushing to have the limit reduced to forty in populated areas. Sheriff Falco stated that a list should be shared with local officials referring to any hazardous materials that train cars are carrying daily, and CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan responded that the railroad would be open to the idea and already have a program online known as SecureNow which tracks trains and provides information on the contents of cars.
An accident on the New York State Thruway at exit 16 in Orange County led to the death of a 53- year old New jersey man who worked at Lamont- Doherty Earth Observatory in Rockland. Mark Becker worked as a scientist at the Columbia University Observatory Program known as the Center for International Earth Science Information Network studying human impact on the environment by mapping environmental trends for various public health programs. According to the New York State Thruway Authority, the accident occurred in the Northbound lanes near Woodbury at 10:46 on Wednesday morning, involved a thruway plow truck, and resulted in six other individuals suffering non-life threatening injuries. Police have stated that they are further investigating.