Approximately 40,000 striking Verizon employees, who walked out in mid-April, are returning to work on Wednesday as a tentative contract agreement has been reached. The new deal includes 1,300 new call center jobs and an approximately 11 percent raise over four years with changes to the health care plan that will save the company money according to Verizon and union leadership. The Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers unions consider the new deal a victory for American workers. In a statement the IBEW said the deal protects American jobs amid concern about work moving overseas. Verizon Communications Inc. believes it is a good deal for workers, customers, and the company. In a statement Chief Administrative Officer Marc Reed said, “This will allow our business to be more flexible and competitive.” The agreement still needs approval from the union membership but for now employees will be returning to work.
County Health Commissioner, Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert has sent out an alert to residents that an Air Quality Advisory for the Metropolitan New York City region, including Rockland County, has been issued for today. Air Quality Health Advisories are issued by the New York State Department of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation when levels of outdoor pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter, are expected to exceed national air quality standards, and be unhealthy for sensitive groups. The pollutant of concern today is ozone. Rockland County Department of Health recommends that residents limit strenuous outdoor physical activity, such as jogging, ball-playing and running during the afternoon and early evening hours when ozone levels are highest. The most common symptoms of overexposure to ozone is a feeling of irritation to the eyes, nose and throat; effects of “feeling tired” or “lacking energy”. Some people may also experience respiratory or heart symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and wheezing and should seek medical attention immediately. Some symptoms may last for several days before returning to normal. For more information you can call the hotline: 800-535-1345 or visit: www.health.state.ny.us/environmental/outdoors/air/ozone.htm
Metro-North has announced that they will be operating on a regular weekday schedule today – Customers should anticipate some residual delays due to speed restrictions on all four tracks on the Park Avenue Viaduct before the Harlem-125th Street Station. Fuel had been spilled on a generator at garden supply located just under the tracks. The heat from the fire had caused damage to a support column and several girders. Today all four tracks are back on line. For more info visit: MTA.info/schedules
Metro-North has announced that they will be operating on an “enhanced Saturday” schedule again today – adding extra trains during peak travel periods bringing service to 75% of capacity. They are once again encouraging commuters to work from home or find alternative routes, such as NJ Transit in Rockland County, who are cross-honoring Hudson Line Tickets. According to Metro-North spokeswoman Meredith Daniels, Thursday morning delays would likely be around 30-40 minutes with temporary repairs likely to continue until Friday. Daniels noted that while Wednesday delays lasted up to three hours, Thursday morning delays would be more manageable. On Wednesday, only two of four tracks were running south of the Harlem–125th Street Station. Thursday’s morning rush will include a third track back in service and on Friday the fourth track is expected to open. Train speeds have also been reduced from 60 to 30 mph through the damaged area. Officials say on Tuesday someone spilled fuel on a hot generator while refilling it at a garden center located below the tracks. Authorities say, the intense heat of the fire damaged a steel support column and three horizontal steel girders on an overpass used by trains traveling to Grand Central Terminal. Again, Metro-North is operating on an “enhanced Saturday” schedule and commuters should expect 30-40 minute delays. For up to the minute information visit: MTA.info/schedules
Last night a fire began at 118th Street under Metro-North Railroad’s Park Avenue Viaduct in Manhattan. Due to the fire, Metro-North as of this morning is running on a Saturday schedule. Metro-North is encouraging commuters to work from home or make alternative travel plans. The fire is currently under investigation. It started in a private business where it is alleged that a generator caught fire. The business is a garden supply company and chemicals may be involved. It generated a tremendous amount of heat that actually bent the steel girders supporting an overpass. All the trains coming into Grand Central travel across this overpass and the MTA has determined passenger safety is at risk. Repair crews have been working through the night to shore up the overpass. Again, the morning commute on Metro-North is running on a Saturday Schedule. For continuing updates visit: mta.info
Today is Election Day for school boards and budgets. One election of note is taking place in the East Ramapo Board of Education where four challengers are running for the board. Three of the four seats on the East Ramapo School board expire this year. The seats of Pierre C. Germain, Bernard L. Charles, Jr., and board President, Yehuda Weissmandel will end. Juan Pablo Ramirez vacated the fourth seat, and was replace by Sabrina Charles-Pierre, a 28-year old public school mother. She will be required to campaign for her position. There are three other challengers, Jean Fields, a 26-year resident of Ramapo, retired high school principle, whose two sons graduated from East Ramapo; Kim Foskew, whose children graduated from East Ramapo; and Natashia Morales, a graduate of East Ramapo in 2003. East Ramapo School district includes residents of New City, Pearl River, Nanuet, Spring Valley, Suffern, New Hempstead, Chestnut Ridge, Monsey and Wesley Hills. There are approximately 33,000 school-age children in the area – with 9,000 attending the public schools and another 24,000 who attend private schools. Over the past ten years the East Ramapo public schools have had a history of trouble and fiscal mismanagement and neglect by the Board of Education. Public school parents sued the state for not intervening. Rockland Lawmakers sought legislation that would secure revenue and a monitor with veto power to gain oversight and control of the board but that bill failed to make the state budget. New City Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski is advocating for a standalone measure. There are 10 polling places for the school district voting. They are not the same as your polling place for other Rockland County votes. If you do not know your school district poll you can call the District Clerk’s office at 845-577-6015 or visit: East Ramapo School District Site
Yesterday, two more New York corruption cases moved from the conviction to sentencing phase. Former New York State Senate Majority Leader, Dean G. Skelos, a senior Republican lawmaker, was sentenced to five years in prison along with his son, Adam B. Skelos, who was sentenced to six and a half years in prison. They were convicted of bribery, extortion and conspiracy. As judge Kimba M. Wood of Federal District Court in Manhattan prepared to deliver the sentencing, Dean Skelos asked the judge to show mercy on his son. He said, “Somehow I let things go off the rails, and for that I apologize to Adam,” he continued, “I love Adam and pray that we have better days together.” The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, whose office has been investigating wrongdoing connected to the administrations of Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement, “In the span of just 16 months, we have seen the arrest, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of both leaders of the New York State legislature. The nearly simultaneous convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos” he added, “while Silver and Skelos deserve their prison sentences, the people of New York deserve better.” Judge Wood also imposed a $500,000 fine on former Senator Skelos and $334,120 forfeiture to be paid jointly by him and his son.
Ex-New York Assembly Speaker, Democrat Sheldon Silver, has been handed down a 12-year prison sentence for his conviction on November 30th of honest services fraud, money laundering and extortion. He has since stepped down from his Assembly seat. Just prior to the court handing down the sentence, Mr. Silver addressed the court with remorse over having let down his constituents, his family and his colleagues. He stated, “I’m truly, truly sorry for that.” Dean G. Skelos, the Republican majority leader in the State Senate has also been convicted of corruption and will be sentenced May 12; John L. Sampson, former leader of the Senate Democrats, will also face sentencing. United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara and Federal Investigators have several more corruption investigations ongoing in the administrations of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office.
NYS Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli in a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration called for a strengthening of safety measures to prevent oil spills on New York’s railways and require oil transporters to carry sufficient insurance to cover cleanup costs and other liabilities associated with major rail accidents. As the administrator of New York’s Oil Spill Fund, DiNapoli wrote, “The potential for oil train accidents demands that we take every measure to avoid loss of life and financial loss” he added, “The state has stepped up inspections, but incidents such as the recent derailment in Ripley, N.Y. demonstrate that the risk of a disaster remains a major concern.” Two to four CSX trains, each hauling approximately 3M gallons of explosive crude, run through 17 Hudson Valley counties including Orange and Rockland counties. Only one route, Buffalo, is designated as a “High Threat Urban Area” where federal regulation requires trains to lower their speeds. Among DiNapoli’s many requests for change he is asking for additional municipalities with slower train operating speeds, a rerouting of trains carrying hazardous materials around population centers, and a requirement for railroads to obtain insurance or provide financial security to cover emergency response, cleanup, and victim compensation. You can read Comptroller’s letter here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/310504585/DiNapoli-Oil-Train-Letter
MINNESOTA – the world was shocked to hear the news yesterday that Prince the multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter, producer and actor was found dead at his home and music studio on Thursday. Deputies at his home Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minnesota were on the scene yesterday investigating. An autopsy will be performed this morning. No cause of death has yet to be released. Prince Rogers Nelson was born on June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was known as an innovator for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence and wide vocal range. He is regarded as the pioneer of the Minneapolis sound. His music incorporated a variety of sounds — rock, R&B, soul, psychedelia, and pop. His breakthrough came in 1982 with Prince and the Revolution and the album 1999 that launched several dance songs to the top of the music charts, including “Little Red Corvette” and the apocalyptic party anthem 1999. Two years later he followed that success with the film Purple Rain a semi-autobiographical tale of “The Kid”, a Minneapolis rocker from an abusive family. The film launched the songs, “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy”. In 1993, in protest of his record label Warner Brothers, he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol joining male and female and was referred to as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince”. He sold over 100 million albums worldwide making him one of the best-selling artists of all time. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, he is the recipient of 7 Grammys, a golden Globe and the film, Purple Rain, garnered him an Academy Award for best original score. Most recently he was touring “Piano & Microphone” an evening of intimate, improvised hits performed solo at a grand piano. Prince, was 57.