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.
Purchase College was reportedly locked down last night as authorities searched for a person seen on campus with a gun. There were unconfirmed reports of gunfire Sunday evening near Doral Arrowood gold course, which prompted the lockdown and a reverse 411 call to area residents around 8:45 last night. The alert warned residents and students at SUNY purchase to stay indoors. No gunman was found. No additional information was available.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation early Thursday morning, arrested a prominent Rockland official on corruption charges. Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence of the town of Ramapo and his office were the focus of an FBI raid on town offices on May 15, 2013 during which federal agents collected evidence and documents. Since then no arrests had been made, or information released. Until this morning when St. Lawrence was officially accused of violating federal laws which reportedly included the possible movement of money between the town and the Local Development Corporation set up to oversee the baseball stadium that was built in the town, as well as overstating assets when paperwork was filed to get a $25 million bond approved to help get the controversial park built. An audit completed by the New York State Comptroller’s Office showed that the expected $25 million cot of the park was actually closer to more than $60 million, a number which the comptroller’s office stated taxpayers could wind up being responsible for. Patrick Withers, the Deputy Supervisor of Ramapo stated that he will ensure the town’s government will continue to run efficiently, though he is not sure whether or not St. Lawrence will continue to run efficiently, though he is not sure whether St. Lawrence will continue his duties. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara will be holding a press conference at 11:00 AM, and released a statement early this morning saying that Aaron Troodler was also arrested for signing off on the bond’s paperwork despite it allegedly having untrue information. And both are facing charges of conspiracy in connection to municipal bonds, securities fraud, and wire fraud. Troodler is the former Executive Director of the Ramapo LDC.
A lawsuit filed by a group of Rockland County education advocates has been dismissed. According to Laura Barbieri, the lawyer who filed the class action suit on behalf of the law firm Advocates for Justice, the group has plans to file again within a month. The lawsuit was against the East Ramapo School District and several local yeshivas, or private religious institution, claiming that officials were not providing students with proper educations by not teaching secular subjects. Included in the suit was the State Department of Education, which the group claimed helped continue the conditions in the schools. According to the Journal News, which broke the story, the group voluntarily dismissed the suit against the school, the district, and the Education Department which the group voluntarily dismissed the case. Barbieri stated to the newspaper that Advocates for Justice was not prepared to serve the defendants and are currently preparing to refile, adding another plaintiff to the list of former students accusing the education systems of failing them in regards to their curriculums.
ROCKLAND – Even though April 22 is Earth Day, there are events planned all through April into May to help save our planet and maintain the beauty we have come to enjoy here in the Hudson Valley. Starting this weekend you can join thousands of Rockland County Residents removing tons of litter from our streets, parks and waterways, helping to make our communities cleaner, healthier and more beautiful. Last year, over 2500 volunteers throughout the county participated in the Great American Cleanup, an event that brings out over 4 million volunteers nationwide. Debris left on roadsides is often washed by rain and melted snow into local waterways through storm drains or blown directly into streams and lakes. These waterways help supply drinking water and also serve as habitat for aquatic, plant and wildlife. Rescheduled due to weather, Saturday April 23rd from 9-11am Rockland County Legislator Aney Paul and volunteers will meet at the Pascack Community Center at 87 New Clarkstown Road in Nanuet. This is a great opportunity to kick off your efforts, meet new neighbors, teach a child about their county, and do some community service. All volunteers are welcome. Check out all the wonderful cleanups happening at www.KeepRocklandBeautiful.org or call Sonia Cairo/Debbie Shaw 845-708-9164 if you would like to lead a cleanup team in your area.
ROCKLAND – The Rockland County Department of Health was notified this morning of an individual who died of bacterial meningitis. The individual was a foreign national who was visiting relatives for the holidays. During the visit, the individual fell ill and was taken by the family to a local hospital. According to the CDC bacterial meningitis is usually severe. While most people with meningitis recover, it can cause serious complications such as brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities. The Health Department has since identified those who have had direct contact with the patient. Those people have been prescribed a course of post-exposure antibiotics. At this time, there are no additional community contacts or exposures of concern in Rockland County. There is no risk of further spread of meningitis to local residents.
RAMAPO – Yesterday at approximately 1pm, FBI agents and Rockland County District Attorney’s Office investigators, began executing search warrants countywide. According to sources, a staging area has been established at the Rockland County Fire Training Center in Pomona. The warrants are in connection to a fraud investigation linked to a federal grant program called E-rate. The program grants $4 billion annually nationwide. The intention of E-rate is to provide funding for local governments to offer internet and computer services in low-income areas. The investigation is looking at whether a number of Rockland County Yeshivas fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in E-rate federal funds. A statement released by the FBI yesterday stated, “Today, the FBI conducted searches in connection with an ongoing fraud investigation. If and when charges are filed, they will eventually become public. This remains on ongoing matter, and we are unable to provide any additional information at this time”.
NYACK-TARRYTOWN – Harry Hernandez, 56, of Staten Island could not be recovered yesterday from the wreckage of the tugboat, Specialist that collided with a Tappan Zee Bridge construction barge on Saturday, according to officials. Westchester County Public Safety, George Longworth, told reporters in a press conference yesterday that State police divers returned to the water Tuesday to search again for Mr. Hernandez and discovered that his body is located in the front of the boat, where “The degree of damage makes it impossible to free him and remove him from the vessel at this time.” Work continues on the salvage plan to raise the boat. The Coast Guard will need to approve the plan. The process could take upwards of a week or more, according to Westchester County Executive, Rob Astorino in an earlier statement. Hernandez’s body will be recovered once the salvage plan is complete. Other concerns surrounding the sunken vessel, is the environmental impact. There is a fuel spill from the vessel that crews have been working to contain since the accident, Coast Guard Lt. Commander, Marc Sennick stated that on Monday divers discovered a broken pipe from the boat’s fuel tank. The Tugboat Specialist was caring approximately 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel. Sennick explained they wouldn’t know how much fuel was lost and how much remains in the boat until salvage operations are complete.