Tappan Zee Construction Continuing On Schedule

As a construction continues on the new Tappan Zee Bridge workers are finishing up the concrete platforms that will hold the towers on the future span. The two blocks, that will hold four towers each, were made out of steel tubes embedded in the bottom of the river and nearly 10,000 cubic yards of concrete, which was mixed on and poured from floating plants holding the necessary machinery. With the installation of the concrete islands finishing, drivers can expect to see the towers going up soon, possibly next month. Officials with the Thruway Authority stated last week that the first span will be open to traffic in December 2016 and construction is ongoing on the girders of the bridge, which will have panels installed later this year to form the road.

New Jersey Transit Cuts Train Service

At a meeting on Wednesday night the New Jersey Transit Board voted to approve raising fares and cutting trains to Rockland County. Members voted unanimously to cut the Pascack Valley Line 12:45 weekday train which runs from Hoboken, New Jersey to various stops in the county carrying about 40 commuters daily. The last train will now be the 10:42 PM taking affect in September. The board decided to continue running a 12:45 AM train on Saturdays and Sundays, with stops to Pearl River, Nanuet, and Spring Valley. Officials with the transit company stated that this option has the least impact on riders, while still closing the gap in their yearly budget. Along with cutting services NJT will be raising fares for commuters who travel to Secaucus Junction to Penn Station. For the Pascack Vally Line riders will pay $4 more per month, as well as $6 more for Sloatsburg and $9 more for Suffern riders. County officials and residents complained about both decisions to the company, stating it is unfair to workers trying to get to jobs or who have to leave Manhattan later than the 10:42 train, now left with no other option to get home.

Assemblyman Zebrowski Reaches Out For East Ramapo District

Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski released a statement last week, urging the State Education Department to get further involved in the East Ramapo School District after the Legislative session ended last month with no oversight bill passed. The Assemblyman, as well as Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and Senator David Carlucci, spent a large part of the session attempting to pass legislation that would give a state appointed monitor the power to veto decisions made by the school board, or give oversight power to the state Comptroller’s office. In the letter, sent to new Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia, Zebrowski asked that the Department appoint a temporary monitor, following the suggestions given by last year’s monitor Hank Greenburg who submitted a report on the district. Along with the duty of keeping track of the board, Zebrowski asks that the monitor be able to publicly disagree with the decisions made by members regarding the school district’s finances and day-to-day procedures. At the same time the Assemblyman sent a letter to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, asking for an audit to “determine whether there has been any fraud or misappropriation of funds over the years.” According to Zebrowski this will help guide the district to solve existing problems and make better choices in the future. Parents and county officials rallied for months in hopes of getting oversight for East Ramapo, which is wracked with internal issues, including disputes between private and public schools, many stating that a majority of funding goes to private religious schools, where enrollment outnumbers public schools.

New Tappan Zee Toll System Gets Start Date

According to the New York State Thruway Authority, the Tappan Zee Bridge tolls will be changing over to an all-electronic pay system next year. Officials stated that while Tappan Zee Constructors continue their work on the frame for the new tolls located at Exit 10 in South Nyack, drivers will continue using the booths in Tarrytown. Testing is set to begin this fall and the new system could be ready as early as Spring 2016. Drivers with EZPass will be automatically charged while driving beneath the electronic readers and vehicles without an EZPass will be sent a bill after an image is taken of their license plate. The Authority also stated in their update this week that the new bridge will open its first span to traffice in December 2016. The entirety of the new bridge is set to be completed in 2018. Multiple closures on the Thruway between Exits 11 and 10 can be expected this week from 8:00 PM to 4:30 AM as overnight construction continues.

Real Estate Sales in Lower Hudson Valley Increasing

According to a report released last week, real estate sales in Rockland, Orange, Putnam, and Westchester Counties have increased since last year. The report, done by the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service, states that in Rockland and Westchester Counties sales of residential homes have increased 11% in both, 12% in Putnam, and 30% in Orange County. Though there is an increase in sales in each county, the prices of homes have remained about the same. In Rockland County the cost of a single-family home increased .3%, Westchester rose 1.4%, and 1.6% in Putnam. Overall sales in the lower Hudson Valley have increased 15% since 2014, with Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors reporting $3,699 residential sales.

Riverkeeper Fighting for Investigation Into Dead Fish

On Thursday the organization Riverkeeper released a statement raising concerns that construction on the new Tappan Zee Bridge may be causing numerous deaths of Atlantic and Shortnose Sturgeon. President of the group Paul Gallay stated that when construction began it was promised that the surrounding environment would not be harmed, but many of the endangered species of fish have been found cut in half or in pieces, showing signs that they were struck by propellers from boats traveling on the river from Westchester to Manhattan and in the area of construction. Riverkeeper is calling for a federal investigation into the many dead fish that have recently been found on the shoreline. They issued a petition with the National Marine Fisheries Services to begin looking into the deaths. According to Bryan Conybeare, an official in Governor Cuomo’s office working with the bridge project, there are only 36 vessels with propellers on the construction site and the deaths are so far unrelated to work. Currently the construction company is using “bubble curtains”, or pockets of air, to limit the impact of pile driving to underwater life, and Riverkeeper is requesting that more preventative actions be taken, such as increasing the amount used and adding cages to propellers to help prevent deaths in the fish population.

East Ramapo School Board Hires New Attorney

At a meeting on Tuesday night the East Ramapo School Board voted to hire new legal representation, meaning their law firm for the past six years, Minerva and D’Agostino, will no longer hold the position. Members of the board voted 6-0 with two abstentions and one absentee, to hire Harris Beach a New York City based attorney. Many residents are considering this move as a step in the right direction for the district. Two years ago the board promised parents that they would part ways with Minerva and D’Agostino when an attorney with the firm verbally assaulted an East Ramapo mother after a board meeting and was caught on video doing so. The district has been spending about $1,000 a day for the firm’s services, double what the previous lawyers were earning before the Long Island was hired in 2009. Board President Yehuda Weissmandl stated that Harris Beach represents more than 130 districts in New York and East Ramapo is pleased with their experience with state education officials. Albert D’Agostino responded to the new hiring by stating that his firm chose to stop representing the district when board members compromised with Senator David Carlucci on his proposed bill that would have allowed a state monitor to report the board’s actions to the State Comptroller’s office and Education Department. According to D’Agostino, at the same time the firm had been working to fight the original bill that would have allowed the monitor to use veto power, and the school board did not inform him of the attempt to compromise.

Rockland Energy Company Settles with Customers

An energy company has settled a court case with its customers, in which they were accused of luring people in with a low rate only to raise them immensely with the next bills. According to the New York Attorney General’s Office, HIKO Energy, a Monsey based company was part of an investigation into several utility service companies in an attempt to return millions of dollars to customers who were allegedly scammed. HIKO will be playing $1.25 million to 25,000 customers who were caught in the scam between June 1 2011 and October 1 2014. Customers wishing to file for restitution must do so before August 15 of this year by going online at go.bbb.org/ny-hiko.

Patrick Farms Developers Owe Taxes to Rockland County

According to County officials the developers of Patrick Farms where 496 housing units are set to be built, have not paid school, county, town, or village taxes on the property since 2013. Officials stated that Scenic Development LLC and Scenic DEvelopment SM LLC, Monsey based construction companies, are developing five of the six parcels of land, two of which owe $607,788 in taxes. One of these parcels houses the Rockland Sheriff’s Department stables for the horse unit and Sheriff Falco stated that he is negotiating with another location to move them to but thinks the county should attempt to take ownership of the current stables. County Executive Ed Day stated “The only reason why this scam came to light was because my administration dug deep to find it and issued an Executive Order ensuring that any contract, including this one, will escrow any owed monies to taxpayers. The Sheriff was repeatedly urged to stop doing business with these developers and find another location.” The county has sent letters to 800 property owners in Ramapo threatening foreclosure if taxes are not paid by the end of the year. Last year development of the property was halted because the U.S. Army Corps uncovered wetlands on the land, leading the state to hold back on approving the permits.

East Ramapo Board President Speaks About Oversight Bill

East Ramapo School Board President Yehuda Weissmandl spoke on Wednesday, urging both sides in the controversial East Ramapo oversight issue, to compromise with eachother. The board official stated that though the East Ramapo bill that would have appointed a monitor who could veto decisions failed to pass the Senate, he believed that Senator David Carlucci’s most recent bill was a good compromise and expressed his disappointment that it was not voted on. Earlier this week Senator Carlucci wrote a letter to the State Education Department asking for more involvement with the district. He is not the first state official to speak out following the failed bills, New York Regents Chancellor Meryll Tisch stated that she believes Superintendent of East Ramapo Schools Joel Klein needs to resign or be removed from the position as a first step to recovery. On Wednesday Weissmandl stated that it is time for both sides to sit and have a discussion for the betterment of the district. The district also announced that they will be increasing high school classes from 25 to 18 students, paying teachers who agree $12 more a day, per student, per period.

Snow Closings Updated Regularly

Please click on the image below to view all snow closings for Rockland County.