School Districts Take Issue With GEA

Local school officials have begun lobbying the GEA, or Gap Elimination Adjustment, which state government set up in 2010 to slowly adjust budgets and funding. According to records the GEA has reduced more than 455 million dollars of school aid in the past four years, executive director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium Rick Timbs stated the Governor is attempting to restore the state deficit, but in doing so is taking money from schools and students. School Districts in Rockland and the surrounding counties are urging Governor Cuomo to add money to the 2014-15 budget that would make up for the millions lost to schools. According to the Governor’s spokeswoman Dani Lever he has proposed an 807 million dollar increase in funding for education in this year’s budget, and the government has invested 918 million in the last two years. However, all over the state districts are expressing a need for more money. In Rockland the East Ramapo School District enrollment has risen by one- hundred students per year for the past four years, having cut 450 positions in that time. According to members of the assembly and senate a partial restoration of 8.4 million dollars has been included in the 2014-15 budget.

Missing Pomona Man Found Dead

The Pomona man who went missing on Friday March 14 was found dead in his Kia Optima on Sunday afternoon by hikers in Harriman State Park. According to Rockland County Legislator Aaron Wieder 50- year old Peretz Sontag was found in a ravine which he had apparently driven into off a hidden private road near the Lake Welch area. Wieder stated that Sontag’s family had asked volunteers continue to search the park, worried that he would not have survived. According to authorities no foul play is suspected. Volunteers and police had been searching for Sontag since he went missing, his last known position was found by receiving a signal from his phone near the State Park. Police had stated that a neighbor shared that Sontag was depressed and talking about self- harm before he left his home on Friday afternoon. Sontag was described by those who knew him as a kind and charitable man. The funeral for the husband and father of seven is planned for today and he will be buried in his former home of Israel.

Tappan Zee Bridge Parking Issue Discussed

Residents of South Nyack are asking officials to redevelop a plan to demolish the Village Hall to make room for parking and bathrooms that would cater to visitors hoping to use the bike and pedestrian paths to be built on the New Tappan Zee Bridge. At a meeting Thursday night the idea was shared of using some of the 25 acres at Interchange 10, some residents stated that using the Interchange will solve the parking problem without intruding on the center of the village, especially since it is unknown how much parking will ultimately be needed to accommodate users of the paths. Special advisor to the Governor, Brian Conybeare stated that estimates have shown there will be about 30 to 35 cars on each side of the bridge at a time, though people have expressed fears that visitors will park on side streets. A three- member task force has been set up and is working with the state to ensure the chosen project works for everyone. One idea is to put in a 22- space parking lot and restrooms and demolish and relocate the Village Hall but keep the structure as restrooms and redesign the plan to accommodate 15 vehicles. The new bridge will be completed in 2018 and the paths will run alongside traffic, with six viewing sites for people to enjoy the scenery of the Hudson River.

Lawsuit Filed Against Nyack

A Valley Cottage resident is suing the village of Nyack for 6.1 million dollar, claiming that negligence on their part led to the sinking of his water home during superstorm Sandy. According to Jerry Donnellan, who is the Director of Rockland’s Veterans Service Agency, his part- time, three bedroom home, which rested on a 20×40 foot barge, was listed for sale at the time of the storm, and was moored at the Nyack Municipal Marina. Donnellan stated that the pilings of the docks snapped and pierced the barge, leading to the house sinking. The lawsuit, which will be heard in U.S. District Court, is seeking 3 million dollars for negligence 3 million for damages, and $10,000 in rent that Donnellan stated he paid to the village, even though his home was moored on navigable water, not village property. The suit is claiming that the village did not complete proper stability and safety tests on the structures in the marina, and that the moorings and pilings were in a state of disrepair. The suit also claims that the village enlarged the opening of the marina that leads to the river; so more water flowed in faster.

Lawsuit Against Town of Ramapo

The town of Ramapo recently settled a law suit filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office for admitted violations to the Clean Water Act when wetlands were filled in during the building of Provident Bank Park. According to records 1.11 acres of wetlands were filled in 2010 when the stadium was built, and the town was ordered to fix the environmental problems caused and pay a $125,000 fine. The town allegedly filed for a permit from the Army Corps. after already filling the wetlands. The permit is required under the Clean Water Act and stated that crews would have had to create 1.8 acres of wetlands to make up for the areas that were filled in. According to Ramapo Town Attorney Michael Klein the town has taken the necessary actions to correct the mistakes that they have accepted responsibility for.

State Justice Rules Spring Valley Mayor Violated Law

State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Loehr ruled to reverse Spring Valley Mayor Demeza delhomme’s decision to remove Vilair Fonvil from the board of trustees, stating that the Mayor broke the law when he fired the Deputy Mayor with the reasoning that he was sworn in by Village Clerk Kathryn Ball, whose position and actions taken in office were recently nullified by a judge because she was appointed without the proper board vote. Loehr stated that Ball’s position did not have anything to do with the appointment of Fonvil and ordered the removal of Miguelino Joseph, who was hired a a replacement by Delhomme. Delhomme stated that there is no legal proof that Fonvil ever held the position, though according to Loehr, the law does not state that an affidavit for the job needed to be filed. Delhomme announced Monday that he would appealing the decision in the state Appellate Division. According to Fonvil’s representation, Dennis Lynch, Fonvil was fired the day after the law firm began an investigation into the purchase of a 2014 Ford Expedition as an official village vehicle, though the Mayor denied knowledge of an investigation taking place.

Sparkill Accident Leaves Four Injured

A crash on Route 9W in Sparkill this weekend left four people seriously injured. According to officials Rockland Paramedics, South Orangetown Ambulance Corps., Piermont Ambulance, Tappan Fire Department, and the Sparkill Fire Department all responded to the call after a white van and red Nissan sedan collided around 3:30 Sunday afternoon. The two drivers and their passengers were taken to Nyack Hospital, the van driver’s wife, the 60- year old driver of the Nissan, and his female passenger in her 50′s were being treated for non- life threatening injuries. The 65- year old River Edge, New Jersey man who was driving the van was stabilized at Nyack Hospital and then transferred to Westchester Medical Center.

County Employees Relocated from Asbestos Damaged Office

County employees working at the Sain County Office Building were forced to relocate on Thursday due to asbestos. According to Scott Salotto, a spokesman for the County Executive’s office, a pipe that was leaking through the ceiling and onto the fourth floor of the office was covered with asbestos, leading to five employees and eight desks moving from the Personnel Department to an area away from the problem until repairs can be completed. When asbestos breaks up the fibers can be inhaled and scar lungs, and Salotto stated that a crew will be hired to fix the pipe and the ceiling in the 1960′s building, which the county bought in 1974 for 1.4 million dollars for more space.

Clarkstown to Decide on Rent of St. Augustine’s

Residents in Clarkstown are questioning where students will be attending school this coming year, while repairs are being completed on the Congers Elementary School building.The district recently passed a bond worth 6.5 million dollars to repair the building’s back wall, roof, and windows. Voting results showed that residents outside of Congers were mostly opposed to repairing and reopening the building, many claiming that there was more than enough space within the district and closing the school would have resulted in 1.25 million dollars in yearly savings. A similar argument is now being made on whether or not to continue renting St. Augustine’s school for $216,000 plus utilities. According to School Board President Micheal Aglialoro the district will not be eligible for state aid next year, since it won’t be considered an emergency situation. Clarkstown school officials have also recently stated that there is a risk of cuts in sports and honors programs for next year’s budget, making some parents nervous. Some officials and parents in the district have stated that there is room at the Lakewood and New City Elementary Schools to have the students placed there until Congers is completed, which would save the district money by not paying rent. Other parents say that since the kids will be moving back to Congers in the 2015 school year it would be harsh to keep them in different schools.

Two More Guilty Pleas In Monsey Torture Scheme

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.