The New York State Department of Transportation has been awarded a grant to provide the Lower Hudson Valley with new forms of transportation. The offices of Governor Andrew Cuomo, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand released a joint press release on Monday, announcing the $10 million federal grant that will provide funding to build a “bus rapid transit” system for the new Tappan Zee Bridge to allow commuters to travel on the main line of the new Hudson Links from Suffern to White Plains and along outlying roads in Rockland and Westchester, which will eventually be expanded to more routes. The project will also build new weather-protected smart bus stations, signals for traffic updates, and provide new buses. Lower stated, “By helping to implement bus rapid transit on the bridge this federal investment will improve access to reliable, safe, and affordable East-West transportation for Westchester and Rockland residents.” Gillibrand, Cuomo, and Rockland Leglislator Harriet Cornell, who was a part of the Governor’s New NY Bridge Mass Transit Task Force, agree with Lowey that these steps to make mass transit more available to residents will help reduce traffic, and make traveling between counties more affordable. The plan will cost $91 million to implement the bus system, and the state now has $60 million available.
Candidates in the Ramapo Town Supervisor race met on Sunday for a debate sponsored by several civic groups, where they answered heated questions about issues faced by residents. Incumbent Democrat Christopher St.Lawrence and Republican candidate Michael Parietti spoke for about a half hour, on topics including speculations of election fraud during the 2014 ward vote, financing for major projects such as Provident Bank Park, and overdevelopment in the town. Parietti, who is running on the Republican, Green Party, Reform, and Preserve Rockland lines; discussed the dysfunction among officials and within the community, stating that parts of the town are not being heard. St. Lawrence responded that government has done its best to balance the villages and ensure that each resident’s needs are met. The election is on November 3, and the Ramapo Supervisor race is among the most anticipated.
New York State officials have approved the closure of the Summit Park Hospital and Nursing Home. According to a statement released by Rockland County Executive Ed Day, the approval of the plan means that the county owned facility will begin moving the residents of the home to new locations. Day stated, “We are committed to doing all we can to ensure that these life transitions go smoothly for all involved, and that the health and safety of our residents remain our number one priority.” The hospital is not budgeted for 2016, and so must be closed by the December 31 deadline. The sale of the hospital that was supposed to be finalized for $32 million in September was terminated by Sympaticare LLC, who claimed it was because the county did not meet the terms of their agreement and the facility, which now houses about 122 patients will begin the closing process.
According to Ramapo Police, officials are investigating two deaths in Sloatsburg. On Wednesday morning, around 9:50 AM police received a call from a friend of 69-year old William Groesbeck, stating that he was worried about the former New Jersey Police officer’s mental health. When police arrived at Groesbeck Adam Court home they heard a gunshot and entered to find him and his 62-year old wife Patricia Nigro dead from gunshot wounds. The gunshots led to a lockdown at nearby Sloatsburg Elementary School and the hostage negotiation team as a precaution. Police stated it appears to be a murder-suicide by the man, though the Medical Examiner is determining the official cause of death.
According to Rockland County Emergency officials, firefighters responded to a house fire in Spring Valley on Tuesday, where they uncovered multiple illegal apartments. Around 9:50 in the morning Spring Valley, Monsey, and Hillcrest departments arrived at the address on Murin Street to find the basement of a two-family home in flames. According to Rockland Coordinator of Fire and Emergency Services, Gordon Wren, the basement was violating several codes including having just one set of stairs out and a lack of smoke detectors, as well as being illegally altered in separate apartments. The fire remained in the basement and volunteers had it under control within thirty minutes and the Red Cross was assisting a family of two adults and two children. Investigations are underway into the fire, which officials stated does not appear to be suspicious.
The East Ramapo School Board has assigned a new member to the empty seat that was vacated over the summer by Juan Pablo Ramirez. According to officials Sabrina Charles-Pierre, a paralegal with two children in the public school system, was appointed on Monday night. Charles-Pierre unsuccessfully ran for election in May and stated that she is hoping to be a voice for the public school parents by bringing back art and music programs without having to cut other classes or activities and laying off teachers. Board President Yehudi Weissmandl stated that the district is working with the state monitors to implement changes in procedure and programs that will ensure children get the best education possible. Charles-Pierre will have to run in the next election in May to maintain her appointed position.
Rockland County residents and officials are upset over an advertisement that was placed in the New City Pennysaver on October 15. The short ad, allegedly placed by Interim Healthcare Inc., is seeking an in-home nurse and states, “Laid back nurse, no haitians, must have strong respiratory mngt, gtube.” The community is now questioning why the paper allowed the ad to go through and why the company wrote it in the first place, many stating that it is obviously discriminatory against Haitian people. The ad caught people’s attention almost immediately, and over the weekend officials began taking a stance. Senator David Carlucci released a comment, stating, “I am outraged at this blatant form of employment discrimination, this company should be ashamed of itself and Pennysaver should strongly reconsider running any job posting from Interim Healthcare in future publications.” On Monday County Executive Ed Day announced that the Rockland Human Rights Commission would complete an investigation into the ad.
Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips announced on Thursday that the town is backing out of the Legoland water park proposal. Following several public meetings and residents expressing opposition to the potential project, the town board made the decision to withdraw their proposal, which would have brought the $250 million theme park to 175-acres of the abandoned Letchworth Village site in Thiells. Supporters of the park stated it would have brought a tax ratable and jobs to the community, while other believed the small roads surrounding the mostly residential area would not be able to handle the traffic the estimated two million visitors would bring. The company in charge of Legoland stated in response to the town’s withdrawal that they still consider Haverstraw as a good location for the park, but will most likely be looking at their second option in Virginia for a site. According to Phillips the board listened to residents when they attended last week’s board meeting, the majority sharing their fears regarding the proposal. The supervisor stated in his press release, “We don’t want to divide the community. It was obvious from meetings people are very upset.” The town will not be able to use the state grant of $3.1 million awarded to put towards the development of the project.
According to an order issued by the New York State Division of Standards and Codes, the Rockland County village of Spring Valley has thirty days to begin inspecting buildings, they say have barely or never been investigated in the past. The entire county has faced increasing problems with illegal housing and slumlords in recent years, leading to the creation of a task force to investigate claims of building violations, and County Executive Ed Day’s decision to allow the Health Department to complete inspection based on sanitary codes. The state’s recent order, filed last week, requires that Spring Valley officials make changes to their inspection process or the state will take control. According to task force officials Spring Valley does not have the manpower to enact inspections within the given time frame, and the state took too long to step in.
According to Rockland County investigators the Nyack house fire that killed a woman on Tuesday could have been prevented. Officials stated that the single family home was divided into four illegal apartments and did not appear to have any smoke alarms in the building. At 7:45 AM firefighters responded to 3 Waldron Avenue after receiving numerous calls of smoke coming form the home, where officials stated they found an apartment on the main floor, two in the basement, and one in the upstairs, that housed fourteen people all together. Rockland County Executive Ed Day stated the tragic fire is why the county has been working so hard to crack down on housing violations and illegal apartments. While officials have not determined the official cause yet, they agree the fire may have been prevented and stated the added apartments made the house a deathtrap for both residents and firefighters, and if more people had been home or asleep at the time there could have been a much worse outcome.