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.
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.