Today is Cinco de Mayo. Many in the United States mistakenly believe that the fifth of May is Mexican Independence Day, the most important national holiday in Mexico – but that is actually September 16th. Cinco de Mayo is a Spanish celebration to commemorate the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. You don’t need to be Spanish to enjoy the parades, food, music and dancing going on today. At WRCR we want to remind you that if drinking is part of your celebrations this evening choose a designated driver – there are over 10,000 drunk driving deaths each year in the United States and it is avoidable with a little planning.
In Newark, on Saturday 1,000 union members of the United Transportation Union Local 60, representing conductors and assistant conductors, voted not to ratify the NJ Transit tentative agreement that was reached by negotiators back in March. 400 Locomotive engineers also voted against the deal on Friday. Spokeswoman for NJ Transit, Nancy Snyder noted they are the only two unions to reject the deal. She stated, “NJ Transit has been advised that the membership has failed to ratify the recently negotiated agreements. Both ratifications failed by narrow margins, “ she added, “Although NJ Transit is disappointed in these two rejections, it is heartened that all 14 other unions ratified their contracts by significant majorities.” Under law, the two unions may not call a strike during the next 60-day and NJ Transit is prohibited from locking workers out during a “cooling off” period that will last until the end of June. Snyder stated, “The two unions representing the conductors and the engineers have the right, under Federal Railway Labor Act, to request the resumption of negotiations. In the event the two unions make that request, NJ Transit will meet with them.”
A panel of commissioners at The Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled yesterday that Federal safety regulators used the wrong data to determine the economic impacts of a severe accident at the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The decision, reversing a previous finding, will now force the NRC to begin a new analysis of the costs of a devastating accident and cleanup. The plant is located in Buchanan and is situated just 24 miles north of New York City. The office of New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman was pleased by the new ruling after months of arguing that Entergy had failed to properly assess the cleanup and had underestimated the contamination costs of a severe accident. Should there ever be a nuclear accident, Schneiderman estimates that some 1.5 million workers would be needed to participate in a decontamination effort with costs escalating as high as $1 Trillion. The four-member panel of the NRC’s board of commissioner’s has now determined that NRC staff used data from sites including farmland and areas that were geographically different than the area around Indian Point to reach their determination. In a statement yesterday from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo he said, “the reexamination of the impacts caused by severe accident at Indian Point and potential upgrades reaffirms our long-standing position that the aging nuclear power plant needs to be retired. Clearly, this facility poses too great a risk to the millions of people who live and work nearby. We will work closely with NRC staff and continue to monitor Indian Point’s daily operations to ensure that a proper analysis is done regarding any unacceptable dangers to ensure that the public is protected at all times.”
Two Digital Design & Marketing students, Keri Tanner (Pearl River High School) and JT Mancino (Clarkstown North High School) were awarded first place in the banner contest at the 50th Annual SkillsUSA New York State Leadership Conference and Skills Championship. Top Technical students from across the state gathered for the competition, held at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse from April 27th through April 29th. Twenty-nine Rockland BOCES students from nine area high schools competed in the areas of culinary arts, TV/Video production, 3-D visualization and animation, criminal justice, cosmetology and other careers represented at Career & Technical Education.
Today is considered by Star Wars fans a national geek holiday. Fans celebrate the franchise’s film series, books and culture. The date was chosen for the easy pun on the catchphrase “May the Force be with you” and was first used in the United Kingdom on May 4th, 1979 when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher took office. The misnamed London Evening News placed a congratulatory advertisement, “May the Fourth the with You, Maggie. Congratulations.” In 2012, The Walt Disney Company purchased LucasFilms including the rights to Star Wars and in 2013 officially observed the holiday with several Star Wars events and festivities at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control have announced that CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington is voluntarily expanding a recall of frozen organic and traditional fruits and vegetables in 35 states, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and in Canada over a possible listeria contamination. The products have best buy dates or sell by dates of April 26, 2016 and April 26, 2018. These include approximately 358 consumer products sold under 42 separate brands. Listeria can cause potential fatal infections in young children, the elderly and anyone with a weakened immune system. Pregnant women may suffer a stillbirth from an infection. Healthy adults may experience symptoms of high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. A listing of the recalled frozen organic and traditional fruits and vegetables from over 80 companies can be found at the FDA.gov website.
The Rockland Psychiatric Center campus in Orangetown may have a movie studio in its future. The empty buildings, contaminated with asbestos, littered with broken windows and surrounded by weeds is being eyed by 31-year-old, Eugene Camali, founder of Rockland Filming Campus as a studio that can be rented out to television and film productions. Tuesday, the town agreed to set aside two town-owned parcels, covering approximately 110 acres off of Convent Road for Camali. A feasibility study is in the works to consider how the land would be developed and is expected in the next six months.
On Monday, at approximately 6 a.m. 31-year-old Myrian Romero of Union City, New Jersey, was heading to work when she crashed her car into a tree on the Palisades Parkway North, according to state police investigators. She died at the scene. Ms. Romero veered off the road between Exits 13 and 14. Sources say she worked for the Tappan Zee Bridge and was heading to work near Stony Point. Investigators note her cell phone is not at issue. She was wearing a hands-free device and her phone was not in her hand. State police in Haverstraw are seeking help in the case. If you have information you can call 845-364-0200.
Monday night, Spring Valley police arrested 41-year-old podiatrist Ira Bernstein and his girlfriend 35-year-old Kelly Myzner Gribeluk after a month-long investigation by the Ramapo police, Rockland County District Attorney, Thomas P. Zugibe and Spring Valley police into an alleged plot by the couple to murder Bernstein’s wife and harm two insurance investigators looking into Bernstein’s business. According to authorities, Bernstein and Gribeluk reached out to a man they thought had connections that could help them commit the crime. The man reported the conversation to Spring Valley police. Ramapo Detective Lt. Mark Emma called the man “an exceptional citizen” for reporting the incident. They are both charged with felony counts of second-degree conspiracy, second-degree solicitation and fourth-degree conspiracy, and a misdemeanor count of fourth-degree solicitation. The couple is each being held on $600,000 bail. Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel stated that the investigation is still ongoing and more charges may be filed.
In Albany — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has filed a suit to compel Rensselaer District Attorney Joel Abelove to comply with Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order governing cases in which unarmed civilians are killed in interactions with the police. In a press release, Schneiderman said his interest relates to cases where there are significant questions as to whether the deceased person was armed and dangerous. He is specifically looking at the death of Edson Thevenin during an encounter with Troy police on Sunday, April 17th. The Attorney General’s suit seeks to bar D.A. Abelove from exercising jurisdiction to investigate the circumstances and to require the D.A. to surrender his case file. On the day Thevenin was shot by Troy police, representatives from the Attorney General’s office visited the scene of the incident and informed D.A. Abelove that more information was needed to determine whether the shooting did or did not fall within the Attorney General’s jurisdiction. The next day, D.A. Abelove publicly contradicted that message in an inaccurate statement to the Albany Times Union, saying, “it was relayed to me…that the attorney general…is not going to be claiming jurisdiction in this case.” In a subsequent conversation, D.A. Abelove assured the Attorney General’s office that he had been misquoted. Schneiderman said: “The Governor’s Executive Order was designed to restore public confidence in our criminal justice system. My office has worked collaboratively with D.A.’s across the state in pursuit of that goal, conducting fair, comprehensive, and independent investigations in every case within our jurisdiction. Unfortunately, as we’ve alleged today, D.A. Abelove’s actions not only violate the law, but directly undermine the public’s confidence in law enforcement, making the jobs of police officers and D.A.’s throughout the state more difficult.”