Last week, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino delivered his seventh State of the County address at the Westchester County Courthouse where he reaffirmed his plan to replace “tax and spend” with “save and retain”. He stated that before he came into office, “the result was that between 2005-2010 spending increased 23 percent and taxes increased 17 percent.” He said the $1.8 billion dollar 2016 budget he is proposing is actually less than six years ago. He has reduced the county’s workforce by 15 percent, cut the county tax levy by 2 percent. Critics say that Astorino has in the past budgeted for positions that are then left vacant. In regards to the county’s continuing battle over a settlement with Housing and Urban Development to build affordable housing, Astorino pledged he would protect the county’s rights under the law. The HUD settlement was signed before Astorino entered office, and requires the county to build 750 units of affordable housing in some of Westchester’s most affluent areas. The Federal government reallocated over $20 million in grants intended for local communities due to the deadlock. Astorino also endorses handing over the county-owned Playland Amusement park to Standard Amusements with the county investing up to $33 million for renovations and Standard Amusements investing an additional $30 million. Lawmakers will vote on the Playland deal May 2nd.
Today in HAVERSTRAW, at 1pm, at the Haverstraw Community Center at 50 West Broad Street, the Rockland County Task Force on Water Resources Management is hosting a program to teach students of the North Rockland School District about their water. Afterward, the students will head out to mark storm drains, urging the public to stop dumping trash, motor oil, gasoline, paint and other contaminants into the drains, all of which empty into our waterways. You know, many people mistake storm drains for sewer lines and believe that whatever is dumped into the pipes somehow gets treated and cleaned. In fact, the dumping contaminates our rivers, streams and oceans. Sometimes, the drains empty into fields where water can percolate underground to recharge aquifers. Chairwoman of the Task Force and Rockland county Legislator, Harriet Cornell, stated, “When I learned that the Haverstraw Community Center was looking for worthwhile things for children to do during spring vacation, I immediately thought that our Water Task Force could ‘dive in’ with a course that was both educational and fun”.
Over the weekend, cashless tolls at the Tappan Zee Bridge opened. Tolls are now being collected electronically. There is no longer any need to stop at the toll plaza in Tarrytown. Drivers are instructed to slow to 20 mph and continue through the plaza. If you don’t have an E-Z pass your license plate will be photographed as you pass through and a bill mailed to you at the end of the month.
On Sunday morning, the mayor of Teaneck, Lizette Parker, died. She was the first African-American woman to be mayor of a Bergen County municipality. A news release from the township stated, “respiratory issues” as her reason for going to Holy Name Medical Center a few weeks ago. According to her mother, Dolores Phillips, her daughter’s death was “just so sudden and unexpected”. She leaves behind her husband of 17 years, Anthony; and her daughter Alyssa. Yvonne Witter, President of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women stated Parker was, “a leader with great humility and had an unwavering love for her community, for her family and for her church.” Teaneck Mayor, Lizette Parker, was 44.
Hudson Valley get ready to celebrate – today is the 46th Annual Earth Day – the global movement that has focused all of us at the local level to appreciate and take action in caring for our planet. Policy changes such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act are directly related to the Earth Day movement. This morning the landmark Paris Agreement is scheduled to be signed by the United States, China, and 120 other countries. This historic climate protection treaty was adopted by a consensus 195 nations present at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. If you would like to know more about events and celebrations in your area today check out www.EarthDay.org and don’t forget to check out www.KeepRocklandBeautiful.org for more Great American Cleanups happening throughout the month of April right here in our own backyard.
Yesterday, The Federal Railroad Administration released a list of the most dangerous railroad crossings in the United States. There are over 200,000 crossings, nationwide and the sharply-angled Elmwood Park, NJ crossing at Midland Avenue has been listed as the sixth most dangerous. Over the past 10 years there have been 14 crashes with one fatality. Last summer, the state of New Jersey spent over $800,00 dollars in safety upgrades at the crossing – including newly installed computerized stop lights, traffic sensing cameras, warning flashers, improved signage saying “Don’t Block The Box” and pavement markings designed to make everyone safer. Police Chief, Michael Foligno told CBS news, “It’s better for the motorists because they don’t get stuck on the tracks.” He said, “The light will come on; the warning signals will come on, before the trains are even remotely close to the area.” Last year, 244 people died at railroad crossings.
Early Thursday morning police responded to a report of robbery near 35 Cedar Place and discovered a cab driver with multiple stab wounds. According to police, the driver had picked up his fare in Yonkers and was taking a man to Cedar Place when the man robbed him of approximately $150 dollars and then stab him before taking off. According to the Associated Press the cab driver was a 64-year-old man. He was conscious and taken to a local hospital, where he is in serious but stable condition and is expected to survive. The suspect is described as a black man, approximately 40 years of age and anyone with information can call detectives at 914-377-7424.
RAMAPO – Town Supervisor, Christopher St. Lawrence has resigned as chairman of both Rockland’s sewer and solid waste authorities. The resignation follows last week’s announcement by US Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara that the Securities and Exchange Commission, after a three-year investigation of the town’s books, was filing an indictment against St. Lawrence, and one time assistant town attorney, Aaron Troodler. It has been alleged that the two men lied to investors buying the Town’s and Ramapo Land Development Corporation’s bonds. The indictment accuses them of hiding the true state of the town’s finances and RLDC’s ability to make scheduled payments of principal and interest to it’s bondholders from it’s own financial resources. Last week the men were arrested, pleaded not guilty, posted $500,000 bail and were released pending trial. St. Lawrence will continue to sit on the boards. Rockland County Executive Ed Day said in a written statement, “Given the allegations against him, as a practical matter he could no longer lead these two boards, which issue millions in municipal bonds.” He continued, “Leadership of both boards will be decided by the respective agencies going forward.”
RAMAPO – Monday, Executive Secretary of State, Anthony Giardina issued an order compelling the Town of Ramapo to comply with Uniform Code for fire prevention and building codes. This follows Fire Inspector Adam Peltz being assigned to a desk job after it was discovered he failed to cite numerous code and fire violations at four private schools. The schools have since gone through a series of re-inspections. The state discovered that Ramapo did not meet minimum standards for keeping records and documents in regards to inspections and development. The town also could not produce certain certificates of occupancy and now has been ordered to review its policies and practices for building permits and issuing permits. The order gives Ramapo timeframes of 10 to 30 days to meet the requirements of the order, as well as provide a written report reviewing local laws and compliance with the town enforcement program. Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski stated, “They have to take corrective action or the state could take over the building department.” He continued, “We’ve seen degradation of land use in the town and the village. How can inspections get done and these egregious conditions remain? The state is recognizing the dangerous conditions in the town.”
ALBANY – Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn is about to get a makeover. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that work is underway on an $8.5 million dollar project to enhance vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle safety along Ocean Parkway, between the Prospect Expressway and Shore (Belt) Parkway. Cuomo stated, “Every day, nearly 45,000 vehicles and thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians rely on Ocean Parkway. They deserve a roadway that is safely designed and constructed, and this project will ensure a safer route for all.”