Moody’s Withdraws Airmont’s Rating

According to the financial group, Moody’s Investment Services, they recently withdrew ratings for 25 municipalities in New York state due to a policy set in place in 2013. The policy from Moody’s requires that towns and other municipalities must have an annual audit completed or verified by a consultant outside of the state. Officials for Airmont stated that private consultants cost about $20,000 and the village chose to save money to keep below the tax cap. The village’s rating was released as an upper-medium grade, but without a 2013 independent audit, the rating has been withdrawn.

Investigators Find Cause of Fire in Illegal Housing

Investigators looking into a house fire in Haverstraw that left fifteen people homeless stated that a candle was the cause. According to officials the candle accidentally sparked a fire in a bedroom at 12 South Street and the mattress in the room caught quickly, spreading to the rest of the house and next door to a two-family house, which received damage as well. Building inspectors who looked into the damage stated that 12 South Street was illegally altered to serve as a boarding house and violations will be served to the owner. 14 South Street received mostly water damage and the basement was illegally altered to an apartment, as well as the top floors, which were altered to fit several extra rooms. The owner will also receive a summons for the violations.

Rabbi Pleads Guilty to Assault and Kidnapping Accusations

On Wednesday a Monsey Rabbi pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to travel in interstate commerce to commit extortion in an ongoing case against a group of men who were accused in 2013 of using physical violence to force husband’s into offering their wives religious divorces. 56-year old Martin Wolmark was seen in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey, where he admitted to the accusations that he and eight men were paid by various women at different times to bring their husbands to a warehouse in New Jersey and torture them, in some cases, using cattle prods, until the agreed to get, or divorce by religious law. In October 2013 an undercover female FBI agent recorded a meeting with Wolmark and his partner in the scheme Rabbi Mendel Epstein of Brooklyn, where they discussed the kidnapping and forms of torture they would be using. Wolmark will face his sentencing of up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine on May 18.

Card Skimming Device Found in ATM

According to Clarkstown Police a credit card skimming device was found on a Citibank ATM at the 7-Eleven on Route 59 in Nanuet on Thursday. Police stated that they received a call from a man claiming the ATM’s card slot seemed tighter, leading officers to check the machine. While searching they found a tiny camera placed so that it was viewing the PIN key pad, and a skimming device, which was used to steal user’s information from the card’s magnetic strip. Police stated that they removed both devices and urge anyone who used the ATM to call their bank and check if their accounts were compromised while they continue to investigate surveillance footage from the scene to find the thief.

Petition Filed Challenging Sale of Hillcrest Elementary

Parents in the East Ramapo District are filing a petition with the acting New York State Education Commissioner, Beth Berlin, raising concerns about the sale of Hillcrest Elementary School, and asking for the removal of all nine board of education members. Betty Carmand and Steve White, both from Spring Valley, stated that the sale of $4.9 million was millions less than market value, and the board did not have the property properly appraised. This is the second sale of the Hillcrest Building to Congregation Avir Yakov, the first was annulled when it was challenged for similar reasons. Carmand stated that the reasoning behind the recent petition is that the district showed “favoritism” for the congregation and the sale was completed in an emergency meeting for far less than it was allegedly worth.

Orangetown Planning Board Sued by Residents

Recently a suit was filed against the Orangetown Planning Board by a group of residents who formed the coalition, Stop Anellotech, a startup company who has plan to build plant on the old Pfizer campus. The suit is asking that the decision to allow a fifteen-foot high vent pipe releasing chemical emissions be stopped, many residents stating that they are concerned that the emissions could be hazardous to the community and environment. The group of opponents are claiming in the suit that the planning board didn’t complete enough research on the environmental effects as per state mandated procedure. Anellotech converts non-food organic waste into industrial chemicals and representatives have stated that the emissions will contain a fraction of the chemicals below the minimum guidelines of the US Environmental Protection Agency and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, but the gases released will mostly be made up of inert nitrogen, CO2, and water. The plant would create chemicals such as benzene, toluene, and xylene, which opponents stated are all linked to health issues, especially benzene which has been reported to increase the risk of leukemia. An attorney for the company stated that the lawsuit will likely be quick, due to the limited grounds and the town stated that they will soon file a response.

Two Wednesday Fires in Rockland County

Around 5:00 on Wednesday night firefighters responded to a house fire in Haverstraw. According to officials the flames had started on a mattress on the second floor of the multi-family home and took about twenty minutes for volunteers to put out completely. The fire, which destroyed the apartment building, displaced fifteen residents, though no one was reported injured, and the Redcross will be assisting the thirteen adults and two children. Investigators are looking into the possibility that a candle may have sparked the flames, though arson investigators were also inspecting the scene. Also on Wednesday night firefighters in Nanuet responded to a fire at an auto shop. Officials stated that the small amount of flames started by a fault in equipment within the garage and they were able to be put out quickly.

Federal Suit Follows Harassment Surrounding Sexual Orientation

A former employee at the Lowes store on route 303 in Orangeburg has filed a federal suit against the corporation for harassment surrounding his sexual orientation. 32-year old Tallman resident Adam Haimowitz recently came forward in a story in the Journal News, claiming that he was mistreated by managers and fellow employees for years due to his being gay. Haimowitz stated that in his 11 years working at the store he received different types of harassment, once a manager asking him for oral sex, and on several other occasions coworkers calling him derogatory names such as whore. The man stated that his fellow workers quote, “got a kick out of it”, end quote, and enjoyed making rude comments towards him. According to the report in 2012 Haimowitz testified in a federal lawsuit filed against the company by Edward Marse of Sloatsburg for similar claims. According to Haimowitz, the suit was settled in april 2014 and soon after his employers began punishing him for no reason, until he was fired in the summer for allegedly using inappropriate language on the sales floor.

Riders in Disabled Train Escape Without a Hitch

A New Jersey Transit train heading out of Suffern at 7:30 tuesday morning made it as far as Ramsey, New Jersey before it became disabled on the tracks between stations. Riders reported that the train stopped working and a rescue train was sent to complete the journey. A spokesperson for the transit line stated that the onboard crew helped passengers get to the new train, not by climbing down the stairs and walking across the loose rocks, but over the backs of three passenger seats. Riders stated that the crew handled the situation well, and according to the company; transfers such as these do not occur often, usually the two trains are able to attach themselves to allow an easy crossing. No one was injured and the commute was held up by about an hour.

Spring Valley Village Assessor Makes Controversial Assessments

According to the Journal News Spring Valley mayor Demeza Delhomme is looking to the Village Assessor for an explanation on the low assessments on properties. Delhomme stated this week that while looking into the assessment rolls he noticed that Ramapo and Clarkstown, who also assess properties in Spring Valley, often have higher assessments. Ramapo Assessor Scott Shedler stated that the town updates property records often and receives reports from villages monthly for permits, though Spring Valley part-time Assessor Laurence Holland stated that the differences shown in property details could mean that there was no notice of change received by the village. Delhomme’s investigations into the village’s rolls led him to find five properties listed as vacant, while the town had them listed as family homes or apartments. Many villages in Rockland County don’t have their own assessors anymore, opting to use the town’s to obtain information on properties. Since taking office a year ago, Delhomme has found controversy with the board and many residents, and last month he fired the village’s building inspector.

Snow Closings Updated Regularly

Please click on the image below to view all snow closings for Rockland County.