Spring Valley firefighters: Politics leave gear dangerously outdatedVilair Fonvil, Asher Grossman and Sherry McGill refuse to approve funding—leave volunteers at risk
February 13, 2016
"Volunteer firefighter Aaron Lerer points to
his protective jacket with large, brown scorch
Spring Valley Trustee
Rockland County Sheriff
County Legislature Dist. 8
County Legislature Dist. 12
County Legislature Dist. 13
Supreme Court Justice
Clarkstown Ward Referendum
Yes to approve 8,922
Tress, a Democratic candidate for the Ramapo
Town Board, has a federal mail-fraud conviction and, when questioned about
whether he lives in New Jersey, admitted he did. Tress, currently a member of
the Ramapo Zoning Board of Appeals, initially said he lived at a Monsey apartment
he rents. He later clarified, "I'm not denying that I live in New Jersey, but I am
most of the week in Monsey." He acknowledged being federally prosecuted in 2004
and said the community doesn't know about it. "I don't remember if I actually pleaded
guilty," he said, but court records show that Tress pleaded guilty in December 2004
to the felony, admitting he falsely assumed an identity to obtain a home mortgage loan from a bank in connection with the purchase of a
home in Spring Valley. He was sentenced in March 2005 to three years of supervised release.Tress, the CEO of East Morgan Holdings, a
Lakewood, New Jersey-based remediation company, owns a home in Lakewood, tax records show." Tress has served on St. Lawrence's
Zoning Board of Appeals for years. Read the complete Journal News story here.
Why are Kiryas Joel Building and Real Estate Concerns
Funding St. Lawrence’s Campaign?
October 26, 2015
Politicians fund their election campaigns by soliciting donations
from supporters and other partners. The money is collected by PACs (Political Action Committees)
and New York State requires that these PACs submit regular financial reports that appear on the
New York State Board of Elections website (http://www.elections.ny.gov/CFViewReports.html). Ramapo
Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence has two such PACs, one that the general public can easily find
on the state site—it’s called Friends of Christopher P. St. Lawrence—and another that doesn’t have his name and
won’t show up in searches for his name as owner or recipient of those funds. Both PACs are managed by Nathan Oberman,
Ramapo’s Deputy Director of Finance and Receiver of Taxes. So why does St. Lawrence have this second secretive bankroll
where donors can direct money almost anonymously? The answer lies in who is writing those checks in the dark. (More)
October 26, 2015 "The
30-minute debate didn't sidestep the biggest controversies in Rockland's
fastest growing town:
zoning disputes; the power of the bloc-vote; financing for the Provident Bank Park; and an FBI raid at Ramapo Town Hall in May 2013.
St. Lawrence shrugged off a question about the FBI probe into the town's finances. "You'd have to ask them," he said. "They took records.
They wanted to review information. We're awaiting any results." Read the complete coverage here. NOTE: The reporter incorrectly
identified the Preserve Ramapo candidates Parietti, Scott, Weber, and Romanowski as appearing on the Preserve Ramapo line. They are
on Row H, the Reform Party Line--That's H for Honesty.
Spring Valley house fire reveals more illegal apartments
October 20, 2014 "A
fire in a Spring Valley home with illegal apartments revealed
“deplorable” conditions Tuesday morning,
according to authorities. After the fire was extinguished, authorities found illegal apartments in the basement and throughout
the home. In addition, there were no fire alarms in the house. “It’s like playing Russian roulette,” Wren said. “These people
shouldn’t be living in these conditions.” “If this had happened in the middle of the night and there were no smoke detectors
working, who knows what we would have come to,” Sohlman said. The fire in Spring Valley comes on the heels of a state
agency ordering the village to increase enforcement of its housing codes or face a potential state takeover. The Division of
Building Standards and Codes issued an order on Oct. 6 giving the village 30 days to begin inspecting buildings and schools
that are riddled with fire and safety violations." Complete Journal News coverage here.
State warns Spring Valley to enforce building and fire codes - or else
October 14, 2014 "New York state officials have ordered the village to immediately begin inspecting buildings and
schools that are rife with fire and safety violations — or face a potential takeover. The Division of Building Standards
and Codes Oct. 6 order follows an agency investigation of the village's Building Department and months of consultations
with village officials about uninspected buildings that potentially endanger students, tenants, and first-responders. The state gave
the village 30 days from Oct 6 to make the changes or face state action. The overall inadequacy of the housing inspections — as well
as problems with slum housing and absentee landlords — led County Executive Ed Day to order the Rockland County Department of Health
to use the county's sanitary code to inspect housing across the county. The county also is collecting housing complaints and publicizing
landlords with violations through the Rockland Codes Initiative. Task force chairman John Kryger said Wednesday that the state
has not acted fast enough on Spring Valley." Kryger said he and the task force's vice chairs believe the state is just postponing an
inevitable takeover of fire, building and code enforcement duties in Spring Valley and, potentially, Ramapo. Read the complete
Journal News story here.
October 14, 2015 "Dozens
of private religious schools in Ramapo don't comply with the
the fire safety code, putting the safety of students and firefighters at deadly risk. That warning was delivered
at Tuesday night's East Ramapo school board meeting by Justin Schwartz, a Spring Valley fire captain and
Tarrytown rabbi who is a member of the Rockland Illegal Housing Task Force. During the public-comment period,
Schwartz stood in full dress uniform and said he fears the danger grows with every passing day. "Not only has this
board and administration failed in educational opportunities to the nonpublic schools," he told an audience of more
than 200 seated and standing in the gym, "but it allows outrageous conditions detrimental to the health and safety
of the students of these schools. Schwartz said religious school students are "commonly crammed" into illegally
converted trailers and single-family homes that have gone years without ever being inspected for potentially
deadly hazards. "Sanitary code violations are rife," he added." Complete Journal News story here.
October 10, 2015 Community View in The
Spring Valley NAACP president says East Ramapo board's lack of understanding, and interest in,
public education does irreparable harm to students. Read Willie Trotman's complete editorial here.
October 8, 2015 Letter in The Journal News
York State laws and regulations requiring that all children receive an
education have not been “forgotten” since
1928. In East Ramapo in particular, administration was acutely aware of its responsibility. As I explained on the public
radio show "This American Life," East Ramapo administrators had made a deal with the administrators of the yeshivas
that they would not bring up the issue of failure to educate yeshiva students as long as the ultra-Orthodox bloc vote
would not be used to vote down school budgets." (More)
E. Ramapo chief Joel Klein resigns, effective Oct. 31
October 8, 2015 "The
announcement drew strong applause and cheers Wednesday night from
several dozen people
attending a special Board of Education meeting.Klein antagonized parents with derogatory comments about Hispanics,
waiting weeks to apologize. He had been the target of protests at each board meeting, as well as at his home." Read
the complete Journal News coverage here.
Comptroller Checks Ramapo Books and the Worst gets even Worse
October 1, 2015
In 2012, the New York State Comptroller declared that the Town of Ramapo
was the most
fiscally stressed township in the State. At that time, Ramapo had racked up a worst-in-the-state rating of 70.8%
for fiscal stress. The Supervisor’s response to the economic crisis was both simple and unnerving: The Comptroller’s
numbers must be wrong. And then St. Lawrence turned the lights off in fiscal year 2013 by failing to file the Town’s
financial report in time to be included in the State’s evaluation of all the townships. Unfortunately, that had very
little restorative impact on the numbers, which continued to worsen as the economic stress increased. Now in the
most recent numbers from the State, Ramapo has increased another 7% for a new all-time high. (More)
S.V. Mayor Ordered Yeshiva Approved Without Inspections
September 25, 2015 "The
mayor ordered a building official to permit a yeshiva to open, even
inspections weren't completed to ensure the school was structurally sound and safe to occupy, according
to a memo obtained by The Journal News. Another building official subsequently saw students walk inside
the school at 50 Commerce Street. Mayor Demeza Delhomme's order that Assistant Building Inspector
Jackenton Lavalasse issue a certificate of occupancy for Yeshiva Oholei Shem D'nitra came under pressure
from Alex Goldberger, vice president of Monsey Lumber, which is a political donor to the mayor." Read complete
Journal story here.
New Hempstead: Matterhorn's
September 25, 2015 "Residents
are keeping a wary eye on
the former Matterhorn Nursey property, with rumors flying
claiming a high-density development is being planned for the
area. Earlier this week, an anonymous flyer went out to residents
along Summit Park Road that purports to show an architectural rendering of a four-story, 396-unit apartment block
planned for the land at 227 Summit Park Road. Copies also have been circulating online in Facebook community
forums like the controversial "Block The Block Vote" page. "What do you think of 1000 more people living right
around the corner from you?" the flyer reads. "500 more cars on your roads? Congestion? Traffic? Noise? Crowded?
Garbage? Crime? Buses?" The village, however, says it hasn't received any development application from the
property's new owner, Summit Hempstead LLC, which bought the 34-acre site for $5.1 million in August 2014."
Read the complete Journal News story here.
New Questions about the Old Treasurer
September 22, 2015
Eight years ago,
the Assistant Superintendent of Finance did all the bookkeeping
for the district. The school board president at that time was Nathan Rothschild.
Elected by the ultra-Orthodox bloc vote, he did not need to provide the public
with his educational experience. Only after he was convicted and sentenced to
federal prison did we learn he did not have a high school diploma. While it is
not required for a school board trustee to have graduated from school, it is
something the public will usually want to know about a candidate before giving
him or her their vote. (More)
The Voice of a Veteran
September 22, 2015
Nonagenarian David Lipman, a veteran both of
East Ramapo and World War Two, slowly made his way to the podium
to address the East Ramapo School Board. Here are his prepared remarks.
Separate and Unequal:
Many East Ramapo Yeshivas Fail to Prepare
Students in Secular Studies
September 20, 2015 The Journal News
turned over the Sunday edition to investigative
reporting on the failure of East Ramapo school district leaders to meet legal obligations to
monitor the quality of education in private yeshivas. A number of personal stories of those
victimized by this failure are included in the coverage. A key question not addressed, though,
is if this board is comfortable with this almost complete neglect of subject areas such as science,
math, and social studies in their community's schools, how equipped, or inclined are they to
plan curriculum in an academic environment that's alien to them. The kids in both school systems
will continue to lose with this board in place. (More)
Rockland Primary Election
Results--Sept 10, 11:27pm Summary Report
County Legislator--District 8
Toney Earl 333
Betty Carmand 186
County Legislator--District 13
Aron Wieder 415
Jacques Michel 308
Ramapo Town Council
Brendel Logan-Charles 3,044
Shmuel Tress 2,938
Daniel Friedman 1,010
Elye Kramer 518
Go to www.rocklandgov.com/departments/board-of-elections for complete results.
August 31, 2015 "Georgine Hyde, an Auschwitz concentration camp survivor who became an educator on the Holocaust, advocate for children and 36-year member of the East Ramapo Board of Education, has died. She was 90. Educating children and adults became Hyde's passion after she survived the Holocaust and the Auschwitz death camp during World War II and came to the United States in 1952, settling in Pomona in 1957. She also served as president of the New York State School Boards Association and Rockland Board of Cooperative Services.
In a 2005 interview with The Journal News after she lost her school board seat, Hyde reflected that surviving the death camps was a gift and inspired her to make the world a better place one child at a time. "It means you can help, that you can develop a future for children," Hyde said. "You can build history through schools. The influence of public education can be enormous. I think I wanted to participate in the future." Elected to the school board in 1969, Hyde lost her seat in 2005 when the district's ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community made its first move to take over the board.She had been targeted for defeat and garnered the fewest votes along with then-six-year Trustee Danielle Bright, as David Resnick and Steven Rosenstock won seats. Resnick and Rosenstock were endorsed by the Southeast Ramapo Taxpayers Association, a group that supports candidates who have ties to private schools. The organization has since been a moving force to elect residents with children in private schools and defeat proposed budgets." Read the complete Journal News coverage here.
Read Robert Rhodes' remembrance and appreciation of Georgine Hyde "an extraordinary woman" here.
Was There Election Fraud in Ramapo?—A Personal Opinion
Letter to the Editor of The Rockland Voice
August 29, 2015 “A few days ago, the Ramapo Town Clerk announced the results of the Ramapo Ward System
vote which occurred on September 30, 2014. The results were as follows:
1. The machine vote tallied
13,891 “YES” vs. 13,526 “NO” votes.
2. The absentee ballot vote tallied 377 “YES” vs. 201 “NO” votes.
3. The affidavit ballot vote tallied 419 “YES” vs. 1,854 “NO” votes.
So it is obvious that the
outlier in this election was the affidavit vote tally. While the Ward
“YES” vote outperformed
the “NO” vote in both the machine and absentee ballots, there was a gross, reverse trend on the affidavit ballots. (More)
The Strange Results of the Ward Vote Count
August 28, 2015
count of the Ward Referendum vote took place yesterday at the Rockland
Health Center. Officials from the Town of Ramapo and the Rockland Board of Elections were present,
and three counts were merged in the final totals presented later in the day. It came as no surprise to
those supporting the Ward System that registered voters voted one way, and those who voted with affidavit
ballots overwhelmingly voted against it. (More)
Spring Valley residents fed up with 'king'-sized turmoil
August 26, 2015 "When a
video clip of Spring Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme calling
himself "king" surfaced online this
week, it joined a lengthy list of high-profile personality conflicts and blow-ups at Village Hall. Residents in this diverse,
working-class community say enough is enough. "The politics is corrupt," complained Romeo Stale, 40, as he ate lunch at the
Island Spice restaurant on North Main Street. "That's always the headline. That's all it is." The profanity-peppered clip was made
at a June 8 meeting, but only began making the rounds on social media last week. In it, Delhomme asks the Board of Trustees for
$23,000 to buy a piece of equipment for the Department of Public Works. He starts to argue with Trustee Vilair Fonvil, a frequent
political foe, and quickly loses his cool. "You heard it from the king!" he shouts at one point. "The king get it from the soldiers!"
Read the complete Journal News story here.
Yeshiva owns building used for anti-E. Ramapo message
2015 "A yeshiva owns
house off Route 45 used
without its permission as a billboard to describe the
East Ramapo school district as "racist," town police said Tuesday. The Adolph Schreiber Hebrew Academy of Rockland has had
plans to tear down the dilapidated one-story structure near Exit 12 from the Palisades Interstate Parkway, police said. "The building
is supposedly being razed," Detective Lt. Mark Emma said. "The school's rabbi told us no one was given permission to write on the building."
Police are looking to charge the graffiti-writer with criminal mischief for the red spray-painted message in all-capital letters: "E Ramapo
School Board is racist and persecutes students History repeats." Complete Journal coverage here.
August 24, 2015 "After
19 days (and counting), town officials say they're done validating more
than 3,000 affidavit and
absentee ballots cast in last year's controversial ward vote.Town Clerk Christopher Sampson said it could be only a few days
before the ballots are handed over to the Rockland County Board of Elections to tally the final vote, including voting machine
results. A date for the count hasn't been set. The lengthy paper processing started July 29 at Town Hall. Deborah Seidman, a pro-ward
advocate, suspects the process is being deliberately and needlessly drawn out. "They've done everything in their power to delay, delay, delay,"
she said. Pro-ward activists have said they're ready to hold another referendum in November if they lose. As Seidman noted, the deadline
to bring the issue onto the ballot is Sept. 3, according to the elections board." Read the complete Journal News story here.
“East Ramapo Gets a Monitor” The Brian Lehrer Show
August 19, 2015 "Mayor
Demeza Delhomme and Building Inspector Walter Booker are at odds
again — with the mayor this time
pointing fingers about the district attorney's seizure of Booker's computer many months ago. Booker recently returned to work after
having been suspended with pay from his $63,000-a-year position since Dec. 29. Delhomme recounted, for the first time, how
investigators from the Rockland County District Attorney's Office apparently arrived at Village Hall sometime before Booker's
suspension and seized Booker's computer. The exact date of that raid was unclear. "It got seized a long time ago," Delhomme said.
"That's the untold story." Booker blamed the mayor for the computer's seizure. Both Delhomme and Booker maintain they were never
told the reason for the raid or why the computer was taken. Spring Valley has been faulted by state and county officials for failing to
comply with minimum standards regarding using its code-enforcement powers." Complete Journal News coverage here.
Bernard and Brendel Charles still Attracting Lightning
August 18, 2015 Last
week, there was the rally in Spring Valley’s Memorial Park with
parents calling for the removal of Bernard
Charles from the East Ramapo School Board. Then a video showing wife Brendel hurling profanities at some of the good citizens of
the Town, another video of Bernard threatening some of the locals, and a clip of his aggressive response when he was served with
the lawsuit papers naming him with the other school board members for the profligate legal fees. And now, with a press release today
from Town Councilman Daniel Friedman, there’s a call for Bernard’s removal as Ramapo’s Recreation Activities Coordinator. Friedman’s
reasons are a virtual grab-bag of what’s wrong with Ramapo politics—they include nepotism, incompetence, lousy test scores, improper
behavior, malfeasance, and not showing up for work. Daniel wants an up-or-down vote at this Thursday’s Town Board meeting. (More)
August 14, 2015 "East
Ramapo's future is a top priority for the state, Education
MaryEllen Elia told
hundreds of frustrated parents at a meeting where a team of outside monitors was introduced to oversee the struggling district.
“We hear you,” Elia told a packed audience Thursday at Rockland Community College. “We recognize the seriousness of the situation.”
Community members expressed hope that Dennis Walcott, the former chancellor of New York City schools, will help turn the district around.
He's tasked with overseeing a team that will monitor operations and provide recommendations to ensure students have access to appropriate
programs and services, and that the district is on a path to fiscal and programmatic stability. They also expressed concern that Walcott
and his team — which includes Monica George-Fields and John W. Sipple — will be stymied by an uncooperative local Board of Education
since they lack veto power. “I will be present on a regular basis and meet with community members,” Walcott told the crowd, which
alternately cheered and booed the plan. Walcott and his team will provide a report of their actions and findings to Elia and the Board of
Regents in December. He said he'll make unannounced visits to schools and offices in East Ramapo to get a better idea of what's going on.
He also plans to reach out to parents of children who attend private schools. "We know when something stinks, when something's not right,"
Walcott pledged, to cheers. Read the full text of the coverage here.
Clarkstown seeks 6-month ban on residential development
August 11, 2014 "Citing
rampant over-development in neighboring municipalities, Clarkstown
town officials are moving to
impose a six-month moratorium on residential development. Supervisor Alex Gromack and council members Shirley Lasker and
Stephanie Hausner, fellow Democrats, endorsed the building ban at a press conference on Tuesday. They were expected to pass
it at the Town Board meeting that night, setting up a 30-day 'public comment' period. A final vote is set for Sept. 29. Officials
said the moratorium will give the town's Building and Planning Departments time to review and overhaul zoning, possibly imposing
a strict set of land use regulations to preserve the area's residential character. The building ban comes amid an intense countywide
debate over illegal housing and over-development, particularly in Ramapo. The town of 133,000 grew by 1,616 people last year — the
third most of any in the state. "We've always been hyper-vigilant," Lasker said. "We are the polar opposite of Ramapo, which shows
a total disregard of its own zoning laws." Read the complete Journal story here.
Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to make
East Ramapo announcement Thursday
August 10, 2015 "State
education officials plan to make an announcement Thursday about the
troubled East Ramapo School
District and have invited the public to attend. Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Commissioner MaryEllen Elia are slated to attend
the 1:30 p.m. announcement at the Cultural Arts Center at Rockland Community College." Read the Journal News story here.
Ex-Spring Valley mayor gets 4-year sentence
August 7, 2015
Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin was sentenced to four years in
federal prison and fined $20,000
Friday for her role in a scheme involving a proposed community center in the Rockland village. "Imprisonment is absolutely
necessary given your enthusiastic participation in this corrupt activity," U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon told Jasmin."
Complete Journal story here.
August 7, 2015
prosecutors investigating allegations of corruption in Ramapo
anticipate wrapping up the probe by October, according to a court document they filed
in a civil lawsuit by an alleged whistle-blower. Suspended Ramapo finance official Melissa Reimer's lawsuit
includes conversations she taped with town officials concerning potential corruption and financial decisions
of interest to the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI, according to documents filed with the U.S. District
Court. The recordings have been blocked from release since Feb. 4, when federal Judge Cathy Seibel
granted the U.S. Attorney's Office'srequest to intervene to prevent the recordings from being turned over
to Ramapo's lawyers, according to court documents. In a heavily redacted court document dated June 30,
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara asked Seibel for another three-month hold on one of Reimer's recordings.
The approved request extends the stay until October. "The government now moves that the court stay discovery
of the ... recording for an additional 90 days, during which time the government anticipates it will complete its investigation and make
charging decisions in this matter," Bharara wrote in the document." See complete Journal News coverage here.
E. Ramapo board president responds to new lawsuit: update.
August 5, 2015 "East
Ramapo school Board President Yehuda Weissmandl said that a new
civil lawsuit targeting board
members is counterproductive and will unnecessarily drain district funds. The new civil complaint, filed Tuesday in state
Supreme Court, calls on board members to reimburse the district $2 million in legal fees spent fighting a federal class-action
civil rights lawsuit brought by parents in 2012. Plaintiffs state that board members violated their financial management responsibilities
by hiring "excessively expensive" attorneys to represent them. Pro bono law firm Advocates for Justice represented parents in both cases.
The new lawsuit names current and past board members as well as their law firms — Philadelphia-based Morgan Lewis and Bockius and
New York City-based Proskauer Rose — as defendants. It calls on the court to compel the defendants to reimburse the district all legal fees
in excess of $187,500 associated with their defense in the federal class action lawsuit between 2012 and 2014." Read the complete Journal
News story here.
Ramapo: Ballot checks continue in ward vote count
August 4, 2015 "Officials
say they won't know until the end of this week how many absentee and
affidavit ballots from
September's contested ward system vote are valid. Since they started on July 29, employees at Town Hall have gone
through 653 absentee ballots and about 300 of 2,500 affidavit ballots to determine whether they can be counted."
Click here to read the Journal News coverage.
Why Juan Pablo Ramirez Warrants a Little More Public Scrutiny
When the news broke that the newly elected East Ramapo School Board
Juan Ramirez quit after just one meeting, the move caused quite a few raised eyebrows. The most
interesting, and thoughtful response was posted by Steve White on his Power of Ten blog. Here’s what
Steve had to say about this very odd maneuver. New School Board Member Resigns after Just One Meeting
"East Ramapo’s newest school board member [Juan
Pablo Ramirez] resigned today. He
told the Journal News
he had misjudged the amount of time it takes to be a school board member. Perhaps he should have attended
at least one complete meeting before he ran for the board? Perhaps the 6000 people who voted for him should
have asked if he had ever sat through even one meeting? (More)
July 29, 2015 "The
balloting ended nearly a year ago, but the counting has only just
begun. Town officials on Wednesday
began the laborious task of validating more than 3,000 absentee and affidavit ballots from September's contested ward system vote
under the watchful scrutiny of critics who have alleged election fraud.Officials said the paper processing could take days.
The vote, which took two years to get to referendum in the face of
official opposition, was marked by heavy turnout and
confusion over "affidavit" ballots, which are used by residents who are not registered but still eligible to vote. The affidavit
ballots will be either validated or rejected, with photocopies made of each in case of future legal challenges." Read the
full text of the Journal News article here.
July 28, 2015 "The
East Ramapo school district overpaid two corporate law firms by $2
million for defense of a single
case over a two-year period, according to a state judge. The district sued its insurance company, New York Schools
Insurance Reciprocal, to recoup $2.2 million in legal fees associated with school board members' defense in a class-action
civil rights lawsuit between 2012 and 2014. Last month, state Supreme Court Justice Stephen Bucaria determined the
insurance company was liable for "reasonable" legal costs associated with the case during that time. A reasonable fee
would have been $187,500 for 500 hours." Read complete Journal News story here.
Nancy Cutler: Keep eyes on Ramapo ward vote count
July 26, 2015 "On
July 29, the ballots will be tallied by town officials — who have
most at stake in preserving the status quo.
The count will be done publicly, in a room in Town Hall. But many remain concerned that impartial and pro-ward participants
won't have enough access to ensure all — and only — relevant ballots are tallied. . . Ramapo Town Clerk Christian Sampson
described a prescribed process for validating the approximately 550 absentee and 2,500 affidavit ballots. Town of Ramapo
employees will perform those tasks. "Of course the media will be invited," he said, along with the petitioners, "and there may
be room for others to come in and observe the process ... but they can't interject in the process." Why not have a neutral party do this?
"Because we can do it ourselves," Sampson told me. The town has capable staff, he said. "It's very straightforward." [After numerous court
battles two years ago],When the vote finally took place, it was a mess. Amid heavy turnout, there much confusion over who could vote,
with some poll workers unaware that a town resident didn't need to be a registered voter to cast a ballot. The town's controversial
decision not to allow poll watchers added a gloss of conspiracy to the polling chaos." Read the complete text of Cutler's editorial here.
Most Rockland sewer officials ignore order to repay $90K in salaries
July 20, 2015 "Maybe
they’ve been away on vacation or just got back and haven’t sorted
through the mail that piled
up while they were gone. Whatever the reason, only three of 13 current or former elected officials have replied to
letters from Rockland County Executive Ed Day’s office ordering them to fork over the money he says they shouldn’t
have been paid while serving as sewer commissioners. And only one — stand up and raise your hand, Alex Gromack! — has
paid back the money. The June 9 letters that went out to officials from Ramapo, Clarkstown and Orangetown demanded that
they pay the money back by June 30 or risk being dragged into court and having interest and penalties tacked on." Full story
on Journal News online here.
Read a commentary on the salaries controversy by Robert Rhodes here.
Hoping for a Jury Trial: Lawsuit against East Ramapo School District continues
19, 2015 (From the Rockland County Times) A multitude of
allegations against the East Ramapo Central School District
are detailed in a lawsuit — Montesa v. Schwartz, 12-cv-06057, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan) — filed
on behalf of parents, students and taxpayers by public interest law firm Advocates for Justice on August 8, 2012. Grievances alleged
against the district’s school board include selling school property at below market prices for private school use, special education
funding and buying religious textbooks, all of which plaintiff’s contend demonstrate a religious bias by the board’s majority Hasidic
and Orthodox Jewish members. “This is a First Amendment lawsuit; it alleges violations of First Amendment establishment clause;
it is not a class action lawsuit,” Laura Barbieri, counsel for the plaintiffs, explained. “It alleges the school board violated the constitutional
rights of students in the district in favor of the religious interests of the Hassidic and Orthodox community and is depriving public school
children of a sound-basis education and an opportunity for achievement and a quality education.” The lawsuit seeks at least $10 million
jointly and individually from all defendants. If the case goes before a jury, and the defendants are found liable, they may be required
to reimburse the district. (More)
Ramapo set to count ward system vote Wednesday July 29
July 19, 2015 "The
Town Board has set a date of July 29 to count thousands of ballots
that will decide whether voters approved
electing Town Board members by district and adding two more people to the five-member governing body. The election machines
votes, paper affidavit and write-in ballots have been locked away pending state court decisions on whether to count the ballots
or hold another election. A state Appellate Division panel ruled June 24 that the votes must be counted, overriding Supreme Court
Justice Margaret Garvey, who invalidated the Sept. 30 election. Ramapo Town Board members authorized Town Clerk Christian
Sampson to publicly begin counting and validating the election starting at 9:30 a.m. July 29 at Town Hall. The Rockland County Board
of Elections has been custodian of the ballots since they were ordered to be seized by Garvey. After the September vote, Garvey
ordered a new election based upon allegations of town improprieties in setting up the vote and in accepting affidavit and absentee ballots.
Full text of the Journal News story here.
Klein to follow D’Agostino
Sources: East Ramapo superintendent to lose post
July 19, 2015 "The
East Ramapo school district will soon remove beleaguered
Superintendent Joel Klein from his post, almost a
year before his contract is set to expire, several sources told The Journal News. In recent weeks, the school board has faced
intensifying pressure to distance itself from him – from community protests in front of Klein’s home demanding his resignation
to state Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch calling for the same. The district, while not confirming that any action was imminent,
did confirm “that Klein was in the last year of his contract and that the school board would soon develop a process for replacement.”
Complete Journal News Coverage here.
Zebrowski pressures state on fire safety enforcement
July 16, 2015
Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, also pressed the New York State
Department of Education
in a separate letter to enforce regulations mandating private schools in Rockland submit annual fire inspection reports showing
the facilities are safe and meet regulations. He said 60 schools are in violation. Zebrowski and a countywide housing task force
have raised concerns for several years that the lives of firefighters, students, and predominately poor tenants are being
endangered by overcrowded houses carved up into multiple apartments and schools being operated in single-family homes
without proper fire suppression equipment. County Executive Ed Day now has the Rockland Health Department inspecting
buildings for violations of the county sanitary code and is publicly naming problem landlords.Officials have focused on Ramapo
and Spring Valley, where the state Division of Building Standards and Codes issued critical reports on enforcement earlier this year.
The state agency investigated and visited both communities before issuing the reports. Zebrowski said he also wants the state
to review the enforcement in the villages of New Hempstead and Kaser. In his letter, he told new state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia
to enforce the mandate that private schools file annual fire safety reports. The department's review of aid applications from private schools
is supposed to include the number of students, those safety reports and compliance with local zoning. Zebrowski proposed legislation in 2014
that would require the Education Department to withhold funding from schools that have not filed fire safety reports." Complete Journal News
Apparently, Not all neighbors are equal in Ramapo
Illegal shortcut on Ramapo-owned land remains in use one year later
July 16, 2015 "People
are still walking along an illegal shortcut built on town-owned
property between two homes
in Ramapo, even though it has been more than a year since the town became aware of the problem.Neighbors became
concerned last summer after seeing strangers walking around their quiet residential streets to get to the 300-foot paved
walkway, which connects 1 Neva Court to 9 Quince Lane. Though no one but the owners of the two properties has legal
access to the shortcut, the two homeowners claim in court they didn't build it. Bushes were cleared and trees were taken
down to make room for the path, and the only other way to access it is to cut through dense growth behind other private
homes in the area. The Journal News first reported on the path in January. "I'm disappointed because it's been taking so
long in the process," said Bob Cohen, who, along with his neighbors, alerted town officials about the shortcut.Ramapo sued
the two homeowners after the town's request to restore the woods went nowhere. The case is pending in state Supreme
Court in New City. The next court date is set for Sept. 9. Tom Eichenberger, another neighbor, echoed Cohen's sentiment,
saying that allowing this illegal act for more than a year diminishes the town's authority." Read the complete Journal News story here.
Journal News to ERCSD: Fire Joel Klein and Stop Illegal Special Ed Placements
July 12, 2015 "Calls
to remove Superintendent Joel Klein – by protesters at each meeting,
and by New York State
Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch – must be heeded. Klein last year blamed older immigrant students coming to the
district for damaging the district's graduation rates. "They want to learn the language. They want free lunch, breakfast,
and whatever else they can get. They know they cannot get a diploma," Klein said during an August 2014 meeting. Protests
have been held ever since, at just about every school board meeting, including Tuesday's. Klein has said his words were
distorted and taken out of context. In a district where most students are children of color, where many are immigrants,
where dozens of languages are spoken, such misunderstanding and stereotyping cannot stand. Klein must go." Read the
full text of the editrorial here.
Politicians and the East Ramapo School District: Profiles in Cowardice
July 11, 2015
In 1957 John F. Kennedy won a Pulitzer Prize for writing Profiles
in Courage, a volume of short
biographies describing acts of bravery and integrity by eight United State Senators who did the right thing despite
criticism and damage to their political careers. In New York we have the complete opposite: “Profiles in Cowardice”,
where self-serving politicians do the wrong thing and sacrifice the future of thousands of schoolchildren in order to retain
the support of the ultra-religious and electorally powerful bloc vote. (More)
East Ramapo schools hire new law firm
July 8, 2015 "The
East Ramapo school board is parting ways after six years with
Minerva and D'Agostino, the pricey
Long Island-based law firm that many say added to an already volatile atmosphere in the district. The board hired
New York City-based Harris Beach as its new legal representative Tuesday at a 7 p.m. reorganization meeting that
drew more than 100 people, including Judith Johnson, the Lower Hudson Valley's representative on the state Board
of Regents, and Family Court Judge Sherri Eisenpress. Many residents at the meeting held signs criticizing Superintendent
Joel Klein and Yehuda Weissmandl, who was appointed for another term as board president.The board hired Harris Beach
by a vote of 6-0, with two abstentions and one member absent. East Ramapo had been spending nearly $1,000 a day on the
high-powered firm. The Journal News reported last year that D'Agostino's firm had billed the district $322,000 for services and travel
just between July 2013 and May 2014. When the firm was hired in 2009, it was at twice the rate the district's previous law
firm had been paid."Mr. D'Agostino has stood as a symbol of the unresponsive, disrespectful manner in which the East Ramapo
leadership has treated the district's families," said Andrew Mandel, co-founder of the activist group Strong East Ramapo.
"Replacing his firm, something the school board promised to do two years ago after a particularly despicable episode toward
parents, is a long overdue beginning to a total overhaul of the district." Read the complete Journal News coverage here.
Monsey energy company paying $1.25M to cover fraud: officials
July 7, 2015 "A
Monsey-based energy company accused of ripping off people by falsely
promising lower rates
is being forced to repay $1.25 million to 25,000 customers, the state attorney general said Monday. After an the
introductory rate, customers of HIKO Energy LLC saw their electricity bills soar, the AG said in a news release. The
settlement amount, which includes fines, resulted from an investigation by the office's Consumer Protection Bureau.
The office found HIKO lured consumers with false promises of lower rates of 10 to 15 percent and then fleeced them
with much higher bills." The company had a contract with the Town of Ramapo and donated to the campaign funds of
St. Lawrence, Daniel Friedman, and Ilan Schoenberger. Complete Journal News story here.
Patrick Farm builders owe Rockland $607K in taxes
July 6, 2015 "The
builders of the proposed 496-unit Patrick Farm housing development
owe Rockland more than
$607,000 in taxes on the 208-acre property outside Pomona, officials said. The tax delinquency dates to 2013,
county officials said, and if the debt is not paid by year's end, the county could foreclose and sell the land at public
auction. The Monsey-based builders appear to be trying to pay off some of the debt. They entered into a two-year
installment plan this month at 1 percent interest with the county to pay $382,154 owed on two of the six delinquent
parcels, officials said. Those parcels house the stables and land that have been used by the Rockland Sheriff's Office
horse unit for nearly four decades. The rent paid by the county to the owners will be held in escrow until the taxes
are paid, officials said. Patrick Farm owners' current tax debt includes Rockland, town, school and village taxes. The
Patrick Farm builders operate under the companies Scenic Development LLC and Scenic Development SM LLC,
whose partners include veteran builders Yechiel Lebovits, his sons, and Abraham Moscovits." Complete Journal News
East Ramapo board must do the right thing
July 5, 2015 All of our state legislators were united in their
a robust and powerful monitor be appointed to oversee the East Ramapo
School District with powers to act in the interests of the public schoolchildren
in real time. They agreed that the district should get more money for the
restoration of public school services once the monitor bill was passed.
Money was set aside during the budget process for this very result.
It was the opponents of the bill that "left money on the table." (More)
Expert: United Water system, and its books, leak badly
Water's Rockland County system has been leaking high amounts of water
for decades and its
poor record-keeping makes it hard to figure out how much water the company is using or losing, according to a
nationally respected consultant.Conservation and efficiency expert Amy Vickers also said water demand in the county
has been flat since 2000 despite a growing population — a trend that may continue for the foreseeable future. United
Water is in the midst of trying to recoup from customers nearly $50 million it says was spent in pursuit of a controversial
desalination plant the company said was needed to address long-term demand.Preliminary estimates showed about 4.4 million
to 7 million gallons of water a day could be saved through recoverable leaks and conservation, Vickers says. The presentation
also took aim at the "snail's pace" of replacing water mains that puts the company on "an astounding 704-year schedule in 2014,
on top of being more than a decade behind the state's recommended timetable for surveying leaks in system mains." Read
the complete Journal News story here. Click here to watch a video of Amy Vickers' presentation or read the document.
School PoliticsJune 29, 2015 The East Ramapo schools are a victim of the increasing influence that the religious leadership in Brooklyn
Carlucci’s Bill Short-circuited the Monitor
June 29, 2015
The day after the New York bill
to appoint a monitor for the East Ramapo School Board
had died in the Senate, those opposing the oversight were congratulating themselves online with the
kind of bravado that seemed to include great relief that the fire had been put out. At the same time,
there was a groundswell of recriminations directed at the Senate Republicans who had refused to bring
the proposed bill up for a vote. Also Friday morning, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Chancellor
of the Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch, was calling for the resignation of the East Ramapo Superintendent
of Schools Joel Klein. Two days later, on Sunday morning, a large group of parents accompanied by Channel 12
News gathered in front of Klein’s home in New City calling for the Superintendent’s resignation. Standing on the side through all this,
attracting very little notice, was the agent who had helped engineer the killing of the bill. (More)
No state monitor for East Ramapo schools
June 25, 2015 "The
state Legislature did not approve a measure that would put in place a
state monitor in the troubled East
Ramapo school district. The sides have been at odds over the monitor in recent weeks after the Assembly passed a measure
to give the monitor sweeping powers, but the Republican-led Senate balked. The Legislature won't return to the Capitol until
January. Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, also acknowledged that a deal won't be reached before the session ends.
He put the blame on the Senate for not supporting the bill that passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly on June 11. "I think the
state Senate leadership turned its back on East Ramapo's children," Zebrowksi said. "We felt we had a sound and reasonable approach
to the issue. However, recognizing the Senate's opposition, we attempted to negotiate. But at the end of the day, the Senate refused
to authorize a monitor that had authority over anything other than state or federal law.Zebrowski and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern,
opposed the Senate bill because it would limit the monitor's power to decisions made by the school district that could infringe on state
and federal law. Zebrowski and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, opposed the Senate bill because it would limit the monitor's power
to decisions made by the school district that could infringe on state and federal law." Read the complete Journal News story here.
Appeals court: Count the Ramapo ward system votes
June 24, 2015 "A
state appeals panel says Ramapo must count the ballots from its
ward system vote
last fall. The Appellate
Division panel overruled Supreme Court Judge Margaret Garvey's invalidation of the Sept. 30 election, which asked whether
voters should elect Town Board members from districts and add two more members to the town's governing body. After the
September vote, Garvey ordered a new election based upon allegations of improprieties in setting up the vote, and in accepting
affidavit and absentee ballots. Before the September referendum, Romanowski and Parietti had battled for nearly two years in
court to force Ramapo to hold the ward system vote. In their court papers after the balloting, Parietti and Romanowski challenged
the town's decision to let unregistered voters participate in the referendum, causing confusion at the polls.They also objected to
the town's decision not to count absentee ballots that arrived after Sept. 30 even though applications listed the deadline as the
seventh day after the election." Complete Journal News coverage here. Read the Appellate Division ruling:
Desmaret sentenced to three years in federal prison
June 18, 2015 "Former
Spring Valley Deputy Mayor
Joseph Desmaret was sentenced Thursday to three years in
federal prison for his part in a corruption scheme involving a proposal to build a village-owned catering hall on Route 45.
Desmaret showed little reaction as he was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas in U.S. District Court in White
Plains."Everyone who takes the oath of office should understand that when they say 'yes' to a a bribe, there are
consequences," Karas said as he announced the sentence. Karas noted that Desmaret's boss, former Spring Valley Mayor
Noramie Jasmin, and New York City politicians were also involved in the complex plot. Jasmin was found guilty of corruption
in April. She will be sentenced Aug. 7. Karas will not be sentencing her but noted that her role in the scheme was worse
than Desmaret's."The scope of her greed is more profound," he said. Complete Journal News coverage here.
Ex-Spring Valley trustee Desmaret wanted to aid feds
June 17, 2015 "Former
Spring Valley Deputy Mayor
offered to cooperate with federal corruption
investigators in a bid to lessen his prison sentence for taking a $10,600 bribe from a FBI operative peddling a
fictitious development, a court document states. But prosecutors and the FBI determined Desmaret had nothing to
offer, according to the memorandum submitted by his lawyers in advance of his scheduled sentencing Thursday.
"Despite his best efforts, which were numerous and sincere, Mr. Desmaret was not able to aid the government in
any meaningful way," New City attorney Deborah Wolikow-Loewenberg wrote.Document:Read the memorandum
Desmaret, 57, a computer technician and accountant, faces a maximum of seven to nine years in prison. He pleaded
guilty in January 2014 to mail fraud and Hobbs Act extortion." Complete Journal coverage here.
East Ramapo bill passes state Assembly
a three-hour heated debate, the state Assembly on Thursday approved a
bill that would
install a state monitor at the troubled East Ramapo school district. But the vote didn't come easily, and it faces
an even tougher fight in the Republican-controlled Senate with just days left in the legislative session.The measure
passed the Democratic-led Assembly, 80-56. Assembly members Ellen Jaffee and Kenneth Zebrowski, who represent
the Rockland County district and are the Democratic sponsors of the bill, beat back extensive questioning and criticism
from their colleagues, particularly Orthodox Jewish lawmakers. Jaffee and Zebrowski said the bill is critical because
the district has been mismanaged and has unique circumstances."This was a much more modified approach to responding
to what is a very serious situation -- not a takeover, not the removal of the board – but an opportunity for guidance
and interaction and collaboration," Jaffee said.The bill would require the state education commissioner to appoint a
monitor to oversee the school board and develop a five-year improvement plan for the district.The monitor was
recommended in a critical state report about the district in November because the majority of students in the district
attend private schools, mostly in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community that runs the school board." Read the complete
Journal News coverage here.
East Ramapo school board loses special-education court case as legal costs soar
East Ramapo school district has lost another round in its fight against
the state over placement
decisions for special education students. In a ruling late last week, a state appellate court in Albany upheld the Education
Department's determination that the district violated special education law by settling too readily with parents who
wanted their children placed in private religious schools." Complete Journal News coverage here.
Jewish leaders support E. Ramapo oversight bill
from several prominent Jewish organizations expressed support Thursday
for a bill that would
install a state monitor in the troubled East Ramapo school district. Representatives from the American Jewish Committee,
Rockland Clergy for Social Justice, Uri L'Tzedek and Reform Jewish Voice of New York held a news conference Thursday at
the West Side Jewish Center in Manhattan."Oversight for East Ramapo is supported by thousands and thousands of Jews,"
said Rabbi Ari Hart of Uri L'Tzedek, an Orthodox social justice organization." Complete Journal coverage here.
East Ramapo School Board Loses another Lawsuit—ADL Supports the State Monitor Bill
June 7, 2015 "New
York's highest court has ruled against the East Ramapo board in
their lawsuit against the NY State
Education Department. The school board was cited by the education department for unlawfully placing students in private
schools at public expense on August 27, 2010." Read Steve White's Power of Ten update posted yesterday here.
June 3, 2015 "NEW
YORK STATE has a proud tradition of local decision making in public
education. However, students
in the public schools in East Ramapo, about 30 miles north of Manhattan, in Rockland County, are being denied their state
constitutional right to a sound basic education by a board that has grossly mismanaged the district’s finances and educational
programs." Read the full text of the editorial published in the Times by Merryl Tisch chancellor of the New York State Board
of Regents here.
An Immoral Use of Jewish Power in Upstate New York
June 2, 2015
editorial by Ari Hart appearing in the
"As an Orthodox Jew, when I first learned about
what was happening in East Ramapo and about the attitudes of the board, I was shocked and disgusted. The Talmud teaches,
“The world endures only for the sake of the breath of school children.” The public actions of this school board over the years
have been in flagrant violation of that and so many other Jewish values and teachings. The Torah we share demands over and
over again we never trample the stranger, the immigrant and the poor — apt descriptions of many in the public school district.
They have also caused a massive Chillul Hashem — desecration of God’s name. The leadership of the school board to date has
grossly violated both American and Jewish values. This is not the way to use Jewish power in America." Read the full text of
the editorial here.
BLOCKED! Illegal housing crackdown initiative stalls in legislative committee
Frustrated first-responders walk out after Soskin and Schoenberger delay vote
May 22, 2015 "A
state bill that would authorize a monitor to oversee the troubled East
Ramapo school district is
gaining new support from Rockland County elected officials and local school board leaders, as well as groups outside
the area. The Nyack school board, Nyack Schools Superintendent James Montesano and Nyack Mayor Jen Laird-White
are among 17 officials who are urging passage of the bill in a letter to state lawmakers this week. After years of financial
turmoil and dysfunction in East Ramapo, the impacts are being felt in surrounding communities, officials say. They fear
property values will suffer, the appeal for businesses to invest in the area may weaken and recent instances of violence
motivated by religious and racial tensions could increase.Separately, the Rockland County School Boards Association met
Wednesday night to discuss sending its own letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers urging passage of the bill.
Executive Director Pam Frederick said that, so far, four of the eight districts in the association who had representatives
at the meeting have expressed support: Pearl River, Nyack, Ramapo Central and South Orangetown. The American Jewish
Committee, an international Jewish advocacy organization, called it "an important step in healing the rifts that divide
the community." It was also endorsed by the New York City Bar Association and a statewide education lobbying group,
The Alliance for Quality Education. But in Albany, the legislation has failed to win the backing of key lawmakers like Flanagan,
the former Senate education chair and newly appointed Senate majority leader." Read the complete Journal News story here.
School Board Election Results
and Ramapo Central School Budgets both were approved.
Board Members Elected
East Ramapo Central SD: Yonah Rothman, Jacob Lefkowitz, Juan Pablo Ramirez
Ramapo Central SD: Clarke Osborn, Theresa DiFalco, Teresa Monahan
New York City Bar Association Supports Appointing
Monitor for East Ramapo Schools
May 18, 2015
first time in over a decade, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services raised
its bond rating for
Rockland County to 'BBB' from 'BBB-' and gave the county a positive outlook. In its Friday report, S&P cited
"improved financial performance ... and mitigation of a significant portion of its general fund deficit, with further
improvement likely." Journal News coverage here.
Ramapo's debt rating gets 'negative outlook'Town has $128 million in outstanding debt
May 14, 2015 "Citing
an ongoing FBI investigation into Ramapo's finances, Moody's Investor's
Services said Tuesday
the outlook on its 1A credit rating for the town is still negative, warning it could lower the rating if the town doesn't
reduce debt. "The negative outlook reflects the uncertainty around a federal investigation that could add additional
strain to the town's already challenged operations," the credit-rating firm wrote. The town has $128 million in outstanding
general obligation debt. The FBI raided Ramapo in May 2013. The materials confiscated from Town Hall are still being
reviewed by authorities and no charges have been filed." Journal story here.
Zoning, Planning and Housing Crises
April 9, 2015
Land use zoning laws have been an accepted part of our environmental
traditions at least since the passage
of “The Standard State Zoning Enabling Act” in 1924. This remarkable act was accepted almost without change by most
states. In New York City zoning began even earlier in 1916.There is no question that zoning has been used by suburban
communities to restrict the development of housing desperately needed by poor people. It has also had a terrible impact
on struggling middle class families. (More)
Right and Wrong
An open letter to State Senator John Flanagan from former DA Michael Bongiorno
find it disturbing that you, as chairman of the state senate Education
Committee, and other “members”
of the state senate are “circumspect” about passing legislation allowing the state education commissioner to appoint a
monitor to oversee the East Ramapo School Board and develop a five-year plan for that school district. According to
news reports, you raised concerns that the legislation could set a dangerous “precedent.” (More)
Second Shoe Drops in Albany—Skelos also Charged by the Feds as
Cuomo’s Left Home Alone
May 5, 2015
The second of the “three men in a room,” New York State Majority Leader
Dean Skelos, was arrested
on federal public corruption charges alleging bribes and extortion. With Silver and Skelos indicted, that leaves the
Governor perched atop an unstable, one-legged stool. Questions now being asked include: Does a third shoe ever drop?
Are people still looking at how the Governor shut down and shoved the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption out
the door? And when are the prosecutors going to schedule a second round of local perp walks? And can they make that a
perp parade as they move from village (Spring Valley) to the town (Ramapo)? Read Senate’s Dean Skelos surrenders on corruption charges.
The Rev. Weldon McWilliams IV and Rabbi Adam Baldachin 9:43 p.m. EDT May 2, 2015
April 30, 2015
Rockland Health Department and other county agencies are launching a new
crackdown on the spread
of substandard and illegal housing to improve safety for residents and firefighters responding to emergencies. The Rockland Codes Initiative
includes hiring more housing inspectors, levying larger penalties against landlords and an online reporting system where residents can file
anonymous complaints when they know of illegal dwellings. Officials have also started an online Worst Landlord Watch List in an effort to
bring anonymous LLCs to the light of public scrutiny. The list's top five worst offenders are posted now."We all know firefighting is
dangerous enough," County Executive Ed Day said Thursday, standing on the sidewalk in front of a dilapidated three-story home at 76
Fairview Ave., the first property on the Worst Landlord Watch List. "It should not be made more dangerous when property owners
motivated by greed illegally carve up apartments. We cannot allow a child or one of Rockland County's bravest to die in a converted
attic or hidden stairwell." Read the complete Journal News coverage here.
Ramapo Town Board approved paying the legal fees of municipal officials
a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission probe into the town's finances. The SEC probe began last year. Meanwhile,
nearly two years ago, the FBI and the Rockland District Attorney's Office seized dozens of boxes of documents and computer
hard-drives from Ramapo Town Hall. Investigators are reviewing documents dating back 2009. SEC subpoenas were issued in
May 2014 to Ramapo, its Local Development Corporation, the town's auditor, financial adviser and St. Lawrence. The April 16
vote on whether to pay the legal expenses related to the SEC probe was 4-1, with board member Daniel Friedman, a Democrat,
opposed. "I don't believe the taxpayer should be on the hook for an open-ended resolution for spending on defense attorneys,"
he said. "I wanted a specific cap. In Ramapo, when you don't have a limit, it could go on forever and cost millions of dollars."
Complete Journal News story here.
Bare-knuckle Politics in East RamapoApril 26, 2015 Bare-knuckle politics is now standard operating procedure in East Ramapo. For many years,
Rockland Water Coalition to receive the EPA’s highest honor
Grassroots group that successfully opposed United Water’s plans to build
a desalination plant on the
Hudson River will be honored at April 24 ceremony.
— The Rockland Water
Coalition will receive the Environmental Protection Agency’s
Champion Award, the highest recognition presented to the public by the department. Members of the coalition will be
honored in a ceremony to be held on April 24 in New York City. (Read the complete Press Release here.)
Federal Prosecutors 6 for 6 in Corridor of Corruption
Jasmin’s “The-devil-made-me-do-it” defense Fails—Found Guilty of
and Wire Fraud—Faces up to 40 Years in Prison
Jasmin’s defense was, at best, a two-legged stool. Her attorney
complained that the Monsey developer
Moses (Mark) Stern had entrapped his client, and that there were no good reasons for federal charges to be brought against her.
Both tactics failed because the developer (the “Devil”) was wearing a wire for the FBI, and somehow Jasmin forgot about the
interstate nature of some of the events. (More)
FIOS Newsbreakers Discussion of Religious Tensions in Rockland
April 20, 2015
Chris Day was interviewed on the
FIOS Newsbreakers Show. Topics covered in the discussion included
East Ramapo, overdevelopment, the inherent right to politically organize in opposition to the goals of the Hasidic leadership,
the chicken slaughterhouse, desegregation of Hasidic areas, poverty and non-English speaking levels in New Square, and
bloc voting. The broadcast consisted of two parts and you can watch them here—Part One (9 minutes) and Part Two (18 minutes).
Noramie Jasmin trial verdict Monday
April 17, 2015 "A
federal judge said she would render her verdict Monday in the corruption
trial of former Spring Valley
Mayor Noramie Jasmin after closing arguments were delivered Friday morning. Jasmin is accused of extortion and wire fraud
after allegedly partnering with Moses "Mark" Stern, an FBI informant, to use her office to pick Stern to run a development in
which she would own a 50 percent stake. She was arrested two years ago and her non-jury trial began Monday at the federal
courthouse in White Plains." Journal News story here.
Noramie Jasmin Trial--Day One: Victim vs. vice
April 13, 2015
Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin was portrayed alternately as a
bribe-taker and a victim of an
unscrupulous Monsey developer as her trial on federal corruption charges opened Monday. Jasmin was allegedly taken in by a
phony development scheme orchestrated by an FBI cooperative witness. Jasmin is charged with wire fraud and extortion; her
non-jury trial is being held before U.S. Judge Colleen McMahon. By midday, McMahon was beginning to listen to audio tapes
prosecutors say show Jasmin plotting with FBI undercover agents and operative Moses "Mark" Stern, who has pleaded guilty to
mortgage and loan fraud involving a $126 million ripoff of Citigroup Global Markets Realty in a deal to build 11 shopping malls
down South." Read the complete Journal News coverage here.
Ex-Spring Valley mayor goes to trial Monday
April 12, 2015
"Two years after
federal prosecutors charged
Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin with taking bribes from an FBI
she gets a chance Monday to convince a judge she didn't. Jasmin's non-jury trial starts with opening statements before U.S. District
Judge Colleen McMahon in White Plains. A grand jury charged Jasmin with wire fraud and extortion in an indictment that led to the
longtime official losing re-election in 2013. The development scheme came from Monsey-based financier Moses "Mark" Stern, working
as an FBI operative to lessen a potential prison sentence since his 2010 arrest for stealing $126 million from Citigroup Global Markets
Reality as part of a scam to build 11 shopping malls down South." Complete Journal News coverage here.
Steven White and Irv Feiner among 7 Inducted into Rockland County
Human Rights Hall of Fame
April 8, 2015
“Seven people were
inducted into the Rockland County Civil and Human Rights Hall of Fame
celebration luncheon at Nyack Seaport. The honorees were Judith Johnson, Earl Miller, Dwaine Perry and Steven White.
In addition, those honored posthumously were Harry Edelstein, Irving Feiner and Bayard Rustin.” Complete Journal News story here.
April 6, 2015 "I remain deeply troubled by a video released last week
on behalf of a largely-unknown group of desperate
provocateurs who call themselves OJPAC. The video titled "The Jew in Rockland" compares a range of issues in Rockland
County to conditions faced by Jews the 1930's that led to the Holocaust. Within minutes of the offensive production landing
on YouTube, I released a statement condemning its creators, deeming their message "outrageous rhetoric that can only
divide Rockland County." (More) Comments from Rockland County Executive Ed Day
"An Orthodox Jewish group has lost its suit alleging that four villages
in the Town of Ramapo and their
officials used zoning concerns as a pretext for discrimination in blocking a large multi-family development." Read the
New York Law Journal's coverage of the Nike Base lawsuit here.
Community View: Zebrowski explains basics of East Ramapo bill
March 8, 2015 "Recently,
Sen. David Carlucci, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and I formally
East Ramapo Oversight Bill (A5355/S3821). Since the bill's introduction, much of the Rockland community has rallied
behind our oversight system. However, others have visited Albany, misconstruing the bill and lobbying against
its passage." (More)
Feds: Ex-Spring Valley mayor Jasmin wanted to rig election
March 7, 2015
Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin did more than sell her political
influence for kickbacks — she also tried to
rig a village election, federal prosecutors said in court papers filed in her corruption case this week. Prosecutors allege in a 20-page
motion filed in U.S. District Court in White Plains that Jasmin met with developer Moses "Mark" Stern, who was cooperating with the
FBI, and asked him if he could help eliminate dozens of absentee ballots in that year's village elections to ensure "favorable" candidates
would win." Read the complete story on Lohud here.
March 3, 2015 "Melissa
job as supervisor of fiscal services, has filed a notice of claim
the town and St. Lawrence. She is accusing town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence of damaging her reputation during a recent radio show.
According to the notice, written by Reimer's attorney, Fred Lichtmacher, St. Lawrence stated during his Feb. 6 appearance on local radio
station WRCR AM that Ramapo was listed as the state's most fiscally stressed town in 2012 by the state Comptroller's Office because "the
person who was previously responsible for sending the information to the comptroller had an incident with the Police Department and did
not send the proper information to the Comptroller's Office. She did not report all of the assets that should have been reported. The matter
is now in federal court." Lichtmacher said by falsely alleging that Reimer didn't report all the town's assets, she has been defamed in her
profession as a certified public accountant. In August, Reimer filed a multimillion-dollar federal lawsuit against the town and its officials,
alleging they retaliated against her for speaking up about what she perceived as improper fiscal activities. The lawsuit is pending. The town
has filed a motion to dismiss it, but it will take at least until May for a judge to take any action as the FBI requested a stay of reviewing audio
and video recordings related to the case." Read the complete story on LohHud here.
Nat, Get the shovel—Mona, Where’s the ladder? I got a great idea!
else, the current financial team at Ramapo Town Hall is consistent. You
what you’re going to get every time this group comes up with what’s next. And their long-term track record?
Multi-million-dollar new debt layered over the existing debt. They’ve cornered the most fiscally stressed town
in New York award, year after year. You would think the three would have learned by now that you don’t get out of a hole by continuing to dig. (More)
bill has been introduced in the New York Legislature to provide
fiscal guidance for the East Ramapo school
district. The proposal is dramatic – and it is needed. The legislation hews to a report issued by a special fiscal monitor, Hank Greenberg,
who was appointed last year by the state Education Department and supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The legislation calls for a state-appointed
monitor, who would join in all district and school board meetings, have access to all records and be able to reverse a school board decision
considered detrimental to students' education. The district could appeal to the state Department of Education. The stakes are high: The district
cannot serve children's needs as the school board continues to make bad decisions that not only waste precious resources but fuel a deep divide
among the public- and private-school community. Read the complete Journal editorial here.
18, 2015 In
simultaneous press releases this afternoon, Assembly Members Ken
Zebrowski and Ellen Jaffee announced
their bill to establish a state monitor to oversee the East Ramapo School Board. Read the full terms of the oversight in the
Zebrowski press release here.
February 16, 2015 "Over
the next few months, you'll learn the details of a sweeping initiative
to provide uniform and aggressive enforcement
of building, housing and zoning codes in Rockland County with an emphasis on eliminating illegal housing. My executive team has been working
closely with County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Ruppert and Fire and Emergency Services Coordinator Gordon Wren on a comprehensive
strategy to stop the madness. Because our plans involve certain New York State health and building codes, I've personally engaged directly with
the Governor's office on the effort. Elements of the plan include a countywide rental registry, complete with regular inspections. Another
component involves an on-line "request for investigation." We want to make it easy to file a confidential complaint about any property in
the county." (More)
Andrew Cuomo said Friday that he expects the state Legislature to pass
an oversight bill for the East Ramapo school
district sometime between April and June. Lawmakers are now working on a proposal that the governor expects to be presented to the Legislature
after the state budget deadline of April 1 and before the end of the session in June."We had an independent person come down and review the
situation and that report will now be the basis for legislation," he said during a visit to the Pascack Community Center." Read the complete Journal
News coverage here.
February 9, 2015
Editorial: E. Ramapo is as broken as its buildings
A Journal News editorial February 7, 2015 "It
says a lot about the level of
conflict and distrust within the East Ramapo
school district that a $40 million
bond project to repair school buildings was voted down on Tuesday. But the bond drew very few voters and was soundly defeated, 626-472. The result
surely had less to do with school repairs than with the animosity that exists between the district's public and private school communities. The extreme lack
of trust reaffirms the need for the Legislature to quickly appoint some form of state oversight for East Ramapo, as state-appointed fiscal monitor Hank Greenberg proposed.
Some public school advocates who distrust the Board of Education promised to vote no on the bond because they did not want the project to go forward before state
oversight is in place. As one reader commented on lohud.com: "No additional money without oversight." Read the full text of the editorial here.
Resounding Vote of No Confidence in the East Ramapo School Administration
February 4, 2015
mistake about this. The defeat of this $40 million dollar bond was a
resounding no-confidence vote against Superintendent
Joel Klein and School Board President Yehuda Weissmandl. (More)
Bond Defeated in East Ramapo Special Election
February 3, 2015 The unofficial voting results were 626 no to 472 yes.
Update: The Ward Petition Vote
January 25, 2015 It has been four months since Judge Garvey
impounded the voting machines and all paper ballots in the Special
Election for a
Ward System in Ramapo. The matter is now before a panel of judges. This update explains where we are and how we got here. Also, you can read the
court decision that locked up the ballots, and a transcript of the arguments that were the basis for that decision. (More)
22, 2015 Just when you
thought we had crawled off the floor in the basement, St. Lawrence's
latest board-blessed budget has shoved us back
into last place in one of the more corrupt states in the union. Actually, the only thing that kept us out of last place last year was that Ramapo failed to
file on time to be considered. Pretty sneaky. Well, this year an independent review of the Town's pathetic numbers has cleared up the situation. We are
the worst, have been the worst, and continue, going forward, to be the worst in entire state. Thank you Supervisor St. Lawrence and our spineless and
complicit Board. And Preet, before you start clearing out the State Legislature, could you please finish the business you have here in Ramapo? (More)
22, 2015 "There's
nothing wrong with wanting to be close with your neighbors but the new
owners of a pair of homes in
this rapidly growing subdivision apparently took things too far.They created a shortcut through a patch of woods by clearing bushes,
taking down trees and building a 300-foot paved pathway connecting 1 Neva Court to 9 Quince Lane. After being alerted by residents,
town officials inspected the pathway and sent out notices to Yosef and Gieta Metal of 1 Neva Court, Charles Zuckerman of 9 Quince Lane,
and 9 Quince LLC, which owns the Quince Lane home. "We demanded that they contact us and arrange to remove it to restore the property,"
Town Attorney Michael Klein said, adding that when town officials inspected, they saw electrical wiring for pathway lighting connected to
one of the homes, indicating that the homeowners are responsible for the illegal walkway. "They never responded to our demands, so we
got the Town Board approval to commence a lawsuit against them." Complete Journal coverage here.
January 19, 2015 "Three
village residents are suing Mayor Demeza Delhomme for alleged misconduct
and malfeasance in an attempt
to remove him from office. Court papers filed with the state Supreme Court's Appellate Division in Brooklyn on Friday spell out numerous
allegations against Delhomme, whose tenure as mayor since December 2013 has been filled with confusion and conflict. The claims include
religious discrimination, personal use of village funds and harassment of village officials. Local elected officials in New York can't be removed
by a recall election as state law doesn't have a provision to do so. Under the state Public Officers Law , however, citizens can petition the
court to remove officials for "misconduct, maladministration, malfeasance or malversation in office." Complete Journal story here.
E. Ramapo parents challenge 2nd Hillcrest sale
January 15, 2015
"Parent activists are
calling on the state education commissioner to cancel the sale of an
East Ramapo school
building to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish congregation and remove all nine members of the Board of Education. A new petition from
Betty Carmand and Steve White says the school board secretly orchestrated a raw deal for the public last year by selling the Hillcrest Elementary School
for $4.9 million, allegedly millions of dollars less than its fair market value." Read the complete Journal News story here.
Letter: Meyers, Day do their jobs
January 10, 2015
For many years Rockland was
run by "two men in the room": Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef
County Legislator Ilan Schoenberger. Joe Meyers was a thorn in their side. He was a strong independent voice. He was joined
by then-Legislator Ed Day in mutual objection to Rockland County budgets. (More)
January 4, 2015
"Following multiple fires and complaints of numerous housing violations,
Mayor Demeza Delhomme said Sunday
he wants more village fire and building inspectors in order to ensure safe housing and combat illegal conversions and schools. Delhomme,
a first-term mayor and longtime trustee, said he will ask the Spring Valley Board of Trustees to hire four more part-time fire inspectors
and fill 10 positions in the building department. Ramapo and Spring Valley, a 2 1/2-square-mile village, have been under scrutiny over
building and fire code enforcement. The state codes bureau has inspected properties with multiple violations in both municipalities at
the insistence of local firefighters and Rockland Fire Coordinator Gordon Wren Jr. The state has yet to take action after months of work. A
suspicious fire destroyed a 2 1/2-story house Thursday with an illegal yeshiva dormitory on East Funston Drive. The fire started on the back
porch, and the building lacked a certificate of occupancy and was littered with electrical violations, village officials said. Eight families
including children and a newborn were left homeless when flames destroyed a house at 35 Johnson St. on Saturday morning. Inspectors
and firefighters found the house had been illegally divided into rooms and lacked working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors." Read
the complete Journal coverage here.
January 4, 2015 "A
Spring Valley yeshiva dormitory that was destroyed by a suspicious fire
did not have a certificate
of occupancy and had been cited for violations, officials said Friday. The dorm at 2 East Funston Drive belongs to Yeshiva
of Rockland, which operates a religious school for teens and young men in trailers on the same property. There were about
25 beds in the yeshiva. An earlier inspection had found mattresses in the attic, according to Gordon Wren Jr., the county's
fire and emergency services coordinator and member of a task force on illegal and unsafe housing in Rockland." Complete
story with photos here on LoHud.
Ramapo’s Secret Santa
December 24, 2014
Most towns don’t have a secret Santa. Unfortunately, here in Ramapo
we do. Actually, he’s more of an anti-Santa, one that has low regard for the law and no
concern for the children as they’re too young to vote. Elsewhere people get St. Nicholas,
and here we get St. Lawrence. (More)
East Ramapo debt rating takes new hit
December 24, 2014 "Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the East Ramapo school district's debt rating one notch,
asserting that its persistent budget deficit and frequent reliance on short-term tax anticipation notes to stay afloat have
resulted in financial deterioration since May 2013, its last downgrade. The district's overall outlook remains negative,
while the rating of its $14.6 million in general obligation bonds dropped from Baa1 to Baa2, the agency said in the report
issued late Monday. A Baa2 rating indicates a mid-range "average creditworthiness," according to Moody's. It is the
second-lowest investment-grade rating, two steps higher than junk status. Analysts cited rising costs for special education
and transportation — which make up 30 percent and 11 percent of this year's budget, respectively — as key reasons
they expect the district will continue to struggle." Read the entire Journal story here.
E. Ramapo in court again on special-ed placements
22, 2014 “East
Ramapo officials are taking the state Education Department to court —
again — to continue
their battle against what the state says is repeated noncompliance with a law that requires disabled students to be
educated in the most mainstream setting available. The school board has agreed to pay attorney David Butler and
his associates at their regular rate, $650 to $450 per hour, to initiate an appeal of the education officials' recent
determination that the district "needs intervention" to satisfy requirements of the federal Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA). Education officials have cited the district for violating the law multiple times since 2010 and
withheld funding as a result. That this practice by the majority Orthodox school board has helped decimate the public
schools' budget is a key allegation in an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit filed by hundreds of East Ramapo parents.
For the complete Journal News coverage click here.
State Aid Formula Said to Hurt in a District Where Most Go to Yeshivas
December 15, 2015 The New York Times
"A monitor chosen by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo
East Ramapo school board in Rockland County, which is dominated by Orthodox Jews who send their children to
private yeshivas, of systematically starving the public schools in favor of the yeshivas. The school board fired back,
saying it was the state that was starving the district, effectively forcing a cut of 200 teachers, a reduction from full-day
to half-day kindergarten and a shrinking of sports and other extracurricular activities." (More)
Civil Rights and the East Ramapo School Board
December 10, 2014 “People
constantly confuse ‘direct democracy’ with ‘representative democracy’.
The United States
is a Republic – it is governed by the rule of law. Those elected are bound by oath to written, governing limits yet vote
together in a democratic way to address the concerns of ALL those they represent. County Legislator Wieder is
apparently confused about the difference between a ‘Democracy’ and a ‘Republic’.” Read the complete post on
the Rockland Voice here.
Bruce Levine's Response to Aron Wieder's Comments on Civil Rights in East Ramapo (here)
Robert Rhodes' Comments on the Public Relations Officer in East Ramapo (here)
Weissmandl’s Letter to Cuomo—Deceptive, Occasionally Delusional,
and Likely Ghostwritten
fiscal monitor, Hank Greenberg, had delivered his report on the
conditions in the East Ramapo School District laying much of the blame right at the door of the Board of
Education (the door was closed—they were in Executive Session). What followed was a curious response
sent to Governor Cuomo, purportedly written by the Board President Yehuda Weissmandl. In the letter, Weissmandl tap-danced
between a “Who me?” defensive stance, an almost conciliatory “Special Monitor? We’ll think about it,” all the while humming
a refrain from the Everly Brothers “Don’t Blame Me.” (More)
Back-Door School Vouchers: What Money and Block Voting Buy
Posted: 11/24/2014 "Multiple-choice quiz for groups and people who either endorsed or voted to reelect Andrew Cuomo.
What is Andrew Cuomo's top legislative priority now that he has been
reelected Governor of New York State?
A. Healing racial and ethnic divisions
B. Better public schools
C. Protecting the environment
D. Repairing crumbling bridges and roads
E. Economic growth and jobs
F. All of the above
G. None of the above
State: E. Ramapo board may be on hook for legal fees
December 2, 2014 "Current
and former East Ramapo school board members could one day be made to
return some of
the millions of dollars in lawyers' fees the district has spent on their defense, pending the outcome of an ongoing lawsuit,
the state's education commissioner says. In a 21-page decision issued Friday, Commissioner John King upheld part of a petition
filed more than two years ago by East Ramapo parent activists Steve White and Betty Carmand.The two Spring Valley residents
had challenged the school board's 2012 decisions to hire defense counsel and "unconditionally indemnify" the legal costs for more
than 12 district officials named as defendants in three different actions, including a parent-driven federal civil rights lawsuit and a
state attorney general's investigation — both of which are ongoing." Complete Journal News story here.
Ed Day blasts proposed Ramapo zone change
November 30, 2014 "Opponents
of a proposed zone change that could accommodate more than 200
apartments near the
Clarkstown border have been joined by Rockland County Executive Ed Day, who denounced the change as "inappropriate"
following the county Planning Department's review. But Ryan Karben, an attorney representing one of the developers seeking
the zone change, said the same review recognized the need for housing in the area.The 28-acre site, called Pascack Ridge,
sits between Spring Valley and Nanuet along North Pascack Road. It's currently zoned medium-density residential allowing about
three homes per acre. Two of the site's property owners — Alex Goldberger and Charles Collishaw — are seeking to change the
zone to multifamily residential, allowing 12 units per acre. The Rockland County Planning Department recently issued its findings,
disapproving the proposed change." Read the complete Journal News story here.
State sets training deadlines for East Ramapo leaders
State will require diversity, open meetings law training for school board by winter
November 26, 2014 "State
education officials aren't waiting for the Legislature to draft an East
Ramapo schools oversight
bill to propel district leaders to start cleaning up their act. State Education Commissioner John King on Wednesday directed
the nine-member East Ramapo Board of Education and Superintendent Joel Klein to undergo diversity training and complete
a course on the state Open Meetings Law within the next two months.The training sessions should be completed by Jan. 15
and Feb. 13, respectively, King said in a letter to board President Yehuda Weissmandl. Board members and the superintendent
must provide signed certifications that they completed the training. A state fiscal monitor recommended last week that a
government appointee be authorized to oversee — and potentially veto — school board decisions. The monitor, Hank Greenberg,
also urged more funding for the district and the diversity and meeting-law training." Complete story here.
East Ramapo legal costs 'absurd,' monitor says
November 25, 2014 "State fiscal monitor Hank Greenberg gave authoritative
backing last week to the critics who've long
complained that the East Ramapo school district's high-priced — and often combative — lawyers are an affront to the district's
taxpayers. In a report issued to the state Board of Regents last week, the former federal prosecutor said that, "in the face of
fiscal crisis," the district paid $7.3 million to 13 law firms between 2008 and June 2014. Legal spending rose from $383,071 in
2008-09 to $2.94 million last year, an increase of 668 percent, the report states."The kindest thing I can say is it's absurd,"
Greenberg said." Complete Journal News story here.
East Ramapo sells Hillcrest for use as yeshiva again
November 25, 2014 "It's
the second time in about four years the property has been sold to Avir
Yakov by the district, where
Hasidic and Orthodox Jews who send their children to private schools have dominated the school board since 2005. The first
sale, in 2010, was annulled by the state education commissioner after parents challenged the transaction, calling it a sweetheart
deal for the religious community. The school board's appraiser later pleaded guilty to a fraud-related misdemeanor. The state
Attorney General's Office charged the appraiser as part of an ongoing investigation into the contentious sales and leases of Hillcrest
and Colton elementary schools to yeshivas. Avi Vardi was accused of taking a $5,000 bribe from Avir Yakov to falsify his appraisal.
School officials haven't been charged with wrongdoing related to the deal. Allegations they were involved with the theft of public
school property to benefit the ultra-Orthodox communities are part of an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit filed by hundreds of
East Ramapo residents." Read the complete Jouran coverage here.
Crafting East Ramapo 'watchdog' bill no easy feat
November 23, 2014 "Early
support is building for state oversight of the East Ramapo school
district, but pressure is on Rockland
County's legislative delegation to craft a plan that New York's most inscrutable politicians will get behind. Or at least that they
won't oppose. All eyes are on state Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski and state Sen. David Carlucci, Democrats
who represent portions of East Ramapo. The three met Friday and plan to huddle the week after Thanksgiving with state Education
Department officials to begin drafting a bill that would give life to fiscal monitor Hank Greenberg's vision for mending the fractured school district.
"We have to have an intelligent, strong piece of legislation that reflects much of what Mr. Greenberg suggested," Jaffee said. Greenberg has
received widespread praise — and some criticism — for addressing in plain terms the extreme distrust that plagues East Ramapo, where Hasidic
and ultra-Orthodox Jews who send their children to private schools have dominated the school board since 2005." Complete Journal story here.
Racism in East Ramapo, New York: It's Time to March
November 21, 2044 The
Huffington Post "I
do not make accusations of racism lightly. I am not talking about
I am talking about institutional practices that appear to be condoned at the highest level in New York State government. Read
the post; look at the evidence. It will be hard to disagree." (More)
East Ramapo covered on Brian LehrerEast Ramapo is covered again on the Brian Lehrer show.
In the aftermath of Hank Greenberg's report. Chancellor Tish from the NYS Board of Regents
is a guest on Brian Lehrer’s show. Youtube.com
East Ramapo School Board Is Criticized by New York State Monitor
NOV. 17, 2014 The New York Times
appointed by the state to investigate the
East Ramapo School District in Rockland County delivered a sharply critical report on Monday,
saying the board had shown favoritism to the Orthodox Jewish students who attend private
schools in the district and calling on the Legislature to give the district additional money while
overhauling its governance. The monitor, Hank Greenberg, stopped short of calling for a state
takeover of the district. Instead, he proposed that the Legislature pass a law appointing a fiscal monitor with the power to overrule the school board’s
and the superintendent’s decisions." Read the full story on the New York Times online here.
State Calls for East Ramapo Watchdog
Schools need long-term entitiy with veto power over board decisions
state-appointed fiscal monitor of the East Ramapo school district wants
a legislative intervention that would
give an appointee veto power over the board's "bad decisions." If enacted, the Board of Regents-backed proposal by the monitor, attorney
Hank Greenberg, would be the most dramatic intervention in a school district by New York state in more than a decade. He said the new
monitor would be tasked with intervening to prevent bad decisions like the wiping out of the district's reserve fund and spending millions
of dollars on an out-of-town law firm. "They have utterly, recklessly depleted those reserves and now I believe the district teeters on the
precipice of fiscal disaster," he told reporters. Greenberg also slammed the school board for its habit of discussing public matters behind
closed doors — what he said were regular violations of the open meetings law. But he also stressed unity and called on community leaders
and clergy to talk to one another." Read the complete Journal News story here.
Orange & Rockland seeks $34-a-month rate hike
customers would see their electric and natural gas bills increase by an
average of more than $34 per month
next year under a rate hike requested Friday by Orange and Rockland Utilities Inc.The company filed its request to charge more to deliver
electricity and natural gas with the state Public Service Commission, which oversees most utilities in New York and would have to approve
the hike.Under the plan, which would take effect Nov. 1, 2015, ratepayers ould see their monthly electric bill increase by about 6 percent,
or $8.13 per month, to $143.99, according to O&R. The figure is for a residential customer using an average of 677 kilowatts of electricity per
month. Ratepayers would see their monthly gas bills increase by about 19.1 percent, or $26.18 per month, to $163.38, the company said. The
figure is for a residential customers using 100 cubic feet of natural gas per month." Complete Journal News story here.
November 14, 2014 "The
state has ruled there is no current need for additional water supply for
Rockland County, halting United
Water New York's plan to build a controversial Hudson River water treatment plant. The state Public Service Commission also blocked
United Water's efforts to recoup $60 million it says it spent in pursuit of the plant. It was the latest blow for the company, which is under
investigation by the PSC after its vice president and general manager, Michael Pointing, the public face of the project, was fired along with
two other employees in September. The PSC ruled Thursday that there was breathing room in terms of when additional supply might be needed
and it directed the company to discontinue pursuing a permit for its proposed long-term water supply facility. The PSC also denied the company's
request to impose a $60 annual surcharge on customers to recoup the $56 million it says it spent in pursuit of the project. It also wants $4 million
in interest for a total of $60 million." Full story on LoHud here.
Frank Sparaco charged with falsifying GOP petitions
County Legislator Frank Sparaco was arrested and charged Monday
afternoon with more than three dozen
felony counts connected to the false filing of forged political petitions. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted. Sparaco was charged
with 19 counts each of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and first-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, all felonies
under state penal law. He was also charged with two misdemeanor counts of misconduct in relation to petitions in violation of state election law."
Full coverage on The Journal News website here.
Suffern probes retired treasurer's accounting practices
Suffern probes retired treasurer while stripping him of medical coverage.
village is investigating its accounting practices under a recently
retired village treasurer who served for the
past decade. But the treasurer, Thomas Zordan, says Suffern is trying to find an excuse so it doesn't have to pay for his health insurance.
The issue could be another setback for the village that has been trying to revive its financial stability." Complete Journal News story here.
Un-neighborly: Clarkstown blasts Ramapo high-density zone
Clarkstown opposes Ramapo's proposed zoning change that would allow multifamily homes.
November 9, 2013
officials are expressing anger about housing proposals they fear would
allow more than 2,000 people to move
in just across the border in Ramapo. The site, called Pascack Ridge, sits between Spring Valley and the Nanuet border along North Pascack Road.
It's currently zoned medium-density residential allowing about three homes per acre. Two of the site's property owners are seeking to change
the zone to multifamily residential, allowing 12 units per acre. Alex Goldberger, vice president of Monsey Lumber, wants to build about 190
apartments on his 18.5 acres. Charles Collishaw, owner of 171 N. Pascack Road, is hoping to build 27 apartments on 3 acres, according to the
Ramapo town attorney's office. The site contains roughly 5 additional acres but there is no current plan to develop those." Complete Journal
News coverage here.
Ramapo must appeal ward ruling by Dec. 3
November 6, 2014
fate of the town's controversial ward referendum could be decided sooner
than expected as the state Supreme Court
Appellate Division this week ordered Ramapo to file its appeal by Dec. 3. In response to petitions filed by two Ramapo activists raising questions
of impropriety in the handling of absentee and affidavit ballots, state Supreme Court Justice Margaret Garvey had invalidated the Sept. 30 special
election, ordering that a new vote be held." Complete Journal News coverage here.
Supervisor’s Budget for 2015 Raises Questions of Favoritism
November 6th, 2014
Posted in The Rockland County Times
"The proposed 2015 budget for the Town of Ramapo, submitted by
St. Lawrence, contains a stipend payment to a board member above and beyond what others are receiving. There will be a public hearing on
the budget this Thursday night, November 6, at 7 p.m. in Ramapo Town Hall. On page 53 of the budget, there is a $4,000 stipend to Councilmember
Brendel Logan, over and above the pay she receives for serving on the Town Board. This additional salary is provided to Logan for her services as
“liaison to the Ramapo Housing Authority.” The problem is, Ramapo Councilman Daniel Friedman asserts, Logan has never, in the two years she
has allegedly held this position, reported back to the Board about Housing Authority issues, nor has anyone at the Housing Authority ever witnessed
her presence there. Yet, St. Lawrence has persisted in maintaining this payment." (More)
Our Endorsements for the Election on Tuesday Nov. 4
Ernest Buonocore for Suffern Village Justice Buonocore (1,698) Yodowitz (1,247)
Lon Hofstein for County Legislature Hofstein (2,801) Kantrowitz (2,639)
For New York State Assembly
Dan Castricone (United Monroe) in the 98th Tutini (3,469) Castricone (290)
Ken Zebrowski in the 96th Zebrowski (19,564) Brennan (10,563)
Ellen Jaffee or Robert Romanowski in the 97th Jaffee (15,668) Romanowski (11,146)
U.S House of Representatives
Christopher Day Lowey (36,291) Day (33,723)
Thomas P. DiNapoli (D) for New York State Comptroller Dinapoli (40,605) Antonacci (26,619)
John Cahill (R) for New York Attorney General Schneiderman (38,404) Cahill (29,158)
For Governor we strongly recommend a No vote for Cuomo
Cuomo (35,762) Astorino (31,735)
Ramapo has 6 months to appeal ward vote decision
October 25, 2014 "Voters
may not learn the status of the controversial ward referendum until next
spring, as the town has up to six months to
complete its appeal process. In her recent decision, state Supreme Court Justice Margaret Garvey invalidated the Sept. 30 special election, which
asked voters whether to increase the number of Town Board members from four to six and whether to elect each board member from a different
geographical district, also known as a ward. Currently, Town Board members are elected at large. Garvey also ordered a new election, although
she didn't specify when. Ramapo Town Attorney Michael Klein said the town, which has filed notice that it will appeal Garvey's order with the
state Supreme Court's Appellate Division, has up to six months to complete the process." Complete Journal News story here.
Developers' influence in Ramapo
October 24, 2014
Many Journal News subscribers have read about Ramapo Democratic Party
Chairwoman Mona Montal's remarkable request for
$10,000 or $20,000 donations from Ramapo developers to help defeat the Ramapo ward referendum. Why would Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence's
director of purchasing ask Ramapo developers for such huge contributions? Unfortunately, the answer is obvious. If you have the right connections you
can build anything here. Just take a drive through Monsey. If you haven't driven through this area in a few years, or even within the past year, you will
be amazed by the new and massive construction. (More)
Upper Saddle River awarded nearly $1 million in sewage lawsuit
October 21, 2014
"A federal court judge awarded Upper Saddle River nearly $1 million from
a Rockland County sewer authority for sewage spills
into the Saddle River and its tributaries, officials said. Judge Edgardo Ramos of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New
York ruled in favor of the borough in a federal Clean Water Act lawsuit and late last week decided that the Rockland County Sewer District No. 1
should pay the borough about $950,000 by Dec. 31 or be fined $25,000.The money will be used to cover Upper Saddle River's legal fees and to set
up an environmental protection fund the borough will control. (More)
Stressed or 'scare tactic'? Examining Ramapo's financial audit
October 24, 2014
audit report, prepared for the town by O'Connor Davies LLP, stated that
cash assets in the police fund were about $3.2 million
at the end of 2013. There was $4.6 million in the capital fund and $322,000 in the highway fund, and $97,168 in the general fund. "That implies the town
only had $97,168 in cash on hand to run general town activities," the Republicans said. "Further, the Town of Ramapo had total liabilities exceeding
$200 million at the same point in time. ... This is astonishing." Complete Journal News coverage here.
State investigates United Water after VP's departure
state has launched an investigation to determine if the actions of three
United Water New York workers terminated
last month have affected the rates charged to customers. The chairwoman of the state Public Service Commission, Audrey Zibelman, informed
the company of the investigation in an Oct. 17 letter addressed to David Stanton, president of United Water's regulated business division. Informal
discussions had previously been held, with the company providing responses to PSC staff, Zibelman stated. One such response, on file with the PSC,
lists the subject as "United Water's investigation of misappropriation of funds/misstatement of revenues." Complete Journal News story can be read here.
Government Files Suit Against Kiryas Joel Slaughterhouse
Charges Processing Facility with discharging animal waste into Ramapo River tributaries--Fine is $330,000
October 23, 2014
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “For years, the defendants flouted
the law by repeatedly discharging waste from their
poultry slaughterhouse into the waters of the United States. Today’s consent decree will ensure that the defendants do not resume these illegal
practices in the future and requires them to pay a significant financial penalty for their misconduct.” EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck
stated: “From disposing of chicken parts and fats directly into storm drains and sewers, to discharging animal waste into Ramapo River tributaries,
this poultry processing plant has a long history of violating the Clean Water Act. This legal agreement and fine will help protect the Ramapo
River.” Read the press release here.
East Ramapo apology 'not enough,' Latino protesters say
October 23, 2014
fourth night of protests by the Latino community and supporters resulted
in a personal apology from the East Ramapo
schools superintendent that did little to appease his critics. Superintendent Joel Klein has been under fire for comments he made at a board
meeting two months ago suggesting that the district's growing immigrant population was responsible for its high dropout rate. "I thought it
[the apology] was appreciated but not enough. He needs to resign," said parent activist Steve White, a de facto spokesman for the Latino
community who co-organized the initial protest in September." Read the complete Journal News coverage here.
Kaser: Fire-damaged house awaits inspection
Fire officials say they found possibly a dozen illegally converted units on Sunday
October 20, 2014
village's building inspector said Monday that he's has not yet been able
to inspect a Cedar Lane apartment building
where fire officials say they found possibly a dozen illegally converted units during a fire on Sunday morning. Bill Press, who also is the Kaser
village government fire inspector, said the village approved five apartments for the 25 Cedar Lane building: two each on the first two floors
and one in the basement. After the fire, a Monsey Internet site issued an alert that a family that lived in the house needed a 3 to 4-bedroom
apartment. Press said he believed that family was living in the basement. Rockland Fire and Emergency Services Coordinator Gordon Wren Jr.
said Monday that he saw three or four apartments in the basement and 10 or 12 total in the building, which has 2,698-square-foot of living space
on two floors."Why aren't there routine inspections, and if there are why aren't these serious violations cited and corrected?" Wren asked." Read
the complete Journal News story here.
Monitor Hank Greenberg Questions East Ramapo Compliance on immigrant rights
October 20, 2014
former federal prosecutor who is monitoring East Ramapo schools
questioned the district's "understanding of and
compliance with" the law governing immigrant students' educational rights in a letter to the superintendent last month. Hank Greenberg,
the fiscal monitor assigned to East Ramapo, expressed "concerns" about how the district is serving immigrant students in a Sept. 23 letter
to Superintendent Joel Klein. The glimpse into Greenberg's behind-the-scenes work in East Ramapo was revealed by Deputy Commissioner
Chuck Szuberla in a rare email response to community activist Bob Kurkela, in which he copied members of the media Sunday. Kurkela, of
New City, wrote to state Education Commissioner John King Sunday, accusing him of "hypocrisy" and of "ignoring" the East Ramapo Latino
community's two months of protests in response to Klein's comments. King last week ordered an investigation into the enrollment procedures
in a Hempstead, Long Island, school district that has allegedly refused to allow recently enrolled immigrant students to attend class, according
to published reports." Read the complete Journal News story here.
Ocotober 18, 2014 "After
two months of protests, East Ramapo schools Superintendent Joel Klein
has apologized for suggesting that the
district's growing immigrant population was responsible for its high dropout rate. In a letter addressed to district parents, mailed Friday
morning, Klein wrote that he was "profoundly sorry" for leading some to believe that he was disrespectful to the Latino community."It was
not my intention to be disrespectful or insensitive to these students or to the Latino community," he wrote.The statement comes days before
the next Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, when protesters are planning to rally and some may again demand Klein's resignation.In his letter,
Klein wrote that he was to blame for not "choosing my words more carefully" at an Aug. 19 school board meeting. Read complete Journal News
October 14, 2014
developer seeking a controversial zone change in Suffern has withdrawn
its application after failing to negotiate a tax
deal with the Ramapo Central School District. Suffern Mayor Trish Abato said Orange Avenue Associates informed the village of its decision
in a letter received about 3 p.m. Tuesday — just hours before the village was to vote on the proposal. "They know it's the village's position
if there's no agreement with the school board, the village has no interest in this zone change," Abato said. Orange Avenue Associates is one
of the companies founded by influential Suffern developer Sheldon Goldstein, who is known for his ties with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Richard
Sirota, Cuomo's campaign treasurer, is a partner on the project." Read the complete Journal News coverage here.
East Ramapo: Klein's dropout remarks prompt new protests
October 12, 2014
angry and they're not going away. It's the message being sent from
hundreds of Latino students who attend East Ramapo
schools, their parents, graduates and community activists.They've stood on sidewalks and crowded into school board meetings since school began
in September, demanding Superintendent Joel Klein apologize for his remarks about immigrants driving down the district's graduation rate. In a sign
of the district's heightened defensiveness under a broadening national media spotlight, it morphed the $7,000-a-month Albany lobbying firm it hired
in June to pursue more state aid into an on-call public relations service. Tuesday's board meeting was lobbyist Patricia Lynch's first public appearance.
Meanwhile, the New York Civil Liberties Union is talking to Latino parents and mulling the possibility of a lawsuit. Read the complete Journal News
Mona’s Donors and Sampson’s Screw-ups
October 10, 2014
Like many other modern political scandals,
the ones in this report first
came to light as digital files--a single email and several unofficial videos that wandered onto
Google’s YouTube website. Both are related to the disastrous recent attempt by the Town to
hold a Special Election for a Ward System. The two principals in the story are highly compensated
employees of the Town of Ramapo each pulling down the identical annual salary of $145,866--one
with a 39% increase this year and the other with a 19% raise this year. Another commonality is
that both have been observed as political operatives for the Supervisor, Christopher St. Lawrence, who, currently is the subject of
FBI and SEC investigations. (More)
Journal News Editorial--Ramapo's appeal shakes voter faith
10, 2014 "Ramapo's
Town Board should stop its appeal of a state Supreme Court judge's
We would posit that the way Ramapo ran the Sept. 30 referendum vote left those who believe in free and fair elections quaking.
Nothing short of a do-over for Ramapo's referendum vote — with the Rockland Board of Elections in charge — will suffice." Read the
full text of the editorial here.
Ramapo says judge prematurely voided referendum vote
October 10, 2014
is arguing a state judge should have waited until votes were counted
before deciding to void the referendum
results on adding two Town Board members and creating six election districts. Judge Garvey wrote Sampson's mistakes were "so egregious
and fundamental to the special town election process that it cannot be rectified" with any order for counting of absentee ballots." Read
Journal News coverage of the St. Lawrence's appeal of the Garvey decision here.
Judge Tosses All the Returns of
the Ward Referendum Vote -- Cites Clerk Sampsons'
"Egregious" Incompetence and Ballot Instructions that Violate State Law
October 7, 2014 "State
Supreme Court Justice Margaret Garvey on Tuesday invalidated Ramapo's
referendums on establishing a ward
system and adding two Town Board members, ordering that a new vote be held. In her 14-page decision, Garvey cited the confusion
caused by Ramapo Town Clerk Christian Sampson surrounding absentee ballots and who was eligible to cast ballots. She didn't offer a
time frame for a new vote. Garvey wrote that Sampson's mistakes, in the preparation and dissemination of the absentee ballot applications,
were "so egregious and fundamental to the special town election process that it cannot be rectified" with any order directing procedures
for the counting of the absentee ballots." A new election must be held and the judge suggested Rockland Board of Elections supervision and
that there should be poll watchers this time at every location. Complete Journal News coverage here.
Saw Something? Say something
We need your help. We need to document as much of the questionable, unethical and possibly criminal behavior that occurred in or around the polling locations on the day of the Referendum on September 30th. In particular if you worked as a poll inspector for the referendum, we are very interested in your observations of what took place in the training sessions and at the polling locations on Referendum Day.
Also, if you were a poll worker for the other special election in Ramapo, the ballpark bond vote three years ago please contact us at the email address below.
And voters, we are interested in hearing from you if you observed anything improper or possibly illegal on Tuesday at the Ward vote.
If you could write down your experiences and observations and email them to us at email@example.com as soon as possible that would be of great assistance to us.
Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski Is
Drafting Legislation to Prevent a Repeat
of the Chaotic Ramapo Ward Referendum Election
October 4, 2014 "In
light of chaos
and reports of corruption during Ramapo's referendums,
Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski
has offered state legislation changing how special elections take place.The New City Democrat's proposed changes include
bringing referendums in line with rules governing November general elections by taking the scheduling and control out of
the hands of town government." The first reform he lists is to prevent someone like Supervisor St. Lawrence from banning
poll watchers at the polling places, which he did in the Ward Election. Read the complete Journal News story here.
CBS News Coverage of
of Fraud during Ward Referendum Election
Click here to view report
October 1, 2014
BY Melissa Gerr of the Baltimore Jewish Times
"After 16 hours of polling that included strong voter turnout but some confusion
at polls in a Tuesday referendum that pitted elements of the large Jewish community
in Ramapo, N.Y., against each other and against other citizens, a state court has halted
the tabulation of votes, pending a hearing on alleged voting irregularities." (More)
Response to Impounded Ballots Posted by County Executive Ed Day
yesterday's ward system vote held by the Town of Ramapo ... In response
to a number of substantive messages
I have received from many of you, coupled with details of alleged voter fraud and improprieties that included specific
details of the criminal impersonation of our County Board of Election officials, I today formally requested that our
District Attorney initiate a criminal investigation to the extent it is warranted as determined by his office."
Supreme Court Judge Orders all Ramapo Ballots Be Impounded
September 30, 2014 Michael Parietti and
Robert Romanowski successfully argued in Rockland Supreme Court that
there were serious irregularities
and possible fraud in the Special Referendum Vote in Ramapo today. Supreme Court Judge Margaret Garvey ordered that all ballots be locked
and stored at the Rockland Board of Elections in the custody of the Rockland Sheriff's Department. They will then be prepared for a careful and
thorough investigation before the election can be certified. At issue are affidavit ballots the Town accepted from individuals who are not registered
voters and who have lived in Ramapo for as few as 30 days. Also to be closely looked at are what might be extraordinary numbers of absentee ballots.
And finally there is the issue of the seeming concerted effort on the part of the Town to not provide voters with adequate information on the rules
that were different in this election. For tonight, Judge Garvey has ruled, "that all USB sticks (from the voting machines) and register tapes reflecting
the votes cast, military ballots, absentee ballots, emergency ballots and affidavits ballots shall be impounded." This story is developing--more
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Ramapo Town Clerk
Refuses to Answer Questions about
a Plan to Allow People Who are Not Registered Voters to
Vote in Tuesday's Ward Referendum Election
The First Job for a New Town Board Will Be to Cut Payroll
September 28, 2014
If we elect a new town board in November of 2015 its first job
will be to stop the incredible abuse of our tax payers.
As most of us have already learned, according to the New York State Comptroller Ramapo is the most financially stressed municipality in
New York State. The Comptroller reported that no one on the town board acknowledged that they knew anything about the funding of
St. Lawrence’s $60 million stadium. Our town board seems equally ignorant about the funding and sale of what St. Lawrence promised
would be “affordable housing”. That housing has proven to be so expensive that many of the apartments have been sold illegally to
limited liability corporations that rent apartments to new residents. Perhaps we should excuse these “mistakes” and hope our rubber
stamp town board will pay more attention to town affairs in the future. That, unfortunately, is not likely. (More)
Letter: Ramapo ward system ensures protection for all
September 28, 2014
A ward system for Ramapo would ensure minority representation,
and goes to the heart of the Voting Rights Act's
protections, Spring Valley Trustee Emilia White says. The writer advocates for "yes" votes on expanding Ramapo board,
Councilwoman Brendel Charles reports that she has written to the
Department of Justice with concerns that a ward system
could "potentially undermine minority representation." This is pure hypocrisy. (More)
State Reps Slam St. Lawrence's Banning Poll Watchers
September 27, 2014
All three local state
representatives condemned the Supervisor's refusal to allow
independent poll watchers
at the Tuesday, Sept 30, Referendum for a Ward System. Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, said the upcoming referendums
are "too important to not have the transparency that is afforded to every other election." Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, agreed.
"Poll watchers are a positive aspect of our democratic election process, while helping to ensure that voting results, at the local, state and
national levels are reliable, fair, transparent and honest," she said. "Allowing poll watchers will benefit the entire Ramapo community by
instilling confidence in the voters." Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City, said denying poll watchers "goes against the spirit of fair and open
democracy. "From national elections to the smallest hamlets, preserving the integrity of the voting process is fundamentally crucial to our
communities." When St. Lawrence was asked for a response he refused. Read the complete Journal News story here.
Read Press Release from Robert Rhodes regarding the ban here
Poll Watchers Barred from Ward Referendum Vote Scheduled for
this coming Tuesday, Sept 30
September 25, 2014
The Ramapo political machine spent two years fighting tooth and
nail to prevent a ward referendum in Ramapo.
The referendum has finally been scheduled for this coming Tuesday, September 30. The referendum will decide whether Ramapo
will be divided into six wards for the election of town councilman. Town councilmen are currently elected at large. We find it hard
to believe that this morning Judge Garvey of the Supreme Court agreed with St. Lawrence that there is no provision in the law or
precedent requiring poll watchers! What a terrible black mark against democracy in Ramapo. What a terrible precedent for democracy
in New York state. What an embarrassment to the United States! (More)
Ward system allows fair representation
We've had "at large" elections in Ramapo offices for many years,
and where has that
gotten us? There is heavy debt, overdevelopment, population density, illegal conversions of houses, ignored
environmental issues, a ballpark that more than two-thirds of the people voted against, culminating in an FBI
raid of Town Hall and a U.S. Security Exchange Commission search for fiscal wrongdoing. There is a longer list,
E. Ramapo uses Albany lobbying firm for PR
September 25, 2014 "The
East Ramapo school district is on track to spend at least
$49,000 this year
on an influential lobbying firm and longtime Albany insider tasked with bolstering the troubled school board's
image and leading its campaign to convince the state to increase its education aid." Complete Journal story here.
Anger and Paranoia at Ramapo Town Hall
This article is in response to the bizarre disingenuous recent
press release issued by Ramapo Democratic
Chairwoman, Mona Montal, regarding the vote on the Ward System referendum, which will take place on Tuesday,
September 30th, 2014. The press release is intellectually dishonest and generally offensive. And that’s its positive
message. It is the type of platitude laced angry diatribe that the public has grown weary of, right out of the
Chris St. Lawrence playbook. (More)
East Ramapo contingent takes concerns over cuts to fiscal monitor
September 23, 2014 "The longest writing assignment Olivia
Castor had during her senior year at Spring
Valley High School was two pages. In 2013, she arrived at Harvard University and was assigned a whopping
22-page paper. Castor, who has a dual concentration in social studies and African and African-American Studies,
says the term paper is one example of how ill-prepared she was for the rigors of college life — and at an Ivy
League, no less — during a high school career marked by disappearing classes, clubs and teachers in the East
Ramapo school district. "I'm playing catchup here," Castor, now a sophomore, said in an interview between
classes Friday. This is what she and her peers explained to East Ramapo fiscal monitor Hank Greenberg during a
recent visit to Albany with their mentor, Willie Trotman, president of the Spring Valley National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People." Read entire Journal story here.
Community View: Ward System Benefits all Ramapo CommunitiesSeptember18, 2014 A recent article in The Journal News suggested that the Ramapo Ward Referendum
East Ramapo shuns immigrant students
September 14, 2014 "East
Ramapo is a very diverse school district. People from all over
the world live here,
they share a dream: a better life for their children. So when the superintendent of schools made remarks singling
out Spanish speaking students, many in our Latino community and beyond felt offended and turned up to the next
board meeting to make their opinion known to the board and the superintendent." (More)
Rockland primaries: Fonvil, Stein, Zebrowski win—Wieder Loses
Valley Village Trustee Vilair Fonvil, leader of a board majority
that has stood against
Mayor Demeza Delhomme, defeated challenger Chrispin Eugene Tuesday in a Democratic primary, according to
unofficial results. Meanwhile, in a strong showing, Rockland County Legislator Aron Weider of Spring Valley appeared
to narrowly lose a Democratic primary in the 98th Assembly District to Elisa Tutini of Monroe, unofficial results show.
Complete Journal coverage here.
LoHud Primary vote totals: Rockland, Westchester, Putnam
Sept. 9, 2014
“Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York claimed the Democratic
nomination for a second term on Tuesday,
but at a considerable price: A liberal challenger with little money or name recognition, Zephyr Teachout, was on track to
receive about a third of the vote, a signal of the potent dissatisfaction with Mr. Cuomo in his party’s left wing. With 85
percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Cuomo had 60.7 percent of the vote, compared with 35.5 percent for Ms. Teachout.
Though she ran her campaign on a shoestring and with scarcely any organizational support, Ms. Teachout was on pace to
record the strongest challenge to an incumbent governor since primaries for the office were established in New York in 1970.”
Read the complete New York Times coverage here.
f the Republican Party in the
County Legislature. He decided to attempt a take-over of the Republican Committee with the help of Vinnie Reda, Wayne
Ballard, Donna Held and others imported from the Bronx and Yonkers.” More at Clarkstown - What They Don't Want You To Know.
Lawsuit Details Systemic Corruption
at Ramapo Town Hall
September 4, 2014 When you read the
lawsuit summons, several themes emerge. St. Lawrence’s
abuse of his power to hire and fire appears over and over as he rewards those who join in in his
effort to retaliate against a whistleblower at Ramapo Town Hall. The Statement of Facts (the narrative)
portion of the lawsuit reads like fiction as he hands out promotions and raises for each co-conspirator as they line up against
the solitary voice speaking out against what she knew was wrong. Most depressing is the general unwillingness to even listen
to the warnings Melissa Reimer, Ramapo’s Supervisor of Fiscal Services, offered to legal and financial officers, the Supervisor,
and even the outside auditing firm about illegal practices and skewed bookkeeping. "You do not have to do the right thing here,"
Ms. Reimer recalls being counseled by Nat Oberman, "you only have to play ball and make the Supervisor happy." (More)
Immigrants decry East Ramapo chief's dropout comments
2014 "A crowd of immigrant students and their families rallied
Tuesday night in a show of opposition to what
the East Ramapo schools superintendent has recently remarked is an immigrant-driven inflation of the district's drop-out
rate.The group of at least 80 people stood outside the district headquarters before a board meeting chanting and holding
signs that read: "Education not discrimination" and "Klein resign." Several speakers at the rally and later during the meeting
shared why they found Superintendent Joel Klein's comments offensive and discriminatory." Read complete Journal News
Another Smelly Deal in Ramapo
Letter in Our
Town September 2, 2014 The Ramapo Town Board has just voted
to give the developers of a luxury housing
development in Suffern a long-term reduction in their real estate taxes of 85%! (More)
Clarkstown poised to pass term limits for elected officials
August 30, 2014 "Term
limits are close to being approved in Clarkstown, potentially the first
town in Rockland County to enact
such a cap. The Town Board wants to hear comments on the matter during a Sept. 9 public hearing, but three members — enough
for passage — said they already back the limits, including Democratic Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner. "I imagine that it will pass
unanimously," Hausner said. With the exception of town justices, the proposal limits elected town officials to eight consecutive years
in the same office. It would apply to any town official elected in a regular election after Jan. 1. The person could run for a different
elected town office after reaching the eight-year limit. Hausner says tremendous public support for such a limit played a role in her decision.
Read the full text of the Journal News story here.
Tax Watch: Ramapo Central fights $16M tax deal
August 29, 2014 "The
school board met Tuesday in response to the Town of Ramapo's decision
last week to impose the tax deal
upon the school district. That came just as schools officials were negotiating their own deal with Goldstein, the third generation
of Goldsteins to seek their fortune in the Rockland development world. "We weren't part of the negotiations," said school board
President Theresa DiFalco. "There were no phone calls, no discussions with the town." Goldstein's appearance Tuesday, alongside
his father, Jeffrey, marked the latest skirmish in efforts to redevelop downtown Suffern, the Rockland County village on the
New Jersey line already reeling from the imminent departure of pharmaceutical giant Novartis, the town's largest employer.
He warned the housing would never be built unless the school district sacrificed millions of dollars in potential tax revenue.
Welcome to high-stakes brinksmanship and power politics in Rockland, involving a company with ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's
re-election campaign, whose treasurer, Richard Sirota of Irvington, is one of the project's partners." Complete Journal News
August 22, 2014 "Two
referendums set for Sept. 30 will be an opportunity for residents to
change the size and makeup of the Town
Board — which a pair of activists hope would create a more robust opposition to the current administration. Putting an end to
the 21-month court battle initiated by local activists, the Ramapo Town Board on Thursday unanimously agreed to schedule the
referendums from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 30. All the polling sites in town will be used for the vote. Complete Journal News story here.
Sloatsburg sues Ramapo over 384-unit housing plan
August 11, 2014
"The village of Sloatsburg has filed a lawsuit against Ramapo town's
Planning Board, challenging its approval of a 384-unit housing
complex just outside the village's border. In documents, filed in state Supreme Court in New City, the village charges that the board's
approvals for the development, to be known as Woodmont Hills were "arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion in excess of
the ... board's jurisdiction and in violation of lawful procedure." The village is seeking to vacate the board's decision to stop
the apartment project. One of the main concerns raised by Sloatsburg is the site's fire safety. The developer has proposed building
16 three-story buildings, each containing 24 units. The Sloatsburg Fire Department is the first responder to any fire emergency at the
site, but the department isn't equipped with "an aerial ladder truck to combat fires at those heights," the court documents stated."
Read the complete Journal News coverage here.
Ramapo referendums likely to be held in the fall
August 8, 2014 "The town
is likely to have a pair of referendums this fall to decide whether
Ramapo should elect its Town Board
members by ward and to increase the size of the board from four members to six. Three members on the five-member board said
Thursday they will not support the idea of trying to appeal the July 25 decisions issued by state Supreme Court Justice Margaret Garvey,
who sided with two local activists and ordered Ramapo to hold the two referendums.The referendums in response to citizens' petitions
would be the first in recent town history, after a number of challenges were tossed out by the town in recent years based on technicalities.
Activists Michael Parietti and Robert Romanowski's effort was the fourth seeking a town ward system. Prior attempts, supported by the
grassroots group Preserve Ramapo, were made in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Each was rejected by the town.The ward system is seen by the
activists as a way to counter the political influence of Ramapo's growing Orthodox community." Read the complete Journal News story here.
Spring Valley day campers welcomed after mayor's release
August 7, 2014 "Children
and their parents lined up at the check-in desk at the Louis Kurtz Civic
Center on Wednesday
for the long-awaited start of the village's summer camp.Sonia Barton, the camp's director, welcomed each of them while
reviewing their registration forms.The fate of the day camp, which had been held at the center for the past 14 years, has
been up in the air this year in the midst of conflict between Mayor Demeza Delhomme and Barton, who was suspended from
her youth director position in May.The board's majority — Trustees Vilair Fonvil, Asher Grossman and Emilia White — brought
a complaint to state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Loehr, who put Delhomme in jail Friday for contempt of court.After
agreeing to certain conditions to help operate the camp, Delhomme was released from jail Tuesday morning." Complete
Journal News coverage here.
Spring Valley mayor jailed for contempt of court
August 1, 2014 "Mayor
Demeza Delhomme was in the county jail Friday night after his arrest for
being in contempt of a
court order that he open the village's civic center to host its summer camp. Village Attorney Jerrold Miles said he was
"stunned" by the ruling from state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Loehr, who determined Delhomme violated his order to
give the village's summer camp access to the Louis Kurtz Civic Center on North Main Street. Miles said he was scrambling to
get the mayor out of the Rockland County Jail in New City." Complete Journal News story here.
“The Investigation Continues”
July 30, 2014
Charged with two felonies which placed him at the center of a scheme to
sell the Hillcrest
Elementary School at up to $6 million under its appraised value, Avi Vardi walked out of a Clarkstown
courtroom yesterday with a three-year probation and a small fine. The felonies had been kicked down
to a single misdemeanor based on a technicality about when he performed the lowball appraisal. How did this happen? (More)
Reactions to the Court Decision about the Ward System
July 26, 2014
In the last court session before
state Supreme Court Judge Margaret Garvey, the two sides appeared for
of finally reviewing those petitions collected by Preserve Ramapo that were thrown out by Christian Sampson, the Ramapo Town Clerk.
It had taken two years to get to this point due to the series of legal objections thrown up by the Town of Ramapo and its attorneys. (More)
July 25, 2014 "The
local development corporation formed by the town to finance its
controversial baseball stadium lost more
than $600,000 in 2013, according to an audit commissioned by the agency. Because of the way the RLDC was set up, the agency
gets all the revenue generated by the ballfield, not the town. In 2013, the agency spent about $3.37 million, including $660,503
for advertising and promotion and $562,044 in legal fees, according to the audit. The difference, about $627,000, is listed as an
operating loss for the year. LDC Executive Director Aron Troodler said the agency did better financially in 2013 than 2012 when
its operating loss was about $762,000. The Provident Bank Park project has been under scrutiny since the state Comptroller's
Office issued an audit in 2011, criticizing Ramapo for guaranteeing the $25 million bond for the stadium against voters' wishes.
In May 2013, the FBI raided Ramapo Town Hall, seizing boxes of financial records. And a couple of months ago, the U.S. Securities
and Exchange Commission subpoenaed records from the town and the RLDC." Read the complete Journal News article here.
July 24, 2014 "East
Ramapo officials say they've finalized the sale of Colton Elementary
School to their longtime yeshiva
tenants, putting the district on track to make $10 million from real estate deals this year if a second sale closes as planned. The
$5.1 million sale of Colton, on Grandview Avenue in New Hempstead, closed after lengthy legal fights. One included a dispute
with the tenants-turned-buyers that ended in the district agreeing to give them a $1.5 million credit for rent paid — even after
a judge sided with the school board in its opposition to awarding rent credit because the tenants were in arrears on their rent.
The sum was deducted from the original $6.6 million purchase price." Complete Journal News coverage here.
Judge reviews petitions on Ramapo ward system
July 20, 2014
The explanation for the closing
of the summer youth program for 50 children seems to be, according to
Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme, that no one working in the program had the required CPR certification. Actually, there are
many services that can provide the training and certification in about one day. So Delhomme, according to his own statement,
closed the program for this reason — no certification. Read the full text of Bob Rhodes' in the Journal News here.
SEC seizes Ramapo records--Feds also take documents from LDC in fraud probe
July 19, 2014 "A
year after the FBI
seized boxes of financial records from Ramapo as part of a fraud
investigation, the U.S.
Securities and Exchange Commission has also taken records from the town and its development arm. The SEC subpoenas and
request for voluntary disclosure of records came in May. The agency sought documents from Jan. 1, 2009, to the present. Its
demand was only recently disclosed in a memorandum by the town's bond counsel related to a $2.49 million bond request. The
SEC subpoenas were issued May 21 to Ramapo, its Local Development Corporation (LDC), the town's auditor and financial advisor,
and Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence. The LDC has been the financial arm behind the town's $60 million baseball stadium,
a $48 million housing development on Elm Street, and other projects." Complete Journal News coverage here.
A Possible Epitaph for Provident Bank Ballpark
July 17, 2014 In
a New York Times story “One Team, Two Cities and None Are Happy,”
seems politicians in Hartford, Connecticut, are having a hard time coming up with the $60
million they need to build a minor league baseball park for the New Britain Rock Cats. The
public doesn’t want it, and the push to get private funding is proving to be as difficult as
industry analysts predicted it would be. The public resistance comes from a concern over
tax increases and cuts to social services, and the Times points out that, “Hartford’s plan to
draw private investors faces steep hurdles.” Sounds a lot like the early stages of the plan
to build Provident Ball Park for a team from the Can Am League. Back then, here in Ramapo, any private investor
spending more than a half-hour on a risk analysis of the venture wouldn’t go near it, and the public also voted not to
fund it with taxpayer dollars. (More)
Robert Rhodes on Preserve Ramapo’s Support for Chris Day for Congress
July 16, 2014 For many months Nita Lowey
ignored appeals from members of East Ramapo’s public school
community. Like Governor Andrew Cuomo she had apparently decided that the interests of 9,000 black
and brown public school students could be safely sacrificed for political expediency. Nita’s opponent is
Chris Day, a political newcomer to the Rockland political scene. Chris is best known in our county as the
manager of Ed Day’s remarkable campaign for County Executive last November. Unlike Nita, Chris has
criticized RLUIPA (the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act), criticized the New Square slaughterhouse,
and supported the East Ramapo public schools. (More)
Ward System Petition in Court this Week and Next
July 13, 2014
Mike Parietti and Robert
Romanowski were notified by the court that Judge Garvey has ordered an
in court hearing
that will commence on Monday July 21st at 9:30 AM to determine whether the voters of Ramapo will be allowed to vote on the issue
of getting direct representation on the Ramapo Town Board. A Ward System in Ramapo would divide the town into districts with each
having their own representative voice on the panel. You would elect a board member from your neighborhood who would be there to
represent your neighborhood. And if ever Ramapo residents needed their own representatives on the board it is now. (More)
Judge: Spring Valley mayor can't stop day camp
Judge ordered Spring Valley
mayor to honor the board resolution to hold summer day camp.
But the camp's future is still unknown as camp director has been worried about her physical safety.
July 9, 2014
"In a village where the
mayor and trustees disagree on practically everything, even holding day
a court order. State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Loehr ordered Wednesday morning that Mayor Demeza Delhomme be restrained
from violating a village board resolution to offer the summer program. But whether the camp actually opens is still unclear as Sonia Barton,
who supposedly would be the camp's director, hasn't made it clear that she's going to take the job. The fate of the 14-year-old program
at the Louis Kurtz Civic Center became uncertain earlier this year amid a conflict between Delhomme and Barton, who has been suspended
from her job as the village's youth director." Read the complete Journal News coverage here.
Camp Shalom: Day camp nearby was also vandalized
July 10, 2014 "A
Hungry Hollow Road day camp was vandalized around the same time a pool
was slashed at nearby Camp Shalom
at the Chestnut Ridge Middle School, Ramapo police said Wednesday. The dual acts of vandalism over the weekend have police
leaning toward thinking Camp Shalom – which is for Orthodox Jewish children – was not targeted due to religious animosity,
Ramapo Detective Lt. Mark Emma said. The camps are within walking distance of each other. "There's no evidence at this point
to say the vandalism was or was not anti-Semitic," Emma said. "The vandalism at the other place leads me to believe there was
general criminal mischief by some young adults who were up to no good." Complete Journal News story here.
July 8, 2014 “.
Police are investigating an apparent act of vandalism at a
religious summer camp
leasing school property from the
East Ramapo district. A vinyl pool installed by Orthodox-Jewish Camp Shalom at the Chestnut Ridge Middle School was slashed in
seven places over the weekend. It is one of four temporary pools planned by the camp, which is leasing the building and grounds
for $125,000 this summer. Ryan Karben, lawyer for the New Jersey-based camp, urged authorities to investigate the incident as a
hate crime. He said the camp has been subjected to harassment, had its workers cursed at and had unwarranted complaints against
it filed with police. He said the angry rhetoric has also been harsh on social media sites. The incident follows debate over the camp's
use of district property amid longstanding tension between public school advocates and the Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish-dominated
East Ramapo school board. Much of the controversy has focused on work done before permits were obtained and a dispute over
whether local municipal permits were necessary for construction at the site.” Complete Journal News story here.
East Ramapo's legal costs continue to pile up
July 6, 2014
“East Ramapo taxpayers have spent nearly $1,000 a day on the district's
high-powered law firm in the year since officials said
they would seek to replace it in the wake of an attorney's profane verbal attack on parents. Minerva & D'Agostino has billed East Ramapo
approximately $322,000 for services and travel between July 2013 and May 2014, according to invoices provided by the district. Details on
what the services were and which attorneys provided them were redacted by the district. While the total is less than the $600,000 set aside
for the firm, the district's legal costs have ballooned since Minerva & D'Agostino was hired in a hasty, late-night vote in 2009. The school board
hired the firm at twice the rate of the previous lawyer, Stephen Fromson, who worked for East Ramapo for decades. Former board members
and others have suggested the firm was hired because of the reputation of its principal, Albert D'Agostino, in assisting the ultra-Orthodox community
in getting its children access to specific special education services, often in private schools. That the access results in taxpayer money illegally funding
students' religious education is a central claim in a federal lawsuit pending against East Ramapo. The issue also plays into the district's own legal fight
with the state Education Department. Those bills don't include costs for other firms East Ramapo employs, specifically Bingham McCutchen, of New
York and Washington, D.C., whose lawyers are paid $450 or $650 per hour to defend current and former officials, including D'Agostino, schools
Superintendent Joel Klein and school board President Yehuda Weissmandl, in a federal civil rights case filed two years ago by 400 parents. The parents
claim that school officials steered public money to private religious schools to benefit the district's large ultra-Orthodox community. Bingham McCutchen
is also defending the district's method of placing special education students in private programs in a suit East Ramapo initiated against the state Education
Department. A court determined the district's process broke the law; the district is in the process of mounting an appeal.” Read the complete
Journal News story here.
East Ramapo's lawyer games
July 5, 2014
disappointment that public monies
will continue to flow to East Ramapo school board's preferred law firm,
D'Agostino, which has treated the public so poorly, and has fomented controversy and tension in the deeply divided district. In July 2013,
the school board pledged to transition to a new law firm after a lawyer's vile, expletive-laden verbal attack on a group of district parents
was captured on video and posted on YouTube for all to see. Yet on Tuesday, the board voted 7-2 to retain Minerva & D'Agostino. School
officials say they could not find another law firm that was either qualified or willing to handle the district's "unique" situation — the majority
of school-age children living in the district attend private schools, and the majority of the school board comes from the Orthodox Jewish
community who send their children to yeshivas. It's important to remember why the school board selected the Long Island-based law firm
in the first place in 2010 — or rather, re-selected, as the board first voted to hire the firm in 2009, but had to re-do the process because
requests for proposals had not been issued. As then-President Nathan Rothschild said after the law firm's February 2010 hiring. "Minerva &
D'Agostino wrapped their arms around the private school special-education students and were instrumental in making many changes in the
environment for the families with special-education students in Lawrence" in Long Island, which also has a large Orthodox Jewish population
whose children are educated in yeshivas.” Read the full text of The Journal News editorial here.
East Ramapo: Board votes to sell Hillcrest school to yeshiva
July 3, 2014
“The East Ramapo school board has approved a $4.9 million sale of
Hillcrest Elementary School to the property's current
tenant, Congregation Avir Yakov of New Square. The Board of Education voted 6-0 at a special meeting Thursday night to authorize the
board president to execute a contract of sale for the school. The district sold Hillcrest to the same buyer once before. State authorities
canceled that sale amid questions over its legality. The move followed the building's closure in 2010 in the face of public outcry and on the
erroneous premise that public school enrollment would decline in the coming years. Avi Vardi, the appraiser selected by the school board
to handle the initial sale, is now facing felony charges. A state attorney general investigation found Vardi took a $5,000 bribe from the intended
buyer, Avir Yakov, and falsified the appraisal to get the buyer a lower price. Vardi had pegged the property's value at $3.2 million while a
secondary appraisal report by a Mamaroneck firm determined it was worth $5.9 million. The district budgeted $5 million in revenue from the
anticipated sale of Colton Elementary School last school year. That $5.1 million deal is nearly complete. The past transactions involving both
schools are the subject of an ongoing investigation by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office.” Read the complete Journal News story here.
Reaction to the East Ramapo D’Agostino Scandal
July 3, 2014
A year after promising and voting to fire and remove the abusive Minerva
& D’Agostino law firm,
School Board President Yehuda Weissmandl and an overwhelming majority of his board members voted to
renew the contract with the law firm for the 2014-15 school year. Reaction from public officials was scathing. (More)
Are You Serious?
July 1, 2014
At the East
Ramapo School Board reorganization meeting tonight (Tuesday July 1)
there are items up
for approval that are hypocritical, unprofessional, and even legally questionable. (More)
Rocky first Reform Meeting Held by Council Member Friedman at Town Hall
June 25, 2014
was the first time in memory that a meeting was convened at Ramapo Town
Hall for the express purpose of dealing
with what’s wrong with the Town government and what can be done to mitigate the failures and eliminate the corruption. The first,
that is, unless you count the eight-hour meeting held by Federal agents at the site a year ago in May. At last night’s meeting, the Town
Clerk was not present, as he is at Town Board meetings, with his egg timer ordering speakers to sit down after barely introducing what
it was they wanted to discuss. Instead, the residents were allowed to speak at length—no one was shut up and no topic was dismissed as
off limits. And there was something else that’s missing in St. Lawrence-directed board meetings--you could ask questions and not be
dismissed off-hand with, “We’re not taking questions.” As you might expect, given the freedom to speak out and question, the meeting
was edgy, frequently contentious, and sometimes loud. It began shortly after 6pm and did not end until sometime after 9. More here along
with video coverage.
Community View: East Ramapo's children cannot wait
something is wrong in East Ramapo cannot be doubted. The district spent
over $3 million last year on legal fees
alone and budgeted the same amount to be spent this year. A review of East Ramapo's independent audits shows that the district
went from a $12.5 million surplus in 2011 to a deficit of $8.9 million as of June 30, 2013. It is currently borrowing $17 million to pay
for current operations, a practice that did not exist before 2009. Another questionably balanced budget was put in place for the
coming school year. Of note is that even as total bus transportation costs continue to rise, the amount budgeted for 2014-15 is millions
less than the actual amount spent in 2012-13. (More)
Judge orders Ramapo to back off in Reimer hearing
state Supreme Court judge ruled Ramapo was going too far in its
questioning of a suspended finance employee
about her intention to sue the town for defamation. Melissa Reimer, Ramapo's supervisor of fiscal services, filed a notice of claim
against the town last year, arguing it unreasonably blamed her for an unfavorable financial review by the state Comptroller's Office.
Reimer is facing possible termination as misconduct-related charges against her were upheld by the town's hearing officers. Reimer's
testimony during disciplinary hearings indicated she might have been a whistle-blower in an ongoing federal investigation into town
finances, though she wouldn't confirm it.The town held a hearing Oct. 1 to question Reimer about her defamation claims. The town's
attorney raised his voice and threatened that her case would be dismissed if she didn't answer his questions, according to court documents
submitted by Fred Lichtmacher, Reimer's lawyer. One particular question was asked over 10 times, he wrote. At the end of the Oct. 1 hearing,
the town told her it would need two more days to complete the questioning. Reimer then sought court intervention.In his decision issued
Thursday, Justice Victor Alfieri wrote that at the Oct. 1 hearing, the town was "delving into areas that clearly go beyond the statutory purpose"
of the hearing, which should not be an opportunity for the town to determine what evidence exists that may or may not support Reimer's claims."
Complete Journal coverage can be read here.
Monsey hotel proposal in limbo
June 20, 2014 "A
proposed zoning amendment that would have allowed a Monsey hotel to rise
as high as 50 feet apparently failed
to get enough Town Board support, although the developer's lawyer disagreed with the result. Sunrise Square LLC wants to build a
hotel in the heart of downtown Monsey and has been trying to change zoning code to allow a taller, bigger hotel in the densely
populated area. But the plan is now in limbo after the Town Board's recent vote on the proposed zoning amendment was 3-2 in favor.
The votes against the amendment were cast by Town Board members Yitzchok Ullman and Daniel Friedman. Susan Meyer, a spokeswoman
for the Rockland County Department of Planning, said Friday the town needed a majority plus one vote, or a 4-1 vote on the five-member
board, to approve the amendment because the county planning department expressed concerns over the change." Read the complete
Journal News story here.
Rockland creates task force to conserve water and mitigate need for desal plant
June 19, 2014 "The
new board will focus on reducing demand through conservation and green
infrastructure, using outreach, education
and incentive programs. It will have 19 members, including representatives of county departments, businesses, schools, and United Water
New York. It was United Water's effort to build a Hudson River treatment plant that galvanized everyday citizens, including members of the
Rockland Water Coalition, into opposing the facility in favor of detailed studies of the existing supply and demand and deeper exploration of
alternatives, including conservation and water reuse. Last month, the state Public Service Commission determined that while Rockland may
one day need more water, it doesn't need it until at least 2020. It told United Water it should continue to seek permits to build the plant, but
that the project would not be able to proceed until a certain supply threshold was reached. In the same decision, the PSC said opponents of
the plant would now have the time they need to implement conservation measures designed to possibly delay or prevent the project." Complete
Journal News story here.
St. Lawrence's 'corruption' blasted by Ramapo official
Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence is getting a stiff broadside from
within his own party as a Town Board member
prepares to host a meeting to discuss reform to "put an end to criminal activity and any form of corruption" under the supervisor. Daniel Friedman
said Tuesday that at the public meeting, he wants to get input from residents on his legislative proposals, which he will then present to the
Town Board. His action was prompted by a "clear record of illegal activity by Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and his administration,"
Friedman wrote in an emailed statement.The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Ramapo Town Hall at 237 Route 59, Airmont." The complete
Journal News story can be read here.
JN Editorial: In East Ramapo, fiscal monitor is an important first step
Yehuda Weissmandel (Board Pres): Fiscal monitor the result of anti-Semitism
June 15, 2014
a weekend editorial, The Journal News commended the Governor and
Education Dept. Commissioner for appointing an overseer
to monitor spending and planning in East Ramapo. “The state has appointed a fiscal monitor for East Ramapo school district, where a divided
community bickers over ever-shrinking resources, with public-school children squeezed in the middle. We wish Hank Greenberg well as he dives
into the morass of concerns over how money and resources are used in East Ramapo.” Taking a different tack, the School Board President Yehuda
Weissmandl fired off a letter on Thursday to Commissioner King accusing him and the Governor of being complicit with local anti-Semites who
oppose the board’s actions simply out of personal bigotry. (More)
East Ramapo Schools: Orthodox Camp Files for Building Permits
June 14, 2014
religious summer camp leasing East Ramapo school district property has
applied to the village for a building permit, backpedaling
from its stance earlier this week that the permit isn't needed to put up temporary pools."We reached an understanding with the village that provides
them with the information that they feel they need to have, agreeing to disagree about some of the legal issues involved," said Camp Shalom attorney
Ryan Karben. "Hopefully, this will give the village the information that it needs so it can protect its residents and the camp can provide services to its
campers." Complete Journal News story here.
Trial of Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin Will Begin at the Conclusion of the Smith TrialJune 13, 2014 On Friday, the Journal News reported a delay in the Malcolm Smith trial. “The federal corruption trial of state Sen. Malcolm Smith
East Ramapo schools monitor has broad charge, says King
June 11, 2014 "The
state-appointed "fiscal monitor" for the East Ramapo school district is
already receiving information about the troubled
district as he prepares to "launch" his work, Education Commissioner John King said Wednesday. The goal of a fiscal monitor is to look at how
East Ramapo is using its resources, to make sure its use of resources is consistent with federal law, state law and is in the best interests of students,"
he said. He said Greenberg will focus on how federal funds are used, in particular how East Ramapo carries out federal grant programs. Another
area of focus, he said, is how the district is ensuring that students have access to services and course offerings required by state regulations.
King said Greenberg may also look at certain district "preferences" when it comes to special education and real-estate transactions, areas that he
noted the Education Department has already reviewed. Critics have long charged that East Ramapo's school board, run by majorities of Hasidic
and Orthodox Jewish men who send their children to private schools, has focused on reducing spending and has not served the best interests
of public school students." Full Journal News coverage here.
East Ramapo schools to get state fiscal monitor
June 10, 2014 "The
state Education Department said Tuesday it will install a fiscal monitor
for the troubled East Ramapo
school district after Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the state to step up its oversight. State Education Commissioner John
King said the fiscal monitor will be Albany attorney Hank Greenberg, a former counsel to Cuomo when the governor was
attorney general. "The department has been working closely with East Ramapo to try to address the district's serious fiscal
issues, and the appointment of a fiscal monitor is the next step in those efforts," King said in a statement. The move comes after local
officials have pressed for state intervention in the Rockland County school district, which has been plagued by financial turmoil and political
controversy. East Ramapo officials have been accused of giving short shrift to the interests of public school children, and many residents
have alleged that the school board steers taxpayer money toward the private religious schools." Complete Journal story here.
Link to Henry Greenberg’s professional bio http://www.gtlaw.com/People/GreenbergHenryM
Karben: Village can’t stop camp
June 9, 2014 "A
New Jersey-based religious day camp setting up shop at an East Ramapo
school for the summer insists it is not subject
to village zoning regulations that prompted local officials to issue a stop-work order last week. Camp Shalom, which serves hundreds of
Orthodox Jewish children, is instead subject to regulations under state education law, according to its attorney, Ryan Karben. "The building
inspector issued a determination on this property Feb. 25 and, as far as I know, that hasn't been appealed," Village Attorney Walter Sevastian
said. "If the applicant has a problem with that, they can either appeal his determination or file an action (in court)." Complete story here.
NAACP fears Spring Valley housing bias could spread
June 9, 2014 "Though
more than a year has passed since they filed a complaint on alleged
exclusionary housing built under
the village's urban renewal plan, local NAACP leaders has gotten no answers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development. Meanwhile, a developer who was originally involved in the housing project in question — Park View Condominiums
at Main Street and Maple Avenue — has proposed building 124 affordable rental units at the Sen. Eugene Levy Municipal Plaza, to be
called Levy Towers. In April 2013, the NAACP filed a federal complaint alleging that the Park View Condominiums discriminated against
black people by selectively marketing and selling units to Orthodox Jews. NAACP leaders said the developer was required to provide
a marketing plan to the village to ensure that the property, which was partly funded with more than $66,000 in federal dollars, was
fairly advertised." Read complete Journal story here.
Religious camp preps East Ramapo school site without permits
June 8, 2014
religious day camp angling to set up four swimming pools at Chestnut
Ridge Middle School under a summer lease
agreement has begun work on the property without the proper permits. Chestnut Ridge code enforcement officials issued a stop-work
order to both the camp and its landlord, the East Ramapo school district, after workers at the middle school were seen earlier in the
week trenching and laying electrical lines and installing a new electric meter on school property during the day, Village Mayor Rosario Presti Jr.
said. "I saw the work in passing, because I drive by there every day. Then people started calling the village," he said Friday. "Code enforcement
went out and politely asked them to leave the site, but everything was already done." Complete Journal News story here.
Ramapo hires board member's spouse as rec coordinator
Nepotism still thriving in the St. Lawrence Administration
June 7, 2013 "Bernard Charles Jr. has
recently resigned his parks and recreation director position with the
Village of Spring Valley,
and his controversial $5,000-a-month consulting gig with the Ramapo town has been terminated. But no need to feel sorry for him:
he's got a new job on the town payroll. Charles, a former Spring Valley mayoral candidate whose wife is Ramapo Town Board member
Brendel Charles, has been appointed as an assistant recreation activities coordinator with the Ramapo town Parks and Recreation
Department. The full-time position will pay him $45,973 annually, according to the Town Board resolution.There's just one caveat:
Charles' appointment is provisional until he passes a civil service exam." Journal story here.
State, County, Town and Village Officials Join to Protest
Proposed New Square Slaughterhouse
June 2, 2014
They all agreed with the more than 100 neighbors and supporters who had
gathered there in front of the corner house, right across the street from the site where
New Square officials intend to build a plant that will slaughter more than one million chickens
per year. Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, County Executive Ed Day, Clarkstown Supervisor Alex
Gromack, three County Legislators, and others—a total of 15 speakers who repeated the same message
that a poultry slaughterhouse has no place in a residential neighborhood. (More)
Watch NY CBS television report on the protest here.
Read Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee's statement opposing the slaughterhouse here.
Read the Journal News story: Crowd protests proposed New Hempstead poultry slaughterhouse
Read the Vos iz Neias? story: County Exec and Nearby Residents Protest Proposed New Square Slaughterhouse
May 29, 2014 "A
recent court decision by the New York State Appellate Division has
boosted the efforts of Ramapo residents
Mike Parietti and Bob Romanowski, as well as the Preserve Ramapo party, to bring a higher level of diversity to the Ramapo
Town Board. The favorable ruling will now permit Parietti and Romanowski to continue to press the Town to put two crucial
questions to a public vote: shall the ward system be established for the election of councilmen or councilwomen in the Town
of Ramapo; and, shall the number of councilmen or councilwomen of the Town of Ramapo be increased from four to six? The
Town has been fighting such a public referendum every step of the way." (More)
May 28, 2014 “NEW
As a poultry plant
operator puts the finishing touches on unapproved plans for the
massive facility, opponents plan a protest outside the village site on Sunday afternoon. Opponents are focusing on the
$3 million plant's potential environmental impacts on nearby residential neighborhoods — not only in the Hasidic Jewish
village of New Square but bordering homes in New Hempstead. They want a $1.6 million grant from the New York Empire
State Development Fund earmarked for the project to be rescinded. Among the speakers at the 2 p.m. "Stop the Slaughterhouse"
rally will be Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, County Executive Ed Day, and neighbors of the proposed plant. Zebrowski has
called on the state to withdraw its grant." Complete Journal News coverage here.
United Water wants $60 million before seeking treatment plant permits
May 24, 2014 “A
state recommendation to extend the 2015 deadline for United Water to
find a new New York water
supply hasn't discouraged the company from building a controversial new plant, but a company spokesman said Friday
it wants $60 million in reimbursements first. "We expect that our surcharge will be granted because the long-term water
supply project was in compliance with a PSC order and is an investment on behalf of our customers," United Water's
Steven Goudsmith said. State Public Service Commission experts in a report issued Thursday said that the plant is not
needed as soon because demand for water had fallen in Rockland, in part due to the recession. As a result, the timing of
a new water supply could be extended to 2020. But the PSC experts also recommended that United Water continue to
pursue the permits it needs to construct the Hudson River water treatment plant so if a certain threshold is crossed,
they'll be in position to build.The company wants its customers to reimburse it for the money it has spent trying to get
approvals for the project before deciding if it wants to pursue the permits, Goudsmith said. The project was proposed to
comply with the PSC's 2006 requirement to add supply, he said." Complete Journal News story here.
PSC staff says United Water plant can wait until 2020
May 22, 2014
“Rockland will eventually need more water, but it doesn't need it yet,
according to experts with the
state Public Service Commission who recommended Thursday that the 2015 deadline for a new United Water New York
supply be suspended. United Water has proposed building a controversial Hudson River water treatment plant in response
to a 2006 PSC requirement that it add supply. But the PSC decided in July to review the need for the plant as opponents,
including the Rockland Water Coalition, questioned the claim. The PSC staff recommendation was issued just hours before
many of those opponents gathered at Orangetown Town Hall Thursday to conduct a "People's Hearing" in connection to the
plant.The 103-page "Report on Need" concluded that water use had dropped off so significantly since 2007, that the need
for additional water supply had been pushed out to 2020." Complete Journal News coverage here.
Supreme Court Justice Thomas Walsh Suspends Ramapo
Planning Board Approvals for the Patrick Farm Development
a decision handed down by Justice Thomas Walsh of Rockland County
Supreme Court, dated May 19,
2014, the court suspended approvals issued by the Town of Ramapo Planning Board for the Patrick Farm project. Suzanne
Mitchell, Director of ROSA (Ramapo Organized for Sustainability and a Safe Aquifer) said, "this is not only a win for Rockland
County, but it is an extremely important victory for our environment." She notes, "ROSA's intelligent and thoughtful actions
along with our numerous legal proceedings is providing our community with a positive impact for our future."ROSA's attorney,
Daniel Richmond, partner at law firm Zarin and Steinmetz, stated, "I am pleased that the court is requiring the Planning Board
to finally grapple with critical issues pertaining to this project, including site safety issues, and the project's impacts on
critical environmental resources including wetlands." (More)
School budgets get easy ride to passageMay 21, 2014 “Voters on Tuesday approved all 53 school budgets put forth by school districts in Westchester, Rockland
Ramapo activists seeking ward system win ruling
May 19, 2014 "Local
activists say their pursuit of a town ward system took an important step
forward as the Appellate
Division of state Supreme Court recently affirmed their Article 78 claim against the town clerk was filed in time. But Ramapo
officials say the decision simply means the lawsuit can continue. In September 2012, activists Michael Parietti and Robert
Romanowski filed a petition with Ramapo seeking referendums on the creation of a town ward system as well as an increase
in the number of Town Board members from four to six. They said the six-ward system, with each Town Board member
representing his or her geographic area, would represent residents' interests better. Board members now are elected at
large, and the growing Orthodox Jewish community in Ramapo can have a big sway in local elections with its bloc vote."
Read the full text of the Journal News story here.
Read a message from the Preserve Ramapo Activists and the full text of the Court Ruling here.
St. Lawrence mum on sewage spills
May 20, 2014 Letter
to The Journal News
Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence has, once again, declined to
discuss an embarrassing failure on the part of a government agency. In the past he has assured us that our sewer system
is an "engineering marvel." What the article doesn't tell us is that as recently as last week Sewer District No. 1 was
still dumping raw sewage into the Saddle River. (More)
May 18, 2014 "Nothing
has been built at the site where a proposed yeshiva with student-faculty
housing touched off a
decade long battle the village ultimately lost. But about three years after the case ended, the plan for the 19 acres on Hillside
Avenue may be revived. An engineer for Congregation Mischknois Lavier Yakov recently contacted the village about filing the
same proposal — a yeshiva and housing for more than 200 people — that was rejected by the Planning Board in June 2002."
Read the complete Journal News coverage here.
Hasidim Spark Backlash in NYC Exurbs That Entangles Cuomo
May 10, 2014 [from
Bloomberg.com] "Community groups fighting the growing influence of
the ultra-Orthodox Jewish
population in New York City’s northwestern exurbs are joining forces to counter the Hasidic bloc vote in this year’s
gubernatorial election. The activists want to prevent what they call “the next East Ramapo,” a school district about 40 miles
(64 kilometers) northwest of Manhattan, where critics say the state is standing idle as a Hasidic-controlled board of education
cuts programs for public-school students. A group called Preserve Rockland and a coalition of religious leaders, including rabbis,
are pressing Governor Andrew Cuomo for oversight." (More)
1,195-home Mountainside Development
and the Hillburn Wastewater Treatment Plant
May 10, 2014
Last week the Rockland
County legislature reaffirmed its commitment not to treat wastewater
outside the county. In recent months the Town of Tuxedo and the Related Companies, a $14 billion company, had sought
to connect to the Hillburn sewer plant. Rockland County Sewer District #1 was interested in the additional revenue stream.
The Rockland County executive liked the $2 million payment offered to the county plus the construction jobs, but it was the
legislature’s decision to make. This drama has repeated itself more than once over the years as Related has sought ways to make
construction of 1,195 units on forested mountain land economically viable. Current plans would reserve some land as protected
species habitat, some could be for commercial development, and 570 acres between Sloatsburg and Tuxedo Park would become a
planned community. (More)
Lawsuit Against the Rockland County Sewer District Ends with
Hefty Fines and Judgment that the Sewer District is a Serial Polluter of
Federally Protected Waters
The Mayor of
Upper Saddle River, Joanne Minichetti, announced the court decision on
Monday in a message
to the residents: “After seven long years of litigation, the Borough of Upper Saddle River has prevailed. The Court found the
Rockland County Sewer District #1 liable for their sanitary sewer overflows into the Saddle River. Judge Ramos granted summary
judgment on the Clean Water Act and ordered further evidentiary hearings to assess civil penalties for each spill (up to $25,000
per spill). Equally important, because the Borough was found to be the prevailing party, Upper Saddle River is entitled to and will
pursue full payment of all attorneys’ fees and costs. This is favorable for both the residents of Upper Saddle River and the environment.”
The lawsuit is drawing to a close, but the polluting continues with another significant raw sewage spill at the Saddle River Swim and
Tennis Club just last week. (More) Read the court order here.
Rockland's county executive faces big challenges
May 5, 2015 "Rockland
County Executive Ed Day has nearly four months in office behind him, but
a full slate of challenges
in front of him. 'I can honestly say … the challenges of my first hundred days drive me even harder to get the solutions and
perform my duties to the best of my abilities,' Day said. Day ran for a job with some very big challenges. He took over a county
ranked as the state's most fiscally stressed. Rockland has a state-certified deficit of $125.6 million, and the institution responsible
for a large chunk of that, Summit Park Hospital and Nursing Care Center, has proven more difficult to sell than anticipated. So far,
Day has managed to reorganize the County Executive's Office – shedding about $76,000, or 10 percent, in salaries. He's reorganizing
county government overall, but has kept just about every department head named by his predecessor, namely on the grounds that
"people will often rise and fall on the level of expectancy. I'm setting the tone from the top." Complete Journal story here.
Rockland gets an F for air quality
April 30, 2014 "Nine
counties in the state received F’s for ozone including Rockland and
Westchester. Rockland was one of only
two counties in the state to drop two letter grades from a C to an F. At the same time, Putnam, which received a C, was one
of only four counties in the state to see its grade for ozone improve. No Hudson Valley County received an F in 2013. Ozone is the
most widespread air pollutant, created by the reaction of sunlight on emissions from vehicles and other sources." Complete Journal
News story here. More information on health risks from elevated ozone levels here.
April 28, 2014 "Town
Attorney Michael Klein said state law permits inter-fund borrowing as
long as it's paid back. When the nature
of the two funds are different, as in the town's police and general funds, the money has to be returned with interest, he said. Robert
Romanowski, a Republican who is a frequent critic of the Ramapo Town Board, said he filed a Freedom of Information Law request
in January, seeking records that might show the money was returned to the police fund. After many weeks without a response,
Romanowski said, he received a letter from town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence stating that his request was denied because
no such document existed. A letter from Town Clerk Christian Sampson, who is also records access officer for the town, was attached to St. Lawrence's
letter, stating that no records were found." Complete Journal News story here.
Tip of the Iceberg
April 28, 2014 When
a municipality transfers money from one accounting line to another it is
supposed to pass a resolution authorizing the transfer.
Under exceptional circumstances funds can even be loaned from one tax line to another, but they must be returned by the end of the year (with interest).
Thanks to the persistence of Bob Romanowski we now know that $3 million in taxes that we thought we were paying for police services were
transferred to the general tax line and never returned. (More)
Tone at Town Hall Shifts from Uncivil to Unspeakable
second meeting in a row, the proceedings last night at the Ramapo Town
Board meeting ended with a “sit down
and shut up” order followed by hurled insults. The happy, yappy banter and backslapping that customarily bubbles up at the conclusion of most
Ramapo Town Board meetings has been replaced by standing challenges and the peripheral players scuttling unceremoniously out of the room and
away from the conflict. (More)
April 23, 2014 From the Jewish Daily
Forward "The struggle
over the East Ramapo Central School District in this poor suburb 40
north of Manhattan has grown familiar after four years of press coverage: Ultra-Orthodox Jews who don’t send their kids to the public schools
control the majority of seats on the local school board. And the families who do send their kids to the public schools say the board members
favor the private yeshivas in the district at the expense of the public schools. The years of media attention have changed little. The East
Ramapo district is getting worse. Elementary schools don’t have assistant principals anymore. They don’t have art classes or social workers,
either. Middle school sports have been cut, as has summer school. Class size is up to 28 students in some elementary school buildings. Parents
who can send their children elsewhere, do." (More)
Day urges Public Service Comm. to amend “unfair” Lake DeForest Reservoir agreement
April 16, 2014 "Rockland
County Executive Ed Day today called on the New York State Public
Service Commission (PSC) to correct an unfair
water agreement which has been in effect for more than 50 years.The PSC is currently reviewing a 20-year extension to the Lake DeForest
Reservoir Cost Allocation Agreement, which was originally drafted in 1954 to define how the cost of operating the reservoir would be shared
between the Spring Valley Water Company (now United Water New York, UWNY) and their parent company, the Hackensack Water Company
(now United Water New Jersey, UWNJ). County Executive Day said, “United Water New York ratepayers have been getting the short end of
the stick for decades. As a matter of fairness and balance, we believe this Agreement must not be approved until the PSC considers the
County’s recommendations.” (More)
The Ramapo Tire Fire Spreads at Town HallApril 15, 2014 Some think that the political tire fire that is now heating up the Ramapo Town Board
Don’t Believe There Are Two Sets of Laws in Ramapo?April 15, 2014 The judge ordered that the illegal matzo oven be removed along with students on the Forshay site until the proper permits
April 14, 2014 "A
state Supreme Court justice has signed off on a settlement between East
Ramapo and two yeshivas that frees up the school
board to sell an elementary school after years of delays and controversy. But the net gain to the district for the sale of the Colton school
property — which was closed to public use in 2009 after what turned out to be a false forecast that public school enrollment was declining — remains
unclear. Under the agreement, East Ramapo will grant the yeshivas more than $1 million in rent credits, waive tens of thousands of dollars in late fees
for rent that was never paid and give additional credits for repairs undertaken by the tenants. At least $1.5 million in credits specified in the settlement
document will be deducted from the $6.6 million purchase price, bringing East Ramapo's highest possible profit to $5.1 million. However, several other
credits due to the yeshivas in the settlement are not specified, making it difficult to determine the real bottom line." Complete Journal story here.
Medicaid millions on line for Rockland's Summit Park bidders
April 13, 2014 "Rockland
County continues to push forward with its plan to sell its Summit Park
Hospital and Nursing Care Center even after the
leading contender to buy the facility dropped out. That happened, at least in part, because a competitor filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court
and also attempted to drag the issue into a rabbinical court, in both cases seeking to block the sale. Meanwhile, a review of Medicaid figures
shows there are plenty of reasons for fighting for the right to buy the facility — millions, in fact. At least $87 million in Medicaid funds poured
into Rockland last year in the form of payments to 10 nursing homes, records requested by The Journal News show. The county's nursing home
received the most, almost $16.57 million. Its hospital, on the other hand, only netted about $491,000." Complete Journal News story here.
New clergy group calls on Cuomo to fix East Ramapo schools
April 8, 2014 "Religious
leaders from dozens of local congregations are calling for state
intervention in the divided East Ramapo school district,
saying strong leadership by Gov. Andrew Cuomo is required to fix a system that disadvantages thousands of children. Rev. Weldon McWilliams IV
addressed an audience of more than 100 supporters who packed the basement of the First Baptist Church on Tuesday. McWilliams, a pastor at the church,
is part of the newly formed group, Rockland Clergy for Social Justice, that has tuned into the school district's troubles and says a change in governance
is long overdue. The group includes dozens of Jewish, Christian and Muslim clerics from Rockland County and the region. Tuesday's event was a kickoff
of sorts ahead of the group's April 30 trip to Albany, where members hope to address the governor and other state leaders. Carol Jacobs, a retired East
Ramapo special education teacher, pointed a finger at state leaders. "I firmly believe that Cuomo, (Education Commissioner John) King, (state Comptroller
Thomas) DiNapoli and the legislators are aiding and abetting the problem by their procrastination, their ignoring of the issue," she said. Read the complete
Journal News story here.
Video of the Rockland Clergy for Social Justice Press Conference can be viewed here.
A School Board That Overlooks Its Obligation to Students
April 7, 2014 (From The New
York Times) "A
principal leans across the table at a pizza parlor and, with whispered
intensity, totals up the damage
done to the East Ramapo Central School District in recent years. She has lost assistant principals, social workers, art teachers. Bilingual classes? Please.
If she is lucky, she can find a Creole speaker for Haitian students. Kindergarten class size has jumped to 28 children from 20. Fourth-grade classes
hover at 32 children. Sky’s the limit in high school. Middle school athletics? Cut. East Ramapo’s award-winning band leader? Laid off. And state
mandates for bilingual and special education? “We’re not even close to the state-mandated services,” she says. “I feel like I’m watching a disaster
descend on our children.” Read the full text of the article here.
It's Orthodox Vs. Orthodox In East Ramapo Schools Fight
April 7, 2014 (From The
Jewish Week) "An Orthodox social justice group has joined the call
for state intervention in the East Ramapo school
district, where the haredi-controlled board is accused of siphoning taxpayer money to private yeshivas. In a petition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo
the organization, Uri L’Tzedek, asks for state “fiscal and administrative oversight” of the Rockland County district, where the board has slashed
academic offerings, extracurricular programs and more than 400 staff positions over the past five years. Between 2009 and 2012, elementary
school class size has risen from an average of 20 to 25. “It’s a chillul Hashem, a desecration of God’s name,” said Rabbi Ari Hart, Uri L’Tzedek’s
co-founder, who began circulating the petition Saturday night. As of noon Monday, 376 people had signed, Hart said." (More)
Rockland Non-public Schools Did Not File Fire Inspection Certificates
in 2013--88% are in Ramapo
April 6, 2013New York State law requires that anyone who wants to operate a school, public or private, must
Update on the Ward Petition Legal Case
April 5, 2014
Well folks, it’s time for an
update on the legal case with the Ward System petitions, which is still
working its way slowly through
the judicial system. It would be too exhaustive to explain all the legal minutiae and maneuvering involved, so we will simply recap the situation
with an overview and conclude with the latest developments. (More)
April 4, 2014 "Students
paid to answer questions and do research while spending their days
studying religious texts are eligible for Rockland Social
Services' child care payments, a state administrative hearing judge has ruled. The Rockland Social Services Department has asked for a re-hearing
before another judge, arguing the recipients of more than $50,000 in child care money are adult students paid stipends — not employees of the
handful of religious study centers called kollels. "These are full-time students who study for hours a day and they say they have to be available
for a certain number of hours to answer questions from people," DSS Commissioner Susan Sherwood said. "For us, they are not employees. My
thought is it just doesn't pass the smell test."If this is not an abuse, it's clearly a misuse," Sherwood said. "At the very least the employer needs
to deduct FICA." The three families who challenged the DSS determination received $52,450 between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31 in 2013, when they
were declared ineligible. The entire program paid out a total of $6.5 million during that same period. It cost about $8.2 million to operate the
Rockland program for fiscal year 2013 and is estimated to cost $8.6 million for this fiscal year. The local share was about $336,000 and $340,000,
respectively.The child care program's goal is to provide temporary assistance for parents looking for work or who have jobs." Read the complete
Journal News story here.
Judge: There was an attempt by Orthodox
developer Shalom Lamm to "stuff the ballot box"
in Bloomingburg mayoral election
April 4, 2014 The Times Herald-Record
announced on Wednesday that Frank Gerardi was declared the winner in the
village election after
developer Shalom Lamm withdrew from his fight in the electoral battle for the Village of Bloomingburg. (More)
Ramapo LDC should pay for ballpark violations, activists say
2014 "Making town taxpayers pay for possibly a half-million dollars
for wetland violations related to a minor league baseball stadium's
construction is not sitting well with a watchdog group that opposed the project all along. Preserve Ramapo has sent a letter to Assistant U.S.
Attorney Andrew Krause this week, asking why Ramapo taxpayers were fined for violations of the federal Clean Water Act "when it was not the
town of Ramapo, nor its citizens or officials, who built and now own the property." Complete Journal News story here. Our coverage here.
Nyack Hospital Receives Poor Safety Score
April 1, 2014
The May issue of Consumer Reports provides the safety scores for
2,591 hospitals in all the states and the District of Columbia.
Nyack hospital received one of the 13 lowest scores in the nation, 25. Good Samaritan received a safety score of 49 and Valley Hospital
in Ridgewood received a safety score of 47. (More)
Violates the Law and Taxpayers Are Asked to Pay
the $125,000 Federal Fine and $425,000 Damage Remediation
Friedman: "St. Lawrence’s Violations of the Town Board’s authority
are no longer acceptable in Ramapo, and there must and will be consequences
for those violations"
Daniel Friedman posted on The Rockland County Times March 26, 2014
"In the wake of several actions taken
by Ramapo Supervisor Christopher P. St. Lawrence, Ramapo Councilman Daniel Friedman initiated an investigation into the mishandling
of governmental business in Ramapo Town Hall. The results of that inquiry demonstrated that there were multiple incidents in which Ramapo
officials took inappropriate action. After numerous personnel improprieties Councilman Friedman says an investigation has proven Supervisor
St. Lawrence deceived the board. Friedman, along with Councilman Pat Withers, sent a letter raising numerous questions relating to the issues
involved to Town Attorney Michael Klein, requesting that his office conduct an investigation. The results of that investigation prove that
Supervisor Christopher P. St. Lawrence violated the authority of the Town Board multiple times." (More)
Ed Day Appoints Calherbe Monel
as Director of Economic Development
After an extensive recruitment and selection process, Rockland County
Ed Day today announced the appointment of Calherbe Monel as Director of Economic Development.
"Calherbe's experience has given him a unique range of skills that will greatly benefit Rockland County,"
said Day. "Economic growth is critical to the County's fiscal sustainability. I am confident that Calherbe
will strengthen relationships with our existing business community while working to attract new jobs." (More)
More than 120 votes still to be counted in Bloomingburg
March 19, 2014 "If
you think the election that’s turned into the Battle for Bloomingburg
will just be settled by ballots,
think again. A day after the vote - which has challenger Frank Gerardi leading incumbent Bloomingburg Mayor Mark Berentsen
by more than a 3-1 ratio - the contest has morphed into a war of lawyers. They’re fighting over the more than 120 votes
whose registrations have been challenged - votes that could determine the election in this eastern Sullivan County village of
400.The lawyers for Shalom Lamm - whose 396 home Hasidic development is at the center of the battle - want to essentially
dismiss the challenges. It’s expected that most of the voters, who live in buildings owned by Lamm, would be votes for
Berentsen and his Bloomingburg Strong team who support Lamm’s development. Gerardi and his Rural Heritage Party candidates
oppose it." (More from the Times Herald-Record here.)
Wasting Energy: Board Member Friedman Lashes Out at St. Lawrence
March 17, 2014 The Rockland County Times
reports: "Friedman lashes
out at St. Lawrence, says he needlessly
wasted $73,000 on energy contracts. The Ramapo Town Board saw a brief skirmish between Councilman Daniel Friedman
and Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence last Monday over energy contracts which Friedman claimed cost taxpayers tens of
thousands of dollars. Friedman proposed a new resolution reauthorizing Resolution Energy Group to conduct a request for bids
to find a bidder for town energy contracts. Resolution is a consultant group which seeks out affordable energy bids to limit
unnecessary spending.“Time is of the essence as taxpayer money is wasted for no justifiable reason,” Friedman said to the board."
Read the article and view the video here.
Update: FBI Raids Developers
Lamm's properties in Bloomingburg
Allegations of voter fraud
March 16, 2014 "FBI
agents swarmed this tiny village Thursday morning, raiding at least a
dozen buildings owned by
developer Shalom Lamm — including his offices — in an effort to learn if the more than 140 people registered to vote
at those buildings actually live there. The early morning raid, part of a larger investigation into corruption in the village,
comes after opponents of Lamm's 396-home Hasidic development charged that he is trying to manipulate the March 18
village election." (More)
FBI Raids Controversial Orthodox Developer’s
Properties in Upstate N.Y.
50 Agents Swarm Bloomingburg, Site of Development Fight
March 13, 2014 The agents
are armed with search warrants and many assume they are there to
investigate voter fraud.
Initial coverage from The Jewish Forward and the Times Herald -Record here.
Ramapo's nonprofit funding distribution under fire
St. Lawrence claims the $400,000 was donated
to benefit the entire town but 80% of the
total was given to Ultra Orthodox and Hasidic communities.
March 10, 2014 In a front page story
The Journal News reported this morning: "According to
Preserve Ramapo, and confirmed by documents obtained by The Journal News through Freedom of
Information Law, nearly 80 percent of the town's funding for nonprofits for 2014, or $309,000, have
been allocated to organizations based in the hamlet of Monsey or the villages of New Square and
Kaser, communities that are heavily populated by ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic Jews." (More)
Rockland lawmakers propose bill to make illegal housing conversions a felony
March 9, 2014 "A
New York state law has been proposed to make it a felony to endanger
first responders by renovating housing into apartments
without permits or buildings into schools without approvals and safety equipment. The proposal creates the crime of "reckless endangerment of a
peace officer, police officer, firefighter or emergency medical services professional."The measure would make it a crime to knowingly alter buildings
without a permit and convert or subdivide a building in violation of the state fire prevention and building codes or other laws. The proposal was
introduced by Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-Clarkstown, with support from Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Ramapo. Sen. David Carlucci,
D-New City, introduced the bill in the Senate. On several occasions, The proposal addresses the rising number of illegal housing conversions and
private schools. firefighters in Rockland, New York City and Mount Vernon, for example, have been injured responding to fires when they run into
locked rooms created by adding walls." Full Journal News coverage here.
Bernard Charles and What’s
Patronage Positions He Keeps Getting?
March 6, 2014 He is at the center of the latest
controversy in Ramapo with two board members calling for
an investigation into how he was handed this latest political job. According to Council Members Friedman and
Withers, somebody rewrote the terms of the contract after they voted to approve Bernard Charles, Jr as Public
Affairs Consultant at the Ramapo Cultural Affairs Center (aka the old porn theater on Main in Spring Valley). Charles
will be paid $60,000 a year, that is, unless Friedman and Withers' demands are met and a legal investigation is
initiated immediately and Charles is suspended even before he gets a hand on the doorknob at the movie house. (More)
"A Monsey fire commissioner who lives next to the Brewer Fire Engine Co.
and voted to turn off the firehouse whistle has subdivided
his property to make room for 10 housing units. Joseph Jacob should have abstained from the Feb. 19 vote that turned off the whistle, volunteer
firefighters said. "He should have recused himself from voting on something he stands to benefit financially from," said Adam Peltz, president of the
Monsey fire company and an assistant fire inspector in Ramapo. The commissioners voted 3-2 to turn off the whistle and if Jacob had recused himself,
firefighters said, the whistle would not have been turned off and an in-depth review of the issue could have taken place." Complete Journal News
March 3, 2014 "At
a recent Town Board meeting, Melinda Mallia, a daughter of Building
Inspector Anthony Mallia, was appointed as a temporary
clerical assistant, and Bernard Charles Jr., husband of Town Board member Brendel Charles, as a $5,000-a-month public affairs consultant. Town Board
member Daniel Friedman said the board approved those appointments, but details of their job descriptions are different from their understanding. "The
positions voted on by the board were drastically changed, resulting in taxpayer dollars being spent against the will of the Town Board," Friedman tweeted
Monday. Late Monday afternoon, Friedman sent out a letter to Town Attorney Michael Klein calling for investigation. "I would like your investigation to detail
what individuals altered the employment details of these hires in the resolution that was written after the vote," Friedman wrote in the letter. He was joined
by his fellow Town Board member Patrick Withers. "What has happened with these positions is not at all what was voted on by us on the Town Board," Withers
said in his written comment sent via email. "Any violation of a Town Board vote is unacceptable, and that is why I join the call for an investigation into this
matter immediately." Complete Journal News here. (Read the full text of the two resolutions which Friedman and Withers say were "drastically
changed" from what they voted on at the Jan 16 Board Meeting and the letter calling for an investigation--both here.)
February 28, 2014 The Journal News
Kenneth Karas severed Jasmin's prosecution from the three New York City
political officials accused of taking bribes from a Monsey-based FBI informant to fix the Republican mayoral nomination. The
officials are state Sen. Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, Republican Councilman Daniel Halloran and former Queens GOP Chairman Vincent Tabone.
Jasmin and former Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret were charged in a separate alleged corruption scam orchestrated by developer
Moses Mark Stern, who is said to have bribed them to support construction of a fictitious kosher catering hall on village-owned property
outside the municipal building along Route 45.Desmaret, 57, pleaded guilty Jan. 29 to wire fraud and Hobbs Act extortion charges,
admitting he took $10,500 from Stern. Desmaret faces nine years in prison when sentenced May 22 by Karas."
February 21, 2014 "The
East Ramapo school district insists that it makes fiscal sense to bow to
parents’ wishes and place special education
children in private religious school programs (and foot the bill) and avoid costly litigation. Time and again, the district has been found in
violation of the law because of the practice, as it was in state Supreme Court last month. Yet the district has vowed to again appeal the ruling,
this time at the state Appellate Court level. Another appeal is a disservice to taxpayers. So is the district’s special education placement practice
that prioritizes families’ religious school preferences over children’s educational needs, flouts federal and state education law, and does it under
the guise of saving money. East Ramapo board President Yehuda Weissmandl insists that it is cheaper to grant a parent’s special ed placement
request, and avoid costly litigation, despite what the Committee on Special Education deems is more educationally appropriate for the child.
Weissmandl writes: “If parents prefer a private school — which in almost every case costs about the same or less than it would cost to educate
the student in a public school — there is no financial reason for the district not to settle.” But he fails to mention the millions the board has spent
on legal fees (to a controversial law firm the district pledged last summer to fire, but still has not) to defend its practice." Read the entire
Feb. 8, 2014
"A state judge on Friday ordered a religious congregation
to vacate an illegal school on Carlton Road and only use the building
its zoned purpose as a single-family house. Ramapo moved to close the school after its building and fire inspectors found numerous violations at
the two-story, wooden house used by Congregation Lizensk and its operator, Mordechai Raab.The congregation has a history of violations at
49 Carlton Road. Another school bearing the congregation’s name in Clarkstown has been closed for health, fire and safety violations. The violation
cited by Justice Margaret Garvey was that the congregation operates a school contrary to its certificate of occupancy for a single-family home,
according to court documents. Ramapo Fire Inspector Adam Peltz and Code Enforcement Office Peter Muzzi found 20 students at the house in
January and cited the school for additional violations, including having dormitory rooms, a cafeteria, worship rooms and classrooms, the
documents said." Complete Journal News story here.
Hiding the Increases in Ramapo 2014 Taxes
January 31, 2014
"Faced with an FBI investigation of Town financial chicanery, Supervisor
Christopher P. St. Lawrence presented a Tentative 2014
Budget that called for a 28% property tax increase for the General Fund, a 21% increase for the Town outside Villages Fund, a 12% increase in the Lighting
Fund, a 10% increase for the Town wide Highway Fund, and a 1% increase in the Water Fund. It called for decreases in the property tax to be raised for
the Police Fund, The Town outside Villages Highway Fund and the true cash cow, the Ambulance District, from which the Town extracted nearly $9.7 million
in the four-year period up to the end of 2012, according to the most recent Town audits. The Supervisor proposed cutting the property tax for the Ambulance
District by over 90% to reflect the true cost of the district’s services to local taxpayers (private insurance pays for the bulk of these services). These changes
represented a mostly honest approach to Town spending and taxes ending years of raiding other funds to pay the bills of the nearly broke General Fund on
which politicians run for re-election. (More)
State visits East Ramapo to evaluate special ed program legal complianceJan. 24, 2014 "The state is stepping up involvement in East Ramapo schools to see if broader regulations are being met in the special education
You can read the court decision against the East Ramapo placements in private schools here.
January 22, 2014 "On
Monday, Spring Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme tweeted, “A UNITED VILLAGE
can create miracles.”
A day later, amid the
worst snowstorm of the season, he ordered plows off the streets and ignited the largest controversy of his seven-week tenure. But this time, people
didn’t just question his actions, but whether he’s fit to lead the village." Complete Journal News story here.
Jan. 15, 2014 "The
builder of a proposed $3 million slaughterhouse that would process 5,000
chickens a day
has completed initial studies on the impact of the controversial plant.The 30-page summary of the environmental
impact of the 26,250-square-foot plant has been given to the New Square Board of Trustees and shared with the
nearby village of New Hempstead and other agencies. New Square-based Adir Poultry is seeking to replace its closed
5,000-square-foot slaughterhouse at the edge of the village, which was shut down in 2010 after it was discovered the
operators had been selling uninspected poultry since 2002, among other violations. An estimated 21-hour day from Sunday
to Thursday is included in the executive summary outlining the new site’s operational, environmental, disposal and traffic
issues. Five days a week by 5 a.m., a truck would drop off 5,000 chickens for slaughter inside an enclosed plant just off Route 45.
Within an hour of delivery, plant workers would start the automated and hands-on processing of an estimated 15 birds per minute — from slaughter and
defeathering to soaking, salting and chilling. The day includes trucking the previous day’s chickens to the market and ends with cleaning and sanitation
operations." Read the entire Journal News story here.
A Community View by the Rev. Dr. Weldon McWilliams IV
Jan. 10, 2014
In 2012, I became associate minister of the First Baptist Church of
Spring Valley, which is located in the East Ramapo
section of Rockland County. Many members within my church asked me to research the issues that were troubling the East Ramapo
school district. I believe that all institutions have a responsibility to the communities in which they reside, so with this philosophy
I began my involvement with East Ramapo, and the issues within its school district and the growing issues in the county as a whole.
Read the full text of Rev. McWilliams' Community View here.
January 12, 2014 "At
the behest of state legislators, the governor has vetoed a bill offering
a retroactive tax exemption to an Orthodox
Jewish congregation in Ramapo that illegally converted a house into a school. Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, and state Sen.
David Carlucci, D-New City, said Friday the bill they had originally supported to give the Talmud Torah Ohr Yochanan a 2011 tax exemption
was vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The bill, a fairly routine retroactive property-tax exemption, was passed by the state Legislature in
June with support from Jaffee and Carlucci." Read complete Journal story here.
Jonas Gelb: Fire Ramapo Whistleblower, Immediately
It took five
months for the Town of Ramapo to conduct a disciplinary hearing against
Melissa Reimer, supervisor of fiscal
services for the town, and for hearing officer Jonas Gelb to come up with a 30-page decision. Today's Journal News reported Gelb's unequivocal
recommendation: Melissa Reimer engaged in "multiple and serious breaches of good conduct" and should "be immediately discharged from service."
Reimer's defense throughout the hearing was that St. Lawrence initiated the action against her in response to her warnings about the illegality of
certain financial operations--warnings she provided to the independent auditors and later to the FBI when she was ignored at town. Fred Lichtmacher,
her attorney, told the newspaper, "Because of her position, Ms. Reimer had a firsthand view of how bad things were. She stood her ground, stayed here
and spoke about exactly what happened at great risk to herself, and (town officials) did the worst thing they could possibly do to her, which is make up
charges, accuse her of things she didn't do, and make her life miserable." (More)
An Outrageous ChoiceJanuary 1, 2014 In a caucus meeting of the Democrats at the County Legislature held on December 17, Aron Wieder,
McWilliams IV Noted by The Journal News
as a Person to Watch in 2014
In the New Year's Day issue,
The Journal News selected 21 notables in Rockland and Westchester
to watch in 2014. (More)
Clarkstown: Religious school violating court order
Facility accused of operating despite citations
31, 2013 "Clarkstown
officials on Tuesday accused a Ramapo-based religious school of
violating a state judge’s order by continuing to
use a violation-ridden building at the former Singer’s catering hall. Clarkstown lawyers will provide the judge with evidence the South Central
Avenue building was used by Congregation Lizensk in defiance of her closure order a few months ago, Supervisor Alexander Gromack said. Congregation
Lizensk also is under fire in Ramapo for operating Carlton Road schools and dormitories for several years without approvals and in violation of local laws.
As the violations piled up and lingered in Ramapo Justice Court, the Town Board recently voted to take the congregation to state Supreme Court."
Complete Journal story here.
Spring Valley activist Brightman dies at 81
2013 "The Rev.
Walter Brightman Jr., Ramapo police chaplain and a former Ramapo
Planning Board member, died Saturday. He was 81.
Brightman served as pastor of St. Paul’s AME Zion Church of Spring Valley from 1984 to 2011 and had been known as an activist for equal rights.
“He did so many things. He was an advocate for fair housing. He was concerned about youth in the community. ... He was an advocate for veteran’s
affairs,” said Brenda Atkins, a lifelong member of St. Paul’s Church. “He was a true civil rights advocate.” Peggy Hatton, a public school advocate and
a vocal critic of the East Ramapo school district, said Brightman spoke up during the cash-strapped school district’s meetings to urge the board to give
East Ramapo children a quality education. “He was a voice for the East Ramapo school district children. That’s how I got to know him,” Hatton said.
“He stayed with us until wee hours of the morning when there was something controversial going on. He really cared about the kids.” Journal story here.
Dec 26, 2013
"The top elected official in Ramapo, New York, Town Supervisor
Christopher St. Lawrence, wanted a minor-league
baseball team and a new stadium to house it. The park would cost about $20 million and taxpayers wouldn’t have to cover it, he and paid consultants predicted
three years ago. Instead, taxpayers are responsible for as much as $60 million in stadium expenses, according to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Ramapo’s
finances are the subject of a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe that became public after agents descended on the town hall about 38 miles (61 kilometers)
northwest of Manhattan in May. DiNapoli says the town, which backed a $25 million tax-exempt bond issue in 2011 for the venue, is the state’s most
fiscally stressed." (More)
E. Ramapo board member Corado resigns
Dec. 19, 2013
Ramapo Board of Education member MaraLuz Corado is stepping down after
serving less than six months on the board. Corado, 45, a pastor,
was elected this spring to serve a three-year term along with two other newcomers, Bernard Charles Jr. and Pierre Germain, who were backed by an anti-tax,
ultra-Orthodox community group. School activists raised questions about Corado’s credibility after it was reported that she registered to vote just days before
the school board election in May. According to the Rockland County Board of Elections, she has no voting history. Another red flag for critics is Corado’s registered
address, 89 W. Maple Ave., which is the site of the Community Synagogue of Monsey. Corado and her husband are said to be live-in caretakers of the synagogue."
Complete Journal News story here.
Spring Valley fire inspector's dismissal broke the law, union official saysDec. 19, 2013 "Mayor Demeza Delhomme broke civil service law when he arbitrarily fired the assistant fire inspector, a union official representing village workers
Spring Valley Mayor
Delhomme fires assistant fire inspector
When Board asks why? He says he's the mayor and can do whatever he wants
December 18, 2013 "Fresh
off prohibiting the village’s volunteer firefighters who work for the
village from automatically responding to fires, Mayor Demeza Delhomme
has fired the assistant fire inspector without an explanation. Delhomme signed a letter of dismissal on Friday for Frank Youngman, a retired police officer and volunteer
firefighter who investigates fires and inspects businesses, schools and apartment complexes to ensure the owners meet fire and safety codes. Youngman’s work brought in
thousands of dollars in revenues for the village since 2011, when the Board of Trustees approved his appointment. He was paid $21.38 an hour to work 17 hours per week.
Youngman said Wednesday that the mayor has yet to explain his firing. The trustees asked him why and [Delhomme] responded he’s the mayor and can do whatever
he wants." Complete Journal News coverage here.
Ed Day's letter to Commissioner King calling for removal of D'Agostino's Law Firm
2013 "There is no place in this community for actions such as the
ones described and well documented, and the failure of the
East Ramapo School
Board to follow up on its assurances to the community is wholly unacceptable. I urge you to take whatever steps you deem appropriate to ensure that the law firm
of Minerva & D'Agostino is, in fact, discharged from their duties forthwith." (More)
E. Ramapo board, in another failure, still employing tainted law firmDecember 12, 2013 "The East Ramapo school board has proven that nothing short of their removal and replacement with a body appointed by the state Board
East Ramapo's Colton site: Suit turns on rent credit--District could lose $1.3 million
December 12, 2013 "The
ongoing legal struggle over the lease and sale of the East Ramapo school
district’s Colton property could hinge on how a judge
reads two starkly different interpretations of a hand-scrawled amendment tacked onto a formal contract of sale during a closed-door meeting 2 1/2 years
ago.Documents filed Wednesday in state Supreme Court in New City by attorney Paul Savad, who represents the two private religious groups that want to
buy the Colton property, claim the rent credit provision that was added to the sale contract as a handwritten second rider should be honored." Read the
complete Journal News coverage here.
Dec. 8, 2013 "A
federal judge has forbidden lawyers from publicly disclosing evidence
until a possible trial in an ongoing corruption
case that has ensnared several government officials, including former Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin, ex-Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret
and state Sen. Malcolm A. Smith. The order, by Judge Kenneth Karas in U.S. District Court in White Plains, means lawyers for the case cannot
release evidence — said to be voluminous, including video and audio recordings of those under investigation — to the media. The decision was
a victory for prosecutors, who said such disclosures might jeopardize ongoing investigations." Complete Journal story here.
Spring Valley firestorm: Delhomme bars employee volunteers from responding to blazes
4, 2013 "Mayor
Demeza Delhomme has prohibited village employees who are volunteer
firefighters from responding to calls
during working hours, igniting a debate about whether the policy endangers lives and property. Delhomme said if there is a serious
fire — and Spring Valley calls top 1,000 annually — other village volunteers can respond and the village-funded department can depend
on other departments to provide mutual aid." Journal News story here. Gordon Wren letter to Mayor Delhomme here.
Bears Quit and the Can-Am League Seeks Life Support
for its Surviving Teams
30, 2013 The demise this week of the Newark Bears makes the fifth
team to fail since Ramapo decided to make a $60+ million
investment--building a stadium and fielding a team in this risky Independent League. So far, of the original eight teams, the Pittsfield
Colonials, Brockton Rox, New York Federals, Worcester Tornadoes, and the Newark Bears have all gone belly up. That’s a 62.5% fail
rate in just three seasons. (More)
"The East Ramapo school district
and the tenants poised to buy its former Colton elementary building are
wrangling in court over
the delayed sale that represents $5 million in revenue in the district’s budget this year. The two private Jewish schools that have
leased the Colton school since 2009 are suing the district, claiming it’s reneged on an agreement to provide credit for rent paid since
the $6.6 million sale contract was signed in 2011.Congregation Bais Malka and the Hebrew Academy for Special Children are entitled
to a credit of about $1.3 million from the district for rent paid between July 2011 and July 2013, says attorney Paul Savad." Complete
Journal News coverage here.
Cuomo needs to intervene on behalf of East Ramapo students
Nov. 23, 2013 "Gov.
Andrew Cuomo’s widely circulated Nov. 8 letter to John King, New York
State’s education commissioner,
expressing outrage and concern over alleged anti-Semitic bullying of Pine Bush Central School District students is commendable.
It demonstrates a willingness to intervene when student safety, welfare and dignity are endangered. Public school children in
two school districts are victims: Pine Bush and East Ramapo. You have intervened on behalf those in Pine Bush. We need you
to do likewise for those of East Ramapo." (More)
In a letter written by Robert Rhodes to The
Journal News regarding a Community View entitled
is to unite Rockland,” the
Chairman of Preserve Ramapo points out: "News blackouts are not helpful. During the recent political campaign The Journal News appeared to
carefully avoid any mention of Preserve Rockland. But after the election it wrote an editorial in which it gratuitously referred to Preserve Rockland
as an organization that some feel is anti-Semitic. It followed this up with a strange Community View by a self-promoting publicist who first calls
for uniting our community and then makes a clear threat." (More)
First shoe drops
in the Corridor of Corruption--Savino admits taking bribe,
now a cooperating witness
November 14, 2013 "The
disgraced former boss of the Bronx Republican Party copped a plea to
federal corruption charges on Tuesday,
saying he accepted a $15,000 bribe to let a Democratic state senator run for mayor as a Republican — and in the process throwing an indicted
Queens councilman under the bus. Joseph "Jay" Savino told White Plains federal Judge Kenneth Karas that Councilman Dan Halloran instigated
the entire scheme to get state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) on the GOP ballot for mayor." (More)
Aid bill signed by Cuomo--East Ramapo looks for best use of $3.5M
"Special legislation signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives the beleaguered
East Ramapo school district access to $3.5
million it could use this year to temporarily restore salaries and programs cut from the budget. The legislation providing an advance of
state lottery money, commonly called a “spin-up,” was signed by Cuomo late Wednesday. The district can opt to take the money early or
not. The East Ramapo bill contains a unique stipulation that the money be used to restore salaries for teachers, security guards, nurses
and other employees, and for intramural and co-curricular activities. It also creates an additional layer of state and local oversight over
district finances — something community activists demanded." Complete Journal News story here.
A Public Hearing in an Empty Hall
November 12, 2013 Last Wednesday night
the Ramapo Town Board held a public meeting to hear from
the residents about the proposed town budget for 2014. It was safely one day past the election, beyond
any damage that unfortunate disclosures or complaints might have on the candidates: St. Lawrence, Ullman,
and Withers. They had handily won their races so public approval was no longer a concern. (More)
Rockland shows power of each vote
November 12, 2013 Letter in The Journal News "As a community
activist for many years, I have always realized the importance of my
vote. Last Tuesday’s election for Rockland county executive demonstrated that one vote does make a difference. Preserve Rockland
has demonstrated the power of that vote." (More)
Stony Point, Orangetown look to
stay under tax cap--Ramapo Townwide will
Increase taxes by 25%
November10, 2013 "The
Ramapo Town Board held a hearing for its $84 million spending plan,
which is down by $6 million from this year’s
budget. But the 2014 plan would require raising more in the tax levy because it projects almost $10 million less revenue than in the current
budget.Townwide taxes would rise by $138.25, or about 25 percent, for every $50,000 of assessed value, while taxes outside of villages
would be reduced by $53 per $50,000 of assessed value. Taxes for police would stay almost at the same level. The board will consider the
budget at a meeting at 10 a.m. Nov. 20." Read the complete Journal News story here.
Day faces a divided Rockland--Coalition tipped balance for exec
November 9, 2013 "The Preserve Rockland
line represents a joining of Preserve Ramapo and the Clarkstown
Preservation Society, grassroots
groups that say they are angered by issues such as high taxes, overdevelopment, a loss of quality of, and the unequal treatment of some at
the expense of others. Read the Journal News article here, and check out the interactive map of the County Executive race here.
Another illegal apartment exposed by fire, Hillcrest officials sayNov. 4, 2013
Ed Day Wins with a 6-point margin
The final unofficial vote is:
Day 36,542 Fried 32,311. The number of votes for
Day on the Preserve Rockland line was a decisive 8,386. For complete results
Emilia White Wins trustee spot in Spring Valley
Emilia won with 1,801 votes along with the
other trustee Asher Grossman.
Demeza Delhomme won the mayoral race with 1,407 of the votes and Bernard
Charles was a close second.
In a very close Suffern Mayoral Race, Charles Falciglia lost by 30 votes
Charles Falciglia 830 | Patricia Abato 860 | James Giannettino 776 | John Keegan 400
In Ramapo the incumbents prevailed
with wins for Christopher St. Lawrence
and council members Itzy Ullman and Pat Withers
here for a brief rundown of the counts--Later we will have the
complete numbers up on the
Document Cloud website.)
Thanks all who came out to support our candidates
Ramapo Taxes to Increase 26% in 2014
St. Lawrence Prevents Release of Documents until After the ElectionOctober 31, 2013 The Town of Ramapo Tentative Budget for Fiscal Year Ending December 31, 2014, has the numbers that reveal what the tax increase
Suffern Trustee and Mayoral Candidate Charles Falciglia responds to attacks
Trustee and Preserve Rockland Mayoral Candidate, Charles Falciglia,
continues to be the target of his three opponents, with attacks
that have now devolved into just good old fashioned lying. “You have this small cabal of career candidates who have been around forever
and who have no positive message or vision for Suffern. The spinning has now reached the point of being delusional.” (More)
Candidate Koplen's Really Bad Week
The story of the Preserve-Ghanistan-Gate Scandal
Oct. 31, 2013 Rockland County Times "Michael Koplen, New Hempstead village trustee, former county legislator, and GOP candidate
Slams St. Lawrence, Claims Ramapo Is Not Forthcoming on Finances
October 31st, 2013 The Rockland County Times Preserve Ramapo has been asking the town of Ramapo and the Ramapo Local Development Corporation
for their year-end financial statements since the summer and we have been told repeatedly that they are not yet available. Just another St. Lawrence
lie. On October 15 they were released to the national site that reports information on bonds, municipal and others. Now Ramapo is holding off on its
public hearing on next year’s budget until after the election. If last year is any guide we will have a public hearing without knowing our finances
for 2013. (More)
Jaffee and Carlucci Back Down on their Support for Tax Exempt Status for Illegal Yeshiva
October 31, 2013
legislators from Rockland said Wednesday they will urge the governor
to reject their bill offering a retroactive tax
exemption to a congregation that illegally converted a single-family house into a school on Highview Road. Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern,
and state Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City, said they backed off support for the 2011 exemption for the Talmud Torah Ohr Yochanan because it had
zoning violations and no certificate of occupancy. Jaffee also said there were other issues. The students are being taught in the four-bedroom house,
including on the second floor in violation of zoning, and in two classroom trailers. The Assembly and Senate approved the bill for Gov. Andrew
Cuomo’s signature." Read the entire Journal News article here.
Legislator Aron Weider Bashes Cops to Win Hasidic Community Support for David Fried
October 31, 2013 "Rockland
County Legislator Aron Weider has been discovered to be
bashing police in an effort to push David Fried
to the Hasidic community, using a phone-based news and information network to conduct Yiddish-language outreach as a surrogate of
David Fried. (More)
"Town of Ramapo is on notice. Clean up your act before being party to a mass fatal fire.
Stop playing politics with people’s lives."
October 27, 2013 In a letter to the Journal News, the Chairman
of the Rockland County Illegal Housing Task Force accuses
Christopher St. Lawrence
and other politicians with risking lives in the community for votes: "Ramapo is a ticking time bomb and this fire is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re
getting nothing from the town but lip service from the supervisor and building officials in an election year. The only one who seems to care is the
town’s head fire inspector. If the town is going to continue with its policy of granting permissions after the fact and ignoring violations, it’s time
for a higher authority to step in." Read the letter here.
Illegal Mismanagement of Millions
by the Ramapo Five
October 26, 2013 With the publication
of the audited 2012 Financial
Statement, there is evidence that Ramapo Supervisor St. Lawrence
and his four board members, Friedman, Ullman, Logan and Withers,
have taken $2.9 million from five different funds and never repaid
these loans as required by law. Most surprising is that they continue
to violate municipal law while stooping beneath the cloud of a
wide-ranging FBI criminal investigation. (More)
East Ramapo parent appeals to state over lack of music, art instructionOctober 24, 2013 "The parent of a third-grade student is appealing to the state education commissioner over what he claims is a complete
Fire breaks out at Ramapo house tied to disputed yeshiva on Highview RoadOctober 24, 2013 "A 13-year-old girl suffered smoke inhalation Wednesday after a fire broke out at a building next door to a yeshiva
October 22, 2012 "B&H
Photo & Electronics Corp., the nation’s largest non-chain
photographic equipment vendor, is considering
moving its Brooklyn warehouse and Rockland County is an option. In December a limited liability corporation affiliated with B&H,
Chestnut Ridge Venture of 390 Berry St. in Brooklyn, bought the Edwin Gould Foundation for Children property in Chestnut Ridge for
$9.3 million. Jacobowitz confirmed that Chestnut Ridge Venture is affiliated with B&H, but he added that B&H’s owners have many
businesses and the property could be used for some other purpose." Journal News story here.
October 13, 2013 The accusations in an
FBI criminal complaint seem fantastic: a ring of thugs violently
extorted religious divorce
agreements from recalcitrant husbands in the observant Jewish community. The price for their services? Tens of thousands of dollars,
according to an FBI criminal complaint. Threats, beatings and even a cattle prod were employed, according to FBI documents, but
the men aimed at leaving no physical mark. Insular communities often 'protect' themselves by trying to handle conflicts internally.
That leaves their own members as prey to criminal acts. The community cannot look the other way. Neither can local law enforcement
agencies, no matter the pressures. The FBI probe demonstrates the risks. Full Journal editorial here.
Two responses to the editorial: The "Insular Community" Euphemism, and The Criminals Using Slander here
FBI Raids Monsey Yeshiva--Arrests Two Rabbis
October 10, 2013
Defendant Rabbi Mendel Epstein spoke about kidnapping, beating and
torturing husbands in
order to force a divorce. He stated, “Suppose we, ya know this is an expensive thing to do. It’s not simply;
we’re talking, uh, I don’t want to use the, the terms but, basically what we are going to be doing is kidnapping
the guy for a couple of hours and beating him up and torturing him and then getting him to give the get. We take
an electric cattle prod. You put it in certain parts of his body and in one minute the guy will know.” (From the
Federal Criminal Complaint) (More)
No Memory--No Shame
October 10, 2013
From the long list of
personality disorders that professional politicians are prone to,
of an intentionally faulty memory and shamelessness is particularly annoying. A recent example of this kind of
brainless shameless behavior involved a whole group of local political recognizables. (More)
"Preserving Rockland": A 10-Point Plan to Stop Irresponsible Overdevelopment
October 9, 2013 Here's
the press release and a link to the details of Ed Day's plan to
bring some sort of sanity to the problem of
overdevelopment in Ramapo and Rockland. Read the overview in the press release here and then link to the details linked to
on Ed's website.
State judge shuts Nanuet religious school over safety concerns
October 4, 2013
congregation has been ordered by a state judge to close down
portions of its religious school at the former
Singer’s Hotel and Caterers due to safety and zoning violations found by Clarkstown inspectors. Inspectors found numerous violations including
exposed and improper wiring, more than 100 feet of missing sheet rock and missing or damaged tiles designed to reduce the spread of fire, problems
with fire sprinklers, and debris and garbage, according to court documents. The inspectors also found additional violations of the state fire code and
Clarkstown codes concerning some fire doors and other fire suppression equipment, documents state. Congregation Lizensk, which faces numerous
violations on its schools in Ramapo, runs the Clarkstown school for up to 180 students and 50 dormitory rooms for up to three students each on the
campus at 100 S. Central Ave., Nanuet, just outside the village of Spring Valley." Full text of The Journal News coverage here.
An Accountant, an Auditor, and the Attorney with Amnesia—Melissa Reimer’s
Disciplinary Hearing Final Session
October 3, 2013 The Town of Ramapo’s
hearing concerning its disciplinary action taken against
Reimer resumed Monday morning at 10:15 and ran through the day until after 4 pm. Three witnesses were cross-examined:
a partner with the auditing firm O’Connor Davies; an accountant working in the Ramapo finance department; and Town
Attorney Michael Klein. (More)
Judge: Federal suit against East Ramapo officials can proceed
September 30, 2013 "A
federal judge allowed key claims in a lawsuit against current and
former East Ramapo school officials to move forward
Monday, even as she dismissed most other claims. Judge Cathy Seibel gave life to a much smaller, but potentially revealing class-action lawsuit
against a dozen defendants, who had sought to have the claims against them dismissed. The lawsuit can now confront several of the most divisive
issues in East Ramapo, including the placement of Hasidic and other Orthodox students in private special-education schools at public expense, the
alleged purchase of religious textbooks for private schools, and whether the school board tried to sell two schools at below-market rates. She also
allowed the lawsuit to look at whether the school board hired Long Island-based lawyer Albert D’Agostino in 2009 as part of a conspiracy to place
special-education students in private schools in a manner that forfeits state reimbursements." Complete Journal News story here.
In the Fiscal Race to the Bottom Rockland
Plunges Past Ramapo to Dead Last in the State
September 27, 2013 In a press release
issued Wednesday from the Office of the Comptroller, Thomas
DiNapoli announced the updated list for the most fiscally stressed towns, cities and counties in the
State of New York. If the results were bad for Ramapo and Rockland in the Spring, they were even
worse with the updated numbers. (More)
Federal prosecutors target Spring Valley officials' pensions in corruption casesSep. 20, 2013 10:44 AM "Federal prosecutors have moved to eliminate government pensions for two Spring Valley board members and other
Community View: Owners profit as illegal housing poses many dangers in Ramapo
2013 "Does anyone care about that there are reckless landlords
that profit from their illegal housing/ construction
that is running rampant in the town of Ramapo and its surrounding villages in a Wild West environment, where almost anything goes
in building and zoning? When violators are fined, town and village courts repeatedly reduce the amounts to the equivalent of a slap on
the wrist, which is often seen as the cost of doing business. The landlords keep making more money, groups continue to build illegal schools
in single-family homes, and tenants, students and firefighters are put in harm’s way." Read the full text of Rabbi Justin Schwartz's Community
"You do not have to do the right thing here, you have to play
make the supervisor happy." (Nat Oberman, Ramapo Collector of Taxes)
August 30, 2013 The disciplinary
hearings against Ramapo employee Melissa Reimer resumed on Tuesday,
30, 2013 "People
connected to Clarkstown businessman Richard Brega, including his
relatives and employees, have donated at
least $48,000 to a Rockland County executive candidate, The Journal News has found. State records released Friday show an additional
$12,000 from associates of Brega, who is in line for a $70 million county bus contract.The money went to the campaign war chest of
County Legislator Ilan Schoenberger, who is running in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary. The Journal News reported on the initial donations
Thursday.The three most recent contributions were made Aug. 14, the largest coming from Brega’s father-in-law, Aniello Feola of Thiells,
who gave $6,000.Feola’s wife told a reporter Friday that the family would have no comment. Feola is the 10th person with direct links to Brega
that The Journal News has identified as having given $4,000 or more to Schoenberger." Read the article here.
August 28, 2013 "An
illegally subdivided townhouse was found at a housing complex owned
by the president of the East
Ramapo Board of Education, village housing inspectors said Wednesday. Walls were built to add three apartments to one of the
eight townhouses at 29 Bethune Blvd., officials said. The three-story building is owned by Yehuda Weissmandl through his company,
Prestige Builders of 1 Koritz Way, New Square, officials said. Booker said the owner will face violations of construction without a
permit, occupancy of uninhabitable space in the basement, and occupancy without a certificate of occupancy for the added rooms.
Weissmandl, a son of the late New Square village administrator, has been school board president since the spring in a district rocked by
financial and social controversies. Weissmandl came under criticism before getting elected to the school board when he tore down a
fence separating New Square from Hillcrest Elementary School. He claimed at the time that a storm tore down the fencing and trees.
Read the full story on LoHud here.
St. Lawrence Administration Picks up another
"Worst in the State"—Highest Average Salaries in NYS
August 25, 2013 The Empire Center issued a press release
Thursday announcing that their
data for municipal salaries throughout the state has been published in the 2012-2013 edition
of What They Make. And once again, at the very top of the list, in the nation’s third-most
populous state of 19.47 million, the Town of Ramapo has the most onerous totals for cost
of local government. (More)
The Melissa Reimer Disciplinary Hearing—Part Two
slow beginning, with only a single witness called in the first
hearing, the Monday continuance of the
Town of Ramapo Disciplinary Hearing against Melissa Reimer produced some interesting developments. Among the more notable:
Aaron Troodler forgot for whom he works, now there are two Apples that are problematic, the town wants all those recordings,
on the video Linda Condon made a wrong turn, and Michael Klein is still fighting to keep out of sight. And there were some new
questions: who’s got the iPhones, were Mona Montal and Pat Withers working on election materials in a Town of Ramapo office
after hours, why did Michael Specht bring in that video without reviewing all of it, and who was the suit sitting in the back of
the room taking notes? (More)
hearings: Ramapo’s ‘Night at the Opera’
Letter published in Our Town August 21, 2013
week I attended a comedy at Ramapo Town Hall. It was a tremendous
performance. But sadly it will have a tragic
ending for Ramapo taxpayers. (More)
Rockland, state must rescue the kids of East Ramapo
August 15, 2013 "Reduced pre-K,
schools being shuttered and sold off for losses, dropping test
kindergarten, cuts to BOCES technical programs, increased class sizes, canceled extracurricular programs,
distressingly low graduation rates — these kids are suffering from a series of deprivations that simply cannot
be tolerated." Read the full text of the Community View by Ed Day here.
August 7, 2013 "Critics
argue the law itself is the problem. Thanks to town law and policy,
schools like those at 95-97 Highview Road,
49 College Road, 50 College Road and 5 Lane St. are allowed to continue operating for years — while collecting thousands of dollars
in tuition fees — without approvals. Some have expanded with town-permitted classroom trailers while awaiting approvals. The policy
deems a house is like a classroom trailer and can be used temporarily for up to two years while a school is built. Residents and firefighters
say the system gives de facto approval for new structures without environmental reviews or public input. “If people think they can get
away with operating illegally, they will,” said Bob Doerr, who lives on Highview Road. “The problem is the Town of Ramapo.” Journal
News story here.
August 7, 2013 "Calling
for a “regime change” and an end to political favoritism believed to
plague town government, a group of
more than 100 Ramapo residents rallied at Town Hall on Tuesday. Many of the ralliers support the grass-roots political group Preserve
Ramapo, which has criticized Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence’s land use and development policies and has long tried to oust him
from office. The Rev. Weldon McWilliams IV, of the grass-roots group Wake Up Rockland, led the crowd in chants of “a community united
will never be divided.” Opposition to town-sanctioned zoning changes that many believe favor the town’s increasingly large ultra-Orthodox
Jewish population isn’t an issue of religious discrimination, he said, in a reference to an argument frequently voiced by members of the
ultra-Orthodox community.“I don’t care what your religion is — if your value system is to exploit the community, I want you out of the way,”
he shouted. “This has nothing to do with religion.” Several ralliers, including McWilliams, are running for office on the Preserve Ramapo slate
with hopes of representing the town of Ramapo or the village of Spring Valley next year. The approaching election has created more tension
than usual as town officials remain the subject of an FBI investigation into financial practices after federal authorities raided Town Hall in May."
Read the complete Journal News story here.
August 4, 2013 "Steeper
fines and a crackdown on reckless landlords are needed to stop the
proliferation of illegally altered housing in
Ramapo and Spring Valley, frustrated inspectors and fire officials say. Half of all illegal-housing complaints countywide come from the
town and village, a Journal News analysis found. The housing is dangerous to tenants and emergency responders, yet municipal enforcement
is sporadic and penalties far too soft, officials and volunteer firefighters said in numerous interviews with The Journal News between May
and July. They say the problem is especially pronounced in Ramapo, which one county fire official characterized as “the Wild West, where
almost anything goes.”
department: "[Anthony] Mallia and Ramapo town lawyers responsible
for prosecuting violations argue that Kryger, Wren and the task
volunteers exaggerate the extent of violations and dangers." That's the same legal department that was recently visited by FBI agents, and
computer drives and documents were carted out, over a span of about eight hours." Please read the entirety of this important and wide-ranging
investigative report here on the LoHud website.
August 2, 2013 "Melissa
Reimer’s stealthy iPad recordings of her interviews with town
officials as she faced misconduct charges
in January — and what’s contained in those recordings — are a focal point in a second disciplinary hearing that began Thursday as
Reimer faces possible punitive action by the town, including termination. [Lichtmacher, her lawyer, insists], “We’re not here because
of things Melissa Reimer did. We’re here because of things Melissa Reimer would not do,” he said. “We’re here because she’s a truth teller.”
The town, he argued, is looking for any excuse to fire Reimer because she complained about what she believed were illegal activities
within town government. Lichtmacher said Reimer’s complaints targeted Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, who serves as the town’s
finance director, among others. When she brought her concerns to Finkelstein and another town attorney, Janice Gittelman, she was
laughed at and told to quit her job, Lichtmacher said. He has not elaborated on the details of the complaints but indicated Reimer
questioned town finance practices in the period before federal authorities raided Town Hall in May and took financial documents
as part of a continuing FBI investigation. Other witnesses, including Reimer, are expected to testify when the hearing resumes
Aug. 12." Complete story on LoHud here.
Where in the World is Governor Cuomo?
July 31, 2013 "What is in the water cooler at the Long
Island-based law firm of Minerva & D’Agostino? Attorneys for the
which was hired in 2009 to represent the East Ramapo School District ("ERSD"), have engaged in a pattern of bullying, intimidation
and unprofessional conduct toward the parents and students of the district." (More)
July 31, 2013
controversial sale of an East Ramapo school building in 2010 to an
religious congregation was based on a falsified appraisal report that undervalued the building and
netted the appraiser $8,500, according to a state Attorney General’s investigation into the troubled
school district. The appraiser, Avi M. Vardi, 57, was arraigned Wednesday in Clarkstown Justice Court
on charges of grand larceny and filing a false instrument, both felonies. He was released on his own
recognizance. Vardi was arrested by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office as that office continues
a more than 18-month investigation into the district’s real estate deals involving the former Hillcrest and Colton elementary school
buildings.Vardi was hired by the school board’s attorney to provide the appraisal after an unidentified board member emailed Vardi’s
cellphone number and other contact information to the attorney, according to the complaint. The complaint goes on to state that Vardi
later asked for and received $3,500 from the district, which paid him “acting on the false understanding” that Vardi had provided an
independent appraisal. Vardi was also allegedly paid $5,000 by Avir Yakov. County Legislator Aron Wieder, who was the school board’s
vice president at the time of the appraisal. Wieder supported the closure and sale of the school." Complete Journal News coverage here.
You can read the original appraisal drawn up by Vardi here.
July 31, 2013 How broke is Ramapo? According to
the New York State Comptroller Ramapo is the most financially
917 towns in New York State. But what does that actually mean? (More)
Daily Scratch Sheet for Several Local Races
July 23, 2013 The following
scratches were reported in The Journal News. In Spring
Valley, two candidates for Mayor were removed
from the list. "The Rockland County Board of Elections invalidated the petitions of Spring Valley Village Trustee Joseph Gross and village
parks and recreation employee Bernard Charles Jr., which eliminates them from the ballot." In Spring Valley the number of valid signatures
needed is 364. In the race for County Executive where 2000 signatures are needed, "Vladimir Leon is no longer a candidate for the primary
after problems with his petitions left many of them invalid." And David Fried, who is a candidate in the primary, "filed specific objections to
petitions filed by Suffern Mayor Dagan Lacorte. Fried is challenging the valididty of 3,337 of Lacorte's total of 4,435 signatures on various
grounds." The matter has not yet been resolved.
Spring Valley marchers seek justice in Trayvon Martin killing
July 21, 2013
of people called for justice Saturday as they protested the fatal
Trayvon Martin and the laws and cultural disconnect that they say allowed his killer to go free. “It is
unfair to charge a young black boy with his own murder,” the Rev. Weldon McWilliams IV said. “What
do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.” McWilliams organized a march that started in front
of Spring Valley Village Hall, proceeded down Route 45 and ended with a rally at Memorial Park.
It was one of dozens called for in cities across the nation Saturday." Read The Journal News story
with video coverage here. Additional photos of the March appear on Len Tsou's Picasa page here.
No, the Glass is not Half FullJuly 19, 2013 Last night, the Winnipeg Goldeyes played the Rockland Boulders in a game at Provident Bank
Spring Valley corruption case trial possible as soon as January
July 19, 2013 "As
he faces federal bribery-related charges and potential trial in
January, Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret
has resigned his job with the town of Ramapo where he had been suspended pending a civil service hearing. Desmaret resigned his town
job last week to concentrate on the federal charges of mail fraud and Hobbs Act extortion — a case that could go to trial next year, his
lawyer, Kenneth Gribetz, said. Desmaret was supended on a town misconduct charge from his $55,000-a-year job as a data clerk with the
Ramapo Tax Assessor’s Office. He had been suspended shortly after being arrested on the federal charges. The job was in addition to his
village deputy mayor post, which he still holds, with a $25,750 salary. He has not resigned from his elected office. At a federal court
appearance Friday attended by Jasmin, Desmaret and city officials in White Plains, the judge set a date of Dec. 13 for a discussion among
defense lawyers and prosecutors on scheduling a trial as early as January 2014." Journal News story here.
United Water desal plant faces review over supply needs
July 18, 2013 "The
state will review United Water New York’s proposed Hudson River
treatment plant to determine whether it is needed to
satisfy Rockland County’s long-term water supply requirements.The state Public Service Commission also said Thursday that the review would
require United Water to consider the most recent information about the county’s supply in a report relating to the need for a new supply source.
Word of the commission’s review brought praise from activists who question the current need for the plant. George Potanovic, a founder of
the Rockland Water Coalition, said he hoped the PSC would give the hard look needed regarding supply, conservation and the choice of projects
to add to the supply." Journal News story here.
Stonewalling in Ramapo
July 13, 2013 What do you do when the
numbers are so bad you can’t
let the public know? Well, in Ramapo there’s
three-point plan put in place by Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence. It’s a “hide ‘em, denied ‘em, fired ‘em” full
coverage plan for all occasions. (More)
State education chief blocks East Ramapo school lease to yeshiva
State: E. Ramapo didn't take steps to get best dealJuly 16, 2013 "The state Education Department on Tuesday upheld a petition by an East Ramapo public school parent to nullify the current lease
July 9, 2013 "The
United States Department of Education, New York Office for Civil
Rights is now investigating the East Ramapo Central School
District based on a discrimination complaint that alleges that special needs students were discriminated against based upon disability on three
separate occasions during the past school year." (More)
July 9, 2013 "For the second time in two weeks, Ramapo Councilwoman Brendel Logan’s 23-year-old son has been arrested.
July 9, 2013 "It could be weeks, months or longer before the East Ramapo school district is ready to part ways with its controversial
July 8, 2013 "Less
than a week after an East Ramapo school district attorney’s
outburst went viral, the school board decided Monday night to split from his controversial law
firm and transition to a new one. The board, meeting at district headquarters Monday, made
the move in response to the outburst from Christopher Kirby, an attorney with Minerva & D’Agostino
of Long Island, who was recorded on video yelling obscenities at a group of parents and threatening
to fight one."
The Rev. Weldon
McWilliams led a chant of “Are you with me?” and elicited responses
of “Yes!” from
the 100 or so gathered outside.
Read the complete Journal News coverage here.
Jul. 7, 2013 "East Ramapo school board President Yehuda Weissmandl should get to know a little more about his district and the
Preserve Ramapo/Preserve Rockland Candidates Demand Removal of
School Board's Legal Firm Minerva & D'Agostino
July 5, 2013
Immediate termination of the contract with Minerva &
D'Agostino is the only acceptable remedy to this hideous display of
contempt towards the parents, supporters and students of East Ramapo. The School Board should look to retain a legal firm with a
reasonable rate structure and a reputation for competence, integrity and respect, rather than a simple track record of enabling the
subjugation of the needs of public school students to those of the private schools. (Full text of the Press Release here)
Assemblywoman Jaffee says, “The
ERCSD Board should terminate the contract with
Minerva and D'Agostino now.”
July 5, 2013 Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee joins David Carlucci demanding that the Board fire the D'Agostino law firm. Read the press relesase.
Why D’Agostino has to Go, Too
July 3, 2013
Not only has East Ramapo
attorney Albert D’Agostino cursed out an honor student at a
Ramapo Attorney Erupts at Board Meeting—Physically Threatens
one Parent, Mocks Another and Spews Obscenities at a Group of others
The Journal News, Senator David Carlucci, County Exec Candidate Ed
Day, and the National
Organization of Women call for the immediate firing of the D’Agostino law firm
July 3, 2013
last night’s East Ramapo School Board meeting, the Board’s attorney,
Christopher Kirby, from
the Minerva & D’Agostino firm from Long Island, exploded with an obscenity-laced rant against one parent and
physically threatened another. Police were called and charges were filed against Kirby who left the parking
lot before the police arrived. Today, the list of individuals and organizations calling for the immediate dismissal of the law firm continues to
June 28, 2013 "They walked single-file into the bustling
kosher grocery, calmly surveyed the aisles, and chose their items. A
bag of potato chips.
A bottle of water. One by one, they lined up at the cash registers, made their purchases and stepped aside quietly. Busy with their shopping, Hasidic
men and women in conservative dress paused to eye the group of 25 local activists — black, white, young, old, wearing shorts and T-shirts and jeans — and
wondered what was happening. A few minutes later, the disgruntled store owner appeared, tried to block news photographers’ cameras and steered the
demonstrators toward the door. “You have no right to do this. Get out of here,” he said. The “stop and shop” demonstration Friday afternoon at Rockland
Kosher Supermarket off Route 306 was the kickoff event by a new group called Wake Up Rockland. Organizers said their purpose is to “combat the growing
phenomenon of de facto segregation” between Hasidic and non-Hasidic communities in Rockland County, specifically in the East Ramapo Central School
District. “We’re basically saying to the Hasidic community that we are here and we’re not going anywhere, so it behooves both of us to coexist,” said the
Rev. Weldon McWilliams IV, who organized the demonstration. “But the way things are, we can’t coexist.” The complete Journal News story here.
Ward Petition Update: June 27The town of Ramapo has notified Judge Garvey that they are seeking permission from the appellate division to appeal all of her recent
Newsday: Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Desmaret talks plea with
aid Rockland probes, sources say
June 26, 2013
"Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret is negotiating a plea
deal with federal prosecutors that would require him
to be a cooperating witness for the government in two public corruption probes in Rockland County, Newsday has learned. Desmaret,
55, was indicted April 18 along with five other political figures, including Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin, in a complex bribery scheme
involving a proposed community center in Spring Valley as well as the New York City mayoral race. Desmaret and his lawyer Kenneth Gribetz
met for several hours Tuesday afternoon with federal prosecutors and FBI agents at the U.S. attorney's office in White Plains to discuss the
terms of a possible plea deal, multiple sources familiar with the case told Newsday. "Desmaret has no choice, really. He has to plead guilty.
The video and audio they have against him is damning," said one source familiar with the case." Full Newsday coverage here.
Just How Bad is the Financial Mess in Ramapo?
June 25, 2013How about the worst in the State of New York? The Office of the Comptroller follows
Ward Update—Another Win in court
Judge Garvey Tosses All Four St. Lawrence Motions Opposing the Ward System Initiative
June 24, 2013 The Preserve Ramapo
fight to grant the voters of Ramapo the right to decide whether they
want a Ward System will
move forward as Supreme Court Judge Margaret Garvey threw out St. Lawrence’s objections to the petitions. A ward system would
allow voters to elect representatives from their own districts, who would represent them on the Ramapo Town Board. The current
system has a panel of at large rubber stamps who have allowed St. Lawrence to decimate the finances of the Town and destroy
the zoning. (More)
Community View: Ramapo must reveal latest audits
June 23, 2013 "The
public has a right to know just what is going on. To clear this up,
the Town of Ramapo should immediately put its
Independent Financial Audit online for all to see or explain why it does not have this audit ready for review at this time. The towns of
Orangetown and Clarkstown already have put this information online for its residents to see. Previously, Ramapo has released independent
audits through Freedom of Information requests but the town has not released the audit for fiscal year 2012. Why not? What we do know
about the town’s fiscal condition at the closing of its books at the end of 2012 is hardly reassuring." Read Bruce Levine's analysis of what
it might be that the town is hiding.
Suspended Ramapo finance worker plans to sue, says town retaliated
June 21, 2013 "A
town Finance Department employee who’s been suspended from her job
says she was falsely accused of misconduct in
retaliation for speaking up about alleged “criminal” acts by Ramapo officials and plans to sue the town. Melissa Reimer, the town’s supervisor
of fiscal services, referred comment to her lawyer, Fred Lichtmacher, who declined to elaborate on the alleged criminal acts. But Lichtmacher
said Friday that Reimer plans to sue the town for $2 million in damages for defamation in her community, emotional injury and harm to her
professional reputation. According to a notice of claim sent to the town, officials retaliated against Reimer after she complained about “criminal,
deceitful and inappropriate acts and omissions by several members” of town government. The notice states Reimer complained to Supervisor
and Finance Director Christopher St. Lawrence; town attorneys Michael Klein, Alan Berman, Janice Gittelman and Beth Finkelstein; and others but
does not specify whom she complained about." Complete story here.
finance official says she's being scapegoated
Worker disputes town claim of improper filing of report to comptroller
June 21, 2013 "The
town Finance Department employee who town officials claim sent
misleading information to the state Comptroller’s
Office says she’s done nothing wrong and is being made a scapegoat for the town’s unflattering new financial designation. Melissa Reimer,
the town’s supervisor of fiscal services, disputed a statement the town issued Tuesday in response to Ramapo’s being named to Comptroller
Thomas DiNapoli’s hot list of municipalities in “significant fiscal distress.” The town statement said Reimer sent the comptroller an “annual
update document,” or AUD, in May without the authorization of officials, including Town Board members and Supervisor Christopher St.
Lawrence, who also serves as director of finance. The town said the report Reimer sent indicated Ramapo faced “certain fund deficits”
and omitted $3.5 million in anticipated revenue. But Reimer said she sent the correct information the same way she always has in her 10 ½
years on the job and that the information on the anticipated revenue wasn’t made available to her." Full Journal story here.
East Ramapo: Senate OKs lottery bill to advance $3.5M to district
June 21, 2013 "A
bill that would advance the East Ramapo school district $3.5 million
in state lottery funding has passed both
chambers of the state Legislature, bringing the deficit-plagued district a step closer to getting the one-shot cash infusion that
could help restore programs next year. East Ramapo would get the lottery money in September 2014 anyway, as part of its annual
state aid award. But district officials asked lawmakers earlier this spring to draft special legislation that would provide the money
earlier, in June 2014, so it could help ease the district through the 2013-14 year. Over the past few years, the district has laid off
more than 450 employees and cut non-mandated classes and activities as it has struggled with operating deficits and rising contractual
costs." Full text of the Journal News story here.
the world is Mara Luz Corado?
Newly elected East Ramapo school board member is MIA
June 20, 2013 "In
mid-April, Mara Luz Corado surfaced as a candidate for the
beleaguered East Ramapo school board. She was
elected on May 21 and is expected to be sworn in on July 2. Despite relentless attempts to speak with her -- or even get her
phone number -- Corado remains elusive. East Ramapo school district clerk Cathy Russell said the only contact information
she could release for Corado is a mailing address. Moreover, Bernard Charles Jr. and Pierre Germain, who successfully ran
with Corado for the three open seats on the nine-member board, have been evasive when asked about her. "I do not have her
number. Let me find out for you and I could have her call you," Germain told Newsday earlier this week. Charles, who organized
the slate, last week said Corado has been "away." He declined to elaborate, and said he, too, would ask Corado to contact Newsday.
Still, no word. Records show that Corado, 45, registered to vote in Ramapo just five days before the school board election. The
address she used to register and to put on her candidate petition -- 89 W. Maple Ave. -- is in the Community Synagogue of Monsey,
a brick building with no apparent residential entrance." Complete Newsday story here.
Editorial: Ramapo’s Financial Mess Rates 2nd Worst in the State
20, 2013 Ramapo's
financial problems are entirely self-inflicted, created by our
remarkably irresponsible town supervisor,
Christopher St. Lawrence and his rubber stamp board. (More)
East Ramapo Budget Passes--4,050 yes 2,238 no (unofficial results)
Ramapo named one of state's most fiscally distressed
towns by state comptroller
Only one community in New York State with worst finances
New Square Slaughterhouse Plan Is Back—County
Objects, Candidate Michael Koplen Says It’s Workable
June 18, 2013 The Journal News reported today that the
village of New Square has revived its plan for an
industrial project within a residential neighborhood. The 26,250 square foot processing plant is smaller than
the one proposed in 2009, but is five times the size of the existing New Square plant, which is closed. The
U.S. Attorney's Office took civil action in December 2009 against New Square Meats for unsanitary conditions
at the plant and selling poultry since 2002 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture never inspected. Adir Poultry,
a company connected to New Square Meats and Ezras Yisrael, wants to replace the closed 5,000-square-foot
slaughterhouse with a $3 million, 26,250-square-foot plant." (More)
Ramapo stops pay for Desmaret's job at Town Hall
June 15, 2013 "Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret’s job as a data clerk in Ramapo Town Hall is on the line as he contends
with a federal mail-fraud charge and an investigation at Village Hall.The town filed a misconduct charge against Desmaret and stopped
his pay after an interview and an internal investigation, Town Attorney Michael Klein said. “We’re aware of the federal indictment but
we’re not privy to the witnesses and the evidence that the federal authorities gathered,” Klein said. “We did conduct an administration
interview of Mr. Desmaret, and based on that and our own investigation, we felt we have sufficient evidence to bring the misconduct charge,
independent of the federal investigation.” Full Journal News coverage here.
Monsey man tied to FBI informant must repay $1.75M for bank fraud
June 13, 2013 "A Monsey man linked to an FBI-undercover investor accused of bribing Spring Valley and New York City officials has been sentenced
to repay $1.75 million from a bank fraud conviction. David Neumann was sentenced to three years’ supervised probation and ordered to pay
restitution by U.S. District Judge Warren Eginton, said Herbert Hadad, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in White Plains. Eginton sentenced
Neumann on June 7 at the federal courthouse in White Plains. Neumann pleaded guilty to a bank fraud charge involving the 2007 sale of a single-family
house at 39 Remsen Ave. in Monsey. The dilapidated house is next door to a mansion owned by investor Moses Mark Stern, who pleaded guilty to
undisclosed federal charges in March after working undercover for the FBI." Complete Journal News story here.
Dismantling East Ramapo
Cutting Sports Programs
Part 3 of Lisa Karrer's on-going series of documentaries, studying
the dismantling of the
public School system in the East Ramapo District of Rockland County, NY. This video
features an interview with Duff Pannell, the Athletic Coordinator of Ramapo High School,
excerpts from the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC Public Radio, with Spring Valley High School
student and activist Olivia Castor, and quotes from Public School Parents and Advocates.
View video here.
Superintendent Klein Misleads the Press—Claims Schools “Given Clean Bill of Health”
Were it not for
the timeline of events and a claim that absolutely contradicts what the
as dangerous conditions in two schools, you might cut the Superintendent a little slack and look for a set of circumstances
that might justify what he told Newsday reporters last week. But a quick read of what he said, and when he said it
seems to leave no doubt—what he told reporter Meghan Murphy was clearly not true. And that begs several important
questions: Why did he do it; and, Who is he serving with this kind of misinformation? (More) [Story updated June 10]
What’s the Grand Jury Doing?
June 5, 2013 After gathering information and evidence over an
extended period of time, the FBI then launched a foray into Ramapo
Town Hall on May 15, spending eight hours searching for specific documents and emails, removing hard-drives and cartons of paper files.
Some time within the following two weeks a grand jury was convened, and they have subpoenaed evidence from the Ramapo Local
Development Corp, Provident Bank, Jefferies LLC the company that places bond and note offerings for the town, and Environmental
Capital, which is the Financial Advisor for Town bonds and notes. The evidence and the case are now being sorted out by the members
of the Grand Jury to determine the indictments. (More)
Fire Code Violations Task Force Calls Ramapo a ‘Time Bomb’
Task Force Appeals to State for Help in Ramapo
June 4, 2013 "The head of
Rockland County’s volunteer task force on illegal housing says rampant
building and fire code
violations in the Town of Ramapo are a 'time bomb waiting to go off' and require a state investigation. 'The volunteer fire service
in Rockland is not about to wait until dead bodies are pulled from these ‘weapons of mass construction,’ be they civilians or firefighters,'
John Kryger wrote in a June 1 letter to the New York state Division of Code Enforcement and Administration. Kryger said he sent the letter
to Ronald Piester, director of the Division of Code Enforcement and Administration, with hopes the state would take notice of what he says
is a lack of enforcement by the town and some of its villages. 'Such has not been the case in Ramapo, Kaser, New Hempstead and Spring Valley,'
Kryger wrote. There, violations are issued and ignored, and court cases are repeatedly postponed, he said. 'We haven’t gotten any satisfaction
from the Town of Ramapo on any of the violations that have been reported to us." Complete Journal News story here.
Merge Rockland School Districts
May 31, 2013 "Given the situation, one
could assume that district schools have deteriorated to such an extent
are not receiving an adequate education preparing them to compete successfully as adults. In other words, the East Ramapo
students are being prepared for failure." Read the full text of the Community View here.
Ramapo Raid Update:Grand Jury Issues Subpoenas to RLDC,
May 31, 2013 While the most
frequently asked question seems to be, "When are the indictments
coming and who will be on the receiving end?" there are very nasty secondary repercussions as well, and they are already
May 30, 2013 "Questions have
surfaced about earlier data used to determine the need for the Hudson
River water treatment plant,
as well as what consumers will end up paying for the new water source, to be drawn from brackish Haverstraw Bay and put through
purification and energy-intensive desalination processes. On Tuesday, the Orangetown Town Board voted to support an “issues
conference” — the first step in a state Department of Environmental Conservation review of United Water’s Hudson water treatment
plant plan. Such a conference would allow an administrative law judge to review data and determine whether the proposed water
treatment plant warrants a full review." Click here for the complete Journal News editorial.
May 29, 2013 "Fed
up with waves of budget cuts and deteriorating building conditions, and
determined to show authorities their
troubled school district needs immediate attention, hundreds of East Ramapo students walked out of class late Wednesday morning.
Hollering and chanting "No more cuts!" they weaved their way from Spring Valley and Ramapo high schools toward Memorial Park as
surprised workers, drivers and pedestrians looked on with equal amounts of interest and annoyance." Journal News coverage here, with
video of the march to Memorial Park.
Stadium feeds Ramapo's fiscal slide
2013 After 71
percent of the public rejected the guarantee of a $16.5 million bond for
a baseball stadium, Ramapo
Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence first promised that no public funds would be used for construction. After first stripping
all reserve funds from our town treasury he got around the rejection with a $25 million five-year note that did not require a
referendum. We knew there was no way he could pay off this bond in just five years. Sure enough, he then refinanced with
a long-term bond, evading our citizens’ refusal to guarantee the bond. (More)
While all We Saw Were Silos, the FBI and Comptroller
Were Working Together
May 24, 2013 Over the past 10 years, Preserve Ramapo has filed a
number of official complaints and
requests for investigation with a wide variety of agencies—local, state, and federal—from the State
Attorney General to the Office of Special Council in Washington, the State Bar Association to the
Committee on Open Government. And almost without exception, these agencies operated separately
and apart as they dealt with our documents and timelines. Apparently, though, there was one
significant exception. (More)
May 24, 2013 "On
the heels of an FBI raid,
the financially strapped Town of Ramapo on Thursday postponed the
$39.2 million in bonds intended to refinance debt and help pay for basic town services such as road resurfacing. Town officials
dodged questions about the bond issue -- some even saying they didn't know what was going on with the financing -- while
the Wall Street market information firm IPREO confirmed to Newsday that the bond sale -- scheduled to be priced Friday -- had
been scuttled. No new sale date has been scheduled, according to IPREO." Complete Newsday coverage here.
East Ramapo trims tax hike, cuts budget $452,000; new vote is June 18
May 23, 2013 "East
Ramapo school officials will ask voters to decide on a $209.5 million
budget with a 2.8
increase next month following a narrow defeat of slightly higher spending proposal earlier this week. Until the second
election on June 18, officials said they’ll use the next three and a half weeks to ramp up efforts to get out the vote,
especially in the public school community, which sends about 9,000 students to East Ramapo. A $209.9 million budget
with a 3.13 percent tax increase failed by 505 votes Tuesday." Complete Journal News story here.
"Ramapo Supervisor Christopher
St. Lawrence -- whose Local Development Corporation is at the center of
investigation -- has clammed up about the probe, refusing to answer reporter's questions after a town board meeting
Wednesday night. The only mention of Ramapo's woes during the first regularly scheduled board meeting since the raid
was from Michael Castelluccio of Preserve Ramapo. Castelluccio refuted a statement made by Ken Lehner, president of
the Rockland Boulders, who said the team is in no way involved with the investigation. "Until the financial records from
last year are published and made public and given to the town, they are in the middle of the eye of that storm," Castelluccio
said. "And if, in fact, they have produced those numbers and that information is currently being stonewalled by the current
administration, all I could say is 'good luck'". Complete text of the story here.
Downgrades East Ramapo School District Bonds
to Three Steps Above Junk Status
May 22, 2013 "Moody's
Investors Service has downgraded to Baa1 from A2 the underlying rating
on East Ramapo Central
School District's (NY) $14.4 million in outstanding general obligation debt; the outlook remains negative. The downgrade
to Baa1 reflects ongoing deterioration in the district's financial position with the expectation of a negative General Fund
balance at the end of fiscal 2013. The weakened financial position is the result of a continued structural imbalance driven
by underperforming revenues." Full report here.
F.B.I. Raid Renews Focus on Ballpark Deal in Rockland
May 21, 2013 The New York
Times reports: "When
federal agents last week spent
seven hours extracting documents and computer files from Town Hall here, attention
immediately turned to the financing of a local ballpark. The stadium was the subject
of a withering state audit last year suggesting officials inappropriately mingled private
and public enterprises for a risky development. Last week, federal agents seized
documents and computer files from Town Hall in Ramapo, N.Y. But the raid last
Wednesday also set in motion a guessing game centered on which of a welter of local controversies could
become part of the investigation in a town where the increase in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population in
communities like Kaser, Monsey and New Square has made it the fastest-growing area in Rockland County,
and perhaps the most divided." (More)
Ramapo corruption investigation: FBI questioned Boulders' ballpark developer Holt
May 17, 2013 "The
FBI's 40-agent foray into Ramapo Town Hall Wednesday was not its
first trip to Rockland County in search of evidence
in an investigation of the town's Local Development Corporation and how the LDC refinanced $25 million in bonds for Provident Bank Park.
Several weeks ago FBI agents visited the general contractor on the $39 million baseball stadium, Jack Holt, the owner of Holt Construction
in Pearl River, and questioned him about the project and its financing, Holt told Newsday Friday." (More)
Bernard Charles' one vote on Ramapo Planning
stirs broad resentment
Originally published: May 17, 2013 NEWSDAY
"School board candidate Bernard Charles Jr.
voted on just one project during his unusually brief tenure on the Town of Ramapo Planning
Board. But that one vote is haunting him. Charles, who is running with a slate of candidates
for election to the East Ramapo Central School District Board on May 21, voted in favor of
the Patrick Farm development in March; three weeks after the vote, he quietly resigned from
the planning board, having served on it less than a month. The vote has proved controversial.
Education activists see the Patrick Farm project as a step toward further destabilization of
the troubled East Ramapo district. (More)
Ramapo raid is a proud moment for the gadflies
May 17, 2013 "They're often looked upon as
curmudgeons: the naysayers, loudmouths or know-nothings who revel in
obstruction. But in truth,
they are trying to do a civic duty -- challenging authority and offering a dissenting voice, however intense, passionate or seemingly annoying.
Socrates is one of history's better-known pains-in-the neck: He said such flies are easy to swat away or ignore, but society does so at its own peril.
Federal investigators must know a thing or two about that philosophy; they aren't blowing off any of Ramapo's gadflies these days." (More)
May 16, 2013 "An
influential investment rating agency issued a dire analysis of Ramapo’s
financial health as the town prepares to sell $39.2 million
in serial bonds for public improvement projects. Moody’s Investors Service issued its A1 rating and negative outlook for Ramapo on Wednesday,
coincidentally the same day the FBI and Rockland District Attorney’s Office raided Town Hall and seized financial records. 'The rating incorporates
significant erosion of the town’s financial flexibility stemming from four consecutive years of operating deficits from aggressive economically
sensitive revenue assumptions and inability to offset mid-year shortfalls,' Moody’s stated on its website." Complete Journal story here.
May 16, 2013 "The
investigators are reviewing documents to determine whether Supervisor
Christopher St. Lawrence overstated assets, such
as incoming revenue, for the bonds and refinancing of the $25 million bond. They also are looking into the movement of money among accounts,
possible commingling of funds and whether the Local Development Corp. that oversaw the project generated money and repaid the town,
a source familiar with the probe said. Among the documents taken were emails from St. Lawrence, Town Attorney Michael Klein and Finance
Officer Nat Oberman. Though the FBI made no arrests, the raid sent a strong signal that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has set its focus on more
corruption investigations in Ramapo." (This LoHud article provides background on the Ballpark and Elm Street financing--Read the
full article here.)
Reaction to Ramapo probe is no surprise
May 16, 2013 "Ramapo is a mess —
socially, politically and fiscally. Tension has long been building
over the leadership and decision-making
of Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, including ill-considered downzoning and profligate spending on his watch. And bubbling not even below
the surface — a growing perception among critics that town decisions are made to curry favor with the ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic "bloc vote,"
formidable enough to tip elections. Those challenges help explain the glee expressed by many residents as news spread that the FBI had raided
Town Hall and left with suitcases full of documents and computer drives. That strong reaction — some residents came to Town Hall on Wednesday
night to offer their comments to reporters — was emblematic of the long-simmering relationship between St. Lawrence, and the government
he leads, and the large number of disaffected residents who also are his constituents." Read the entire Editorial here.
Ramapo corruption probe: Feds focus on ballpark refinancing, sources say
May 16, 2013 "Federal
authorities are investigating whether Ramapo's Local Development Corp.,
headed by Town Supervisor Christopher
St. Lawrence, falsely claimed assets it did not have to back the refinancing of bonds, including the $25 million bond for the controversial
Provident Bank Park, sources told Newsday. FBI agents and prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office also are investigating the LDC's
financing of the building of Ramapo Commons, a 24-unit affordable housing condominium project in an unincorporated part of the town,
sources familiar with the investigation said." (More)
FBI seizes town records in Ramapo corruption probe
Officials in the Rockland County town are
under fire over controversial spending decisions. Activists suspect the
FBI raid is a response to their complaints
against LDC president and town supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence
From the Twitter accounts of the
reporters still at Town Hall--Mareesa Nicosia and Steve
Lieberman from the Journal News:
Steve 10:40 pm--Assistant US Attorney Daniel
Filor was seen just leaving Ramapo Town Hall offered no comment.
Steve 10:40 pm--Heard that FBI agents were wrapping up after almost 7 hours inside collecting information.
Mareesa 10:35 pm--No sign yet of St. Lawrence
or Town Attorney Michael Klein but their cars are still in the parking
Mareesa 7:30 pm--Still inside Town Hall are St. Lawrence, Michael Klein and the head of IT for the town. (There since 4 in the afternoon)
Steve 6:30 pm--FBI seizing Ramapo financial
records, and documents from town atty and RLDC for baseball stadium,
housing. IT department
Earlier in the day there were reports that
several town officials were kept for questioning inside town hall as all
other workers were told
to leave. These included Christopher St. Lawrence--Supervisor, Michael Klein Town Attorney, Nate Oberman Finance Director, and Christian
Samson Town Clerk, and Teresa Reeck IT Director.
Another as yet unconfirmed report claimed there were Treasury Officials along with the FBI evidence recovery team.
FBI Raids Ramapo Town Hall
May 15, 2013 Newsday reports: "About
40 federal agents showed up in force at Ramapo Town Hall Wednesday
afternoon and ordered
most employees out while they executed a search warrant for financial documents related to yet another corruption probe affecting a
Rockland County community, sources said. FBI spokesman Jim Margolin confirmed the raid, but would not answer questions. A law
enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation said some of the records sought by federal agents include documents related
to Provident Bank Park and the local development corporation that runs the controversial, $38 million baseball stadium that is home
to the Boulders. Shortly before 11 p.m., a swarm of agents carted out two dollies stacked with number brown cardboard boxes full of
documents. Ramapo's finance director, Melissa Reimer, walked out of town hall a few minutes after 10 p.m. -- more than six hours
after the FBI arrived -- and told reporters she had no comment." (More)
FBI agents descend on Ramapo Town Hall,
employees ordered out
May 15, 2013 The Journal News reports: "FBI agents and
investigators from the Rockland District Attorney’s Office have ordered
employees out of Ramapo Town Hall after agents arrived for an apparent investigation. A town employee said everyone was told to
leave the building by agents, who arrived around 3:30 p.m. The FBI has not said yet what it is seeking at Town Hall, or what the focus
of the investigation might be. Ramapo police arrived shortly after the FBI and were blocking the entrances to the building. Town
Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence arrived at 4 p.m. and went in the side entrance to his office. “I’m going in to see what’s going on,”
he told The Journal News. About 15 minutes later, agents were still escorting employees out of the building. Employees said they were
not told what was going on. Some of the agents are wearing blue windbreakers with lettering “FBI ERT,” indicating they are from the
bureau’s Evidence Response Team." Read the developing coverage at Lohud here but be patient, the LoHud server has crashed at least once
with increased traffic.
Wrong to use public site to discriminate
May 13, 2013 "My husband and I went to Provident Bank Park on
Thursday evening. We read in The Journal News that there would be a
rally initiated by the ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic community addressing the danger of the Internet. The article indicated that the audience
would be limited to males ages 10 and older and that tickets were $10 a person. It was our intention to see if we — with the purchase of
two tickets — would be admitted to a public site that our tax dollars paid for — and apparently will pay for many years to come." (More)
(Read announcement from Day's campaign here)
Preserve Ramapo Announces Endorsement of Ed Day for County Executive
May 10, 2013 Today
Preserve Ramapo and County Legislator Joseph Meyers announced their
endorsements of Ed Day for the
office of Rockland County Executive. Read the Press Release here. And read the letter from Preserve Ramapo Chairman, Bob Rhodes,
which outlines the reasons for our choice of Day as the best candidate. Bob's letter can be read here.
Olivia Castor and Peggy Hatton
Explain the Crisis in East Ramapo Schools
on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show
May 9, 2013 To replay the full show,
just click on the image of the player below. You will be taken to the
where you can click on the play button and listen to a stream of the entire half-hour segment with call-ins.
Monsey Controls Planning and Zoning Boards in
St. Lawrence Appointees Kept Anonymous
May 3, 2013 The names of the seven
members of the Ramapo Planning and Zoning Boards do
not appear anywhere on the Town’s website. Clarkstown, Orangetown, Stony Point—they list
their boards. You might ask the Supervisor. After all, he appointed the members to terms as
long as seven years. More important though is the question why does one sector which has
the most irresponsible and out-of-control development have control over the planning and
zoning for all of Ramapo? (More)
Suit vs. East Ramapo: Judge says discovery process may proceed
May 3, 2013 "Nine
months after parents filed a federal lawsuit accusing East Ramapo school
officials of steering public tax dollars to
private religious schools and segregating special-education students, the records-gathering process in the case can begin. The Advocates’
case could hinge on parsing the evidence to show how much the district has spent — for special education and in other areas — on its private
school population versus its public school population." Journal News story here.
May 1, 2013
You just recently paid your Ramapo Town tax
bill, and Nathan Oberman, receiver of
taxes, presumably, banked your check to fund all the expenses outlined in the new town budget.
And what does the Ramapo Supervisor and the Board do next? They vote to borrow an additional
$19.7 million to fix the roads, spruce up the parks, buy some equipment, and roll over an old debt—all
guaranteed by your signature and to be paid by you and the neighbors next tax collection cycle, and
the next, and the next. (More)
Community View: Planning, balance lost in Ramapo's development
May 1, 2013 "Neighbors
are upset, fearing property values will decline, worried about traffic
and noise. They should also be concerned
about planning imbalance that will bring greater costs to all and a decline in the quality of living. Throughout much of Ramapo, housing
construction for religious groups, principally from land-starved New York City, has skyrocketed, with building density and height not in
keeping with suburbia. Sewers and water supply are increasingly stressed even as the county considers an uber-expensive Hudson River
water-treatment desalination plant that will encourage more such growth. The East Ramapo school district, its public school children
disenfranchised because their education is increasingly held hostage by religious group-inspired budget cuts and private school needs,
will suffer even greater financial drain." Read the full text of Arthur Gunther's Community View here.
Spring Valley's use of HUD funds in housing project
Feds probe use of HUD funds for condos
April 30, 2013 "The
village potentially owes a federal agency close to $1 million resulting
from administrative errors involving an urban-renewal
housing project, according to a federal audit. The project, Park View Condominiums, has also drawn federal scrutiny following allegations the
developer discriminated against blacks by selectively marketing and selling units to Orthodox Jews. The Department of Housing and Urban
Development is investigating Spring Valley’s use of federal money involving the condo property at Route 45 and Maple Avenue." Journal story here.
Finds Way to Enable Illegal School Conversion
for 250 Students in Hillcrest
April 30, 2013 At first, the building
inspectors for the Town of Ramapo shut down the illegal conversion of a
Eckerson Lane into a school. Then a Town Advisory Board that included Ramapo Chief Building Inspector and planning
consultant Anthony Mallia and the Town’s legal department gave the congregation permission to use the house as a
school for a year, during construction. "They are retrofitting a house as a school," Mallia told a Journal News reporter.
"They could have used modular trailers for classrooms. What’s the difference? The congregation is taking a risk.
If after a year, they don’t get final approval for a school, they might have to leave." (More)
Failure of the Tax Cap in Ramapo
29, 2013 The tax cap
is almost meaningless at the local government level. As the Journal News
reporter tells us, it only takes a simple majority of
the town board (3 of 5), or 60% of the town board to overrule the cap.Take the town of Ramapo as an example. Around last June Supervisor
St. Lawrence announced with a big headline in the Journal News that local taxes would only go up by only 1.9% in 2013. But that was before
his EXTREMELY delayed year end financials for 2011 came out. We knew this was impossible and wondered how he could create a new budget
for 2013 when he still CLAIMED he did not have the financials for 2011! Then at the end of 2012, he announced the real tax increase for 2013
would be 9.4%, not the previously announced 1.9%. (More)
Wallace-Wells--Author of "Them and Them" appears
on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show
28, 2013 Listen to the broadcast
here. To fill in some of the gaps in the
discussion, you can see a list of the fraud and abuse charges leveled against the school board and
administration officials in the parents' class action lawsuit here. There's also a direct link to the
text of the lawsuit, which is posted here. Wallace-Wells original article on the "gutting" of the East
Ramapo School District by its ultra-Orthodox board can be read here.
probe NAACP discrimination claim against Spring Valley, condo developer
NAACP: Builder, Spring Valley discouraged black buyers
April 23, 2013 "The NAACP has filed a federal complaint alleging that the Park View Condominiums discriminated against
black people by selectAively marketing and selling units to Orthodox Jews. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
is investigating whether the developer of a 60-unit condominium complex violated fair-housing and civil rights laws. The April 16
complaint, filed by the regional and Spring Valley branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, names
the Village of Spring Valley and Route 45 LLC (of Lakewood, NJ), the developer of the complex at 120 N. Main St., at the Maple Avenue
corner. “Upon information and belief, the developer with the knowledge of the village of Spring Valley is marketing these dwellings as
segregated housing to people of Hasidim faith only,” the complaint reads." Journal story here.
Them and Them
New York Magazine feature article on the destruction of the East Ramapo School System
April 21, 2013 “Up
in Ramapo, the immigrant community and the growing population of Hasidim
had eyed each other with increasing
wariness. Then the Orthodox took over the public schools and proceeded to gut them.” (More)
Rockland Boulders ballpark's 2012 finances
remain a mystery, worrying residents, NY officials
Newsday: April 20, 2013"As the Rockland Boulders gear up for opening day in less than a month, Ramapo town
St. Lawrence’s Investment in Joseph Desmaret
April 21, 2013 Earlier in the week, in our
update on the political fallout in Spring Valley, we included a table
that showed a substantial cash flow
in a very short period of time between the Ramapo Town Supervisor and the recently indicted Joseph Desmaret. Since then, we have researched
the salary and raises given to Desmaret by his political enabler, and we have received some interesting speculation on the nature of the political
Journal News: East Ramapo board chief Schwartz resigns
April 20, 2013 "Schwartz
has held the unpaid school board post for two years and was elected
president in July. In that time, tensions between the
public and the nine-member board, whose members are mostly Hasidic and Orthodox men, have grown increasingly contentious. Often at odds with
the public-school community, Schwartz used his authority as president to threaten to remove the public-speaking portion of regular board meetings
and unsuccessfully tried to move people who videotape meetings from the front to the back of the room.Schwartz and several other board members
and district administrators are defendants in a federal lawsuit filed by hundreds of parents who claim the officials wrongfully steered public tax dollars
to private schools to benefit the Orthodox community’s yeshiva education system. Legal petitions calling for the removal of board members also have
been filed by members of East Ramapo’s activist community." Complete Journal coverage here.
April 19, 2013 "Citing
"various personal reasons," East Ramapo
school board president
Daniel Schwartz said
he will step down Monday -- days before the beleaguered board is set to pass its deficit-plagued
budget -- according to a resignation letter submitted Friday.Schwartz, an associate attorney at the law firm
Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman P.C. did not elaborate on his reasons for quitting the unpaid school board
position that he has held for two years. A well-connected source within the Hasidic community told Newsday
that the polarizing issues facing the board were hurting the law practice, and Schwartz, 43, was forced to
choose between his job and position on the board. "He was squeezed out of business because of what's been
going on," the source said. "A person needs to take care of his family first ... He had no choice." Schwartz,
who had one more year left on his term, did not immediately return a request for comment." Newsday story here.
East Ramapo school district proposes dozens of staff layoffs, sports cuts in 2013-14 budget
April 17, 2013 "The
East Ramapo school district plans to eliminate dozens of staff, mostly
teachers, and steer other longtime employees to opt into
retirement incentives to close a shortfall in its 2013-14 budget. The teachers who will be laid off are assigned to core academic subjects, as well as
English as a Second Language, music, art and physical education, at the high school and middle school levels. In addition, 15 special education teachers
will be laid off and collaborative classes other than those at the middle schools will be cut, according to the plan released by East Ramapo officials
Tuesday. Sports will also be affected. Varsity golf, cheerleading, boys volleyball, JV tennis, girls JV volleyball and all middle school sports will be cut from
the budget, according to the plan. Another set of potential cuts would eliminate 14 art and music teachers and seven librarians in the elementary schools
if the district were to lose $960,000 due to federal budget cuts enacted last month, known as “sequestration.” In total, 52 employees could lose their jobs."
Full text of The Journal News story here.
Spring Valley Round-up (News that is) for the Week
past seven days a lot has been going on in Spring Valley as a
consequence of the Federal indictments
brought against the Mayor, Noramie Jasmin, and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret. The FBI is looking to gather more information,
and Desmaret has gotten new lawyers but can’t find a co-signer for his bail bond. Meetings between St. Lawrence and the wired
informant have been mentioned in the press, and the list of mayoral candidates is growing. (More)
Treatment method won't eliminate carcinogens from Hudson waters
April 10, 2013 "United Water, an
American subsidiary of the French transnational company Suez
Environnement, is pushing hard to
build a desalination plant on Haverstraw Bay, which they state will help them distribute water to their customers in Rockland County.
United Water is not really interested in protecting endangered species around the Hudson River or whether the water that they will
obtain by treating it with the latest reverse osmosis technology will have serious health consequences for its consumers in Rockland
County." Read the full text of the Community View here.
Latest on the Ward System in Court
The man who wore the wire revealed
New York Post--Shoulda Known He Was Trouble
April 4, 2013 "They should have just Googled the guy. A simple
Web search would have shown state Sen. Malcolm Smith and City
Councilman Dan Halloran that they were getting into bed with a shady developer who lost a $126 million lawsuit over a failed real-estate
project. Moses "Mark" Stern, who was the feds’ confidential informant against the pols, took out a massive loan from Citigroup to buy 11
shopping malls in 2007 — and his company promptly went bankrupt, according to court documents." (More)
FBI Press Conference
April 3, 2013 "And the dream of honest
government cannot come to pass unless there is real change in the
culture. Because what can we expect when there continues to be – even after a parade of politicians have
been hauled off to prison – a lack of transparency, a lack of self-disclosure, a lack of self-policing,a lack of
will, and a failure of leadership? What can we expect when transgressions seem to be tolerated and nothing
seems to ever change? New Yorkers should demand more. Federal prosecutors and federal agents are doing
everything we can to proactively attack the corruption problem. And it’s time for others to step up also." (More)
Mayor Jasmin Says Little in Minute Press Conference
April 3, 2013 In a press conference
which lasted a few minutes, Mayor Noramie Jasmin announced, "We will
vigorously defend against those
charges to restore my good name. I'm asking the community not to prejudge me, rather to keep me in your prayers for my good name to
restore." She took no questions, and did not say whether she would stand down until the legal issues are resolved.
Mayor and Deputy Arraigned
April 3, 2013 In a Westchester Court,
Mayor Noramie Jasmin and her Deputy Mayor, Joseph Desmaret, were
arraigned on federal
charges of mail fraud and bribery. Both were required to produce $250,000 bail, and they surrendered their passports. Desmaret was
also ordered to wear a digital tracking device and the Mayor was assigned a monitor. Pleas were not made at this time, and the next
court hearing will be April 23. The matter of whether the two will step down was not discussed at this time and will be possibly
addressed in an official comment by Jasmine promised for later today. The full text of the FBI complaint against the two local politicians
can be read at
Arrests Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and
Deputy Mayor Joseph DesMaret Charging Bribery and Mail Fraud
April 2, 2013 This morning, at around six
am, agents from the FBI’s Public Corruption Squad arrested Spring
Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph DesMaret at their homes in Spring Valley and Monsey.
The two were charged in a land development bribery scheme involving property in the village. The charges
were unsealed in Manhattan this morning, and the two politicians will be arraigned in Westchester this
Rockland County Sewer District Notifies Ramapo and the Patrick Farm
of Need to Verify Wetlands
March 28, 2013 From ROSA 4 Rockland: “As of late this afternoon,
Scenic Development and the Town of Ramapo have been officially
put on notice by Rockland County Sewage District #1: "as a condition of allowing the Patrick Farm project to connect to the District's
sewerage system, the District requires the project sponsor to obtain and forward to the EPA and to the District a jurisdictional determination
from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers verifying the extent of the project area wetlands" ROSA's hired civil engineers and wetland experts
have carefully examined this project and reported that unmapped wetlands exist and need to be accounted for. Once mapped additional
wetlands can seriously impact the development plans.” (More)
Layne Gets Conditional Discharge for “Official Misconduct”March 28th, 2013 "Former Airmont mayor and Sloatsburg building inspector pleads guilty to misdemeanor and
Update: East Ramapo Surtax—Legal Defense
Fund for School
Board Members—Now $4,000+ Per Day
2013 With the most recent
returns from a Feb. 1 FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request
added in, the cost of defending the East Ramapo School Board President and individual Board members
is growing. What amounts to a surtax to defend them against a lawsuit and also the New York State
charges of mismanagement and misappropriation of funds is now $4,336.91 per day. (More)
21, 2013 SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. (AP) —
board meetings descend into shouting matches. Accusations of racism
and anti-Semitism fly.
Angry parents turn their backs on board members in a symbolic stand of disrespect." (More)
McKinstry of Newsday: End the bullying in East Ramapo
East Ramapo sues state over special-education placements
March 20, 2013
East Ramapo school district is suing the state Education Department over
the district’s controversial practice of assigning
students with disabilities to private religious schools when public-school placements are available." Journal News story here. You can read the
lawsuit at www.scribd.com/doc/131318746/East-Ramapo-lawsuit-against-state. The first 12 pages offers a summary and history of the problem.
Journal News Editorial: State must help East Ramapo kids
Ramapo school district’s sinking fiscal situation and declining public
educational offerings have spurred various calls for action. The local
NAACP wants the governor to get involved. The state education commissioner wants legislation allowing the Board of Regents to intervene in
school districts that are in academic or fiscal distress, or, in the case of East Ramapo, both. A state assemblyman wants an outside study, paid
for by the state, of possible fixes, including the dramatic step of splitting the district into two entities — one serving public-school children and
the other the private school community. All these suggested approaches, different as they are, have their own risks and rewards. What they have
in common is this: they demand action from state officials. The state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo should heed the calls for their intervention.
New York owes its youngest citizens a sound public education — and the promise inherent in such offerings. Day by day, the public-school children
in East Ramapo move further away from that goal." Read full text of the editorial here.
Patrick Farm Final Hearing Before Ramapo Planning Board Tonight--Wed. March 20
March 20, 2013 A public hearing for a
Final Subdivision Approval of the Patrick Farm Subdivision, consisting
of 88 tax lots on 196.4 acres
will be held tonight, Wed. March 20 at 8pm, at the Ramapo Town Hall on Route 59. The applicant is Scenic Development, LLC, 3 Ashel Lane
Monsey, N.Y. More information can be found here.
Chestnut Ridge Elects Mayor Sam Presti with 978 votes
to Nancy Guirand's 303 votes
Click here for the latest update on the Ward Petition and Petition to increase number of council members.
State may act on East Ramapo, education chief says
King responds to activist's concerns about troubled district
March 14, 2013
chief education official says he’s ready to intervene further in the
East Ramapo schools’
crisis if the district doesn’t take sufficient action on its own. In a letter to a community activist, state Education Commissioner
John King Jr. said he’s “prepared to take escalating action, as authorized by law,” if East Ramapo officials don’t “make sufficient
progress” to address the district’s problems, including its multimillion-dollar deficit. Such action, according to state education
law, may include the removal of local school officials if it’s proved that they willfully violated the law or disobeyed an order
of the commissioner or Board of Regents. The warning heartened activists who had hand-delivered a petition with almost 5,000
signatures in Albany in January, asking King to appoint an oversight monitor to take charge of the troubled district." Complete
Journal News coverage here.
Dividing the East Ramapo District—A Response
March 13, 2013
State Senator Ken Zebrowski deserves real credit for his concern for
the future of the children who attend schools
in the East Ramapo school district. Unfortunately his proposed plan to divide the district into two separate segregated school
districts is not legal, or, even if it were, a practical solution. Read the full text of Bob Rhodes' response to the Zebrowski plan here.
Zebrowski on East Ramapo: Create 2 school districts
March 13, 2013 "A
state lawmaker says the “untenable” problems of the East Ramapo
school district could be solved by carving out
new geographic lines that would divide the current district into two. In an exclusive interview this week with The Journal News,
Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski Jr. said he wants to appropriate money in this year’s state budget to commission an independent
feasibility study on his proposal.The plan, he said, would create a new school district to serve the needs of East Ramapo’s 9,000
public school students — many of whom come from low-income, immigrant families." Full story here.
Board offers New
Interpretation of the First Amendment
March 12, 2013School board president, Daniel Schwartz,
Legal Fees to Defend East Ramapo School Board Now at $3,000 a day
March 6, 2013 The East Ramapo School Board, whose deficiencies
have "exposed District funds and assets to abuse,
waste, and/or loss," according to the New York State Comptroller, are currently fighting legal actions against the New York
Attorney General (investigating sales of school buildings), the New York Board of Education (for illegal placement of students in
private schools, lost and mismanaged funds and resources), and 600 East Ramapo parents who have launched a class action lawsuit
against the board members for "siphoning off public money to support private religious institutions," and "segregating students in
special-education programs based on their race, at taxpayer’s expense" (filed by the public-interest law firm Advocates for Justice).
The cost for defending this group, which the Comptroller’s Report claims, "[Have] failed to fulfill its stewardship, oversight, and
leadership responsibilities," is considerable. Worse, it’s being shoved off onto the taxpayers. (More)
Newsday--State school officials to East Ramapo: Show us your books
March 1, 2013 "State
education officials have asked East Ramapo to allow them to examine the
school district's financial records in an effort to resolve a persistent budget crisis. In a Feb. 14 letter obtained by
Newsday, Deputy Education Commissioner Ken Slentz deemed that East Ramapo again had failed to provide the
state with sufficient information to determine why the district is operating with a midyear deficit. Slentz also
requested a meeting with district leaders." Complete Newsday story here.
NY Attorney General seeks testimony from ex-East Ramapo board member
At least one former East Ramapo school board member has been asked to
testify to state
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, which is probing the district’s controversial sales and leasing of
two former public school buildings to local yeshivas. Stephen Price, one of two board members who abruptly
resigned from the fractured school board in January, told The Journal News he was recently contacted by the
Attorney General’s office and asked to testify. 'They haven’t indicated when. They just said they wanted to
talk to me,' Price said Thursday evening. He added that the office gave no indication in a recent letter addressed
to him what the subject of the questioning would be about." Complete Journal News story here.
Feb. 28, 2013 "With
the troubled East Ramapo school district facing a multimillion-dollar
shortfall and the
potential of more program cuts, state education officials say they want to meet face to face with school
leaders to address the district’s budget and its plans to dig out of its deficit. It’s a rare intervention by the
state Education Department, which has been monitoring East Ramapo’s financial problems and in recent months
demanded officials submit a plan to the state for how it will balance its budget." Complete Journal News story here.
East Ramapo fails public school students
Feb. 25, 2013 "I
was both perplexed and disturbed when reading the response by the
president of the East
Ramapo school board, Daniel Schwartz. Where is the mention of the public school student? He has a fiduciary
duty to steward children through the K-12 educational process and through education reform changes, and to
provide for them with proper budgeting." Complete Community View Reply here.
Square yeshiva got millions in tech funds despite
no student access to computers
Feb. 19, 2012 "An
all-boys school in the Hasidic village of New Square has accepted more
than $3.3 million
in federal funds earmarked for Internet and telecommunications technology even though students there do
not have access to computers, an investigation by the Manhattan-based Jewish Week has found. According to
a Feb. 15 report published by the newspaper, Yeshiva Avir Yakov in New Square “is just one of many fervently
Orthodox Jewish schools in New York State that, despite publicly eschewing Internet use and despite offering
their students minimal, if any, access to computers, have spent large sums of E-rate money.” Journal News
Week: Internet-Averse Haredi Schools Reaping Millions
in Federal Tech Funds
How does a
community that rails against the Web pull in $30 million in one year for
its schools from the
E-rate program? Story here.
Feb. 15, 2013 "Ramapo
Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence signed off on the refinancing of
Provident Bank Park
despite not knowing how the stadium fared financially in 2012, sparking concern and outrage from the state comptroller
as well as local residents. St. Lawrence, who heads the town-backed Local Development Corporation, and LDC board
members John Brunson and Moses Gross on Thursday extended the initial five-year, $25 million bond financing for the
2-year-old Pomona ballpark to a debt that would be paid off over the next three decades, LDC attorney Aaron Troodler
told Newsday. While the terms of the refinancing seem favorable, to some critics of the ballpark, it also raised red flags,
particularly with revenue figures from 2012 still not available, five months after the stadium's tenants, independent baseball's
Rockland Boulders, finished off their season. "Short of them coming up with new figures, I'm not sure how this is going to
alleviate any of the concerns of the initial audit," said Brian Butry, a spokesman for state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, referring
to an investigation his office conducted in February 2012 that raised questions about the ballpark's revenue estimates.The decision
to refinance has only exacerbated the concerns found in the 2012 probe, said Butry, who added that this could spark another
audit from the comptroller." Read the complete Newsday story here.
I'll Show You Mine, If You Show Me Yours!
Newsday publishes a provocative
challenge from a perspective applicant for one of the vacant seats on
the East Ramapo School Board. It's both hilarious and very sad. Read the letter here.
February 4, 2013 On his Saturday radio
broadcast, Supervisor St. Lawrence had a
little trouble "controlling the message" when the laces on his Oxford got in the way
of his usual measured eloquence. (More)
January 31, 2013 Over the past year, millions have been transferred
from the Town of Ramapo tax resources to Supervisor St. Lawrence’s
private development company called the RLDC (Ramapo Local Development
Corp). It’s a small corporation, St. Lawrence is both President and Chairman
of the Board and there are two other members of the board and that’s it.
Yet it spends tens of millions of taxpayer dollars each year. The New York
State Comptroller’s Office has warned in a highly critical audit that the RLDC
funds and the Town of Ramapo funds must be kept separate and apart. But since the RLDC doesn’t have the money to
do what it wants, it takes what it needs from the Town coffers. The State’s warning is not an obstacle because the
Town Board is as deaf to what the State says as St. Lawrence, who, of course, is the herder of this group of accomplices. (More)
Journal News Editorial Calls for State Investigation of Resignations
January 25, 2013 Today, on its
editorial page, The Journal News echoed the same call for a State
investigation of those
circumstances that motivated the resignation of two school board members, which we expressed as our first reaction to
the content of the letters from Price and Young-Mercer. In part, the editorial reads: "The recent resignation letters of two
East Ramapo school board trustees assert ongoing intimidation, accuse the district’s administration of withholding key
information amid a fiscal crisis and express a lack of trust in the district’s leadership. But what could be the most important
line comes at the very end — a cc to Dr. John B. King, New York state’s commissioner of education. He needs to study the
letters closely as he weighs the need for future state intervention in a district drowning in red ink and community distrust."
Read the entire editorial here.
January 23, 2013 The letters include
a number of serious situations that require investigation by state
officials. Read both
East Ramapo school board members who unexpectedly resigned Tuesday said
they did so because
it had become “exceedingly difficult” to work in the district due to a lack of information from the schools superintendent and
continuous intimidation from their fellow board members. Stephen Price and Suzanne Young-Mercer submitted their resignation
letters to District Clerk Cathy Russell on Monday. The resignations were announced at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting,
which Young-Mercer and Price did not attend. Young-Mercer said doing her job as an elected official had become “exceedingly
difficult ... due to the lack of trust I have in the information being provided to me.” She also cited “the persistent level of
intimidation” she felt when she spoke out or raised concerns, including verbal abuse by fellow trustees. Price, who has served as
trustee for 20 years, wrote there was a “continuing pattern of harassment and intimidation” that made it near impossible for him
to carry out his duties. In addition to being denied access to district information, he wrote was “wrongfully accused of religious
discrimination” and threatened with legal actions. Price also wrote he had made numerous requests to Klein for financial and cash
flow data and other budget information but that his requests were “ignored and the scant information that I did receive was generally
incomplete or inaccurate.” Read the complete Journal News story here.
January 21, 2013 The Town of
Ramapo is still fighting the legal right of petitioners to have a
referendum vote on whether Ramapo
should be divided into Wards, each with their own elected representative on the Town Board. (More)
Jan. 19, 2013
It was general "mistrust of Ramapo government led to the creation of the
Village of Chestnut Ridge
in 1986. Chestnut Ridge followed several other communities becoming villages in response to town government
planning or lack of enforcement of zoning laws. Kobre has been the village’s only mayor and is currently the
longest-serving mayor in the county. 'I am proud to have been the mayor of this beautiful, diverse community,'
Kobre said last week. 'It’s time for someone else to lead after 26 years as mayor. The village needs someone younger who will
keep the village, in our estimation, the best in the entire county.' Kobre has endorsed Rosario “Sam” Presti Jr. as his successor.
An election is set for March 19." The complete Journal News story can be read here.
Planning Board delays vote on Patrick Farm,
seeks to scale back housing plan amid public opposition
Town urged to delay OK pending design review
town Planning Board closed a public hearing on the long-debated
Patrick Farm development Wednesday night with a decision to seek a reduction in the nearly
500 housing units proposed for construction on a vast parcel of undeveloped land. The controversial
project calls for 410 high-density multifamily units and 87 single-family houses on 208 acres off routes
202 and 306 outside the village of Pomona. Opponents have fought Patrick Farm for years, arguing a
project of its size will destroy the character of the single-family neighborhood and endanger the environment. The Planning Board closed the
hearing as midnight approached after hearing out more than three hours of speakers, many of whom urged board members to delay final
approval of the project to allow for further review of the designs. The board agreed to solicit further written comments from the public and
the project applicant on several disputed issues through Jan. 30." Journal News story here.
East Ramapo makes deadline on deficit; schools chief seeks N.Y. help in fiscal crisis
January 17, 2013 "East
officials made a state Education Department deadline Wednesday to submit
plan to address the district’s deficit, but they say that aside from a multimillion-dollar bond they intend to use to close
this year’s shortfall, there’s “almost nothing” they can do to solve the district’s broader financial crisis without an overhaul
of the state funding formula. East Ramapo Superintendent of Schools Joel Klein made the statements in a four-page letter
to state education officials, at once pleading for support from the state and criticizing the tenor of its recent communications
with the district." Complete Journal News coverage here.
Sandy showed risks of Hudson water treatment plant plan
January 17, 2013 "If
United Water’s desalination plant, proposed for Haverstraw Bay, had been
built last year, the critical
water intake infrastructure and pipes could have been destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. Unprecedented storm surges, 10 feet
in Haverstraw Bay, stripped the fronts off houses near the water, and dislodged intake pipes and mangled equipment used
for United Water’s pilot plant. The storm knocked marine fuel tanks into the Hudson and forced the partial shutdown of Indian Point,
located only 3.5 miles upstream from the proposed intake for United Water’s plant. Raw sewage flooded the area adjacent to the
proposed water supply intake. Access roads to the proposed sites, needed in emergencies, were completely flooded and impassable.
In short, the storm would have jeopardized public water supply for hundreds of thousands of people." (More)
January 14, 2013 In an interview Saturday morning, Marci
Hamilton, one of the lead attorneys for the Village
of Pomona, told Preserve Ramapo she was very pleased with the decision from U.S. District Judge Kenneth
Karas. "He did a great job," she said. "He called all of the relevant case law and was absolutely clear that no
one comes into a community and gets to build without first making an application." Without this clarification,
she explained, you would have the federal government (through the RLUIPA law) establishing itself as a local
governmental authority, controlling land use and development. (More)
School district makes big cuts--E. Ramapo axes teachers and sports
January 9, 2013 "A
week ahead of a state deadline to get a deficit-reduction plan in
place, the East Ramapo school board approved
eliminating six music teachers and almost all spring sports and plans to borrow nearly $10 million to plug its massive deficit. The decisions,
voted on during a meeting Tuesday night, followed a tense month of budget discussions that involved public outcry from hundreds of
parents and students who protested initial proposals to cut kindergarten and the entire elementary music and art program. Major budget
cuts are imperative if the district is to meet a state deadline next week requiring it to submit a plan to address the deficit and balance
its budget, including payment of $5 million in overdue bills to Rockland Board of Cooperative Educational Services." Complete story here.
mount against Minisceongo Park shopping center--Ramapo and
Haverstraw boards targeted
January 7, 2013
"Opponents of the
proposed Minisceongo Park shopping center have filed another set of
lawsuits against the towns
of Haverstraw and Ramapo. The development is proposed for a 53-acre lot that straddles the Haverstraw and Ramapo border on
Route 202 near Exit 13 of the Palisades Interstate Parkway. One of the recent lawsuits was filed by the village of Pomona, which
is challenging the Haverstraw and Ramapo planning board actions. Other lawsuits were filed by local businesses including Green Earth
Farms Rockland LLC, Paint’N Place Inc., 202 United Development Corp., Parkway Realty Corp., and Good Council Realty Ltd. and John
McDowell, who challenge actions by the Haverstraw town Planning Board and the Rampo town planning and zoning boards." Journal
January 5, 2013
"The debate over
the controversial Patrick
Farm development will move to a public stage next week when
residents get a chance to voice their opinions to state regulators.
New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has scheduled
a legislative public hearing for Monday at the Joseph T. St. Lawrence
Community, Health and Sports Center, 115 Torne Valley Road, Hillburn.
Sessions at 3 and 6:30 p.m. are intended to solicit public comment as
part of the ongoing environmental review from the state agency,
which needs to sign off on two permits before construction begins.
DEC spokeswoman Wendy Rosenbach said the agency was taking the
concern over the development’s impact seriously." Complete story here.
Conceptual photo shows development proposed for the Patrick Farm Property
January 4, 2013 "A
man involved in the Spring Valley water-balloon incident — in which 50
men surrounded a
family — agreed Thursday to accept 40 hours of community service and sign a letter of apology to the family of
Sherry Scott, the village clerk. As part of the court agreement, Solomon Simkowitz, 40, of Wesley Hills will
see charges that he pushed Scott and harassed her family on June 15, 2011, dismissed if he stays out of trouble
for six months after finishing his community service. The incident erupted when Scott’s then-11-year-old daughter
tossed a water balloon and hit a car driven by a Hasidic Jew, who was turning off Monsey Boulevard onto Fletcher Drive.
The driver called the Chaverim of Rockland, a volunteer group that assists community members. About 40 to 50 members
of Chaverim descended on the apartment where the Scotts live on Fletcher Drive, police said. Spring Valley police and Scott contend the driver
chased Scott’s daughter, who was then protected by a 17-year-old cousin. Scott and her son, Junathan McNeil Sr., 36, came outside. The Chaverim
and the Scott family began pushing each other, as Scott’s daughter Shatiya tried to get into her apartment. At some point, Scott said Simkowitz
pushed her against a brick wall, injuring her leg and back. Spring Valley police charged Simkowitz with third-degree assault and second-degree
harassment and Jacobowitz with second-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree unlawful imprisonment and second-degree harassment."
Complete story here on LoHud.
January 3, 2013
"The East Ramapo school district has just less than two weeks to get
a plan in place to address its multimillion-dollar
deficit and pay overdue debts to Rockland BOCES, state education officials warned Thursday.A letter handed down from Deputy
Commissioner Ken Slentz is a second request to Superintendent of Schools Joel Klein for East Ramapo to submit a plan and timeline
for addressing its estimated $8 million deficit and balance its budget, including payment of some $5 million in back bills it owes to
Rockland BOCES.Today’s letter follows an initial Dec. 14 request from Assistant Commissioner Charles Szuberla Jr. that gave the
district until Jan. 2 to submit the plan — a deadline East Ramapo missed. If school board members willfully disobey or ignore an
order of the commissioner, he can remove them from office, though the only way the state education department can actually
take over a school district is if legislation is passed to authorize it." Journal story here.
Town of Ramapo Kicks After-school Tutoring Program out of Spring Valley Site
January 1, 2013 "When
schools reopen Wednesday, a few dozen kids who attend a local
after-school tutoring program — and their
parents — may be out of luck because the town of Ramapo has ordered the owner to stop operating out of its space at the Cultural
Arts Center.In a Dec. 24 letter to Jodi Georges, director of the program, Ramapo Town Attorney Michael Klein said use of the space
on Dr. Berg Lane hasn’t been approved by the Town Board. Furthermore, he said, the town hasn’t received proof the program is
licensed, insured and certified to operate as a not-for-profit. Georges has been using the space for about three years after signing
an agreement in 2009 with Spring Valley village Trustee Demeza Delhomme, who manages use of the center by not-for-profits that
serve seniors, youth and other community groups. The space is provided rent-free to these groups by the town, which owns the
building, but the agreement authorizing Georges to run a “not-for-profit after-school homework assistance and enrichment agency”
from noon to 7 p.m. five days a week is not town-approved, according to Klein." Journal News story here. For more information
on the connection between Trustee Delhomme and Supervisor St. Lawrence see these documents.
December 30, 2012 "Tucked
into a wooded hill on the land — some 145 acres of sprawling forest and
field off Chestnut Ridge
Road — is a tiny cemetery containing the graves of perhaps a dozen Talmans, several of whom fought in the Revolutionary War,
Talman’s father told him. According to the family, whose ancestors were some of the earliest settlers of Rockland County, the
property was acquired by Douwe H. Talman in 1796. It changed hands over the years and was eventually owned by the Edwin
Gould Foundation in the 1920s, according to records from the Historical Society of Rockland County. Earlier this month, and after
years of attempts, the Edwin Gould Foundation, based in Manhattan, sold the property to a local limited liability company
for $9.3 million." Complete Journal News coverage here.
December 28, 2012 "Sen.
David Carlucci, D-New City, plans to introduce legislation that will
increase the payout for education
funding from lottery winnings by 10 percent. That, and adding a portion of unclaimed prize winnings to a pool for education,
could raise about $700 million for schools without increasing taxes, Carlucci said. Two other bills that were introduced in 2011
but stalled in committee will be reintroduced in the new session, he said. These are a bill to change the state aid formula to
provide more money to the struggling district, and another that would allow the commissioner of education to intervene." Click
here for complete story.
December 27, 2012 A
letter sent last week to Dr. Joel Klein Superintendent of the East
Ramapo Central School District outlined
violations of Federal and New York State laws regarding the placement of special needs students in the district. Many have been
placed in private schools bypassing required reviews and offering no documentation of the placements. The illegal placements
have been made by a single person handling the review. The violations go back to July of this year. The district has been warned
several times of the violations with no change in its disregard of the law. The letter sent last Friday explains the violations, itemizes
the demands needed to bring the district into compliance, and demands that the letter be posted for public viewing on the East Ramapo
website in the announcements section. (The letter is dated Dec 19 and today, Dec 27, it still is not on the website.) If the decision has
been made to hold off on posting this document until after the next Board meeting, Jan 8, we offer this copy. Feel free to forward
the PDF on to other interested members of the school community--that's what the State intended.
Law stymies savings if East Ramapo district cuts kindergarten
December 15, 2012 "With
the solvency of Rockland BOCES in peril, the state education department
sent a letter
Friday to East Ramapo school officials demanding that they balance their budget and pay area education cooperatives
about $5 million in back bills, Newsday has learned. The missive appears to be the first step in a process that, without
cooperation from district officials, could result in a state takeover of the financially troubled district. "I'm very concerned
about the decisions the district is making around its finances, including the failure to pay for the BOCES services," State
Education Commissioner John King Jr. told Newsday Friday. "We are committed to exercising whatever authority we have
to assure that students are well served." East Ramapo school officials estimated that, without cuts, they won't be able to
make payroll at the end of the school year. Still, when faced with public outcry at a Dec. 4 meeting, the school board
balked at making any decisions and Orthodox Jewish board members, who hold a majority, abruptly left the meeting
as public comment began." Read the complete Newsday article here.
Ramapo Stadium Foes Accuse Town
of 'End Run' on
Public in Debt Vote
December 14, 2012
"It’s been almost two years
since town taxpayers first became obligated to back
$25 million in debt for Ramapo’s controversial baseball stadium. The Town Board’s decision last week
to extend that obligation past the original five-year agreement has critics worried that taxpayers could
get slammed down the road if revenues from the stadium and another project, the Ramapo Commons
housing development, don’t roll in as expected. The way the vote was held — as an unannounced “new
business” item approved at the tail end of a nearly three-hour board meeting Dec. 3 — also has drawn the
ire of critics who’ve long opposed the stadium financing. Members of Preserve Ramapo — a grassroots political
group whose members have challenged Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence — claim the town purposely
shielded the vote from the public and further kept taxpayers in the dark by failing to provide documents
from the meeting right away." The complete story on LoHud site can be read here.
Slipshod governance on Ramapo stadium financing
Journal News Comments on Illegal $25m Bond Vote
New York State Dept. of
Environmental Conservation Orders
Public Hearing on Environmental Issues at Patrick Farm
December 10, 2012 The DEC has issued an
order for the developer of the Patrick Farm project,
Yechiel Lebovits, to set up a public hearing in Ramapo. The order explains: "Because a significant degree of
public interest exists, DEC has made a determination to hold a Legislative Public Hearing." The project
sponsor, Levovits, must arrange for a suitable venue for the hearing and to secure the services of a steno-
grapher. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will be assigned to the hearing. The meeting will most likely
take place in January. Read the text of the DEC letter here.
Boulders’ Off-season Rocky—Owners Fire the GM and the League
Scrambles to Replace another Failed Franchise
December 10, 2012 Now there are four. When the Rockland Boulders
joined the Can-Am League, two seasons ago,
there were eight teams from New Jersey, New York, New England and Canada. Today, only four remain as the other
half of the league has gone belly up. At home, here in Rockland, the Boulders prepared for the upcoming season by
firing the team’s general manager Dave LaPoint. (More)
Sources: Ramapo board OKs refinancing $25M in ballpark debt to extend repayment
December 8, 2012 "With
a mega debt payment looming for the Rockland Boulders ballpark next
year, the Town Board
this week approved refinancing about $25 million in costs associated with the park, sources with knowledge of the
decision told The Journal News/LoHud.com. The board voted unanimously, minus one absent member, late Monday
to refinance the debt that funded construction of the park in order to spread repayments over a longer term and lock
in a lower interest rate, the sources said. Numerous town employees and elected officials refused to speak about the
matter on the record. The debt was issued as five-year bonds by Ramapo Local Development Corp. and guaranteed
by the town for construction of the 3,500-plus seat baseball stadium, known as Provident Bank Park. The park is home
to the Rockland Boulders and opened for its inaugural season in June 2011." Complete Journal News story here.
Stavisky's Dual Role and the Inherent Conflicts
December 5, 2012 "Apparently
a flaw in the election law allows a party chairman to be approved
by a county Legislature as the election commissioner for that party. It may be legal, but it isn’t right!
What will Mrs. Stavisky do when a candidate supported by her party machine is challenged by an
independent candidate? Under the law, she will have the power to rule their petition invalid and force
the independent candidate to go to court to overturn her decision. Many Democratic committeemen
want Ann Marie Kelly to remain their impartial Democratic election commissioner. Mrs. Stavisky obviously
did her best to prevent an open meeting. She also claims no conflict of interest exists between the two roles."
Read here the full text of two letters to The Journal News about Kristin Stavisky's dual political roles on the Board
of Elections and as head of the Rockland Democratic party.
Time Off Policy Defined--Ramapo Puts Vacation Rules in Writing
December 4, 2012 "A new
policy allows town employees to use vacation, personal or other earned
time off to observe religious holidays. The policy puts in writing an established town practice of
accommodating employees who request to leave a few hours early Fridays to observe Shabbat, for
example, or take off a day here and there for a holiday, Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence
said.The policy was adopted by the Town Board on Monday night and takes effect immediately." Read
the Journal News story here. Full text of the new rules here.
Democrats question party chief Stavisky's dual role,
nominated as election commissioner
November 29, 2012 "Kristen
Zebrowski Stavisky’s selection as Rockland County’s Democratic election
commissioner on Monday surprised no one. But it has caused rumblings within her party, with some
committee members saying the current Democratic election commissioner, Ann Marie Kelly, was forced
out of her position and Stravisky engineered her selection in such a way that her opponents did not make
it to the meeting in New City where she was voted in.Stavisky has denied the charges." Full story here.
November 25, 2012 "The
tremendous damaging coastal effects of the Hurricane
Sandy has added grave new concern to the public view of United Water desalination
proposal. The United Water desalination pilot plant pump house and intake sites
are on the shore line of Haverstraw Bay just 3.5 miles south of Indian Point Nuclear
power station." (Full text of the Letter to the Editor in Our Town here.)
November 24, 2012 "At the Nov. 14
Planning Board meeting, community residents, wetlands experts and
local business owners voiced objections to the project, ranging from the negative impact on the character
of the community, devastating effect on local businesses to the destructive impact on the wetlands in the
area and ultimately our drinking water and the Hudson River. The objections by the public continued to be
expressed well after 10 p.m. The response from the developer’s paid consultants could be summed up this
way: 'We are the experts, the local residents are not, so trust us.' " (More)
November 24, 2012
Stavisky has spent months lobbying for support to secure the post and,
during the party’s convention on Monday, is likely to tie up the job because she already has the key backing
of the party’s executive committee. If Stavisky’s appointment is approved by the Rockland County Legislature,
which is virtually guaranteed, she would simultaneously come to hold one job that requires her to be objective
and fair to all political office seekers and another where she is helping the efforts of a candidate who is backed
by her party. She said she wasn’t worried about a conflict." Read full text of The Journal News story here.
November 21, 2012 "The
town adopted its tax-cap-busting budget Tuesday, voting 3-2 to pass a
spending plan for 2013. Spending will increase about $8.5 million this year, or 10 percent over the current
budget.Under the plan, town taxes will rise 9.43 percent, meaning most taxpayers will pay $46.80 more annually
for every $50,000 of assessed value."
Board Members Voted (Yes vote approves tax increase--No vote opposes the
Comments cited were given to The Journal News Mareesa Nicosia (full coverage can be read here)
Brendel Logan Voted YES
St. Lawrence said he wasn’t concerned that the vote wasn’t unanimous. Board members “have their own minds and they can vote however they see fit as to whether they like or dislike the budget.”
described the budget as imperfect yet fair and said he voted
with public safety as his priority.
“I always put public safety before politics, and the public safety part of this budget is what I like,” he said.
taxes 9 percent is unacceptable,” he said. “To blame the county,
you know, two wrongs don’t make a right.”
He added: “The supervisor’s attitude was the budget is his way or the highway, and I chose the highway.”
think anybody wants tax increases, but I wanted to see more cuts
in spending and more ideas for revenue enhancement to balance
the budget without raising taxes,” he said. “That wasn’t in
place so I voted ‘no.’”
Read the Community View: Tax Increase Isn't Solution to Ramapo's Debt Crisis here.
November 21, 2012
"Faced with a
growing $7 million deficit, the East Ramapo school district is looking
again to cut nonmandated programs and staff to close its budget gap. Among the possibilities the district will
consider are cutting school nurses, shortening the school day, cuts to elementary art and music, and centralizing
special services for private-school students. Eliminating the kindergarten program, which was proposed last spring
and was curtailed from full day to half day this year, is another consideration. But Superintendent Joel Klein, in
addressing more than 60 people including parents, staff, the school board and administrators at a meeting at Kakiat
Elementary School on Tuesday night, said he does not support the measure, which would affect more than 700 students."
Complete Journal News coverage here.
November 20, 2012 "Rockland
County approaches $100 million in debt, we recently had a 30 percent
tax increase, and a 4 percent surcharge added to our electric bill. Guess who is running for county executive?
Ilan Schoenberger, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, the very person who year after year was
responsible for advancing flawed budgets from County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef." Read the full text of
the letter to The Journal News here.
November 20, 2012 "After
a decade of fighting a public school board dominated by Orthodox Jews in
suburban New York, Oscar Cohen, a soft-spoken 71-year-old with a reputation for composure, is starting
to get angry.'You have eight school districts in Rockland County,' the retired school administrator told the
Forward recently. “One is cutting every nonmandated service to the bone. Seven are not. Ninety percent
of the kids going to the one are children of color. Is something wrong with that picture?' " (More from the
Jewish Daily Forward here)
October 25, 2012 "In
late summer, Preserve Ramapo collected thousands of signatures and
petitions to the town clerk, aiming to land two propositions on the ballot in next month’s general election:
one to increase the number of Town Board members from four to six and one to establish a ward system in
which each Town Board member would represent a designated geographic area. Board members are now
elected at large. Members of the group — which opposes town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and
many of his financial decisions — said the town needs a better system of checks and balances and their
proposals, especially a ward system, would ensure that happens." A show cause filing and an Article 78
lawsuit have now been invoked because of the town's attempt to ignore its obligations. Journal story here.
Oustatcher Prevails in Lawsuit
Against School Board and District--Another
Costly Misstep by the Board and Its Attorney
October 23, 2012 "A
judge has ruled in favor of a former East Ramapo schools superintendent
who sued the district
for breach of his contract.Ira Oustatcher filed a lawsuit in December, claiming he was owed more than $97,700 to
date because the district cut his pay — breaking the terms of his contract — after he was demoted from the superintendent
job and reassigned to his current position, principal of Pomona Middle School. Joel Klein, who was named in the lawsuit
along with the district and the Board of Education, succeeded Oustatcher as superintendent in the spring of 2011." The
board's attorney, D'Agostino, was uncharacteristically silent when asked for his opinion by the reporter. Journal story here.
October 18, 2012 "A
proposal to annex 6.87 acres of
privately owned town land to the village of New Square
received scant support Wednesday during a public hearing
that drew about two dozen residents. The annexation, which
requires the full support of the town and village boards, would
enable land that is now zoned for single-family residences to be
developed into multifamily dwellings. Applicants want to
accommodate the growing numbers of families who desire to live
together in the insular, densely populated Hasidic village." Full
text of the Journal News story here.
Ramapo Taxpayers Footing the
Bill for the Highest Paid Public Employee in
New York State--Christopher St. Lawrence insists "He's worth every penny of it"
Ramapo Police Chief Peter Brower
Governor Andrew Cuomo
St. Lawrence's explanation why Brower is the highest paid local employee in the entire State of New York:"It's a dangerous job and he's worth every penny."
October 18, 2012 New York City
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is in charge of the largest police force
in the country--more
than 35,000 cops. Kelly is paid $205,180 for enforcing the law in the largest city in the nation (8.2 million people). Ramapo Police Chief
Peter Brower is in charge of 125 cops in a town of 126,595 in the Lower Hudson Valley and is paid $321,719. Brower earns $116,539 more than
Kelly while managing roughly 35,000 fewer officers. These outrageous numbers didn't discourage Brower's boss, Supervisor St. Lawrence,
from going on Channel 12 and insisting that his very pricey chief "[Has] a tough job, and a dangerous job. . . and he's worth every penny
of it." St. Lawrence and his Town Board (Daniel Friedman, Pat Withers, Brendel Logan, and Yitzchok Ullman) have recently voted a
9% increase in Ramapo Town taxes. Coverage in The Journal News here and the NY Post here.
The Death of a Once-Proud School District
October 16, 2012
October 16, 2012 "For the past five
years news, reports detailing the destruction of the East Ramapo School
District ("ERSD") have appeared on a regular, and recently daily, basis. This once-proud and superlative school district, that
encompasses a section of Clarkstown, has been ravaged by mismanagement and the shortsighted agenda of the ultra-Orthodox
majority on the school board. As a 1974 graduate of Spring Valley High School, I find these events especially disturbing." Read
the full text of Michael Bongiorno's Op Ed that appeared in Our Town here.
Group aims to prevent use of East Ramapo district funds for officials' legal defense
October 15, 2012 "Supporters
of a class-action lawsuit against the East Ramapo school district want
to block the Board of Education
from using public money to defend school officials in several ongoing legal actions. In a petition served on the district Friday, Spring
Valley residents Steven White and Betty Carmand ask the state education commissioner to grant an “emergency stay” on up to $2 million
in district money they say is earmarked for legal costs to defend board members, administrators and former employees.The petition is
backed by New York City public interest law firm Advocates for Justice, which filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of some 200 parent
plaintiffs against the district this summer." Complete Journal News story here.
View: Tax increase isn't solution
to Ramapo debt crisis
Oct 9, 2012 Re "Ramapo to refinance bond debt: Plan
will save town millions," Oct. 6 article: "The 9 percent
increase in Ramapo’s tax rate in the town’s 2013 budget plan will do nothing to solve our debt crisis. At
the end of 2013, I expect that the town — and its taxpayers — will be in even deeper debt than we are now."
(Complete text here.)
October 9, 2012 "Clarkstown
will ask the state Department of Environmental Conservation to impose a
cleanup plan on a
developer whose actions officials say have caused Lake Lucille to turn brown with silt. The DEC and the Ramapo building
department have instituted a stop-work order on the developer, Joseph Herskowitz of Monsey, who is building the 18.6-acre
Sky Ridge development off Buena Vista Road in unincorporated Ramapo near the Clarkstown border. Both agencies also have
issued violations to the developer for failing to comply with stormwater controls that have allowed silt to flow a mile and a
half downstream into Crum Creek. The creek flows into Lake Lucille, off South Mountain Road in New City, which feeds the
Lake DeForest reservoir that serves Rockland and Bergen counties." Complete Journal story here.
Firefighter Slams United Water Scare Tactics Used in Promoting Desalination PlantOctober 5, 2012 Robert D. Jackson, a retired lieutenant in FDNY and a member of the Rockland County Incident Management
October 4, 2012 "Simmering
tensions between the public school community and the Orthodox majority
on the school board
boiled over this week at Grandview Elementary. Schoolyard squabbling occurred — among the adults. It was a big disappointment.
A parent-coordinated intervention Tuesday aimed to stem trespassing on school property while pupils in grades K-3 are in the building.
It quickly devolved into confrontation, with Ramapo police being called, and became yet another example of the growing strife
between the public school community and the Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities. As with other hot-button issues in East Ramapo,
the school board and administration could have provided remedies. Instead, the board’s longstanding inaction — even as parents and
school staff expressed concerns — exacerbated the problem." Read the entire editorial here.
October 3, 2012 "Tired
of hounding district policymakers to secure school borders against
trespassers, East Ramapo parents
took matters into their own hands Tuesday. About eight parents patrolled the grounds of Grandview Elementary for two hours,
informing dozens of walkers who were taking a shortcut through the property that they were trespassing and asking them to
find another route. A district security officer joined them. Despite parents’ demands, district officials have tacitly condoned
the presence of strangers on school grounds during school hours, alternately denying trespassing is a problem and worrying they’ll
appear anti-Semitic if they take action. Police have said they can’t do much unless “No Trespassing” signs are posted on the
property." Full text of The Journal News coverage, with video, here. Story in Newsday here.
October 2, 2012 "The
Town Board voted to bust the tax cap in July, much to the chagrin of a
group of residents who
protested the measure at Town Hall at the time. Clarkstown, Orangetown and Haverstraw also plan to exceed the cap
in 2013. Ramapo’s proposed $90,398,592 plan increases spending by some $8.4 million, or 9.3 percent more than the
2012 budget of $81,982,185. According to the 2013 proposal, townwide taxes will increase 9 percent, while residents
of unincorporated Ramapo can expect a slightly lower increase of 7.23 percent. That means for each $50,000 of assessed
value, a homeowner would pay $44.65 more in property taxes in 2013 under the townwide rate and $28.85 more
under the unincorporated rate." Complete Journal story here.
Sept. 26, 2012 "Ahead
of a financial audit due next month and following another round of
budget cuts, East Ramapo officials
say the school district faces an estimated $6 million deficit — far more than what they’ve cited in recent weeks. The district
ended the 2011-12 school year with a $1.78 million deficit and no reserves. Now, the district is adding about $1.5 million in
unanticipated expenses for transportation, special education and BOCES services, mostly due to increased enrollment, Assistant
Superintendent for Finance Michael Ivanoff said Tuesday. About 1,000 new students enrolled in East Ramapo’s private schools
this fall and 10 new private schools opened. Roughly 70 percent of students in the East Ramapo district attend private schools,
which receive public funds for transportation, books and special education." Complete Journal News coverage here.
Ramapo Asks NYS Attorney General
to Examine the Town’s New Confidentiality Policy
Sept. 25, 2012
weeks ago, Supervisor St. Lawrence and his board voted
unanimously to enact a new Confidentiality Policy. This policy threatens any
Town employee with termination and/or legal action if that employee discusses
virtually anything about town business, records, plans, or whatever St. Lawrence
deems “confidential,” with anyone outside of Town Hall. What’s confidential
includes “processes, reports, research, sources of supply, financial data” even
those things oddly classified as “confidential public information.”
The Executive Director of the Committee on Open Government at the Dept. of State in Albany has told Preserve Ramapo
that the policy is illegal, and today we have filed a formal complaint and request for an investigation by the Attorney
General’s Intergovernmental Affairs Bureau. (More)
Sept. 24, 2012 "This
does not make any mathematical sense at all. There are
several options and alternatives that can provide
additional water sources that would not include such a foolish use of ratepayer dollars. Many of the alternatives would create
construction jobs and if we invested more on fixing existing infrastructure would also result in more construction jobs. Let’s think
about a more robust and sensible solution to our water needs and protect our existing infrastructure and environment. It should not
be forgotten that UW is a private company with a corporate interest; its goal is making profits, not improving existing infrastructure,
leaving us poorly served." A practical cost analysis of the proposed United Water desalination plant by an experienced wastewater
engineer. Full text here.
Sept. 22, 2012 "State
Education Commissioner John King Jr. said Friday that he is
following developments in the troubled
East Ramapo School District and is aware that many parents are calling for state intervention. “We are looking closely, and
we are concerned,” he said at a meeting with The Journal News/LoHud.com Editorial Board. Harry Phillips, the Rockland/
Westchester/Putnam representative on the state Board of Regents, which makes education policy, went further, saying the
school district will have trouble meeting the special-education costs of the region’s fast-growing Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox
communities.“We see nothing but problems ahead,” he said. “People will have to look at some sort of takeover.” " Complete
Journal News story here.
East Ramapo forecasts more cuts after school board trims transportation, jobs
Sept. 21, 2012
"The day after the East Ramapo Board of Education voted to
eliminate three staff positions and nonmandated
transportation to private schools, an administrator said more cuts were planned soon to close the budget gap. Michael Ivanoff,
assistant superintendent for finance, did not say when the cuts would come or from where.“There are more financial challenges
on the horizon,” he said. “There will be more cuts.” The district has a budget deficit of $1.78 million and also must produce savings
to pay for about $1 million in legal costs to defend board members and administrators in a petition and lawsuit filed earlier in
the summer." Journal News story here. See also, Spring Valley High's fall play canceled by budget cuts here.
RLUIPA Documentary America's Holy War Nominated as
Finalist In Great Lakes
International Film Festival
Funny Numbers from the Ramapo Democratic Committee's Financial Report
September 18, 2012
Keeping track of local
politicians can lead you down some rather strange rabbit holes. The most
financial report from the Ramapo Democratic Committee (the July Periodic) had a few entries that should have raised both
Democratic and Republican eyebrows. Where the money went might have upset more than a few of the loyalists. That report
was followed by a second, amended periodic report, and it didn't do much to shovel cover over some rather damning entries
in the first report. (More)
Public responds to Journal News "East Ramapo District in Crisis" Series
Sept. 17, 2012 Click
for a sample of letters sent by readers responding to the two-day
about the East Ramapo School District and embattled board of ed. Link to index of Journal articles in that series here.
Ramapo Reform Democrats Run the Table
Patrick Farm: Judge nixes approval of development; Ramapo
Sept. 14, 2012 "A state Supreme Court judge has
annulled final approval for a high-density development of nearly
500 homes on
Patrick Farm that opponents argue would cripple the environment and the character of the single-family neighborhood. Based on
legal action by the Ramapo Organized for Sustainability and a Safe Aquifer, the judge ruled Ramapo violated its own rules that
require developments to undergo architectural review before the Planning Board considers final approval. As a result of the ROSA
decision, Scenic Development LLC in Monsey must put its architectural designs before the Ramapo’s Community Design Review
Committee. No date has been set." Full Journal News coverage here. Read the ROSA Press Release here.
District in crisis: East Ramapo's public- and private-school families fight for resources
Sept. 9, 2012 "One week after East
Ramapo became the only school district in the region to see its
budget defeated by voters,
school board Vice President Daniel Schwartz warned at a meeting that the district faced a “terrible, terrible crisis.” The crisis
he referred to was not the impending dismissal of another 90 jobs, including all social workers and most teaching assistants.
It was not the reduction of kindergarten from full day to half-day or the shriveling of art, music and sports programs, or the
possibility that a second defeated budget would eviscerate the school system like a carpet bombing. The crisis that Schwartz
bemoaned in May was a creeping anti-Semitism spurred by distrust of the school board, which since 2005 has been run by majorities
of Hasidic and other Orthodox Jews who send their children to private schools." Full Journal story here.
provides an overview of The Journal News' impressive coverage
that includes 14 news stories published
over two days, Sept 9 and 10. The news items cover the economics, the New York State investigations, the
Comptroller's reports, the state intervention in two attempted sales of grammar schools, the unprofessional
behavior of the Board's attorney, the class action lawsuit against the board members, and more. There is additional
information and video the newspaper's online site. Check out the Index Page here for links to all the stories.
East Ramapo needs intervention: Journal News Editorial
Sept. 9, 2012 "With so much wrong in
East Ramapo school district, it’s hard to see how it can survive
without intervention at the
state or federal level. It will need that and much more. The East Ramapo school district is broke. There’s not a penny in reserve funds,
and the district is operating at a deficit. A litany of other concerns are set forth in disturbing detail in today’s Journal News/LoHud.com
special investigation, A District in Crisis. School board members have a fiduciary responsibility to make sound decisions on behalf of the
public schools and the property taxpayers, and the East Ramapo school board has failed miserably." Full text of the editorial here.
to All for a Successful Ward Petition Drive
Education cuts hurt East Ramapo kids
Sept. 4, 2012 Letter in The Journal News "School
starts this week and I ask, what is happening in East Ramapo?
Are they ready? It was announced at the last board meeting that the fund balance is 90 projected to be minus $1.7 million.
We have seen egregious cuts to our children’s education over the past few years and it was also announced that due to
pending litigation costs there could be even more cuts. Is it even legal to carry a negative fund balance? Full letter.
Sept. 2, 2012 "Activists
with the grassroots political group Preserve Ramapo are reviving an
effort that’s been thwarted in
past years to seek a public vote that would change the composition of the Town Board. Members want to establish a ward
system in which each Town Board member would represent a designated geographic area. Board members are now elected at large.
Rockland sues Ramapo over emergency communications equipment
Ramapo planners won't allow 7 antennas
August 28, 2012 "Rockland
County is suing the Town of Ramapo after a Planning Board rejected
the county’s bid to install emergency
communications equipment on a wireless tower in a residential neighborhood in Monsey. The rejection, which came after a
contentious May meeting of Ramapo’s Planning Board, blocked the county’s attempt to install seven antennas and an equipment
shelter at the tower, which residents argue would increase health risks as well as truck traffic in the neighborhood, since the
upgrades would require monthly maintenance. The equipment would fill in gaps in the wireless coverage for the county’s emergency
communications, which include radio from police, fire, and other officials. The tower, on Eastview Road in Monsey, is owned by a
division of Cablevision and has existed at the site for decades." Journal story here.
27, 2012 Last Friday, the economically besieged Can-Am team,
the Worcester Tornadoes,
was scheduled to play the Quebec Capitales at home. When the team took the field, they were
wearing the yellow and black uniforms of the "Grays." The Grays were a Can-Am "traveling team"
that disappeared five years ago. The reason for the name change was that it was the only
alternative to a shirts-and-skins dress code for the contest. The Tornadoes' uniforms had been seized under court order
granted to the Hilton Garden Inn, which is owed $32,562.00 by the team. (More)
August 27, 2012 "Two
more legal actions seeking to block development of the 208-acre
Patrick Farm have been reinstated,
as a state appeals court ordered a judge to consider challenges to Ramapo’s decisions on environmental impacts and increasing
the housing density for the property. The Appellate Division panel ruled that Supreme Court Justice Linda Jamieson erred when
she dismissed legal challenges in 2011 by property neighbors Sonya and Milton Shapiro and Elizabeth Youngewirth. An appeals
panel ruled in May that Jamieson also erred by denying Pomona’s legal challenge on the same grounds. Those three cases join
six other legal actions challenging the approvals and environmental reviews for the Patrick Farm development." Journal News
coverage here. Text of the court decision can be read here.
August 25, 2012 "Holding signs and chanting, “Save our
schools,” about 100 East Ramapo students and alumni demonstrated
in front of their alma mater Thursday night, decrying school board decisions to cut funding and rallying in support of a lawsuit
that targets the district’s leadership." Complete Journal News coverage here. Video of the students who spoke at the
press conference can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOsCjzddgFk&feature=youtu.be. President of the Spring
Valley Branch of the NAACP, Mr Willie Trotman, talks about Education and standing behind our children. View this part of the
Press Conference here http://youtu.be/ZsISeUhq6Nc.
August 23, 2012 "Assemblywoman
Ellen Jaffee wants the state to reopen a 2006 rate case that
required United Water New York
to develop a long-term water supply solution. Jaffee asked that the agency require an independent financial analysis of possible
alternatives to the water treatment plant, which, she said, is estimated to cost between $139.2 million and $189.3 million. She
also asked the PSC to hold public hearings to consider “new information and unforeseen circumstances" to determine whether
a joint proposal that settled the rate case should be amended or vacated." I felt that we needed to raise these issues," Jaffee
said Wednesday. "United Water hasn’t done its due diligence and it needs to do more.' " Full text of The Journal News story here.
Clash over videotape interrupts East Ramapo school board meeting
August 22, 2012
Ramapo school board meeting broke up early, delaying time-sensitive
votes — including one related
to the federal lawsuit filed against the board — because of a dispute over a woman’s right to videotape the meeting that nearly
led to her arrest. Board members and about 50 members of the public were listening to a presentation of a recent audit report
when board President Daniel Schwartz interrupted in an attempt to enforce a new videotaping policy. The policy, which Schwartz
proposed after being elected board president in July, limits taping of the public meetings to a designated area at the back of the
room. [The policy violates the public's right as defined in a Committee on Open Government legal opinion given to the board.] “When
you’re ready to arrest me, just drag me out,” said [the videographer Emilia] White, after refusing Schwartz’s repeated requests for her
to move to the back of the room because, he said, her taping from the location was interfering with the meeting. White, who is Haitian,
added, “In the back of the room to me means the back of the bus.” Full Journal News coverage here.
You can view the video from the August 21, 2012 meeting when
Emilia White was threatened with arrest for video taping at a School
at this site: http://youtu.be/woB0K9aUfW4
August 17, 2012
prosecutors say disparaging remarks Town Justice David J. Stein
supposedly made about a civil rights
leader show he cannot properly judge three men accused of misdemeanor charges after a Spring Valley incident involving a water balloon.
In June 2011, up to 50 members of an Orthodox Jewish group confronted Spring Valley Village Clerk Sherry Scott, her daughter, son and other
family members outside their home on Fletcher Road after a car was hit by a water balloon. During a March 29 discussion in Stein’s chambers,
Stein told the prosecutor and defense attorney that he didn’t think an agreement could be reached. “I doubt it,” Stein said, according to the
court papers. “I knew Bill Scott (Sherry Scott’s father) and he was the biggest racist in Rockland County and I know Sherry Scott.” Pressed by
prosecutor Jason Rosenwasser to expound on his comment, Stein said, “Well, she is his daughter.” Rosenwasser then asked Stein to recuse himself,
contending “that due to Your Honor’s preconceived opinion about Bill and Sherry Scott it is impossible for you to be fair and impartial in these cases,
cases which candidly all have racial undertones.” Stein refused to recuse himself and declined to speak on the record about his comments." Complete
Journal News story here.
Minisceongo Park development foes get more time to review plan
August 15, 2012
"The head of the Haverstraw Planning Board has decided to give
opponents of the proposed Minisceongo
Park development more time to learn about what would be the largest shopping center in northern Rockland County. The 53-acre
lot, a former sand and gravel pit, straddles the Haverstraw-Ramapo border on Route 202 near Exit 13 of the Palisades Interstate
Parkway. After more than two hours of public participation, Planning Chairman Salvatore Corallo told the audience that the board
would continue the public hearing not in September, but Oct. 10, partly because the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals is still considering
parking variances, and partly because people can get more time to study the environmental review documents. 'You have roughly
60 days, rather than 30 days, to review,' Corallo told the public." Complete Journal News coverage here.
Update: Can-Am Tornadoes $90,000 in the red--Two Companies Initiate Lawsuits
August 14, 2012 Today's Worcester Telegram reports that
the last-place Massachusetts team has $7,500 in a bank account,
has been attached. There are two vendors suing for more than $30,000, and the city of Worcester is owed for police details from
2007 through 2010 and fire details from July 2011 through August 7 of this year--the tab so far totals $59,140. If this team goes the
way of the recently failed Pittsfield Colonials, Brockton Rox, and NY Federals, there will only be four teams left in the Can-Am League.
Read Two Companies Sue Tornadoes Over Bills here.
The Cleaning Company Shows up with Court
to Take Possession of the Can Am League Worcester
Tornadoes’ Uniforms, Bats, Gloves and Game Receipts
August 14, 2012 "The
Enterprise Cleaning Co. of Worcester cleans the Hanover Insurance
Park stadium, bathrooms and concourses at a discounted rate and has not been paid for
any of its services this year, company president Mr. Buchalter said, a pattern that has
played out for the past two years, he said. The Tornadoes are in their eighth season.
Chief Executive Officer Todd Breighner bought the team after the 2009 season and he inherited $500,000 in debt
from the previous owners." (More)
Amended copy of the East Ramapo Parents Class Action Lawsuit here
Parents to sue East Ramapo School District
August 7, 2012 "A class-action lawsuit brought on by a
bevy of parents claims East Ramapo school district’s top
officials and Board of Education members past and present have repeatedly schemed to 'siphon off public money
to support private religious institutions.' Among other claims, the group alleges the district has segregated students
in special-education programs based on their race, at taxpayers’ expense, according to a draft version of the lawsuit
provided to The Journal News/Lohud.com by the public-interest law firm Advocates for Justice. The 60-plus-page
document, expected to be filed in federal court Tuesday, is the latest legal blow to the struggling district as a conflict
intensifies between parents of public-school students and the Orthodox and Hasidic school-board majority that makes
decisions on behalf of those students." Journal News coverage here.
East Ramapo School Board refuses AG's request to have lawyers
in probe--Continue to withhold more than 1,300 documents
August 2, 2012 "Lawyers for the East Ramapo school
district are seeking to sue state Attorney General Eric T.
Schneiderman over their right to represent Board of Education members in the continuing state investigation
of the controversial attempted sales of two school buildings. Lawyers Albert D’Agostino and Dominick Minerva,
both of Long Island, have worked for East Ramapo for the past three years and are representing school board
members in the attorney general’s investigation into “alleged improprieties” in the district’s attempts to sell
two former elementary schools to private religious schools." Complete Journal News story here.
Violent Crime Numbers Spike in Ramapo--Up 72% from 2007 to 2011,
Most Accelerated Increase in the County
August 1, 2012According to disturbing recent statistics on reported criminal activity, the Rockland town with
Parents to sue East Ramapo school board over public funds
July 31, 2012 "A
growing number of parents with children in East Ramapo public schools
plan to file a lawsuit in
the coming days seeking millions in damages from current and former school board members they allege were
involved in a pattern of abuse of millions of public dollars used to support private schools. Arthur Schwartz, the
group’s attorney and head of the New York-based nonprofit public interest firm Advocates for Justice said 'This
lawsuit would seek to recover damages from the people who wasted millions of dollars in taxpayer money.' He
said the suit will target former school board members as well as the five addressed in the earlier petition: school
board President Daniel Schwartz, Vice President Yehuda Weissmandl, and members Moses Friedman, Moshe Hopstein
and Eliyahu Solomon. Parents want the board members to be held personally liable for up to millions in damages and
want to bar them from using district dollars to defend themselves, with the money then returned to the district." Read
the full text of The Journal News story here.
Governor Cuomo Vetoes Private School Tuition Bill
July 31, 2012 After passage in both legislative houses in Albany,
the Governor returned the Senate version of
the bill with his signed veto and reasons for his rejection of the proposed law. Read the full text of his veto
here. From The Journal News: "The amended special-education bill drew a huge response from public-school
districts and private, religious-based school advocates across the area once it was unveiled. Critics said the
amendment could cost millions of tax dollars to finance, was a back-door voucher system that undermined the
separation of church and state, and could create a segregated school program for the state’s most fragile
children." Complete Journal coverage can be read here.
By Peter Applebome
The New York Times Jvetuly 28, 2012
SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. — In the East Ramapo Central School District here, the children of Caribbean and Latin American
immigrants have filled the classrooms in recent years. About 85 percent of the students are black or Hispanic, and only
7 percent are white. But on the school board, seven of the nine seats are held by Orthodox Jews. Now, after years of
increasingly bitter discord between parents and the board, the parents are trying to force the state to intervene. (More)
ABC News Coverage of Impending
Federal Lawsuit Against the East
Ramapo School Board
July 26, 2012 Click
video replay of
the story broadcast today.
New Cost Overruns for Ballpark Construction
Rolling In--Bill for June is $143,785.15
July 26, 2012 If you thought the
construction at the Provident Ballpark was completed, unfortunately,
mistaken. The cost overruns keep coming as a continuing insult to the taxpayers who voted to reject paying
these bills more than a year and a half ago. The Supervisor and Town Board just voted another $144K to
Morano Brothers and Holt Construction Corp. That's the June bill for taxpayers, and keep in mind that these
costs are for change orders--cost overruns--tariffs for lousy planning. (More)
Probe Looks at Spring Valley Judge-Alan Simon in
the Middle of another Controversy
June 24, 2012 "Justice Alan Simon is being investigated by police
for harassment involving a confrontation with
an intern assigned by the mayor to work in the justice court clerk’s office. Simon became concerned that someone
he didn’t interview or approve to work in the office had access to confidential court files, his lawyer, William Frank,
said Monday, confirming his client was under police investigation. Simon also is accused of threatening to have the mayor,
police officers and other court personnel arrested or held in contempt of his court or both for not following his orders. Another
issue is whether Simon will be reviewed by state court authorities such as the 9th Judicial District or the state Office of
Judicial Conduct. Rockland County Court Judge Charles Apotheker, who oversees the Justice Court for the district, didn’t
have any comment on Simon or the events in Spring Valley." Read the full story in The Journal News here.
July 24, 2012 In a letter to the
Governor, the Rockland County AARP Chapter 1577 warns of
the impact of
the proposed desalination plan. Read the full text of the letter presented recently to Cuomo here.
Five East Ramapo School Board Members face ouster attempt,
accused of using funds to support religious schools
July 19, 2012 "Critics of the East Ramapo Board of Education are
asking the state education commissioner to
remove Orthodox and Hasidic board members they say have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to support
private religious schools while ignoring the growing needs of students in the public schools. The New
York-based public interest law firm Advocates for Justice, on behalf of 14 East Ramapo parents and
community members, said it is calling for the removal of five board members and the appointment
of a state monitor to oversee all spending and special-education placements at the district." (Journal News)
The five targeted for removal are Board President Daniel Schwartz, VP Yehuda Weissmandl, Moses Friedman,
Moshe Hopstein, and Eliyahu Solomon. (More)
North Jersey drinking water going to waste as system leaks lose 25%
July 17, 2012 The Record reports: "Last
year alone, United Water could not account for 26 percent of the water
treated and pumped. That amounts to 10.6 billion gallons, enough to fill the Oradell Reservoir three times over. 'United
Water has a lot of leaks in their system. It’s one of the leakiest systems I know,' said Robert Kecskes, a retired water
supply expert for the state Department of Environmental Protection." Now consider this: "In the summer of 2007, downriver
from Lake DeForest at the Oradell (N.J.) Reservoir, United Water was discharging 7.31 million gallons per day. This is nearly
as much water as the 7.5 million gallons per day that the proposed Haverstraw desalination plant would produce at full
build-out and 5 million gallons per day more than the historical daily median flow." Are Rockland ratepayers going to pay
for United Water's failure to maintain its own infrastructure in order to supplement UW New Jersey customers?" Read the Record
Albany Bill Would Add Family to Special Education Factors (New York Times)
July 15, 2012 "Critics of the bill, including the
administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said the language in the
bill was too broad and could cover anything from clothing or food preferences to the cultural norms and customs practiced
in Orthodox Jewish, Roman Catholic or other religious households." Article here.
Questions About Town of Ramapo Finances--Letter to the Comptroller
July 12, 2012 In a letter sent to the Chief Examiner for the
NYS Comptroller's Office, Bob Rhodes addresses a
number of financial questions that remain unanswered by the town administration. Read the full text of the letter here.
County Legislators Turn their Backs on East Ramapo Parents and Students
July 11, 2012 Last night’s Rockland County Legislature meeting
began with a short ceremony honoring one of the most
celebrated East Ramapo High teachers, Michael Smith. Leader of the justifiably famous East Ramapo Marching Band,
Smith was recently fired, joining hundreds of staff that have been let go in this year’s round of devastating cuts. But
it turned out to be just more empty political theater as many of those same legislators who were pushing in to be
photographed with Smith were the same members who later in the evening refused to allow a vote on a resolution
requesting Governor Cuomo to veto a bill that has the potential to destroy what’s left of the East Ramapo school
district. (More, including how each member voted)
Read My Lips
“The stadium will
be built with private money.
There will be no taxpayer dollars. I got the
message.” (Sept. 2010)
More than $60 million taxpayer dollars later:
to increase taxes and not be limited by the state 2% cap.
(Friedman—Agreed; Logan—Agreed; Ullman—Abstained; St. Lawrence—Agreed;
Withers—absent July 2012) The Bill for the taxpayers? 8.9% for starters
July 10, 2012 “Citing
a budget shortfall as it plans for 2013, the Town Board approved a plan
to override the state’s
2 percent tax-levy cap, despite opposition from angry residents who demonstrated at Town Hall on Monday. The board
voted 3-0 Monday night, with one abstention and one member absent.The vote followed a lengthy public hearing during
which residents opposed to the override plan alternately assailed officials for mishandling their money and for holding a
budget-related public hearing in the dead of summer with little notice.” Full Journal News coverage here.
Legislator Meyers to Introduce Resolution
at County Legislature Tuesday
Urging Governor to Veto Special Needs Student Placement Bill
July 8, 2012 The Journal News, The
Spring Valley Chapter of the NAACP, even the Huffington Post have
called on Governor Cuomo to veto a bill that will in effect create a voucher system for private schools,
an illegally segregated school system, and overwhelming new debt for the East Ramapo School District as
well as districts around the state. Parents have been calling the Governor's office, and Tuesday Joseph Meyers
will ask the County Legislator to adopt a resolution expressing their legislature's agreement with the parents,
the paper, the NAACP, and news outlets like the Huffington Post. You can read the resolution here.
And please join the East Ramapo parents and taxpayers at 7pm Tuesday at the Rockland County Legislative meeting.
Ramapo Dumps Provident Bank—Or—
Provident Bank Dumps Ramapo
July 3, 2012 The resolution that was passed at the town board
meeting contained no explanation. And there was no discussion
at the board meeting to explain the removal of Ramapo bank
deposits from the bank that christened Chris St. Lawrence’s ballpark.
The message simply read: "Cross River Bank is hereby designated as
official depository for Town of Ramapo funds for the remainder of 2012." Cross River Bank is not in Ramapo,
it’s not even in the State of New York. Why the offloading of tax revenues and other deposits out of state? (More)
JN Editorial: N.Y. special-education bill
many districts with soaring costs
June 27, 2012 "Amid last week’s
bill-passing whirlwind in Albany, legislators passed a bill designed to
special-education families by demanding districts give consideration to cultural and family background when
making placement decisions, and by mandating a rapid timetable for tuition reimbursement when a parent
decides to place a child in a different program than what a district recommends. Despite its laudable goals,
the bill likely oversteps federal rules, and sets up skyrocketing special-education costs for some districts.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo should veto the bill, and encourage legislators to craft reforms that work for families
and are affordable for school districts." (More--including full text of the bill)
Who is Kalman Weber?
June 25, 2012 Kalman Weber is usually
described as a community activist. He is
the president of the South East Ramapo Taxpayer’s Association. That’s the short
answer to the question of who he is. But more important than the self-ascribed
titles, the question should also be viewed from the vantage point of what Kalman
Weber does. In the most recent East Ramapo budget and school board election
(May 15, 2012) Weber’s Taxpayer’s Association placed a number of ads relating to
the candidates and the issues. Most of these ads were divisive, questionable,
and misleading. (More)
June 26, 2012 "Members of the
Rockland Coalition for Sustainable Water said they want an issues
conference before a state
Department of Environmental Conservation judge so alternatives can be considered. George Potanovic was among about 30
coalition members who gathered on the steps of the Rockland County Courthouse to deliver petitions containing the signatures
of 24,000 people who oppose the plant. Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, and state Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City,
accepted the petitions and said they would get them to Cuomo’s office. Potanovic said the project deserved more scrutiny
because economic and environmental issues that weren’t evident when the plant was first pitched had surfaced. They include
the cost to build the plant, which the coalition pegs at $198 million, and the cost to run the plant, because desalination uses
a lot of power that will “forever tie local water rates to the cost of electricity,” Potanovic said. The coalition estimates that
ratepayers could see their annual bills increase by as much as $500 if the plant is built." Journal coverage here.
June 24, 2012 "State
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s latest bid to gain more authority over
local development corporations
failed to make it to the Senate floor before state lawmakers went home for the summer. But state officials are optimistic
that the measure, which passed unanimously in the Assembly on Wednesday, stands a good chance when senators reconvene
in Albany — whether it’s in a special session this year or in a new legislative session next year. The comptroller has been a
vocal critic of LDCs in recent years, including the Ramapo LDC, which he said in a 2010 audit of the Rockland Boulders
baseball stadium had sidestepped regulations and left taxpayers liable for up to $60 million. He cited the ballpark in pushing
the bill last week." Full Journal News article here.
June 22, 2012 "Citing
millions of dollars in unnecessary costs to taxpayers, State Comptroller
Thomas P. DiNapoli
called on the state Senate to vote on his proposal to give the Comptroller’s office direct audit authority over
local development corporations (LDCs) and other similar entities that are controlled by local governments. The
bill has passed the Assembly (A.9689) and is awaiting Senate (S.7540) action." When passed in the Senate, St.
Lawrence will be legally forced to open the Local Development Corp books to state auditors. Full text of the
press release from DiNapoli's office here.
June 22, 2012When John Layne, the Deputy Head of the Highway Department in Ramapo
June 19, 2012 "A small fraction of East Ramapo voters easily
approved the district’s $191.9 million
Tuesday during a revote, bringing closure to a long and anxiety-ridden budget season. The 2012-13 spending plan,
virtually identical to the one taxpayers rejected last month, was approved by a vote of 3,562 to 1,217, according
to unofficial results announced by the district late Tuesday." Journal coverage here.
June 19, 2012 A story in today’s Newsday warns
that Ramapo should "Say farewell to the Rockland Boulders." The
team will be changing its name this Saturday in a news conference in Upper Saddle River N.J. The new name will
be directed at New Jersey to attract potential fans from Bergen County. Although the Jersey fan base being groped
by the team’s management have not kicked in a dime for the stadium, they have become the target of a pretty
strange marketing scheme. (More)
June 18, 2012 "As
voters in the East Ramapo school district head to the polls Tuesday to
decide on a $191.9 million
budget proposal for next school year — for the second time this spring — they will do so without knowing what their
schools will look like if the budget fails again. If it fails, the district is required to adopt a contingency budget with a
zero percent tax-levy increase, which would require it to cut $2.6 million from an austere spending plan for 2012-13.
District officials say they haven’t put together a contingency plan and they’re counting on the budget to pass." Story here.
June 14, 2012 "The
East Ramapo teachers union has agreed to a new, five-year contract that
limits raises and temporarily
freezes salaries for those who take on extracurricular leadership roles. The contract, which goes into effect July 1, includes
average annual cost-of-living raises of 1 percent to 1.5 percent starting in the second year. Additional step raises based on
teachers’ individual years of experience and other factors will be given only three out of the five years of the contract,
rather than annually as in the past. The contract’s approval by the Board of Education at a meeting last week followed six
months of negotiations between the school district and the union." Full text of the Journal News story here.
June 12, 2012
Letter in The Journal News
"Why does this Provident Bank Park baseball stadium in Ramapo have to be such an annoyance? It’s bad enough the
citizens who live near it have to be forced to put up with the fireworks’ sound; now concerts. My once quiet street
is now strewn with beer cans and bottles from the pre-show tailgaters." Read the complete letter here.
Attorney General Investigating East Ramapo Sale of Schools
June 9, 2012
The Journal News reported today: “The East Ramapo school district this
week handed over the last of
thousands of emails and other records related to the attempted sale and current leases of two school buildings after
the state Attorney General’s Office subpoenaed the district earlier this year.” (More)
June 5, 2012 More than most
sports, baseball is a game of numbers. Individual and team
define the value of a franchise, and, ultimately, its history. Immortality of individual players is
celebrated with the retirement of the star’s number. All of this makes what is happening with
the weird numbers at Ramapo’s Provident Ball Park all the more disturbing. (More)
June 3, 2012
In just two years, the Town of Ramapo has gotten itself on the hook for
about $100 million to fund
the construction of its Elm Street “affordable” housing project and its super-deluxe baseball stadium. Now, just
as I predicted, Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded Ramapo’s credit rating by two steps, and anticipates
a further reduction. It reduced Ramapo’s credit rating just in time for Ramapo’s sale of a $15 million bond
anticipation note. Why is Ramapo borrowing another $15 million? And why is it doing this with a bond anticipation
note instead of an ordinary bond? Read the full text of Bob Rhodes' Community View here.
May 30, 2012 "You cannot compare East
Ramapo with Clarkstown or any other district. When you talk about budget
cuts, start at the top.
Instead of trying to cut the budget, the Board of Education saw fit to hire an out-of-town attorney at an outrageous cost to the taxpayers.
How many unnecessary administrators do we have in Central Office? Cuts need to be made at the top, not with the educators who are
working directly with children and their families." Read the full text of this Community View here.
Federal Court Tosses Redistricting Battle of Chasidic Villages
May 30, 2012 "A
federal court has dismissed claims that threatened to upend newly drawn
lines for Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt’s district
and those of surrounding Assembly districts in Orange and Rockland counties. A legal challenge brought by a Town of Ramapo councilman
had accused state lawmakers of diluting the voting power of Ramapo’s large Hasidic population by separating the Hasidic villages of New
Square and Kaser into two Assembly districts rather than keeping them in the same one, as they are now." (More)
Ramapo Leaders Must Take
Blame--Journal News Editorial
May 30, 2012 It was the combination of
the arrogant ego of the Supervisor who turned his back on the taxpayers
who voted against funding
his crackbrained ballpark project and the clueless complicity of his board that has brought the Town of Ramapo to the negative economic outlook
described in the latest Moody's ratings. The taxpayers now have years, or decades of $100million+ debt added to their taxes, and the Town is now burdened
with the lowest credit rating of all the towns in Rockland County. Preserve Ramapo forced the referendum vote on this project, and the people
responded by rejecting any money for the ballpark. St. Lawrence then lied about no taxpayer funds for the park, and his board backed him up.
The New York Comptroller slammed this group for the enormous waste of taxpayers' money, and now Moody's has cut our credit rating off at the knees
with the promise of more downgrades in the near future without some dramatic improvements. Today, The Journal News has pointed to those responsible
in a lead editorial. "Ramapo town leaders can point to the state’s property-tax cap, the weak economy and even Rockland County’s fiscal troubles for
contributing to a two-step downgrade by Moody’s Investors Service. But they need to save significant blame for their own choices — namely, the guarantee
of loans taken by the Ramapo Local Development Corporation to build a controversial baseball stadium." Full text of the editorial can be read here.
Drops Ramapo Credit Rating--
Boulder's Ballpark Debt Dents Ramapo Credit
Ramapo now has
lowest credit rating of any Town in Rockland
Town now Two Steps Above Junk Status
Rating from Aa2 to A1 on $119 million outstanding Debt
Ramapo only Town in County with "Negative Outlook" from Moody's
May 29, 2012
millions of dollars in debt guaranteed by the town to build its
baseball stadium continues to play a major role in its financial standing, as evidenced by Moody’s Investors Service, which cited the debt
guarantee as part of its rationale to downgrade the town’s credit rating. The debt-rating agency has lowered Ramapo’s rating two notches,
citing “significant erosion of the town’s financial flexibility” due to two years of operating deficits, midyear shortfalls and “aggressive”
revenue expectations. The town has $119 million in outstanding general obligation debt, of which $40.3 million is issued by the local
development corporation and guaranteed by the town. The $40.3 million includes a $15.3 million loan from Provident Bank for the
construction of phase one of the Ramapo Commons housing development and a $25 million bond that financed the construction of the
baseball stadium.The bond guarantee, though, is just a fraction of what taxpayers have invested in the Provident Bank Park facility.
According to the New York State Comptroller’s Office, town taxpayers are on the hook for as much as $60 million for the stadium.
The two-notch drop in Ramapo’s creditworthiness — the first change in its rating since 1997 — puts it in last place among towns in
Rockland." Read Mareesa Nicosia's story here. Read the Moody's report on its research for the downgrade here.
Albany Law School Blog posts Patrick Farm Lower Court Reversal
May 29, 2012 Patricia E. Salkin,
Associate Dean and Director of the Government Law Center of Albany Law
has posted on her Law of the Land blog the reversal won by Pomona in its court action against the Patrick
Farm development. Read "NY Appellate Court Holds Village Has Standing to Challenge Town Rezoning
on SEQRA Grounds and on Procedural Grounds" here. Our coverage can be read here.
May 28, 2012 The ad in the
Sunday Journal for the upcoming game with the Worcester
WPIX coverage of East Ramapo (click image for video) Why Block Antenna, But Not Stadium? May 26, 2012 Letter in The Journal News "I find it both
incongruent and preposterous that the Ramapo Planning St. Lawrence Appointee Arrested--Second May 21, 2012 Last June when Christopher
St. Lawrence and his Board enthusiastically created
Tornadoes featured the man who is arguably the most notorious abuser of steroids and
other illegal enhancement drugs in the history of baseball. He has also been arrested and
charged with other crimes, and most recently was kicked off the latest minor league
team that gave him a chance. The team was in Mexico and he was released for admitting to using a banned
substance without a prescription. A world-class sports cheat who is the featured attraction at Sunday's game.
Nothing like promoting a career drug abuser for the kids. (More)
Budget and the prospect for keeping
Board rejected the emergency services request to add antennas to an existing tower because it would increase noise
pollution and traffic and the changes could contribute to the diminution of property values. Where was the rejection
of the plan for the Provident Park baseball stadium in the backyard of my neighborhood for the same reasons in 2010?
Full text of the letter here.
in Command at the Highway Dept, John Layne,
Charged on numerous Counts by DA
an $80k position for John Layne as Deputy Superintendent of Highways for Ramapo, we posted
a long piece itemizing all the red flags hauled up by this ex-mayor of Airmont, and ex-building inspector for Sloatsburg.
We concluded the piece with this warning: "Some sources tell us that the $80,000 for Layne will buy personal internal
surveillance for St. Lawrence in the Highway Department. Many feel that Layne is being maneuvered in position to take
over when the current Superintendent, Tony Sharan, retires. But whether it’s for a political periscope or the
patronage-equals-control calculus that defines local politics, the spending and borrowing has maneuvered the town of
Ramapo into an increasingly dangerous position." Then in this afternoon's LoHud: "Former Airmont Mayor and current Ramapo
deputy highway department superintendent John Layne was arrested at 10:30 a.m. today on corruption charges relating
to his previous job as the Sloatsburg building inspector. The District Attorney's Office charged Layne with official misconduct,
first-degree falsifying business records, petty larceny, and issuing a false certificate." St. Lawrence told the Journal reporter
that he was shocked. We're not. Read our assessment of Layne from last June here and The Journal News article John Layne,
Airmont ex-mayor, charged with corruption in his former role as Sloatsburg building inspector here.
WPIX coverage of East Ramapo
(click image for video)
Why Block Antenna, But Not Stadium?
May 26, 2012 Letter in The Journal News "I find it both
incongruent and preposterous that the Ramapo Planning
St. Lawrence Appointee Arrested--Second
May 21, 2012 Last June when Christopher
St. Lawrence and his Board enthusiastically created
May 17, 2012 "Once again, public school
children lost in East Ramapo, as the majority of district voters — many
of whom have children who attend nonpublic schools and yeshivas — rejected the proposed school budget. The
“No” vote was an especially bitter pill to swallow; not only was East Ramapo’s the only budget in the Lower Hudson
Valley to go down, it also was $7 million less than the district’s current budget. The 2012-2013 budget plan already
contained draconian cuts that limited options for children, from the very beginning of their public school experience
through to the very end. For youngsters who attend the public school system — mostly minority-group members from
working-class families — it will only get worse." Read the complete editorial here.
Read Mareesa Nicosia's
evaluation of the consequences of the failed budget vote:
"East Ramapo budget loss may mean deeper cuts, including all kindergarten" here
A Delusional Solution
May 16, 2012 A puzzling story in The
Journal News last week claimed, "Two councilmen want Ramapo LDC
control shifted to Town Board, cite accountability." The two are Daniel Friedman and Pat Withers, and what
they want is actually not legal. And their reasons for wanting to take control of the LDC (Supervisor St. Lawrence’s
Local Development Corp), as explained to the Journal reporter, is to protect the public from none other than themselves.
(Full story here)
East Ramapo School Budget only one in the
Yonah Rothman 8410 (wins seat on Board)
Ramapo Central School Budget--Yes 1358 No 618
Theresa DiFalco 1293 (wins seat on Board)
United Water fine just a drop in bucket
May. 14, 2012
A fine of
$40,000 is a minor inconvenience to United Water New York, a
subsidiary of Paris-based
Suez Environnement; but we in Rockland should take notice. Without algal blooms, there wouldn’t be an issue
with copper sulfate. Without excess nutrients in the reservoir, there wouldn’t be algal blooms. Full text of letter here.
Moody's sinks Rockland's credit rating, now lowest-rated in New York State
May 11, 2012 "Rockland
County now has the lowest credit rating of all New York counties
rated by Moody’s Investors
Service after the company downgraded the rating Thursday by three levels, from A3 to Baa3. Moody’s also is reviewing
the rating for further downgrade, which could occur at any time within the next 90 days. A drop of one more level — to
Ba1 or lower — would put the county at below-average creditworthiness, meaning the county’s credit rating would essentially
be at junk status. Rockland County is now the lowest-rated county in the state.” Full text of The Journal News coverage here.
Former Airmont trustee Veronica Boesch to finish late mayor's term
May 10, 2012 "The
village board has appointed a former trustee as its new leader after
the sudden death of
Mayor Dennis Kay last month. Veronica D. Boesch, a retired teacher who was elected to the board in 2007,
succeeds Kay, a longtime local leader who was involved in the Boy Scouts and other causes. Complete
Journal News story here.
Financial Analysis of the 2011Annual Report of the Ramapo
Local Development Corp (LDC)
May 8, 2012 We finally have the long awaited financial
statement from last year’s operations of the Ramapo Local
Development Corporation. The financial statement only hints at the financial disaster that Supervisor St. Lawrence
has created for our town. When reading the report one has to keep in mind that following standard accounting practice
they assume the assets of the LDC are worth what it cost to create them. Readers should recall that the "affordable"
housing was built on a cost plus basis and the stadium was constructed through the worst winter in recent memory by
tradesmen working weekends and two and three shifts. Today these assets are worth almost nothing. Read the
complete report here.
Pomona Wins Decision in Appellate Court:
Judge Jamieson's Patrick Farm Lawsuit
May 7, 2012 On April 24th, a
four-judge panel of the
Appellate Division of New York State overturned orders
written by Judge Linda S. Jamieson in the Rockland County
Supreme Court relating to the Village of Pomona's lawsuit
against the Town of Ramapo and the concessions Ramapo
had made to the developer of Patrick Farm. Jamieson had ruled that Pomona had no right to sue ("did not have
legal standing"). The Appellate Court ruled that Jamieson had gotten it wrong ("erred") and that the village did
have that right. (More)
Saudi Arabia on the Hudson?
Why Water Speculators Want
Desalination in the Moist Northeast
The Other Costs of the New Square Arson Attack
May 6, 2012 When, at around four o’clock in the morning,
Shaul Spitzer showed up at the
home of Aron Rottenberg carrying accelerants, with which he would threaten the lives of
an entire family, the fire he ignited seriously burned both Rottenberg and himself. The fire
also starkly lit several underlying problems that brought the two New Square residents to
that deadly confrontation in the middle of the night. (More)
not going to take it anymore!"
Volunteer Firefighters on Building Violations
May 3, 2012 John Kryger, an assistant
fire coordinator at the Rockland Fire
Training Center, told The Journal News yesterday that firefighters "shouldn’t
have to be adversarial" but they will be taking the offensive against local
government officials and boards that allow illegally altered housing to pose
a threat to volunteer firemen. The situation has reached a tipping point,
and Kryger announced, "We’re not going to take it anymore." (More)
DEC Fines United Water $40k for Polluting Reservoir
May 2, 2012 "United
Water New York has agreed to a civil penalty of $40,000 for
applying pesticides to the Lake Deforest Reservoir under the terms of a consent order with
the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency said Tuesday. United Water
New York owns and operates the reservoir, a major drinking water supply for thousands of
Rockland homes and businesses. The company had nothing to say regarding its pollution of the reservoir Tuesday." Journal
News story here.
Let New Jersey pay for the Hudson water plant
April 26, 2012
United Water proposal to build a reverse osmosis water treatment
plant using Hudson River
water — I get it, it safely removes most contaminants to an acceptable level. But, it will cost more to operate than we’re
told. There is a very simple way to increase Rockland water that costs Rockland zero — stop sending Rockland water to
New Jersey and have United Water N.J. build a plant for New Jersey where they drink the Hudson River water and absorb
the cost to build the plant." Complete letter to the Journal here.
East Ramapo candidates make their pitch to concerned citizens
April 26, 2012 "Gathered
at the Chuggin’ Rhino in Pomona from 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17,
Kim Foskew, Hiram Rivera
and Joanna Thompson rallied a group of roughly 50 for support in this year’s East Ramapo school board election. These
three candidates were picked by the Concerned Citizens of East Ramapo because they claim to be committed to putting
the “children first.” Story.
Popular Nanuet Carnival Disappears in Pomona
April 26, 2012
Amusements can no longer stage their once popular biannual carnival
in the parking lot of the
Nanuet Mall due to construction there, so they moved the location to the parking lot of Provident Bank Park. So far,
it’s not working out, organizers have told the Rockland County Times. People cannot see the amusements from the
road and that is affecting turnout." Posting from Rockland County Times here.
Welcome to Jose’s Nightmare
April 23, 2012 It was only one month
ago, on March 8, that he was kicked out of the Mexican Baseball
League for admitting
to using a banned substance without a prescription. The drug was testosterone and the player was 47-year-old Jose Canseco,
who might be the most infamous pro sports juicer of all time. Then, on April 20th, the Worcester Tornadoes of the Can-Am
League announced the signing of Canseco. In the press release, Tornadoes General Manager Jorg Bassiacos said, "We expect
Jose to bring a lot of excitement to Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field." Story here.
April 19, 2012
"United Water has proposed
building the Haverstraw Water Supply Project treatment plant on
property at a
closed town landfill, just south of the Haverstraw Marina. The treatment plant would draw water from the brackish Hudson
River, remove contaminants, treat it and deliver it to its customers. The company provides drinking water to the majority
of homes and businesses in Rockland." Read William Stein's Community View here.
April 19, 2012 "The East Ramapo
school board adopted
a $192 million budget that decreases spending by $7 million and
scores of staff and programs while raising the tax levy by 1.9 percent. Taxpayers will cast their votes on the budget May 15.The
5-1 vote, with two abstentions, by the Board of Education late Wednesday night came after weeks of public controversy about
the impact of the district’s multimillion-dollar deficit." Journal story here.
April 18, 2012 "An
18-year-old New Square man who severely burned a village dissident
during an arson attack got sentenced
to seven years in state prison on Tuesday after apologizing for trying to burn Aron Rottenberg’s family out of the Hasidic
Jewish village. The attack on Rottenberg and others for refusing to pray in the village synagogue and other activities raised
how the Hasidic Jewish theocracy in New Square controls the lives of residents and deals, harshly at times, with those
who choose not to follow the grand rabbi’s dictates." Full text of the Journal News coverage here.
Joe Meyers' remembrance of Mayor Dennis Kay here
The Preserve Ramapo community will miss Mayor Kay
April 15, 2012 "Dennis
Kay, a two-term mayor of Airmont and longtime local leader involved
in the Boy Scouts and other
causes, has died. Kay, who had recently turned 65, was found dead this morning in his home on Lorna Lane, his family said.
Family members said Kay had been in good health and that his death was unexpected. They did not immediately know
the cause." Journal News story here.
April 14, 2012 "Shaul Spitzer,
18, faces five to 10 years for first-degree assault in the attack on
Aron Rottenberg at 4:15 a.m. May 22
during an attempt to burn down the family’s home on Truman Avenue in New Square. Rottenberg, 44, once a plumber, continues to
recover from third-degree burns over 50 percent of his body, suffered when Spitzer set off an incendiary device while grappling
with Rottenberg. Spitzer suffered burns to his hands and arms. Before Spitzer pleaded guilty Feb. 8, state Supreme Court Justice
William A. Kelly told the teenager that he would cap his prison term at 10 years. The violent felony assault charge carries a sentence
range of five to 25 years for a first-time offender." Complete story at Journal News here.
April 11, 2012
"The Concerned Citizens of East Ramapo will hold a campaign kick-off
meeting tonight ahead of the East Ramapo
school district’s Board of Education and budget vote May 15. The group of public education advocates will introduce three
candidates running for three open seats on the Board of Education: Kim Foskew, Hiram Rivera and current board member
JoAnne Thompson. The event is from 7 to 9 p.m. in the faculty dining room of the Rockland Community College cultural arts
building, 145 College Road. Training and coordination for campaign volunteers also will take place." Journal story here.
April 3, 2012 "Spring
Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin justifies her newly enacted 8.5 percent
salary increase by saying she
works hard — “24/7” — for her village. No doubt she and the village’s four trustees, also getting substantial raises, put in
long hours; but the increases come at the wrong time, with village residents still struggling to dig their way out of the recession.
The four village trustees will see a 20.6 percent salary bump in the 2012-2013 budget, putting base compensation for the part-time
posts at $25,750; compensation for the mayor, whose post is considered full time, increases to $125,000. Taxpayers have been
generous to the mayor in other respects; they already picked up the $46,000 tab for the high-end SUV Jasmin drives. The raises
come as Spring Valley homeowners will see their village property tax bills go up more than 3 percent in the new budget; the
village’s tax levy increase is 3.4 percent." Read the complete editorial here.
March 30, 2012
The Town of Ramapo has accumulated a dangerously high debt load and
now has been placed on a watch
list for those municipalities and companies involved in distressed debt. (More)
March 29, 2012
hundred people turned out Wednesday night at an East Ramapo
community forum where a
proposal to cut millions from the school district’s budget — and the impact of those cuts on students — was the center
of attention. Administrators, saying the district faces a multimillion-dollar deficit next year, have proposed a list of
nonmandated staff and program cuts totaling more than $20 million. Superintendent of Schools Joel Klein has said the
district needs to cut between $13 million and $20 million to meet the state tax cap and pass the proposed $202 million
budget for the 2012-13 school year. Recommendations include eliminating the kindergarten program to save $5.1 million,
cutting extracurricular activities by half or in total to save up to $400,000, and eliminating the elementary library program
to save $1.2 million. Another would cut the athletic budget in half or in total to save up to $850,000. Cutting the entire
program would eliminate all after-school sports and intramural programs. Other proposals would drastically reduce the number
of teachers, social workers and nurses." Full Journal coverage, including video, here.
March 25, 2012 "Ramapo’s
LDC — which St. Lawrence chairs — allowed the town to get around all
sorts of other
issues as well. After town voters overwhelmingly defeated a referendum to guarantee a $16.5 million loan for the
stadium, the RLDC went ahead and secured a short-term bond (for $25 million) that was guaranteed by the town,
or rather its taxpayers. Plus, town land, purchased by the town for $7.7 million, was given to the RLDC, which
could use it as collateral. Then, there’s town-paid site work that benefited the RLDC project, and the town’s
payment of fines to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for violations at the site. Of more concern:
The comptroller cast doubt on the RLDC’s scheme to pay back the stadium bond — using profits from the sale of units
at an affordable housing complex being built by the RLDC. The comptroller doubted the profit could cover both bond
payments for the housing construction and the stadium’s debt. If the RLDC come up short on its stadium bond payments,
the bills could land in the lap of the guarantors — the taxpayers of Ramapo." Full text of the editorial here.
for Abuses of
St. Lawrence's Development Corp
that Bills the Taxpayers
March 25, 2012 In a joint investigation by the Rockland and Westchester
offices of The Journal News, reporters Mareesa Nicosia and Jorge Fitz-Gibbon
profile the role of Local Development Corporations in the two counties.
The best alternative to meet Rockland's water needs
March 24, 2012 &