Timelines — 3/1

Hundreds mourn the death of Sparkill teen

This week, hundreds of people gathered at Nyack’s Grace Episcopal Church for the funeral service of Quincy Hedges, of Sparkill, who was killed in a car accident upstate on February 18. Because the church was so packed, nearly 100 people had to stand outside to listen to the service over loudspeakers. Hedges was baptized in the church, and the homily for her service was led by Reverend Richard Gressle, who led the church for 16 years before he retired. According to police reports, Hedges had been asleep in the back seat of a car while traveling with two friends on the New York State Thruway when the car drove off the road and down an embankment. The car’s rear end smashed into a tree, and Hedges, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver and passenger were treated for minor injuries.

Legislator Ed Day shows support for DNA Databank with new legislation proposal
Legislator Ed Day, a former NYPD detective commander and Chief of Detectives with the Baltimore Police Department, supports a recently submitted resolution which called upon the New York State Assembly to pass A.8547A, a bill designed to expand DNA databank by requiring people convicted of all felonies and penal law misdemeanors to submit DNA samples. The state Senate previously passed a companion bill (S.5560A), and reportedly Governor Cuomo has said that he will approve the legislation. The resolution appeared on the agenda of the February 28th meeting of the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee yesterday. Legislator Day said, “This is common sense legislation that brings existing and well-tested science to bear to enhance law enforcement efforts in keeping the public safe by both preventing new crimes and solving old ones.” Under the law currently in place, only about half of the crimes (including penal law felonies and 36 misdemeanor crimes in the penal law) committed are eligible for submission of DNA samples. The proposed legislation would expand the list to include all felonies in the state law and every penal law misdemeanor. Reportedly, this would add about 46,000 individual DNA samples to the databank every year. Since its inception, DNA stored in the databank has been used to identify perpetrators in about 10,000 crimes, including 900 murders and 3,500 sexual assaults.

Ramapo Central Schools propose budget
The Ramapo Central school district officials recently proposed a $128.58 million budget for next school year. If this budget passes, it will also prevent layoffs and significant program cuts but is predicted to raise the tax levy by 2.86 percent. Right now, the district qualifies for $3.5 million in exemptions that allow it to raise the levy beyond the two percent cap which is imposed by the state. School Superintendent Douglas Adams presented the budget to the Board of Education on February 7. The budget proposal would increase spending by 4.51 percent (approximately $5.5 million). Costs for employees’ salaries and benefits would increase by 4.86 percent. Reductions in the proposed budget would be about $536,264, and would include cuts to utility costs through an energy savings program, special education restructuring, and also cuts to supplies and equipment costs. The school district expects about $10.3 million in state aid, and an additional $1.7 million in federal aid. According to Adams, the district will not resort to layoffs next year, but instead will eliminate positions through attrition. Employee contracts do not allow layoffs this year or next year. Reportedly, about 24 employees retired last year and of those positions, only seven were filled, which contributed to the savings in salaries.
One contested village election in Rockland
There is only one contested village election in the county next month, in Wesley Hills. Mayor David Goldsmith is being challenged by his former ally, Bret Bekritsky, a trustee he appointed four years ago. Goldsmith’s running mates, Trustee Ed McPherson and Marshall Katz, are duking it out for two trustee seats against Bekritsky’s ticket, Jonathan Gewirtz and William Fried. Goldsmith, McPherson and Katz are running on the Willow Tree Party line. In addition, two trustee seats are up. The election is March 20. Bekritsky, Gewirtz and Fried are running on the Democratic, Republican, Working Families, and Wesley Hills First lines. Village clerk Barbara Cartaya, who also serves as the village election officer, originally kept the three off the ballot because she ruled that paperwork had not been submitted and the candidates therefore had not qualified to run on the parties’ lines. The three disputed her claims, however, and had her determination overturned this month in state Supreme Court in White Plains.
Troopers buckle down on drunk driving in three counties
Eleven motorists from Rockland, Westchester, and Putnam counties were recently charged with drunken and drugged driving after traffic stops. Only one of the 11 was from Rockland. Kujtim Krasnici, 38, of Pearl River, was charged with driving while intoxicated and aggravated driving while intoxicated, both misdemeanors, on Sunday on Route 304 in Clarkstown.
Tappan Zee Bridge plans pick up speed
Two public hearings this week in Rockland and Westchester counties on an environmental study found “no major barriers to building a new two-span, eight-lane bridge which would be twice as wide as the existing bridge. The estimated cost of this project is about $5.2 billion. Since October, the project has started moving forward more quickly. In December, a state law was changed which would allow for the bridge to be designed and built at the same time by a consortium of engineers and construction contractors. It is presumed that this would save both time and money. Following the state law change, the state Department of Transportation and the New York State Thruway Authority released a draft of environmental impact statement in January. This month, state officials have announced that they applied for a $2 billion federal loan through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. The state is reportedly going to release its financial plan by April, just before the release of the final environmental impact statement. The project has been controversial from the start, with many who have concerns and maintain that the project has way too many issues to proceed. Supporters of the Tappan Zee Bridge Hudson River Crossing Project, have said that “compromises are unfortunate but necessary.”  The project will deliver a modern and safe bridge, and in addition, create thousands of jobs in the construction business, boosting local economy.
Three family members found guilty in labor trafficking case
A mother and daughter from Ramapo were recently found guilty of labor trafficking and assault in the case of a women from India, whose name has been withheld. The woman testified that she was abused by her husband and his family when she came to the United States after her marriage was arranged. Parveen Jagota, 57, and her daughter Rajani Jagota, 31, were found guilty of two of three counts of labor trafficking, specifically of confiscating the 25-year-old victim’s passport and Green Card, also threatening her with violence. Both counts have a maximum sentence of seven years. The pair was also found guilty of second degree assault, a violent felony, which carries a maximum of seven years as well. The woman testified that her in-laws forced her to perform “backbreaking work,” and also beat her if her work was not to their satisfaction. Her mother-in-law is accused of burning her with an iron and she also testified that her husband bit her on the face. These were both forms of punishment. Defense lawyers tried to portray the woman as being unhappy and feeling trapped in her arranged marriage, making up lies about her husband and his family just so that she could escape her relationship. The rulings, which were made on Monday, were accompanied by rulings that the victim’s father-in-law, Aman Jagota, 62, and the victim’s husband, Vishal Jagota, 34, not guilty on all three counts of labor trafficking. Aman Jagota was found not guilty of forcible touching, a misdemeanor. Vishal Jagota, however, was found guilty of third degree assault, and could have a maximum sentence of a year in county jail.
Elderly man hit by teenager in Congers
On Monday, a 74-year-old man was hit by a car while walking on Lake Road in Congers. Police did not release the man’s name, but shared that he was a Congers resident and that he was 74 years old. According to police, the man was walking on Lake Road when a car struck him at the North Grant Avenue intersection. His injuries were described as serious. The driver of the car, who was 17, was reportedly crossing Lake Road onto South Grand Avenue, when he hit the man in the crosswalk. The boy, whose name was not released, was uninjured. The teenager has not yet been charged, but the incident is still under investigation. Initial reports indicate that the teenager’s windshield may have been partially covered by frost. The victim was driven to Nyack Hospital by the Congers Valley Cottage Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Tappan Zee Bridge dangler refuses to pay 33K for his publicity stunt
Michael Davitt, known in Rockland for his extreme publicity stunts, the latest of which involved dangling from the Tappan Zee Bridge, has rejected a deal from prosecutors to pay restitution for his rescue and to spend a total of six months in jail. The 54-year-old was arrested after his stunt. The deal would have meant that Davitt pleaded guilty to one of two misdemeanors, second-degree reckless endangerment or obstruction of governmental administration. He would be ordered to pay $33,818 for the emergency response, reimbursing each of the agencies who contributed to helping him on November 7. Davitt said, “It’s easy to focus on me and what I did, when in reality it was Rockland County’s violations of law that drove me to that bridge.” This was after the hearing in town court. He added that he had broken the law in order to “bring light to multiple administrators who broke the law.” Davitt said he would be willing to perform community service in order to “pay his debt to society.” He also said that “Rockland government should foot the bill for his rescue.” Spokesman for County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef Ron Levine said that “what Mr. Davitt did was self-initiated…county government and Rockland taxpayers are in no way responsible for his actions.” He also pointed out that hundreds of emergency workers put their lives at risk to rescue Davitt on the bridge, and thousands of commuters were inconvenienced for hours. Davitt has been charged with the misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest, third-degree criminal trespass and the reckless endangerment offense, in addition to others. The Haverstraw resident is due back in Town Court on April 17.

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