Resolution Urges Congress to Extend Highlands Conservation Act Passed by County Legislature
Vice Chairman of the Legislature Alden H. Wolfe sponsored a resolution to urge the US House of Representatives to pass House Resolution 712 to extend the Highlands Conservation Act of 2004, that is due to expire at the end of 2014, until the year 2024. The resolution was unanimously adopted by the County Legislature at a recent meeting. The Highlands Conservation Act recognizes the four-state region of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania as a region of national importance with regard to the area’s water, forest, agricultural, wildlife, recreational, and cultural resources. The Act authorized the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and the Interior to partner with those states by providing financial assistance to preserve and protect land that has high conservation value. The Act authorized the funding of land acquisition up to $100 million, $10 million in technical assistance funding and continuation of Forest Service programs to assist the states in the conservation of land and natural resources through 2014.

NYPD Officer Kills Son, Boyfriend; Takes Own Life
On April 15, Rosette Samuel, 43, an NYPD police officer fatally shot her one-year-old son and hr son’s father, say police. She then shot and killed herself. She was found next to her deceased son in her bed at 805 East 56th St., in East Flatbush, NY. The father, who was also Samuel’s boyfriend, was found dead n the doorway. Samuel’s other son from a different marriage, 19, had allegedly escaped through a window before calling 911. It’s unclear how many shots were fired or where exactly the two were struck. It’s also unclear what prompted the outrage. Samuel has been on the force for 13 years and worked in 108th precinct in Brooklyn and was not on duty during the dispute.

Likelihood of Nyack Bridge Toll Reconsidered
Plans to set up a bridge toll on the Rockland side of the New York State Thruway face strong opposition from South Nyack officials, according to Special Advisor to the Governor Brian Conybeare. To raise revenue for the bridge, a toll on the Rockland side of the New York State Thruway near Exit 10 had been suggested, however, it faced strong opposition from locals during a presentation by the New NY Bridge Commission in South Nyack. Many of the South Nyack residents were concerned the temporary toll would eventually become permanent. In response to the concerns, Conybeare emphasized that there are no plans to permanently expand toll collection to Rockland-bound travelers. He also explained that alternatives to the Exit 10 location were being considered, but no final decision has been made on the exact location of the temporary toll.

Clarkstown Police Audit Almost Complete
An internal audit of the Clarkstown Police’s 702 instances of overtime during the year of 2012 is nearing completion, according to Clarkstown Police Chief Michael Sullivan. Sullivan explained the department required more time to complete investigations into two instances of overtime to ensure all paid hours matched actual police services, but the majority of the time has been accounted for. According to him, the report will be ready by April 23. The audit involved cross-checking overtime records with information from sources such as the District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Motor Vehicles and EZ Pass logs. After its completion, it will go to the town’s auditor, Korn Rosenbaum LLP of Pomona, who will review the department’s findings and examine specific instances of overtime. Concerns over improper use of overtime arose from the resignation of Officer William Sherwood in February over a four-hour discrepancy. This irregularity prompted citizens to call for an investigation into overtime claims within the department.

$20 Million Construction Fund Set for Tappan Zee Communities
A $20 million fund for local projects has been confirmed as part of the construction contract for the new Tappan Zee Bridge, providing desired funds for Rockland and Westchester residents with concerns over bridge construction. Tappan Zee Constructors and the New York State Thruway Authority will establish the account by providing $10 million each. The money will be distributed by request, with each inquiry handled on a case-by-case basis before the approval of grants, awards and other monetary provisions for applicants. Much of the closely-monitored funding is expected to go to local projects, including a possible $2 million set of building renovations for Salisbury Point Cooperative residents who could be impacted by construction noise. The funding is intended to alleviate concerns of riverfront residents in Rockland and Westchester Counties, many of whom expressed concerns over noise, air quality and other environmental issues which could affect their communities.

Post Office Square Construction Underway in Spring Valley
The Post Office Square building project, which was once endorsed by embattled Spring Valley mayor Noramie Jasmin and her deputy mayor Joseph Desmaret, is now under construction following a winter groundbreaking. The Square will replace an old municipal project with commercial outlets and office space, some of which will front Spring Valley’s Main Street. The $ 3.5 million project will cover 38,000 square feet and is expected to be completed by June 2014. It is located only a short distance from the location of a fake, under-the-table real estate deal between Jasmin, Desmaret and Moses “Mark” Stern, a real estate developer working as an FBI informant. The project was supported by most members of the village Board of Trustees, with Trustee Demeza Delhomme casting the only dissenting vote.

Spring Valley Girl Killed by Meningitis Had Rare Form
The strain of meningitis which killed Spring Valley student Chrissy Gabriel, 12, was a rare form, which was not likely to have been treated, according to the Rockland Department of Health. According to Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Anil Vidan, the streptococcal bacterial infection accounts for less than three percent of all meningitis infections. It is usually present and harmless in the mouth unless it enters the bloodstream through a gum infection or tooth abscess. Though Gabriel was up to date on her vaccinations, the strain is so rare that it cannot be prevented through meningitis vaccinations. Gabriel received emergency care on March 30 when she could not be woken from sleep by her parents and was rushed to Good Samaritan Hospital, but could not be revived. In response, 33 people from St. Gregory Barbarigo School in Garnerville who had close contact were instructed to receive antibiotic treatment as a precaution, though this particular form of meningitis cannot be spread from person-to-person.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Life Threatened by Mail Bomb
A mail bomb destined for Maricopa, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio was diverted last Thursday, preventing injury or death to the “toughest sheriff in America.” The package left a rural area of Coconino County before being noticed and reported by a mail carrier. Police discovered the package contained black powder and an ignition device, a highly volatile bomb which could have blown in a flash fire even without ignition. Forensic experts are examining the device, but have not announced any suspects in the attempt. Arpaio has made national headlines for his tough stances on immigration across the U.S.-Mexican Border, harsh treatment of Arizona inmates, strict enforcement of state criminal laws and his investigations into the citizenship of President Obama. He has also been in the crosshairs of Mexican Drug Cartels, who placed a $4 million bounty on his head last week.

Australia to Abandon U.S. Dollar in Trade with China
According to an Australian Foreign Ministry press release put out last week, Australia and China have ceased the use of the U.S. dollar in their trade. Beginning April 10, they replaced the dollar with the Chinese Yuan. Australian President Julia Gillard referred to the switch as a “strategic step forward for Australia” and a means to draw the country’s economy closer to its trading partner. However, the shift is also a significant blow for the U.S. Dollar, which has been used as an international reserve currency for decades. The move is the latest in a string of recent challenges to the global supremacy of the dollar as an international medium for trade. On March 26, China and Brazil agreed to cut their dollar trade in half. Less than a week later, it was announced that China would join BRICS, a new development bank spearheaded by Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa which could rival the American-dominated World Bank.

Chef Peter Kelly Slammed with $462,000 Yonkers Lawsuit
Celebrity chef and Yonkers businessman Peter Kelly has been sued by Yonkers for $450,000 in unpaid utility bills and fees stemming from operations at his Xaviars X20 restaurant. The lawsuit, filed by the Yonkers Development Corp., alleges that Kelly’s company HCC Caterers owes Yonkers a total of $234,895.91 for electric services and $27,059.65 for gas bills. They also claim that on top of that Kelly owes $200,245.72 in licensing fees required to use the restaurant’s pier. Kelly, a Blauvelt resident who had previously opened two critically-acclaimed restaurants in Rockland County, as well as others in the Hudson Valley region, claimed he did not pay in protest of the city’s failure to address mechanical and energy issues at the restaurant costing $1 million.

U.S. Supreme Rejects Challenge to Gun Law Clause
A lawsuit challenging New York City’s handgun licensing statute was dismissed without a hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court in a refusal to intervene in the growing New York gun control debate. Kachalsky, et al. v. Cacace was filed by five Westchester residents and the Second Amendment Foundation who argued the “proper cause” provision of the law, which requires that citizens show “a special need for self protection distinguishable from that of the general community or of persons engaged in the same profession,” violates their Second Amendment rights. The law was defended by the office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who represented four State Court judges serving as licensing officers under the statute and won victories for them in lower courts. Schneiderman referred to the dismissal as “a victory for families across New York who are rightly concerned about the scourge of gun violence that all too often plagues our communities.”

Avon Gardens Housing Complex Set for Closure
Avon Gardens on Union Road in Spring Valley is set to close its doors, evicting 26 remaining families from the 200-unit complex and ending half a century of affordable housing at the location. The final decision came after an agreement with reluctant tenants. In exchange for their departure, the landlord agreed to offer evicted families a choice of either new housing arrangements with the landlord and a stipend of $8,500 or a larger buyout of $30,000 without the guarantee of housing in another complex. Rockland Legal Aid Society attorney Mary Ellen Natale called it “a good settlement under the circumstances,” despite being a less than ideal outcome for residents who wished to remain. After the last tenants leave, the New York-based owner of the complex is expected to demolish the nine, two-story brick buildings and construct five three-story buildings containing 190 units for residents whose incomes are not stabilized by state regulations.

Governor Proposes New Class of Public Corruption Crimes
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on April 9 that new legislation had been proposed to create a new class of public corruption crimes with harsher penalties for offenders and more allowances for prosecutors to pursue such cases. The Public Trust Act would establish a new class of public corruption offenses including bribery of a public servant, corrupting the government and failure to report public corruption. New penalties would prohibit convicted offenders from holding public office, lobbying, contracting, receiving state funding or doing business in the state. In addition, the penalties for several existing crimes such as fraud, theft and money laundering would increase one level if the crime involved state or local government property. The statute of limitations and immunity standards for witnesses have also been revised to remove protection in certain instances and provide more opportunity for prosecutions.

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