Timelines 8/22/13

Village of Haverstraw installs electric car charging station
The second electric car charging station in Rockland County was set up at the Village of Haverstraw’s parking lot as a feature which is anticipated to stimulate the local economy and raise the village’s profile. The station, which was funded entirely by a state grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, will allow drivers to park their cars for up to two hours free of charge while they pay fees through the device for the charging service. Though Haverstraw will not earn any money from the service alone, the grant ensured the village did not have to pay for the setup and can reap the station’s subsequent benefits. According to Mayor Michael Kohut, the hope is that drivers will spend that time in the village’s downtown area where they can shop or eat at local restaurants. Currently, there are over a dozen charging stations available in the Lower Hudson Valley, including one one in Montebello near New York State Thruway Exit 14B.

County saves thousands of dollars with AmeriCorps stream cleanup
Rockland County saved over $18,000 in stream cleanup costs thanks to the efforts of AmeriCorps volunteers, according to Rockland County Drainage Agency Executive Director Vincent Altieri. Part-time and full-time volunteers participate in annual health, environmental, educational and safety community service projects. This year, volunteers assisted in the removal of 41 water flow obstructions such as fallen trees, foliage, sediment and other debris at locations such as the Mahwah River behind Lonergan Drive in Suffern and Sparkill Creek downstream of Oak Tree Road in Orangetown. Many of the obstructions were a result of Hurricane Sandy. Normally, blockages are removed by the Drainage Agency, which is responsible for clearing about 100 obstructions per year.

100 years ago, governor’s impeachment shares parallels to Spitzer’s story
A New York State political first occurred one hundred years ago from Monday when William Sulzer, a Democratic Party mover associated with Tammany Hall, was impeached during his tenure as New York’s governor in a scandal some historians are comparing to other fallen reformers such as former Governor Eliot Spitzer. Like Sulzer, Spitzer was considered a progressive reformer who attempted to clean up the capitol before being brought down by a scandal. Jason McEneny, a former assemblyman and capitol historian, explained such moves are often pursued against reformers. “I think universally, and we can see it in our own day, when a reformer’s life goes awry there is less mercy given to him,” McEneny said. Sulzer was elected in 1912 with the help of Tammany Hall boss Charles Murphy, after which he engaged in battles for independence from the powerful political machine and ultimately lost after being impeached for campaign-finance fraud. Compared to Tammany Hall, State Historian Robert Weible stated Sulzer was at the “cutting edge” of progressive politics.

Haverstraw man killed in Palisades Parkway Crash
Justin Goings, 25 of Haverstraw, was killed as he was travelling on the Palisades Interstate Parkway at 11:45 p.m. on August 14 in the most recent of several deadly accidents in Rockland County. Goings was being driven home by Phylip Derival when Derival attempted to speed between two cars, lost control and struck a tree. The other two drivers were forced to the shoulder and median. Though police consider the crash an accident, they have not ruled out criminality on Derival’s part and continue to investigate. The crash is the second fatal accident in Rockland County over the past few weeks. On July 23, a head-on collision on the Tappan Zee Bridge claimed the life of Hannah Ayeh-Brachie, 56 of Hillcrest, while Gregory McIver, 51, of New Rochelle died August 17 while riding his motorcycle through Harriman State Park.

Fire ignited by runaway kite
A fire on Bridle Road in New Hempstead was sparked at 3 a.m. on August 16 by a kite whose tail wrapped around a power line, according to Orange and Rockland. The 3-foot wide plastic kite caused a short when its tail tangled up with the wires. This began a chain reaction where the burning power line fell onto a berm on the ground, burnt through the asphalt, and ignited a gas line which allowed the fire to spread to a nearby lawn. Hillcrest volunteer firefighters notified O&R, who shut off power and natural gas to the area and allowed the remaining gas to burn out. Though nobody was injured, the fire shut down 500 feet of electrical lines, temporarily cut power to 65 homes and prompted the evacuation of homeowners from Bridle Road.

Judge rules Kaser multi-family home cannot have charitable exemption
A state judge recently ruled that Community Humanitarian Organization of Kaser cannot claim a property-tax exemption for an illegal four-family home in a decision released on August 19. The house, which was occupied by four families in violation of zoning regulations limiting it to two, was subject to tax exemptions until the Ramapo’s Tax Assessor discovered the violation and subsequently revoked the exemption. Though the organization fought the decision by claiming it was never cited by the municipality, Supreme Court Justice Margaret Garvey ruled the tax exemption was still prohibited. The organization must now pay $19,800 per year in town, school and property taxes. Community Humanitarian’s attorney, Joel Scheinert of Nanuet, said the group has not decided whether or not to appeal the ruling.

Former Clarkstown police chief receives highest police pension in New York State
Clarkstown police Chief Peter Noonan, who was previously noted for having one of the highest police retirement pensions in the state of, now has an even bigger payment to cover extra days. After a review by the state Comptroller’s Office, Noonan’s pension by $17,866 per year for extra “chart days” which police chiefs tend to work compared to regular officers. Consequently, Noonan’s pension was tallied at a total of $206,398, up from over $190,000. This makes him the highest paid retirement pensioner among police in New York State. Before Noonan’s departure from the Clarkstown Police in 2011, he was both the highest-paid police chief in the state and the supervisor of the highest-paid police force statewide. Since his departure, chart day payments have been eliminated from contracts with new police chiefs and captains.

Hudson barge crash boat pilot appears in court
Jojo John, the man who crashed a boat into a barge in the Hudson River, killing a soon-to-be bride and her groom’s best man, appeared in court on August 14 for the first time since the accident. John made no public statement on the case, but offered condolences to those affected by the crash through his defense attorney, David Narain. His defense team explained it was planning to pursue the exact cause of the crash and will likely focus on the lighting on the barge involved in the crash, which witnesses claimed might not have been properly lit. Prosecutors are expected to present a toxicology report to show John was driving the boat impaired at the time of the crash. If convicted, John faces felony charges for vehicular manslaughter. He is expected in court again on September 25.

United Water files for water supply project
United Water New York filed a report with the New York State Public Service Commission on August 20 reiterating its conclusion that Rockland County needs another source of fresh water to supplement its current reservoirs and wells. The 53 page analysis details the most recent population projections, water supply and demand forecasts, weather patterns and economic growth patterns to predict the county’s water situation. However, it came to the same conclusion which United Water has maintained since the initial suggestion of an alternative water source. United Water has been pushing the PSC for a desalination plant in Haverstraw to make potable water from the Hudson River, a suggestion which has raised the ire of environmental advocates and others who suggest the plan is not only unsafe but also unnecessary. The utility has also generated controversy with a surcharge request to pay for the desalination plant, though the plan has yet to receive final approval from the necessary state agencies.

STAR Exemptions begin for New York homeowners
In an official release, State Assemblyman James Skoufis (D-Stony Point) announced changes to the state’s STAR program which will streamline the process for homeowners and reduce fraud and now allow applicants to register for exemptions through the state’s Tax Department. According to Skoufis, the registration will allow families to register directly with the state’s Tax Department, cutting down on fraud which has been troublesome in the past. The program will be taking requests for exemptions through the Department’s website at www.tax.ny.gov from August 19 to December 31, 2013. The process requires applicants to provide their STAR codes, which can be found through an online lookup or by calling the Tax Department at (518) 457-2036. The tax department will verify eligibility in future years, so new exemptions will not require re-registrations. However, not all applicants will be affected by the changes. Senior citizens registered for the state’s Enhanced STAR program and first-time applicants must still apply annually.

Study reveals crystal meth’s impact on North Korea
A study in the Spring 2013 edition of the North Korean Review has shed light on one of the less-visible issues surrounding the isolated dictator-led country: Crystal meth According to researchers, meth has displaced opiates as the drug of choice in North Korea. Presently, an astonishing 40 to 50 percent of North Korean adults reported addiction to the drug. Once manufactured for export to China and other countries, the collapse of the opium market led drug manufacturers and traffickers to fill the void Drug addiction in North Korea is problematic for a number of reasons. The current regime has no official statistics or studies available on the drug’s impact, meaning that recovery services are limited and users must often turn to other black market drugs to break their addictions. Furthermore, there is a widespread perception among North Koreans that the drug is not addictive and can be quit within a few days.