Rockland Electric Company to invest $20 million in electrical grid improvements

The Rockland Electric Company is planning $20 million in improvements to its infrastructure to benefit thousands of Rockland and Bergen County residents.

The plan involves the construction of two new underground circuits, the relocation of one existing circuit, the addition of switches, new transformers and switching control equipment to the Harings Corner substation and additional expansions to the same substation. Many of the changes are designed to enhance the Company’s resiliency and allow for faster, more efficient recovery during emergencies.

In total, the changes will impact about 7,750 Rockland Electric customers. About 350 Orange & Rockland customers will also see benefits from the improvements.

Former East Ramapo educator, student advocate dies at 47

Pedro Santana, a former educator in East Ramapo who is credited with exposing many of the issues faced by the school district, died after a battle with cancer on Sunday morning at the age of 47.

Santana served as the principal of a middle school in the Bronx before he was hired as East Ramapo’s assistant superintended of secondary education in 2010. He became popular among students and parents and eventually became responsible for oversight over grades K-12.

Though Santana received support from students and parents for advocating on behalf of public school students in the ethnically and religiously divided district, he was fired in 2011 after it was revealed he lacked credentials as a district level educator. Santana planned to continue his work in another district before his diagnosis with stage four kidney cancer.

Santana is survived by his wife and two children.

Dry conditions, wind contributed to Montebello brush fire

A brush fire ripped across five acres of land in Montebello on Saturday, causing problems for firefighters who had to work against adverse weather which intensified the blaze.

The Tallman Fire Department was called to handle the fire at around 3 p.m. and spent several hours bringing it under control. The effort was complicated by the dryness and wind, which scattered embers, pushed the flames further downwind and created a risk of additional fires.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation announced the fire level was expected to be moderate over the past weekend. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Police to keep close eye on Hudson as construction, recreational vessels crowd river

As the weather continues to warm and Spring moves into Summer, police in both Rockland and Westchester report they will keep close tabs on the condition of Hudson River traffic to prevent accidents.

Both Westchester County Police Lt. James Luciano and Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco announced they would take precautions and watch the river to ensure the safety of mariners. In addition, Falco stated Rockland police will have a regular boat patrol on the Hudson to watch for dangerous situations.

Spring means construction on the new Tappan Zee Bridge will ramp up, but it also means more recreational boaters will be on the water. Up to 100 construction vessels could be in the water by the summer and many will be outfitted with additional GPS equipment in response to safety concerns stemming from the death of two boaters in a barge crash last year.

The constrution area is also subject to a 500 yard regulated navigation area where boaters cannot exceed 5 knots. Passage through the area will be completely blocked during certain phases of construction.

High-speed rail plans under consideration for upstate region

Five plans are currently under consideration by the New York State and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to bring additional rail services to Upstate New York and ease pressures on commuter rails.

The plans are priced anywhere from $260 million to $14.7 billion and are expected to boost ridership numbers and train performance for the region, which is seeing increased demand for rail access. The cheapest allow simple bypasses while the most expensive is a sprawling plan for a high-speed rail west of Albany.

The plans are also distinguished based upon the speed of the rails. The basic plan would maintain current speeds of 79 mph, while the fastest train plan would boost rail speeds up to 110 mph.

The plans are still in an early phase. New York and the FRA will likely decide upon a single one and conduct environmental studies before funding is sought.

After rejection from New York, inBloom to shut down

inBloom, an Atlanta-based daata company funded by the Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corp., announced on April 21 it would shut down after a long period of rejection by client states who withdrew from the group’s student-data portal services.

The company folded less than a month after Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature cited privacy concerns in its decision not to pursue further business with the company. The company stores student data for New York public schools. New York was the eighth of nine states to abandon the tech company before it decided to end operations.

Though State Education Commissioner John King defended the group and argued the student data was safe, parents, students and educators expressed concern over the potential misuse or marketing of student data.

Family sues school district to remove “Under God” from Pledge of Allegiance

Citing unfair representation of atheists, a New Jersey family is suing to have the “Under God” line removed from the Pledge of Allegiance students say every day before class.

The lawsuit was filed by the unnamed family and the American Humanist Association, which represents atheists, agnostics and other nonbelievers. The suit argues the requirement imposed by the state of New Jersey through the Aberdeen-Matawan School District violates the equal protection clause in the state constitution.

The suit also alleges the student was singled out and accosted for not reciting the pledge. In response, the school maintains it is merely following New Jersey law by requiring the recitation of the pledge and is not aware of any unfair treatment.

Though the Supreme Court has repeatedly maintained the constitutionality of the “Under God” line, it does not require students to recite the pledge.

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