Timelines 6/2/16

Local Student to Train for Olympics

Maria Garcia, a senior at North Rockland High School, decided to shift her dream from studying nursing at Dominican College to training for the Olympics in racewalking.

Garcia, 17, accepted an academic scholarship for the fall and planned to solely focus on becoming a nurse. She was preparing to say goodbye to a sport that, “had really become a part of who she was,” coach Brian Diglio said. The ninth-fastest 1,500-meter high school girls racewalker in state history is hoping to compete for the Dominican Republic, where most of her family lives and the birthplace of her parents.

She idolizes her 101-year-old grandfather Bulin Santana, who owns a family farm. By representing the Dominican Republic she says she would honor her family and their heritage. Garcia is headed to North Carolina in mid-June for the New Balance Nationals and hopes to compete in late June at the Junior Nationals in California.

“You can never count Maria out of anything she sets her mind to do,” Diglio said. “She’s tremendously competitive and she has a tremendous work ethic.”


Paralyzed North Rockland teacher marks one year back on the job

Billy Keenan is finishing up his first year teaching in North Rockland High School since a September 2013 surfing accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. Keenan, a 10th grade history teacher, is a 16-year veteran at North Rockland, teaching five classes a day. Before the incident Keenan was also active as a captain in the U.S. Army.

Keenan teaches from his wheelchair with a teaching assistant, Susan Segelbacher. Keenan may need to stop every so often to take a breath from the breathing tube attached to his wheelchair but that doesn’t slow him down. “They treat me like any other teacher,” Keenan told The Journal News.  “On the first day of school I attacked it head on with them and I was honest and direct with them.”

Now that Keenan has achieved his first goal of coming back to the classroom, he is looking to start on his next goal: working with newly paralyzed people. The recovery process included speaking with a psychologist, but Keenan said he struggled speaking about his feelings with someone who didn’t have the same experiences. Keenan wants to give recently paralyzed people someone to talk to that has been through similar struggles.

Keenan is also looking to return to one of his favorite pastimes, write music. He wishes to write new lyrics “through the lens” of his recent experiences.


State lawmakers expect action on East Ramapo

State lawmakers are hopeful they will pass a bill in the upcoming weeks that would provide more money to the East Ramapo schools in exchange for more state oversight in the district.

Legislators who represent the district sought a deal as part of the state budget in March to get the district $15 million over three years. However, the deal fell through. The bill is yet to be introduced but the basics call for the state Department of Education to oversee how the $5 million is spent each year.  The Department would also have power over the district’s budget.

Democrats and Republicans have gone back and forth for years over the issue of whether to give a state monitor veto power over the school board. State Republicans have rejected most pro-monitor measures, fearing a precedent of state control over local school boards would be set.  The Republicans say this veto power undermines the authority of the elected school board. Incidentally, in Rockland County, many of the most vociferous supporters of the state monitor are Republicans.

There are approximately 32,000 students residing in the East Ramapo School District but roughly 24,000 of them attend private schools, mainly Orthodox Jewish yeshivas.  A majority of the school board is run by Orthodox Jews and they have been accused of helping the private schools instead of focusing their efforts on public school students.


West Nyack man accused of lying to DEA about strip club associations in order to pass government clearance test

The trial of West Nyack resident David Polos, 51, a former supervisor in the Drug Enforcement Administration accused of hiding ties to a New Jersey strip club, began in the District Court in Manhattan.

Polos and Glen Glover, 46, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, have been accused by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of hiding their connections to Twin Plus Go Go Lounge in South Hackensack, New Jersey.  The two men were charged with making false statements and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

The two men hid their ties to the strip club in order to maintain DEA top-secret security clearance. Glover was a part owner at the club and Polos had assumed partial ownership after making a $50,000 investment in the business. The two DEA agents claimed they only worked for the DEA on background check forms filled out in 2011.  The men would often supervise the bar while on the job for the DEA according to prosecutors.

According to officlias the two knew some of the dancers would have sex with some of the customers and some of the employees were illegally living in the United States.


Platzl Brauhaus completes transformation into a summer camp

Camp Settoga, a summer day camp, is getting ready to open on the grounds of the former Platzl Brauhaus.

There are very few remnants of the Brauhaus left as the JCC Manhattan prepares for the opening of their new camp in late June.  By the time the camp opens the only part of the Brauhaus that will remain is the brown-and-white exteriors of its pavilions.

Campers will enjoy a yoga center, cooking classes, a golf driving range and an adventure course on the campus. Camp Settoga will be the fourth camp in this Pomona area, joining Camp Ramaquois, Deer Mountain Day Camp and Deerkill Day Camp.

“Over the last few months we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the site and transitioning it from what was a wonderful retreat space for businesses and others to the camp,” JCC Director of Camps Genna Singer said.

The JCC bought the grounds in January for $2.7 million and have not yet decided what Camp Settoga will be used for on weekends and the off-season. Steve Kahrs, whose family had owned the Platzl Brauhaus, said he had to sell the business after sales dropped off since the 2008 recession and local property taxes increased in the wake of the Mirant settlement.

Myzner pleads not guilty

Kelly Myzner Gribeluk, 35, of Montebello, pleaded not guilty to plotting with her podiatrist boyfriend to murder his wife. Prosecutors and Ramapo Police say they have audio recordings of Gribeluk and Dr. Ira Bernstein plotting to murder his wife, Susan. The recordings captured Ira Bernstein allegedly offering $100,000 to a local businessman who they thought was a “hit man.”

Gribeluk allegedly provided the businessman with Susan Bernstein’s name, address and photographs of the potential target. She is accused of meeting with the hit man several times in April to discuss the price and method of the job and of paying a $2,000 down payment on April 17.

The two are also accused of asking the supposed hit man to beat up two United Healthcare insurance investigators who planned to bring fraud charges against Bernstein. Rockland County Judge David Zuckerman upheld Gribeluk’s $600,000 bail during her arraignment on a grand jury indictment of second-degree conspiracy, second-degree criminal solicitation and two counts each of fourth-degree conspiracy and criminal solicitation. Ira Bernstein faces the same charges.

Gribeluk has been held in Rockland County Jail since her May 3 arrest. Ira Bernstein’s family posted his $600,000 bail.

Trump takes on allegations regarding fundraising as Clinton and Sanders prepare for California 

On May 31, 2016 Republican nominee Donald Trump responded to criticism about how much his financial donations are. During a press conference Trump announced that he has already donated $5.6 million and will continue to donate.  Trump has become aggravated with the press for criticizing his philanthropic efforts.

“I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job,” Trump said.  “The press should be ashamed of themselves.”

Trump’s ultimate goal is to raise $5.5 million to $6 million for veteran groups across the nation. On the Democratic side nominee front-runner Hillary Clinton is preparing multiple campaign stops in California leading up to the June 7 primary. Clinton received an endorsement Tuesday from California Gov. Jerry Brown, which should help her against Bernie Sanders, who is currently rising in the California polls. Clinton is now ahead of Sanders by a mere two points.

Clinton currently sits 71 delegates short of the 2,383 needed to win the nomination and is looking to secure the nom June 7, with six states heading to the polls, including California and New Jersey. Sanders vows that the race will not be over Tuesday night.


Child’s fall into zoo exhibit and subsequent gorilla-shooting captures attention of nation

Outrage was spurred across the country after a endangered silverback gorilla was shot and killed after a young boy fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo over the holiday weekend.

Such is the furor that the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office plans to meet with police investigating the incident and consider whether charges are warranted against the mother. This announcement came a few days after police said they did not plan to press charges against the boy’s parents.

The reactions to this incident vary; some calling the murder of the gorilla, named Harambe, unjust, others demanding charges of negligence be brought in the case, and still others criticizing the sentiments of such persons as being oversensitive and out of touch with reality.

The gorilla had grabbed the boy by the leg and was dragging him through the enclosure, however, the child was not seriously harmed.  Zoo staff had no choice but to shoot the gorilla for the safety of the child according to protocol, they explained to the nation.

TV personality Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, agreed “1,000 percent” with the decision to shoot the gorilla. Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard said he would make the same decision again if he had to in order to keep the child safe.


Secret Service leaps to Bernie’s aid

A minimum of four people rushed the stage at a Bernie Sanders rally in Oakland, California, prompting Secret Service agents to jump on stage to protect the senator. Sanders was not injured and continued speaking after the situation subsided.

Direct Action Everywhere, an animal rights group, took responsibility for the incident stating in a press release “that activists protest at Bernie Sanders rallies to try and pull Sanders in their direction.”

This was done after Sanders Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton released a campaign platform on animal issues. Activists are expecting stronger animal rights support from the more progressive Sanders.

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