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Letters to the Editor
Copyright © 2002-2012 Mid-Hudson News Network.
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A wakeup call

You may have heard of the current battle going on in the Town of Monroe over a 507 acre annexation request by the Village of Kiryas Joel.  This land, currently zoned rural-residential as part of the Town of Monroe, if annexed, will be reasoned to accommodate high density, multi-family units. While Monroe is "ground zero" in this situation, please be aware that this proposed annexation will have a tremendous impact on all those living in the Hudson Valley.

The Village of Kiryas Joel will essentially double in size.    There will be a population explosion with a huge migration to the area.  Currently, as reported in Chris McKenna's Times Herald Record article on June 5, 2014, 93% of Kiryas Joel residents receive Medicaid in addition to other social services.  A doubling of those numbers will place a greatly increased financial burden  on all Orange County residents.

The explosion of traffic and congestion that this large increase in population will bring will affect us all as we traverse the county.

County Executive Neuhaus (who received the Kiryas Joel bloc vote in his election), has already launched a study to build a new sewer line  and treatment facility in New Windsor to accommodate the projected large growth in Kiryas Joel.  The cost for this project, estimated at more than 100 million dollars will become another burden for all us Orange County tax payers.

The environmental effects of clear cutting and building high density housing on these 507 acres will upset the natural ecosystem and displace the current wildlife including Timber rattlesnakes, bald eagles, black bears, deer and hawks

In Monroe, we have formed a grassroots organization, United Monroe (unitedmonroe.org) and a non-profit organization, Preserve Hudson Valley (preservehudsonvalley.org).  Please visit these sites as well as United Monroe's Facebook page  ( https://www.facebook.com/UnitedMonroeNY ) for the latest information.  Also, contact your elected officials (including County Executive Neuhaus and County Legislator Paul Ruszkiewicz) and urge them to vocally oppose this annexation.

This is not a "Monroe issue". This proposed annexation , should it be approved, will greatly change our quality of life in the beautiful Hudson Valley and will surely increase the costs to all Orange County tax payers.  Please pay attention to this issue and spread the word.

Gretchen Pollack
Monroe
(February 26)

 

Thank you for the snow removal

I have been at my place of business at 990 South Lake Boulevard in Mahopac for almost 20 years now.  I have been in contact with Mr. David Keith of the Putnam County Highway Department since 2005 when I sent a letter complimenting the department and telling him what a good job they were doing.

But I have to tell you that this year we had a snowstorm on Tuesday, January 27 and when I arrived at my shop, there wasn’t even a shovelful of snow to be found in front or around my shop. The highway crew again did a great job in making it possible for customers to Park on Route 6N therefore making it possible for us store owners to continue to do business. Mr. Keith and his crew at the Highway Department have an impeccable record for getting the job done!

Jimmy Dee
Mahopac
(February 26)

 

Orange County Government Center

The Orange County legislators have again threatened Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center with demolition.

As a long time friend and business partner of this famous American modernist architect, I am shocked and dismayed that the prospect of this destruction may happen.

The public has been very forthcoming with strong emotional appeals to save this building. But equally important, there is an economic appeal demanding preservation. The Kaufman proposal gives the legislators a new center for $9M less than their demolition plan and also sells the old center for $5M. The old center will be repurposed into an arts center that will bring tourism, business and tax revenue to the site. This can be accomplished in less time than the demolition alternative. Most importantly, a rare architectural monument is preserved for future generations.

I appeal to the legislators to vote in favor of the Kaufman proposal. This solution creates a win-win situation, whereas the demolition of Paul Rudolph’s legacy would be a barbarian act, depriving future generations of experiencing a restored architectural masterpiece.

The legislator has the obligation to the public to minimize the economic impact of its actions while maximizing the aesthetic impact of its actions. They have the opportunity to execute a plan that will save $9 million of taxpayer money (Kaufman proposal vs teardown and new construction) and bring in another $5 million from the sale of the building. This plan will bring the new center on-line a year sooner, resulting in further cost savings. The aesthetic benefits of the Kaufman proposal is that they get a new government center developed by a top architectural firm and a vibrant art center in an architectural masterpiece. Besides saving the masterpiece, they put it on the tax rolls. How can a politician ethically support doing anything other than this scenario?

Ernst Wagner
Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation
246 East 58th Street
New York, NY  
(February 3)

 

Orange County Government Center

The Orange County Government Center’s fate is a hotly debated emotional issue.
But I haven’t seen the very important argument debated about the economic issue.

The Orange County taxpayers have a very strong incentive to seeing the “Kaufman” proposal move forward and the “tear-down and rebuild” proposal be rejected for fiscal reasons.

The Kaufman proposal has the following benefits to the county:

  1. The construction cost will be $9 million less than the tear-down and rebuild option;
  2. The county will receive income of $5 million for sale of the current building to Kaufman;
  3. The construction will be done a year sooner saving on financing costs; and
  4. A historic 150,000 square foot building will be restored and placed on the tax rolls.

The importance of placing the building on the tax rolls is immense:

  1. The building will provide housing and business for the artists expected to locate there;
  2. The building will provide property tax income to Goshen and Orange County;
  3. Sales from the artist businesses located in the building will provide sales tax revenue; and
  4. Tourism and business related to the art center will provide local employment.

The analysis below, based on 2013 figures provided by Orange County, shows that every homeowner in Orange County could have their annual property taxes subsidized by $30 by placing this building on the tax rolls:

Orange County publishes the effective tax rates for the towns as of 2013
www.co.orange.ny.us/filestorage/124/1368/1468/Effective_Tax_Rates.pdf

Goshen had a rate of 2.88% of market value.

If Kaufman buys the OCGC for $5M and improves it and divides it into artist space, he will certainly raise the market value above $5M.
At the 2013 Effective Rate, the below market values add the indicated tax $ to the Goshen coffers:
MARKET VALUE                TAX $
$10M     =             $288,000
$15M     =             $432,000
$20M     =             $576,000

www.orangecountygov.com/filestorage/124/1322/2492/pafr2013.pdf (see page 10)

Orange County received $112M of total property tax in 2013, so this could increase the county’s collections by almost .5%.
If we take the $15M market value and resulting taxes of $432,000, we see that putting the building on the tax rolls could reduce the tax rate for ALL taxpayers by 0.38571%.
Orange County says the average homeowner pays $7850 in real estate tax, so putting the OCGC on the tax rolls @$15M market value would REDUCE the property for every single home in Orange County by over $30!

This could benefit about 90,000 homeowners.

How could anyone fight the logic of this solution? And the solution offers the equally significant achievement of saving an architectural masterpiece for the enjoyment of future generations. I hope the logic of this proposal can be conveyed to the legislature in time for their important vote.

Mark Medoff
246 East 58th Street
New York, NY
(February 3)

 

County Executive proposal for chargebacks for Rockland Community College costs is double taxation

Imagine if you went to the grocery store, paid at the register for your groceries and as you were exiting the store, you were stopped and told that you had to pay for those groceries a second time.   That is exactly what County Executive Ed Day’s proposal to chargeback the Rockland Community College costs to the towns would do.          

In the Rockland County Budget for 2015, real property taxes were levied upon the people of Rockland County in the amount of $107,078,376, for operation of county government in 2015.  Included within that amount was $1.8 million for tuition chargebacks for Rockland County residents who attend community colleges outside of Rockland County and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).   The residents of Rockland County have already been taxed to pay for those costs in 2015. See: http://budget.rocklandgov.com/Budget/details/organizationdetails.php?fund=A&org=EDU2490

Now a proposal set forth by County Executive Ed Day will have the County of Rockland charging back each of its five towns for those costs.  No town has budgeted for those chargebacks in 2015.   County Executive Ed Day has threatened to deduct the money from the towns’ share of the sales tax creating a shortfall in their 2015 budgets.  The Town Supervisors are concerned, not only because that will create a deficit in the towns’ 2015 budgets, but will force them to raise taxes to pay for those chargebacks.  The end result will be that Rockland County residents will be charged a second time for community college chargebacks by an increase in town taxes.  In other words, Rockland County residents already paid for those chargebacks in their 2015 County taxes and now will have to pay for it a second time through an increase in their town taxes. 

Community college chargebacks were built into the Rockland County real property tax in 2015.  The County Executive is not proposing to reduce county property taxes by $1.8 million, because if he charges back to the towns, the county taxpayers should no longer have to pay that tax.   Community college chargebacks are contained in the 2015 County Budget.  The County Executive cannot reduce  county property taxes in 2015 by $1.8 million; it is too late, those taxes have been billed.  But instead, simultaneously he has chosen to charge the towns for community college chargebacks in the amount of $1.8 million, so the same residents and taxpayers, which are all residents and taxpayers of Rockland County are effectively paying the chargebacks twice for a total of $3.6 million:  paying taxes once to the County of Rockland and a second time to the towns, for the same expense.   

Ilan S. Schoenberger
County Legislator – District 4 
(February 3)

 

City School Board Member’s – “Police Diversity Plan” Falls Short

In response to Randall Johnson’s call for a City of Poughkeepsie Police Diversity Action Plan ……. ”comprehensive roadmap” to recruit more women and minority police officers in the city” (Mid-Hudson News  1/25/15), Mr. Johnson suggests that the city should hire a Minority Recruitment Police Officer to help recruit at local high schools, churches, and community based organizations.

Mr. Johnson’s plan is very narrow in scope and it falls too short to yield the result that we would need. Recruiting and building a diverse police department goes way beyond talking to the youth at the high school. It encompasses a multi-prong approach that addresses both community & police relations and workforce diversity. Unfortunately, due to his lack of municipal experience, his plan is not cost efficient or an effective way to diversify the city’s Police Department.

To hire a Police Minority Recruitment Officer at $77,971 (including benefits), would be economically unwise. We must strategically deploy our police force and available resources and direct them in a way to protect our community.

As Mayor, I would call on our retired City of Poughkeepsie Police Officers to assist us in recruiting minority applicants. I believe we can train several retired volunteer police officers to talk about law enforcement careers throughout the school year at the local area high school and colleges as well as places of worship.

Secondly, I would request assistance from the County in recruiting efforts throughout the county to find qualified and dedicated minority applicants.   

As a City Councilman I have spoken on the need to diversify our police department as I believe that our police force should be reflective of the neighborhoods they serve and protect.

As a direct result of our outreach efforts with the City of Poughkeepsie Council members, our elected County Legislators and community, the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department had nine minority applicants for November’s civil service exam. The City is currently waiting for the applicants’ test scores. It is my sincere hope that our efforts will have enabled some of these applicants to score high enough to be considered for an interview and future employment with the City of Poughkeepsie. 

As Mayor, my administration would continue to build collaborations and foster strategic partnerships with institutions of higher education (Dutchess Community College, Marist College, SUNY New Paltz), businesses, and military recruiters as our outreach and recruitment efforts must adhere to the new civil service qualifications set by Dutchess County on August 29, 2014:

The initiative I undertook to increase minority applicants in taking the civil service exam is just another example of the experience and leadership skills that I would employ as your next Mayor.   

Robert Mallory
3rd Ward Councilman
Mayoral candidate for the City of Poughkeepsie
(January 28)

 

Sheldon Silver

I am not sure which is more repugnant: the fact that Sheldon Silver was again overwhelmingly elected by the Assembly Democrats to serve as Speaker of the Assembly or that Assemblywoman Didi Barrett voted for him knowing that he has stood by and done nothing for the female employees who have been sexually harassed and assaulted by members of the Assembly.

I am deeply disappointed in Ms. Barrett. She has shown a callous disregard for the victims and for her constituents who had trusted her to exercise better judgment.

I won’t forget this and I hope her voters don’t either.

Felicia Ritters
Poughkeepsie
(January 23)

 

Sheldon Silver

Whether we elect them to govern, legislate or sit on the bench, we want to believe these people serve above the fray and with adherence to fair play.  When they don't they betray the very foundation of our democracy. Corruption may aid those in power at times but it is almost always what ultimately disarms them of it.  

A resignation is in order for Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver, if the charges against him are credible and true. 

Stephen L. Krasner
Town of Newburgh
(January 23)

 

Arlington School delay

I am writing to express my opinion on the failure of Arlington Central School to call a two hour delay and closure at a reasonable time on Friday 1/9. I was one of the lucky ones who did not leave yet from my home but I know of other students and staff that had already left their house and were driving in horrible conditions. The schools failure to act at a reasonable time could have caused severe consequences. I feel the administration needs to be better prepared for storms that might hit and be prepared to make the call at a reasonable time. This is why two hour delays were put in place because if you are not sure about the conditions at least you are given two extra hours to make that call. I hope in the future Arlington does a better job to prepare for these storms to help keep everyone safe.

Cara Moore
Pleasant Valley
(January 14)

 

No to Civil Forfeiture Law in Orange County

Imagine law enforcement seizing your money, property or car without you being convicted, indicted or arrested for a crime.  In order to get your property back, you have to prove that your property is innocent because law enforcement will claim that the property is allegedly connected to a crime.  If you are not successful in getting your property back, law enforcement will sell it, and the proceeds will go to law enforcement agencies and county government.  This is Civil Forfeiture.

Many Republicans, Democrats, conservative activists and think tanks support reforming this law due to its abuse against Americans and encouraging policing for profit.  A state judge in Pennsylvania called the civil asset forfeiture process “state-sanctioned theft.”  This law ignores the 4th, 5th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution.

 All the Orange County Legislators were provided with documentation of factual cases of civil forfeiture abuse; law enforcement agencies and local municipalities using the proceeds of forfeiture properties, cash and cars to balance their budgets; articles from conservative think tanks like The Heritage Foundation against this law and public comments from citizens, attorneys and former police officers expressing their view against this law.   The Democrats voted against this law, but thanks to the Republicans, this could be law in Orange County.

The Republican legislators voted for expanded and intrusive government, and disregarded our constitutional rights.   Please contact County Executive Neuhaus and ask him not to sign this law.

If the Republican legislators believed in limited government, the Constitution, not balancing budgets on the backs of taxpayers, and still support law enforcement, they would not have voted for this law.  Now the Orange County Executive has an opportunity to do the right thing.

Sonia Ayala
Town of Blooming Grove
(December 29)

 

Brabanec thanks voters

I want to thank all of the voters in the 98th Assembly District for their trust and confidence in me to be their next state Assemblyman. Our district has been without a representative for close to a year, so there is a lot to catch up on. I have many positive ideas on how we can make our state a better and more affordable place to live and raise a family.  

I have been working hard the past two weeks to get my local district office set up and staff hired so we can address any and all of your issues and concerns going forward. In the next few months, I will be putting together advisory committees on many important issues concerning our area which will help our staff formulate meaningful legislation we can present on the Assembly floor for consideration. If you are interested in serving on any of these advisory boards, please contact my district office. At the present time, our district office will be located at 123 Route 94 South, Suite 2 in Warwick. We will also be very active in the community by holding open houses around the district, attending community events, and keeping everyone informed about what is going on in Albany.  

I am honored to serve you in this very important position and promise that I will always do my very best to look after your interests and reform New York to truly make it the Empire State once again. I hope everyone has a very happy holiday season and a prosperous and healthy 2015!

Karl Brabanec
Deerpark
Assemblyman, 98th District
(December 29)

 

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