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Government Center Renovation– Do It Right or Not At All

The age old saying of “do it right or not at all” applies to the County’s saga over the renovation of the Government Center.

In the event that the demolition plan, as proposed to date, is modified to keep the original exterior face block intact, it will be a perfect example of doing what is NOT right.  NOT right for the health of the many county workers who spend countless hours in the building and NOT right for future generations that will have to bear the burden of costly maintenance and sky rocketing heating and air conditioning costs.  In addition the County taxpayer will carry the cost of monitoring the air quality from the day it reopens and risk having to evacuate the building when mold levels increase.

Whether mold is real or perceived it is a serious issue that the Legislature and the County Executive must consider.  The current plan to completely remove the existing exterior face and backer blocks and replace them with properly constructed modern wall sections having improved insulation, moisture barrier and water tight joints is the RIGHT way to complete the work.  The outside walls can be constructed with new blocks of the same style.  This construction will avoid possible workers compensation claims and will insure the health and safety of the workforce and the public.

Health and safety of the workforce and the public must be the main consideration.

Charles W. Lee, P.E.
Retired Commissioner Public Works
(March 31)


Critical of Skoufis

The dictionary describes an extremist as “a person who holds extreme or fanatical political views, especially one who resorts to or advocates extreme action.” This definition matches Assemblyman James Skoufis and his current harmful actions to the detriment of New York women and children.       

Assemblyman Skoufis is the regions leading proponent of the WEP candidate pledge, an effort to block passage of critical legislation. Among the current bills the Assemblyman is blocking is legislation requiring equal pay for women. He is also standing in the way of enacting bills ending workplace related discrimination, including against pregnant women.  Assemblyman Skoufis is even denying passage of increased protections to combat sexual harassment and domestic violence.
It is hard to understand why any politician would willingly prevent passage of these critical measures. In Assemblyman Skoufis’ case it is to ensure the passage of extreme abortion legislation that would compromise the health of New York women and children.

This legislation includes allowing non-doctors to perform abortions, allowing late-term and partial birth abortions right up to the moment of birth, and removing criminal penalties for those who illegally perform abortions and hurt women.

In our era of great achievement and modernization it’s unfathomable that Mr. Skoufis is advocating for a reduced standard of care for women, creating serious health and safety consequences.

These tenets of extremism that the Assemblyman is seeking to make law in New York go beyond all sense of human decency. Across most of the modern world the plans Mr. Skoufis endorses are rejected as beyond the norm of acceptability.

As energy is being exerted to pass such extreme measures, working women across New York are earning just 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Little girls, like my daughters and granddaughters, across New York State are rightfully told to work hard and dream big; because there is no barrier they cannot break. Yet my Assemblyman seeks to hinder that reality so he can play extremist politics. 

I cannot help but feel unrivaled disappointment in how my Assemblyman is using his elected position. Mr. Skoufis is not representing the women in my community or in New York State by blocking legislation critical to us solely as a means to achieve dangerous extremes.  

All residents of New York, especially in Mr. Skoufis’ district, deserve better. It is time we demand he stop putting his extremist interests before those of all women and children.

Faye Anson
(March 24)


State budget and TAP

The finish line for the state budget is voted on April 1st.  In order to meet that deadline, the NY Senate and Assembly will probably advance their own budget plans and then conference to work out their differences while they negotiate with the Governor. Just within these next few weeks!

There is a severe problem with the Governor's budget plan. He will not include money for TAP (Tuition Assistance Program) unless the legislature approves college financial aid for undocumented immigrants and tax credits for students attending private and parochial schools. This means TAP could potentially be eliminated ($1 billion in aid for over 300,000 New York college student recipients)! To eliminate TAP is to make higher education even more unaffordable and unaccessible, which will hurt New York.

It is imperative to act now. Contact your Senator (www.nysenate.gov) and Assemblymember (assembly.state.ny.us/mem/)today and tell them that they must reject the Governor’s budget plan to put TAP at risk. Instead, urge them both to protect TAP awards and approve TAP aid for undocumented immigrants. Let your voice be heard with the issues that matter!

Alexis Polokoff
SUNY New Paltz
(March 24)


Raising the smoking age

Your recent report on Westchester County’s attempt to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 is exciting news in improving the health of young people within the county.  As a Tobacco Cessation Specialist, this is great progress in the mission of preventing tobacco related diseases and deterring young people from beginning an addiction that can follow them through life. 

A new study funded by the American Cancer Society has found that smoking’s toll on health is even worse than previously thought.  The study identifies five additional diseases attributed to smoking including infection, kidney disease, intestinal disease cause by inadequate blood flow, and heart and lung ailments recently linked to tobacco use.

With new tobacco products being marketed to youth every day, raising the age of smoking will be a powerful deterrent in the mission to prevent young people from starting.  Congratulations to the POW’R Against Tobacco team, American Cancer Society’s Mike Burgess and American Lung Association’s Mike Seilback for their hard work, dedication, and continuous efforts for healthy living.

Leilani Lockett
Program Manager-Center for a Tobacco Free Hudson Valley
White Plains
(March 7)


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
(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
(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

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)



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