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The Bond Vote and The Aftermath

As I write this, I think I am talking to a large group of readers. But I may be talking to the same 20-30 people who routinely write and comment on the Patch. There is no real way to know what size audience you reach through this medium. If the Patch follows its current trend I imagine the numbers will keep getting smaller. This story is already fading from the front page while many a fluff piece takes its place, and the State of the County address by Ed Day is nowhere to be found. The Patch started its downward spiral when Bill Demarest left. But I digress …

When I moved to Rockland in 1980, it was because my parents looked to things like the quality of the school district, the overall safety of the community, the parks and recreation and the aesthetics of the neighborhoods and the proximity to NYC. The various times I have moved the same considerations come into play. At one point I built a home in Valley Cottage, about 3 houses away from the Clarkstown School District. Many a prospective sale fell through when the prospective buyers found out we were in the Nyack School District and not Clarkstown no offense to the Nyack district but it was at that time a clear deal breaker.

It really was about the district - no one asked which particular elementary school we were zoned for. All CCSD kids go to the same middle school, and we have two high schools. So this notion that each of our elementary schools is invaluable just doesn’t resonate with me. I’m sure Birchwood, Street and Chestnut Grove were thought of in the same light, yet the district carried on despite the loss or change of use of these buildings, and would continue to do so today if any other elementary school closed. 

I fully understand the emotional attachment. If my kids were still in Link and we were told Link was going to close I’m sure I would have the same emotional response the Congers parents are having. Being able to view this from a point free from the emotional detachment gives a different perspective. Most of my bad decisions in life were ones that were emotionally driven. 

I’m not sure what the best answer is because I do not have anywhere near the amount of valid information that I could use to evaluate for myself and make an informed decision. The board, the superintendent, the diehards from both sides of this issue - none have put forth what I believe to be sufficiently reliable information. Plenty of misinformation and plenty of emotion, but not enough that I can say I have a firm grip on the true costs and potential impacts. Could I do more to be better informed - no doubt. But for those who can’t make board meetings, we need to get commitments from our cable providers (both Optimum and Verizon) to televise these meetings (town board and county legislature as well). I have a ton of public access channels with nothing on them, and both these companies rake in mega-millions. Make it happen!

Having read through all 157 posts (and that in itself was no easy feat), some made points that really stood out to me over this very emotional issue.
The first by Karen Kasman - to have a vote of this magnitude without proper notice to the constituency is absolutely wrong. There is no acceptable reason for this failure. Just another sign that the process itself is broken. Regardless of your feelings on this volatile subject, you can’t argue against giving adequate notice.
The second point of interest was from Clarice Hair (going out on a limb that this is a pseudonym). I had not previously thought about the point that perhaps you should have some skin in the game if you are going to vote on something. An interesting thought to say the least. Would of course require legislative change and may in fact be unconstitutional, but it makes a lot of sense, at least to me.
The third thought came from Congers240. Yes, a second opinion is called for here. But you need someone with experience in the field to know what jives and what doesn’t. The board is not equipped to make these decisions and needs to have someone they can turn to for proper guidance.

The fourth from ADK (and others) - I too have no problem with any group organizing themselves and getting the vote out. Kudos to them. I do have a problem if other residents (and clearly there were others) do not have a similar opportunity because of a lack of notice. Now, if once put on proper notice they sit on their hands and can’t mount an effective anti-campign, as may well have been the result anyway, that too is fine. But you can’t organize if you and your neighbors aren’t told about the vote. Yes, you would need to have your head in the sand to not be aware of the vote, but there are many reasons well pointed out here, and we really have very few modes of obtaining info to start with. So no proper notice puts some parts of our collective community at a disadvantage. I have to disagree with INTHEKNOW (sorry, this one I have to disagree with you on) in the notice department.
 
Fifth comes from Augustus Fay. Part of the blame lies on past board members. Probably so, but which ones? I know quite a few members personally, and I can’t tell the players without scorecards. There are many alliances talked about over the years, and it is hard to tell who was doing the right thing, who has ulterior motives, and who caused long-term damage. It may even involve some who still sit on the board. It varies depending on who you ask. One thing is for sure, we are in a mess, and need to find a way out. Placing blame is easy - finding ways to get the school system back on track is hard. But frankly, I’m amazed at those who are willing to give their time and energy to sit on a school board, take the constant public scorn, for the whopping salary of zero dollars. And the public only sees a portion of the work these people put in. I don’t like many of the decisions, but I don’t want their job either.

Next, Taxestoohigh - boycotting Congers businesses just makes no sense. When I lived on that side of the causeway I had some favorite haunts, and I may do just the opposite. I feel like a slice from Nicky’s II or Primavera’s and some cookies from Anna’s will hit the spot.

Mike Hirsch summed it up well - time to move on, communicate MUCH better and work as a team, both internally as a board and externally as a community. We all have much at stake, and we need to work together to pull us out of the distress we currently find ourselves in. I think the County is headed in the right direction; hopefully this district will find its was as well.

And for the record, had I voted (and not spent the whole day in the ER with a family member) I would have voted no. Mainly because I don't think this bond should have been put up for a vote at this time. But I certainly recognize those that cared enough to vote carried the day and we need to find a common ground for the good of all Clarkstown schools.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Michael N. Hull February 06, 2014 at 07:42 AM
Nice article, Dan. You say "I think I am talking to a large group of readers. But I may be talking to the same 20-30 people who routinely write and comment on the Patch. There is no real way to know what size audience you reach through this medium." I sent your article to our Facebook page "Clarkstown: What They Don't Want You To Know" where it was reposted this morning. Some of our articles have received up to 20,000 hits and I think this one should be seen by several thousand readers in Clarkstown given the interest in the Congers Bond vote. ......... https://www.facebook.com/pages/Clarkstown-What-They-Dont-Want-You-To-Know/146207698912716
Charles Clewsow February 06, 2014 at 08:53 AM
Thanks Dan for summimg it up nicely. I will go one step further in suggesting that this was managed unfairly by certain interests for a win and as I said it has a Frank Sparaco feel to it. It gets worse since a lot of ill will has been created, not because of the result but because of the process.....The slogan for Clarkstown should be WELCOME TO CLARKSTOWN, A COMMUNITY OF SELF INTERESTED PEOPLE. A Community where the Town Employees and the Union members show up to vote for Supervisor and the Town Board who employ them and a School District where School employees and their families show up to vote for the people who prepare their budget for salaries and benefits. And now in a startling move by a self interested School Board, folks in a small hamlet provoked by a single issue, self serving bond issue voted in their self interests to essentially pave the way for very large across the board tax increases across an entire school district. So now, the school employees and their families will all turn out at the next off Election Day voting opportunity to make sure that the additional money that will be surely allocated for the years of deferred maintenance on the physical plant does not interfere with the various and sundry ways they maneuver for salary raises, health care and pensions. The system , particularly with Non-Election Day voting on school issues, is gamed. An analysis of the voting tally bears this out.
Dan Weisberg February 06, 2014 at 10:55 PM
Thanks for the repost Michael. It's life on Patch in terms of visibility was short-lived!
Dan February 09, 2014 at 09:46 AM
When the hell is the state going to investigate Gromack. A $20MM tax assessment to the Palisades Center. Wasn't the purpose if that was for OUR tax relief. Both my kids went to the the Nyack schools. Both have college degrees and one has 2 masters. I disagree about the new football field though.
Bob February 10, 2014 at 07:27 PM
Think you have problems? You should own property in the vicinity of the NEW chicken slaughter house being built. There up there hammering away day after day while or POLS tell us they are doing their best to stop it! LOL
Watchdog February 10, 2014 at 08:17 PM
Do they have a building permit?
Bob February 11, 2014 at 05:23 AM
Permit or not Watchdog - they will build it anyway!
Mike Hirsch February 12, 2014 at 11:34 AM
Bob, Please let me know what you know about "the hammering away" that you mentioned. If they are indeed proceeding with this building I will try to get some citizen groups together to try and stop it.
Bob February 12, 2014 at 02:00 PM
Mike: Up until a short time ago, and for quite a while ,you could hear the big dump trucks "banging their backs" - as they do when they drop large quantities of dirt, asphalt etc. The noise went on ALL day, every day. Now I don't hear the trucks as much but even in the coldest days, you can hear the sound of hammers - coming from Rt. 45 (S/SW of New Hempstead Rd.)
Mike Hirsch February 12, 2014 at 02:34 PM
Thank you Bob. I'll look into it.
Mike Hirsch February 12, 2014 at 06:37 PM
Hi Bob. I took a drive through New Square after work today. I think the hammering sounds you heard were from residential construction, as there is a bit of it going on there. No evidence of earth moving equipment, but the ground is frozen now. There is a large parcel near the back of the community that looks like it could be where they plan on building the slaughterhouse. It looked like it was walled in with a concrete block wall, but when I google earthed it, it was a symmetrical rectangle, so maybe it could be the beginning of a structure. It is located just southwest of the Hillcrest School. So I guess we'll see what the future brings. I don't think Ed Day will allow a slaughterhouse to be built in a residential neighborhood on his watch. If the New Square people want to build a slaughterhouse, let them build it in an industrial area and let them pay for the increased water usage and sewer upgrade, not to mention the additional roadway maintenance.
Bob February 13, 2014 at 04:59 AM
Hi Mike: Thank you for your investigation into the hammering sounds. I looked at Google Earth also and found the satellite photo to be a little dated - I see a vehicle in my driveway that I have not had for some time now. I also see the area you speak of but unless my eyes deceive me, I see a rock crusher, several large backhoes, dump trucks and more! In addition, there is a break in the concrete block wall and earth has been leveled in that area. Mr. Day might have good intentions but he alone does not stand a chance. They will just take the issue to the NYS Supreme Court - like they did back in 1954 (see article in Wikipedia). They know the court system and will use it every time! Do I trust politicians - NO. I saw what Hillary did to get their vote when she ran for office and another one up in Albany that tells me he put a 2% cap on residential taxes but leaves a loophole for the town to override it and I get hit with another almost 11% increase. In short, between the Slaughter House and the East Ramapo School District, property value is at rock bottom - so guess who will by my house should I decide to sell!
Mike Hirsch February 13, 2014 at 07:37 AM
Thank you Bob. I think we need to attack this problem in a few different ways: First we need to gather information as to what is happening on the ground, which you and I can do. Secondly, we need to gather information from those in power (Ed Day, Alex Gromack, Ken Zebrowski, David Carlucci, etc). I do not believe that any of them want this slaughterhouse to be built in a residential area. Also, I WOULD NOT UNDERESTIMATE WHAT ED DAY CAN DO, NOR HIS RESOLVE. I would think that it is perfectly legal to make this project economically unfeasible. I would think that the county should be able to charge the developers for the additional water usage and the sewer upgrade, not to mention the increased road maintenance work that will become necessary with all the trucking involved. There will also be a huge environmental impact which goes beyond the Ramapo town borders, so it is a state, county, and clarkstown issue as well. The legal fees involved for the developer and the time that it can take them to deal with them will also add substantial cost to the project. Lastly, if this project does seem to be moving along on the ground, I believe that I can get the leaders of various citizen groups together (Rob Rhodes, Pete Bradley, Michael Hull, Bob Kurkela, and others) to join forces to mount a civil disobedience campaign and block access to the site. If we can together get 5 volunteers to occupy the site 3 hours/day x 8 shifts/day = 40 people/day x 7 days / week = 280 people., that should be enough. If we do that, this will get national attention, which I do not think the developers or the New Square people would want. I even thought of a name for this group: Slaughterhouse Five, after the Kurt Vonnegut novel. In short, neither the politicians, nor the citizens of Rockland County want this plant to be built in a residential neighborhood, and they can work together towards this common purpose. Do not give up hope. We can stop it if we work in concert.
Bob February 14, 2014 at 04:15 AM
Hi Mike; Thank you for sharing your well thought-out plan of "attack". Please let me give you my plan. I do not believe it is OUR (yours & mine) job to gather information as to what is happening on the ground. That Mike, should be the job of OUR elected officials (the names you mention as "being in power") and the building inspector. I'm sure you are aware of Governor Cuomo’s initiative to create tax free communities for new and expanding businesses. Well, did you know that the Empire State Development Corp. has already funded them 1.6 million? The plan would be to let them go tax free for 10 years - among other goodies! Great way to spend our money, right Mike? As far as a "civil disobedience campaign" is concerned, I can see us getting arrested for some hate crime that was conjured up by their leadership - and make NO mistake about it, both the State and Feds will be chomping at the bit to prosecute us! Again, if ANYONE should wage a campaign, it should be the politicians you mention - with Mr. Day as their leader - this will show me how sincere they really are. As far as money is concerned, how can you make something "economically unfeasible" WHEN IT IS BEING BACKED BY OUR VERY OWN NYS GOVERNMENT?????
Mike Hirsch February 14, 2014 at 12:00 PM
Hi Bob. Who was it that said that nothing is inevitable except death and taxes? I think that we should be able to raise enough money for the arrest fines. Who knows? Maybe Ed Day can even pardon those arrested. I say let's do it and see what happens. This can be big!
Mike Hirsch February 17, 2014 at 05:39 PM
Hi Bob. I've spoken to a few people and drove through New Square again today. First of all. you're absolutely correct in that google earth is not up to date. The area that I saw the other day towards the back of the village is a cemetery, and is an irregular shape. The rectangular shape that I saw on google earth must have been the foundation walls for a residential complex, which is now built. I think the proposed slaughterhouse is to sit on Route 45 at the north end of the village. I think that the most recent proposed plan or report is on file at the county planning department and the New Hemstead planning department, and the required public hearing date has not been set yet. As far as the politics is concerned, Legislator Zebrowski sent a letter back in 2009 to the ESD asking them to rescind the 1.6 million dollar grant, and sent a letter again in 2013. Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffe supported the grant request back in 2009. Ed Day opposed the plant as a county legislator and now as the county exec. The village of New Square can pretty much do as they want, but the state and county do have oversight and may be able to block the project. I think it would be a good idea for the citizens of Rockland County to ask their elected officials for their stance on this. At the state level, let's get David Carlucci and Ellen Jaffe to state where they stand today. At the county level, people should come to the legislative meetings and ask their representatives where they stand. If our county exec and the majority of the county legislature is opposed, as well as the majority of our state representatives and town supervisors, that should send a powerful message to the state. As far as citizen participation on the ground is concerned, maybe it would be a better idea (than my previous one) to get 1,000 people to walk through New Square quietly on a Saturday afternoon as a sign of opposition. Though some may think Sunday would be a less controversial day, I like the idea of Saturdays to send a message.
Bob February 18, 2014 at 04:29 AM
Hi Mike: I complement your tenacity and thank you for re-investigating the proposed site, you now have the correct location. From my point of view, the dye is already cast. The fact that Ms. Jaffe supported the grant request says it all! I told you in the beginning, the POLS will do anything for a large vote like New Square and the rest of us peons can hold our breath and get buried in BS! There is no such thing as "...walking through New Square quietly"! I know very well, we would be greeted with hostility and no one would back us. A better plan, in my opinion, is to send Ms. Jaffee & Mr. Carlucci a message that if they don't do anything to stop it, WE (the 1000 you mention) will remember them on election day!
Mike Hirsch February 18, 2014 at 08:51 AM
Bob, 1,000 walkers equals 5,000 to 10,000 votes. I wouldn't worry about hostility or backing from the politicians. They'll come around if we force their hand.
Mike Hirsch February 18, 2014 at 08:53 AM
Spread all the lies that you like Brian. An intelligent person would check the facts, which are public record.
Brian February 18, 2014 at 09:30 AM
Yes, the facts. That you copped a plea to a felony and paid a $59k fine, all because you were innocent and were being railroaded by the NYC gov't. for your "activism" in a town 30 miles north of the NYC. Those are some good facts.
Brian February 18, 2014 at 09:41 AM
It's not the crime that makes me laugh, Mike, it's the hypocrisy.
Mike Hirsch February 18, 2014 at 10:50 AM
The facts are that I built a junior golf center for a non profit that was tight on funds, used non-union carpenters instead of union carpenters, and passed the cost savings along to my client. I was found guilty of submitting a false document, a misdemeanor.
Mike Hirsch February 18, 2014 at 12:59 PM
One last note Brian. Since it is clear to me that you don't know the meaning of the word hypocrisy, I will tell you. It means saying one thing and doing the other (like your buddy Sparaco, who on one hand says that he's for the taxpayer, while the other hand is outstretched collecting $75,000/year from those same taxpayers for a part time, no show job). I have long been opposed to the prevailing wage laws because they are harmful to the NYS economy. Breaking a law to which you are opposed (and paying the consequences) is not hypocritical. It is called putting your money where your mouth is.
Bob February 18, 2014 at 02:36 PM
Hi Mike: Whatever they said you may have done wrong you seemed to have "paid your dues" for it. The trucks are up there dumping again today Mike. Have you spoken to any of the POLS yet?
Mike Hirsch February 18, 2014 at 03:03 PM
Thank you Bob. As I mentioned, I have spoken to some pols and civic leaders and will try and organize the opposition. Construction cannot start until the developers get the various approvals from the state and county agencies who have oversight. The first step is for the developers to schedule a public hearing, which they have yet to do. I don't think there is anything wrong with trucks dumping fill at a vacant lot.
Brian February 18, 2014 at 03:09 PM
While I'm no fan of Frank Sparaco, I'm not sure he's ever presented himself as anything other than a self-serving, entitled child. So I'm not sure that he qualifies as an example of a hypocrite. I, however, do have a good example of hypocritical behavior for you; a guy who starts an organization which claims to be outraged at people feeding from the public trough, while robbing the taxpayers of NYC and extorting money from his employees. That's a pretty good example of hypocrisy. And replying that it's OK for you to break laws you don't agree with is almost as laughable as the combination of your pretense that you're looking out for taxpayers even after you were caught red-handed, and pled guilty to, robbing said taxpayers.
Dan Weisberg February 18, 2014 at 06:02 PM
I know it is incredibly hard to stay focused and on topic, but to totally hijack a blog piece that dealt with one issue to get into arguments or even discussions that are way off topic is ridiculous. If you truly need to have these conversations may I suggest starting your own story and then you can have the free for all to your hearts content. I try real hard not to delete comments, even when they are directed at me. But it does become tempting to start making deletions when some people feel the need to go so off topic. I'm also going to try real hard to not respond to some of the incredulous comments made here.

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