The Sarah Wallace investigation of the continuing illegal housing and political corruption in Ramapo and Spring Valley can be seen here. (Scroll down on the index page–NBC video is on the left side.)
“With the village Building Department and inspection program being monitored by New York state for ineffectiveness, Mayor Alan Simon has dismissed the village fire inspector just before his six-month probationary period was set to expire this month.
The village hired John Zajac, a longtime West Haverstraw fire chief, in July as a full-time fire inspector to succeed the retired Raymond Guarnuccio, a former Spring Valley fire chief. Zajac was paid about $47,000. [Read more…]
“Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski said Thursday that authorities should close down a private school that’s operating with an inadequate fire hydrant and without independent water and power, calling the approval the “most egregious example yet of the build first, ask questions later mentality.”
Zebrowski, a New City Democrat who has long advocated for pressuring schools to follow fire and safety codes, said he’s demanded the New York state Department of State investigate how the school got a certificate of occupancy to run a school, specifically with the apparent backing of the agency’s monitor assigned to review Building Department activities. [Read more…]
“A private school continues to operate without running water, without its own electricity and with a makeshift fire hydrant that a state monitor said doesn’t meet safety codes, but was allowed to give the operator a temporary permit to teach several hundred students, authorities said.
Rockland officials got involved Wednesday and said that if the Summit Park Road school doesn’t have an approved water source by Monday — such as a tanker with water — they will close down the school in violation of the county sanitary code. [Read more…]
“County officials say they found what may be asbestos inside a now-sealed utility closet at the recently opened girls elementary school on the grounds of the former Edwin Gould property.
However, officials said the representatives for the property owner, Chestnut Ridge Ventures, LLC, refused to let an inspector representing the Rockland Health Department sample the material for testing after it was found during a Feb. 2 inspection.
A spokesman for the school and the property owner’s lawyer denied the material found posed a danger to students, faculty and administrators. [Read more…]
On Sunday, The Journal News devoted its entire front section to an examination of the accelerating, crushing growth in the Town of Ramapo. The cautionary lead on the front page was followed by six feature articles in section one, all dealing with the growing crisis in a town with uncontrolled development, a collapsing tax base, and top-level administrators busy working on their legal defenses against scores of federal charges. The dry rot resulting from endemic political corruption threatens the entire community.
The six features in section one are divided by six separate themes:
“It’s Ramapo’s lack of zoning and safety code enforcement, not religion, that has encouraged development chaos and divided the town. [Read more…]
The headline in last Monday’s The Journal News read “Ramapo: State’s powers over building, fire inspections detailed.” Ramapo and Spring Valley now have State watchdogs “assigned to monitor the Ramapo Building Department [with] access to department records and [the power to] direct inspectors to address critical threats to life and public safety.” A proper subhead for the story could have been: “It’s about time.” The effort by local firefighters to get someone to step in and enforce the fire code regulations in the Town of Ramapo has been going on, literally, for decades. Standing in the way have been the federally indicted Christopher St. Lawrence, the Ramapo Town Board, and the bloc vote that keeps all of them in Town Hall.
To understand this sorry legacy of neglect requires a brief review of the history of tension between fire officials and numerous Ramapo and State politicians. [Read more…]
“The state is appointing monitors with investigative authority to oversee the building departments in Ramapo and Spring Valley after years of fielding complaints from officials and first responders about the potentially dangerous lack of fire safety and zoning enforcement in those communities.
The state acted after several years of pressure from Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, Rockland County Executive Ed Day and the Rockland Illegal Housing Task Force leaders. They have called for the state to potentially take over the inspection duties in Ramapo and Spring Valley.
The monitors will be assigned because the communities have not done enough to comply with state regulations, state Department of State spokesman Laz Benitiz said Monday. [Read more…]
“On Dec. 1, 1958, a school fire in Chicago killed 92 children and three nuns who were teachers in the Our Lady of the Angels school. While the two-story brick building looked safe from the outside, the interior wood design with only one fire escape had no sprinklers, no automatic fire alarm, no smoke or heat detectors, no alarm connected to the fire department, no fire-resistant stairwells and no fire-safe doors from the stairwells to the second floor.
Other than that, it complied with a fire department safety inspection only weeks before the fire, because the school did not have to comply with all fire safety guidelines. Due to a grandfathering clause in the 1949 standards, existing schools were not required to retrofit the safety devices that were required in all newly constructed schools. In the only positive outcome of the tragedy, sweeping changes in school fire safety regulations were enacted nationwide, no doubt saving countless lives in subsequent years. [Read more…]