Suburbanites.com http://www.suburbanites.com Community awareness and preservation, one reader at a time. Tue, 19 Aug 2014 05:03:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Karl Brabanek waffles on Kiryas Joel Annexation. http://www.suburbanites.com/news/editorial/brabanek-waffles-kiryas-joel-annexation/ http://www.suburbanites.com/news/editorial/brabanek-waffles-kiryas-joel-annexation/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 22:51:14 +0000 http://www.suburbanites.com/?p=238 Brabanek waffles on Kiryas Joel Annexation.

Karl BrabanekA recent writer to The Photo News (see original Letter to the Editor here) provides the following commentary on the candidates in New York’s 98th District State Assembly Race, and the outcome isn’t pretty for candidate Karl Brabanek.

I just listened to Karl Brabanek (Republican candidate for New York’s 98th State Assembly District) on his weekly WTBQ radio show address a listener question from Monroe on the KJ annexation, and his position should he be elected.

Seems like his answer summarizes easily:

“Would you like some syrup for those waffles, Mr. Brabanek?”

The caller gave every opportunity to come out against the Kiryas Joel annexation to Mr. Brabanek.

He refused to take any position, and stated that he would not take a “militant stance as did the other candidates,” despite being called out that his opponents were willing to take a firm position against.

He wouldn’t even comment on the increased burden to county or state taxpayers, the environment, our schools, and suggested that both sides – the leaders of Monroe and Kiryas Joel – “sit down and reach a compromise.”

Compromise the future of Orange County?

Compromise with two governments who lack transparency in their actions?

This demonstrates that Brabanek is out of touch with Orange County constituents on a very important issue, or is very misinformed and doesn’t wish to understand what’s at stake for everyone else in the region.

That’s why your vote in the primary is critical to back those candidates who support us.

Sadly, Brabanek isn’t one for those who care about Orange County.

I heard the same caller on WTBQ during Brabanek’s Tuesday weekly radio show, and to say that Brabanek responded to the question like a deer-in-the-headlights is an understatement. But then again, Brabanek represents politics-as-usual in Orange County, and a throwback to the political rhetoric of yesteryear. In fact, one needs to consider why Brabanek is running scared and why he isn’t running a transparent campaign. What’s he hiding?

Well, he’s hiding his record and his history of bad decisions. Not only does Karl Brabanek have a problem relating to Orange County voters on the Kiryas Joel annexation issue, his record shows a problem relating to women as anything other than a chauvinist pig.

Karl BrabanekIn 2003, Brabanek as a 24 year old aide to then-Orange County Executive Ed Diana decided he’d throw a booze-fest for his Young Republican colleagues entitled “Karlpalooza”, in which he encouraged female attendees to “wear as little clothing as possible” and promoted the event based on its intended debauchery. (See the link here to the NY Press piece)

Way to win points with women there, Karl. But sadly, it doesn’t only stop there. As Town of Deer Park Supervisor, Brabanek came under criticism for holding down two jobs — those of both Supervisor and Police Commissioner — in addition to holding a 3rd role working on Nan Hayworth’s re-election campaign in 2012. Now we know why there’s still so much unemployment in New York State when you have career politicians holding down not one, not two, but three different jobs. Nice work if you can get it.

Unfortunately, it’s not a great record to defend, which would explain why Brabanek simply doesn’t want to do so. His strategy? Find any way possible to disqualify primary opponents so that he can breeze through to general election in November. In fact, Brabanek has filed primary challenges against his two Republican challengers, Dan Castricone and Mike Morgillo, contending that their petitions for alternate party lines (which include 3rd parties) are invalid. Of course when your record is as dismal as Brabanek’s, you simply don’t want competition to call attention to it, so resorting to back-room politics is his way of being slick. But it deprives the voting public of their opportunity to support candidates on any line they like, in addition to stinking of the same political stench that continues to make Albany a cesspool.

So to recap what Karl Brabanek fears most, here’s the short list:

  • He fears his own record.
  • He fears your learning his stance on the Kiryas Joel annexation, and what that will mean to all of his district in Orange and Rockland Counties.
  • He fears your learning that Kiryas Joel’s Republican delegates backed him in the Orange County Republican convention based on his stance on the proposed annexation (we can only guess what was promised).
  • He fears competition from other candidates.
  • He fears women voters, who should be giving his misogynist past a serious look.
  • He fears you.

Not a great record for the voters of New York’s 98th State Assembly District. It’s little wonder he was a deer-in-the headlights when asked about his position on his own radio show. He’d rather hit softballs than tackle tough questions and issues. And he’d rather play the same political theater that we’ve come to know and loathe in New York for years.

Thanks for trying, Karl. We’ll be sure to send that case of Aunt Jemima out to you.

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Monroe Politics: Meet Myrna Kemnitz http://www.suburbanites.com/government/politics/myrna-kemnitz/ http://www.suburbanites.com/government/politics/myrna-kemnitz/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 23:06:35 +0000 http://www.suburbanites.com/?p=202 Myrna KemnitzLocal politics can be a haven for those who become punch-drunk once given a little power. Thus begins the story of how an educator and children’s book author became an Orange County Legislator with higher aspirations; or how Icarus flew too close to the sun and experienced a tragic fall.

Myrna KemnitzMeet Myrna Kemnitz, Legislator for Orange County’s 7th District.

Myrna Kemnitz is a Monroe resident and former educator, as well as the author of several children’s books. Prior to her election, she had no political experience. She serves on the legislature’s Rules Committee, Human Services Committee and Health & Mental Health Committees, and her stated cause celebre is “Valley View”.

Kemnitz was elected in 2009 to the seat representing the Town and Village of Monroe, ousting incumbent Greg Townsend. She is a current member of the Rules Committee, Health Services Committee the Health and Human Services Committee. Her slogan of “Myrna for Monroe”, or “representing the interests of the Town outside Kiryas Joel”, was destined to be disingenuous from the start since she had larger and more immediate aspirations, not those of serving the office for which she was elected.

Worse yet? She did so twice.

Myrna KemnitzNo sooner was she elected to the legislature then she immediately launched a campaign to unseat Republican State Legislator Annie Rabbit (R-Greenwood Lake), whose district runs a swath across much of lower Orange County into parts of Rockland County. “Myrna for Monroe” quickly became “Myrna for any higher office she could acquire”, a decision that left a bad impression with those who worked hard for her election to the seat.

The “Myrna for Monroe”, who was elected on a platform of representing the “rest” of Monroe outside Kiryas Joel, was now courting Kiryas Joel bloc participation. In fact, much of the financial support for her campaign was funded by individual and business contributions from KJ donors [1]. Kemnitz lost to Rabbitt by a 10-point margin.

In 2012, she once again aspired to Rabbitt’s State Legislature seat in 2012. Only this time, she had a three-way primary in which she faced off against Town of Monroe Board Member and one-time political ally Gerard McQuade and Ramapo powerbroker Aron Weider, both of whom were in a better position to pitch their candidacy to the Hasidic voters of Ramapo and Kiryas Joel. Kemnitz lost the primary and thus never made it to the general election. Once again, she returned defeated to the Orange Legislature, a position she seemed to view as a ‘consolation prize’. By 2013, however, Myrna Kemnitz was damaged goods and vulnerable to a stronger candidate who could capitalize on her lack of accomplishment and two failed runs for higher office.

Myrna KemnitzThere’s a saying that “if you can’t succeed in politics, become a political power broker.” Enter husband Tom Kemnitz, a man responsible for giving Monroe Gerry McQuade and Harley Doles before their own fall-out with the Kemnitz family. Noting the rising political influence of the United Monroe movement, Tom Kemnitz approached the grass-roots party to demand they include Myrna on their ballot line in order to gain the coattail of support Myrna hoped would solidify her win.

To back his demands, Tom Kemnitz threatened to split the vote by using another slate of candidates (along with unrestricted use of printing presses Kemnitz owned), a strategy that would split the Monroe town vote and virtually guarantee Kiryas Joel’s chosen candidates a win in November. Facing either a divided election or town unity, United Monroe acquiesced and offered Kemnitz a standing on their party line. In addition to her democratic base, this virtually guaranteed Myrna Kemnitz would get another 4-year term in the legislature.

As for what Tom Kemnitz is doing now? That answer is much the same: splitting the vote.

Kemnitz has circulated a petition for the open Monroe Town Board seat to run Susan Roth on the Democratic Party line among registered voters in – you guessed it – Kiryas Joel. Though you’re likely to ask the question of “Who is Susan Roth”?

Roth is the owner of Hudson Valley Planning and Preservation and a consultant to the Town of Monroe Planning Board. Among her qualifications, she lists “environmental review (SEQRA) review and preparation”. Her LinkedIn profile displays her ongoing work with the Town [2] and other entities. We can let readers deduce those inferences with respect to the upcoming work required for a lead agency designate by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Roth has no other political background.

While you may wonder what Myrna Kemnitz has achieved during her first four years as legislator, the answer is likely what you would expect: virtually nothing.

Myrna KemnitzDespite her stance on the preservation of Valley View and preserving the Orange County Government Center, constituents have seen little evidence of her efforts to advance an agenda. In fact, where her predecessor in office produced regular communication and outreach to Monroe’s citizens, Kemnitz has been both silent and invisible, eschewing public appearances. Other than campaigning, her most recent appearance was at the Monroe Town Board meeting on July 7th to deliver a statement from County Executive Steve Neuhaus. Kemnitz offered no other direct comments.

Like most current politicians ‘representing’ Monroe, it appears that Myrna Kemnitz is providing little representation, and her record shows a pattern of aspiration to other offices without a record of achievement to support such an endeavor. Clearly, Kemnitz is a politician at heart, and her loyalties reside with anyone who can provide her with votes, including Kiryas Joel.

To that end, her public statements on the topic of the proposed annexation of 507 acres by Kiryas Joel from Monroe, like most other elected officials, aren’t very public. Their only mention is buried in her monthly legislative reports [3] and within two videos on the CNN iReport website [4] that have garnered very little attention or traffic. Perhaps this background provides insight on why.

Or Myrna Kemnitz is angling for another political run. Based on her record of action – or lack thereof – we can only infer that the third time won’t be the charm and that she should consider returning to a career outside the public eye.

Such as writing children’s books.

Responsible replies invited.

Pictures provided from Times Herald Record, The Photo News and Google.com; all rights belong to their original owners.

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Harley Doles’ Surrender Deal to KJ http://www.suburbanites.com/news/commentary/harley-doles-surrender-deal-kj/ http://www.suburbanites.com/news/commentary/harley-doles-surrender-deal-kj/#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2014 19:04:52 +0000 http://www.suburbanites.com/?p=187 Now that more has information emerged about Harley Doles’ resolution to surrender Lead Agency status in the DEC Annexation deal with Kiryas Joel, a.k.a. “The Monday Surprise”, we now have much more of an understanding of the underhanded manner in which the Monroe Town Supervisor wants to systematically dismantle the town in order to hand it over lot-by-lot to developers for high density development.

Beginning with the 507 acre annexation request from Kiryas Joel that created the contention in the first place. The discussion at Monday’s Board meeting morphed into a four-hour long angry discourse. Surprisingly, most of the ranting and complaining was done from the supervisor’s chair by Harley Doles himself, and anyone remotely associated was spared no blame from Mr. Doles’ personal and often unwarranted attacks. Citizens had 3 minutes to make their compelling case before the assembled board and neighbors, remarks that range from being interrupted by Doles to a convenient stance of avoiding responses to any direct questions.

Councilman Dan Burke, questioned in an interview by News12′s Blaise Gomez, seemed very confused about the wording and intent of the resolution, and whether it has direct correlation to the annexation approval. Indeed, for someone who claimed to have seen the resolution before the meeting, his re-reading of it on camera struck no one convincing, despite his Monday night protestations of favoring the motion.

Not helping was his comment before the final vote in which he openly commented to the crowd, “Don’t talk to us, we’re criminals.”

The vote failed passage by a 2-2 tie.

Members of the press and United Monroe have obtained the copy of the disputed resolution that turned Monday night’s Town Board meeting into a four-hour-long angry rant. We’ve provided a link to the resolution, which Harley Doles and Town Attorney Michael Donnelly admittedly spent the previous long weekend drafting.

Copy of the Resolution

As you’ll note, the language of the resolution makes clear the assumption that Kiryas Joel leadership will act responsibly and file the necessary requirements to become its own separate municipality. At least Harley Doles would like to convince you that would be the case. But that argument lacks one major element: evidence of previous similar behaviors.

Harley DolesHarley Doles and Michael Donnelly assert that in 7 out of 8 cases in which the DEC has ruled on annexation cases, the decision has been granted to the requesting party (Kiryas Joel, in our case). They then attempt to extend that corollary to a case such as ours which is different in a number of ways.

1. The DEC has in Kiryas Joel a habitual scofflaw to any environmental findings. The Kiryas Joel waste treatment plant is one subject of many violations to DEC Regulations. Granting lead agency status to a known scofflaw sets an obviously poor precedent for the agency.

2. The DEC has delayed its decision on lead agency. Perhaps this is due to it being an election year, perhaps its due to the known outrage that would occur were Kiryas Joel be granted the opportunity to watch over its own hen-house.  Perhaps also it’s because the DEC has the option of appointing itself as lead agency when there are clear conflicts of interest, as there are in our unique situation.

3. Three of the four council members continue to assert that Kiryas Joel’s population growth rate is one that will continue to outpace that of the remaining town outside KJ’s boundaries. It’s an argument similar to suggesting that an alcoholic will continue drinking to excess, and we should therefore send a few cases of whiskey to help out. Ceding 507 acres doesn’t address the core issue, just as contributing to destroy an alcoholic’s liver isn’t doing them any favors.

Take a good read of the language in the resolution. Nothing is guaranteed. Not Kiryas Joel abiding by the letter or spirit of the agreement, not their becoming a separate municipality (something which is far from assured), not their intent to act in anything other than their own self-interests which run counter to those surrounding their community.

And Harley Doles’ actions subsequent to his loss on the resolution demonstrated his own desire to use his position and the full resources of the Town of Monroe as his personal asset toward granting whatever power he desires. Or using town resources to exact any sort of embarrassment that he decides to promote.

Jamming last minute resolutions and holding oddly-timed meetings that exclude both the public and other council members serve to demonstrate a total contempt for the citizens of this town and the New York Open Meeting Laws.  These aren’t the behaviors of a responsible elected official.

They’re the behavior of a schoolyard bully. And they have no place in a community of responsible taxpayers.

Pictures courtesy wn.com and twc.com, all rights to their respective owners. 

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The Monroe Theater: What does a toilet cost? http://www.suburbanites.com/hudsonvalley/monroe/monroe-theater/ http://www.suburbanites.com/hudsonvalley/monroe/monroe-theater/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 01:42:39 +0000 http://www.suburbanites.com/?p=171 A couple months ago, Monroe Town Supervisor Harley Doles launched his brainstorm plan to put the now-idle Monroe Theater multiplex to another use: Orange County’s most costly public toilet.

Already a subject of outrage that dates back to the November 2012 purchase of the Monroe Theater and it’s removal from the tax roles, the theater has been the subject of contention between the citizens of Monroe — who want it returned to the tax roles through private ownership where it could serve its original purpose — and the Town Board headed by Harley Doles — who has yet to put forth a viable plan for its use. Instead, he has suggested that the theater was to be bought by a private investor for far less than its appropriate market value, something typical of a property at auction.

And his projected uses for the building have ranged from being a town courthouse to being a combination theater and municipal facility, to potentially renovating it for the use of 3 of the 6 theaters. None have undergone a thorough feasibility study to determine cost estimates for a new purpose other than its original intended use, though reconfiguration by the Town Board’s own admission has been cited as potentially being in the $2,000,000 range. This is where some background is helpful.

In May of this year, the injunction to prevent the town from renovating or using the Monroe Theater while litigation was in process (initiated by what is now United Monroe) was lifted to permit the use of the facility as a public restroom. The estimated cost of opening the facility, security and janitorial services as well as utilities was pegged at $3,000/month.

$36,000 per year for a public bathroom that no one ever requested. But that alone isn’t the only cost to Monroe taxpayers.

A page launched on Facebook lampoons the use of the Monroe Theater as a “town toilet“, occasionally posting re-phrased movies that won’t be shown that week (“Dude, Where’s Your Bathroom” and “Enema At The Gates” just a couple examples of toilet puns). Recently, the page was used to publish the actual annual cost of the theater to the taxpayers of Monroe.

$307,000 a year.

That amount breaks down as follows:

$172,000 is comprised of principal and interest on a bond issue raised to pay for the theater. The remainder are the recurring budgeted costs of maintaining a facility that, since 2011, has been unused. The full costs are available on the Town’s Website. The full text of the Facebook Page’s post has been reprinted below, written from the point of view of the theater:

I’m your town’s theater. The Town of Monroe purchased me prior to an auction in November of 2012. It cost them about $880,000 in debt to do so.

I cost the taxpayers of Monroe $307,000 a year. The Town of Monroe now shows you that in its 2014 budget. $172,000 of that is principal and interest on the debt incurred to buy me. The rest are a whole bunch of items that I’ll post up here really soon to show you my real cost to you as a tax payer. I don’t pay any taxes. I don’t show movies. I cannot make a profit as a town-owned enterprise.

The town board will tell you that they “had the money” to buy me rather than let me be purchased by a private investor who would show movies and pay taxes. If they really had the money, they wouldn’t be paying off a Bond Issue every year.

Meanwhile, you aren’t getting roads repaired. Our water pumps are old and failing. A town highway truck was being limped along until they finally bought another. People don’t visit the village as much because there’s no movies. And the best idea they’ve had for me? Using me as a public toilet. Haven’t I flushed enough money down the drain on you already?

People were ready to purchase me and invest in me to show movies. Because everything is digital now, they’ll need to make an investment to make that happen. But I hear Harley Doles is in a mood lately to make compromises.

Call him. Tell him it’s time to admit that I cost too much to our taxpayers to keep me idle or owned by the town. Help me serve my intended purpose: Let me entertain you again. Use the number on the left of this page* and him know how you feel.

I’m your town’s theater. I’ve spoken. And I want to serve you again. Help me do that.

* The number on the left of the page was Monroe Town Hall.

The impact of that message was apparently not lost on Mr. Doles. Whether Town Hall suffered an impact of calls resulting from this message remains unknown. What is known is Mr. Doles unhinged response that in turn used the Town’s Website to vindictively take aim at Village of Monroe Mayor, James Purcell.

Monroe Theater
The Town of Monroe Website on July 10, 2014

Shown above is Mr. Doles’ tacky and unprofessional reaction when presented with the options of a rational decision or exacting vengeance on someone deemed as a political opponent: To turn the Town’s Website into an advertisement for the temporary porta-johns placed for the Village’s fireworks and Summer concerts. You’ll note the writing style is remarkably similar to other comments and public statements he has made, the absence of proper punctuation and apostrophes duly noted.

The fact is that Mr. Purcell’s solution to the need for restroom facilities is more economically feasible, requires less overhead, and is more suitable than the purchase of the Monroe Theater and the subsidy of a monthly $3000 price tag for a building that won’t serve a rational purpose. Instead, Mr. Doles seems bent on making a fool of himself, a behavior that’s become all too common lately.

Perhaps he’s caught in the swirl. If Mr. Doles’ interests truly were representative of the town and not his personal vendettas or own sociopathic issues, whatever they may be, he would focus less on having the most expensive public restroom in Orange County and more on how much his misguided larks and spending sprees will ultimately jeopardize the community he was elected to govern.

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An Open Response to Harley Doles, Monroe Supervisor http://www.suburbanites.com/news/editorial/open-response-harley-doles-monroe-supervisor/ http://www.suburbanites.com/news/editorial/open-response-harley-doles-monroe-supervisor/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 05:07:46 +0000 http://www.suburbanites.com/?p=165 During a very long and contentious Town Board Meeting on Monday, July 7th, Monroe Town Supervisor Harley Doles once again showed the voters and taxpayers of the Town of Monroe that his ethical compass does not point to true North.

Unless you consider “North” (relative to the remainder of the town) to be the Village of Kiryas Joel, whose favor he has curried since his appointment to the Town Board. What are the chances these days of Harley Doles and “KJ” being mentioned almost in the same breath? Apparently…not so rare.

First and foremost, courtesy of United Monroe, let’s present the link to the video of all 3:23 of Monday’s meeting (cutting for recesses and Town Attorney sidebars with the Board members).

Reactions to the meeting were many and varied, most being captured by News 12 Hudson Valley. The Times Herald Record was largely silent other than a short piece that briefly outlined the exchanges from the meeting. (Please see the dated pieces on the Kiryas Joel and Monroe News Page links).

Every dog must have their day, and Harley Doles has had his own justification for his actions in a piece published Wednesday in The Photo News. For those expecting an erudite and concise explanation of his actions as being anything other than a “blame everyone else for the circumstance of my creation”…you can likely skip his statement, which avoids all use of the common grammar and spellcheck options available in any Word Processor for the past decade. For those needing validation or a hearty laugh, feel free to enjoy:

Supervisor addresses hot topics

Now we like a good train wreck as much as anyone. But for anyone suffering through the nearly 4 hour meeting Monday, “goat rodeo” is a term more apt. We couldn’t let this opportunity pass us by without providing a rebuttal to his disconnected and rambling discourse. Without ado, our open letter to Harley Doles:

I’m not surprised with Harley Doles’ response, but let’s call a few things out.

1. Mr. Doles introduced a resolution that was not listed on the agenda, intended to do so after public comment was held, and clearly slide this one through were it not for public oversight being done. To his claims that he tried to contact the Photo News, the media, and anyone else who would listen, I have one simple question: Why not list it on the agenda? If he had nothing to hide, why not distribute the resolution he proposed since he and the attorney from the Dickover Law Firm (Mr. Donnelly) apparently worked on it over the long weekend? It’s bull and we aren’t buying it.

2. We’re already seeing the copy of the resolution, and Harley Doles’ continued disingenuous comments and sheer arrogance are beyond description. That resolution, as stated, had no mutual provisions; virtually guaranteed that the annexation would be a non-issue since it essentially stated that the Town Board would not only withdraw itself from lead agency contention; would simply turn-over the 507 acres to a process that you believe should be led by a firm that the DEC well knows has been the subject of many of its violations levied against it; and, offers no recourse to the homeowners in the affected area who may not desire annexation. All items Mr. Doles well knows and that several of us added to the record of that meeting.

3. Mr. Doles knows well that the DEC itself has standing, despite others not having standing. Therefore, the DEC could designate itself as lead-agency, a move that would certainly let him off the hook unless he has promised something to Mayor Wieder and the leadership of KJ. Did Harley Doles do that? Because he’s certainly ready to give the store away to a community that has shown nothing other than contempt for any legal process and that cannot be trusted.

So a couple of points directed to Mr. Doles:
- If he wants to demonstrate “open government” as he continually states, don’t tell us but prove it to us. We’re unmoved by his words, but his actions scream loudly. Why does he think we’re screaming back?
- If Kiryas Joel leadership is so interested in what happens with our town, why do they conveniently elect to distance themselves from everyone else? Why has their leadership never once held an open village meeting in compliance with NY State Law? And they’re residents of our town now — why not come to a Monroe Town meeting since they’re held on the neutral ground within the town’s boundaries? What are they afraid of hearing in an honest dialogue?
- I would applaud an investigation, but the beneficiary should not be someone else as is Mr. Doles’ repeated habit of behavior to blame others for actions in which he is either complicit himself or just as guilty. If he wants to truly show he has nothing to hide, I’ll call his bluff.

Let’s contact the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York and ask that he, as an independent party, fully investigate the Town of Monroe and its elected officials.

The charity of requesting that justice be done should begin at your front door, Mr. Doles.

Our point of view. Responsible replies welcomed. Anonymous attempts to reply will be derided and subject to every bit of ridicule due before being mercifully removed.

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Casino Gaming: Good for the Lower Hudson Valley? http://www.suburbanites.com/news/commentary/casino-gaming-lower-hudson-valley/ http://www.suburbanites.com/news/commentary/casino-gaming-lower-hudson-valley/#comments Sun, 06 Jul 2014 23:08:48 +0000 http://www.suburbanites.com/?p=149 It must be an election year in New York. We know this because, yet again, our politicians are discussing how to best position their region for the opening and construction of a full-service gambling casino. Not a “racino”, mind you — like the ones housed at Monticello Raceway or Yonkers or Aqueduct. No, it’s how to best position locations as far south as Orange County to be the next home for gambling within a short drive of the Five Boroughs. Indeed, the prospect of a casino holds promise for lifting some of the tax burden from the shoulders of weary New Yorkers. And why drive to Eastern Connecticut or down the Garden State Parkway to gamble to our hearts’ contents? The solution seems logical on its surface.

Yet, it’s fraught with questions that deserve better answers than we would ever get form our politicians who would rather boast of tax revenues and jobs than of the other impacts that addition of a casino gaming complex will have on our communities. It begs the question of whether casino gaming is good for the Lower Hudson Valley.

For politicians, it seems a God-send to tout an easy solution to taxation and business incubation, and what better way than a casino to instantly create hundreds of long-term construction and trade jobs and other semi-skilled professions. To hear them speak, it’s a ‘win-win’ for everyone, and to hear Orange County Executive boast about the interest in locations from Tuxedo to Woodbury to Blooming Grove to Stewart Airport, it’s about either getting the casinos in Orange County, or just getting the traffic going to Sullivan County. But there’s often more to it than that simple explanation. Let’s separate the fact from the fiction.

Casinos contribute to the tax base of their communities: True in part. What casinos giveth, they also take away. For a casino operation to be profitable, it needs to serve all of the needs of its customers so that they don’t leave the premises. If the gambler needs accommodations, they won’t be searching for local hotels or Bed & Breakfasts, as the casino operator will certain see to the room needs of its patrons. Fine dining? Don’t expect that business to translate into patronage for local businesses, as the casino operator will want a cut of that profit by serving their guests without straying from the gaming floor. Other entertainment and activities? Also not far from the grounds, as noted in Genting Group’s proposal for Tuxedo, which will create a fully-contained resort. Expect that to translate into very little revenue for Main Street.

And the example of Atlantic City is the perfect case study for how gaming operators view their business model. The main entrances don’t face anything other than the Boardwalk or the side streets, leaving the Pacific and Atlantic Avenue shopping districts lacking for runoff traffic. More than 35 years after the introduction of casino gambling to New Jersey, beleaguered Atlantic City has shown little improvement, and in fact has become a vacant-lot shell of its former self.

Casino Gaming in Lower Hudson Valley
Casino Gaming in Lower Hudson Valley

Casinos create jobs, including high paying construction and trade jobs: Again, true only in part. During the construction of a facility, jobs will certainly be created temporarily. Once the structures have been finished, those jobs follow their demand: elsewhere. As for the experienced staff needed to man gaming tables and manage the casino floor, the Lower Hudson Valley lacks that expertise. To fill that void, multinational corporations like Caesars and Genting Group will simply import that labor from their other gaming locations where that experience exists, instead of organically creating it in Orange County. Eventually those jobs may appear, but that impact will not be seen on Day One. Or Year One. Perhaps years on…or perhaps not. The jobs that will result are those that support the day-to-day ongoing operations of the casino: maid service, janitorial, wait staff, all of which are filled with an entry-level work force.

Casinos have no impact on infrastructure: False. They bring traffic. They bring crime. They bring additional use of water and sewer and public utilities, costs which the taxpayer may or may not see, but will have an impact on the larger region in terms of growth.

Traffic congestion on our existing highways is a major burden, and that means disruptions, highway construction, and more on/off-ramps in a region barely able to support its current traffic pattern (in the case of Woodbury). Those in Woodbury recall the Woodbury Common promising jobs and incentives to the economy, and instead creating weekend traffic nightmares that divert more traffic onto local roads also barely able to handle the capacity.

Then there’s crime. Easier access to the region means easier access to the localities in the region and the advent of criminal activity that follows casino gaming. The costs of the extra police protection? That’s very likely not a bill the gaming operators wish to foot once the customer is off the property.

Casinos provide tax relief: True in part. The misnomer in this thinking is that a casino brings direct relief to the hosting community in the form of subsidizing local education. To a point, they do. But those taxes are not a windfall and are more likely to be distributed across a statewide tax base, including communities not hosting a casino, in order to even out the funding formulas. And while they pay their share of taxes for the land on which they sit (based on a valuation formula), they don’t subsidize the vacant storefronts created on Main Streets in their surrounding communities. People who come for a casino gaming experience, usually don’t stick around to discover the bucolic and quiet setting of area towns such as Warwick or Goshen. In fact, most operators want to locate proximate to major transportation arteries, such as the New York Thruway.

So while I grant that casinos will provide some tax relief, create some jobs, but also have some negative impacts, the larger story is how the casino operators succeed. Genting Group provides an excellent example through the lens of their many established casino gaming facilities world-wide. Their facility in Manila, Philippines stands as one example.

It’s within a 3 kilometer drive (about 10 minutes) from the terminals at NAIA, Manila’s major airport. Within minutes of arrival, their guest can be whisked through traffic and at their reception desk. Once there, no reason exists to leave. In fact, you wouldn’t want to as the surrounding area is typical of many in the Philippines: Corrugated metal shacks with patchwork roofs and minimal sewerage or municipal water, all surrounded by a din of round-the-clock noise also typical of many Asian countries. Inside is an oasis with shopping arcades, 4-star restaurants, and all of the trappings not widely available outside its front-door.

Have they improved the surrounding area? A glance off Genting’s grounds doesn’t hold a compelling argument. Granted, they’ve created wonderful facilities at other world locations, including Las Vegas and Macao, but not every story shows a rousing success for the neighbors surrounding it.

Orange County, the commuter/bedroom community.

The impact of Orange County’s aggressive entry into the casino gaming sales pitch has been at the cost of an area that needs the business, jobs, and tax revenue that casino gaming does create: Sullivan County & the Catskill Region. While OC Executive Steve Neuhaus has lobbied hard to invite the casino industry to look at Orange County, Sullivan has for years been the pre-eminent location asking for a casino gaming location. The loss of the hotel and resort trade in the former Borscht Belt has yet to be replaced in kind with the type of tax revenue generating business for the region on the grounds where those resorts once stood. Sullivan would face many of the same issues, with one major difference: Sullivan would be happy for the opportunity and the revenue to address those issues, and they’d be happy with stable employers who don’t now exist. Whatever Orange succeeds in winning, it’s at the cost of Sullivan who can barely afford much more bad news.

Sullivan would leap with open-arms at the chance to breathe new life into Borscht Belt and again be able to host headline acts and become more a “destination” than a “commute”. Keep in mind that a trip out to the Grossinger’s property is over a 2 hour drive from New York, while Woodbury is barely more than an hour up the Thruway. Once you’re over the 90-minute line, staying overnight is a much more viable option and certainly lends itself more to being the potential for a result (as it once was) than a quick trip in and out of the city that many Orange residents do daily.

Casino Gaming in Lower Hudson ValleyThe Atlantic City problem.

While Orange County will only have one or perhaps two casinos once announcements are made, consider the fate of Atlantic City. Having grown up in South Jersey outside Philadelphia, “AC” was less than an hour car drive away. For years, subsidized bus trips were hosted to bring people from the surrounding area in and out. Atlantic City wasn’t a gaming destination. It was a commuter day-trip for most, and the city suffered for it. No one stayed around to enjoy the city or the beach when you had an easy drive in to a parking garage and could return to your car to flounder for pocket change for the return drive. And trust me that AC wasn’t a place suitable for walking around after a certain time of the night. Such was the environment that made it less a destination and more a day-trip because of its proximity to a major city (Philadelphia).

Casino Gaming in  Lower Hudson ValleyOrange County would serve much the same purpose. It’s too close to New York City and Northern New Jersey to serve as a destination. It would serve only to cannibalize two other options. One is to further seal the coffin on Atlantic City’s future. The other would be to deny Sullivan the opportunity for its comeback.

Is Casino Gaming the answer for Orange County?

Suppose you’re faced with the prospect of a growing Orange County, largely the result of a growing community of ultra-orthodox Jews. Casino gaming is a revenue generator, while a growing Kiryas Joel depletes revenue based on the services it will need compared to its tax base. While not ideal, Casino Gaming is a much better option than a larger Kiryas Joel were there to be a choice. But there isn’t one. It’s a double-or-nothing proposition. One requires the other to offset the tax burden created.

The reality is that neither should exist here. To expand Kiryas Joel, the infrastructure potentially created via Casino Gaming would serve to help support the Hasidic population growth. The better and more ideal solution is that neither are the right fit for the region, and both should be turned-away at the gate. It’s a huge gamble for Neuhaus if he gets it wrong, but the right answer should have been to stand against both.

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Hasidic Jews in New York seek to expand enclave http://www.suburbanites.com/hudsonvalley/kj/hasidic-jews-new-york-expand-enclave/ http://www.suburbanites.com/hudsonvalley/kj/hasidic-jews-new-york-expand-enclave/#comments Sat, 05 Jul 2014 18:16:07 +0000 http://www.suburbanites.com/?p=144 Hasidic Jews in New York seek to expand enclave (AP 7.5.14)

KIRYAS JOEL, N.Y. (AP) — Kiryas Joel is a fast-growing island of ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews in a suburban stretch of New York’s Hudson Valley. Sidewalks are busy with mothers in head coverings pushing strollers, and kids’ plastic trikes seem to outnumber cars.

Now a petition to expand the densely settled village by annexing 507 acres of leafy lots nearby has heightened tensions with some suburban neighbors. While expansion could help a village bursting at the seams, there are fears it would lead to unwanted increases in apartment complexes, homes and traffic.

“The quality of life here will be completely destroyed,” said John Allegro, standing on his family’s wooded 1.5-acre lot, which he said would be semi-circled by annexed land. Allegro said he moved farther from New York City to escape that kind of hubbub.

Kiryas Joel was founded within the town of Monroe in the mid-1970s by members of the Satmar sect seeking a more tranquil setting than Brooklyn, about 60 miles south. Men here wear black suits with brimmed hats and women dress modestly. Marriages come early and families are large, which has helped the population grow from about 12,000 in 1994 to around 22,000 now. An average of more than two babies are born here a day.

To see the rest of this article, click this link to be taken to the Houston Chronicle.

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Kiryas Joel, rhetoric & responsible politics http://www.suburbanites.com/government/politics/kiryas-joel-rhetoric-responsible-politics/ http://www.suburbanites.com/government/politics/kiryas-joel-rhetoric-responsible-politics/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 19:15:01 +0000 http://www.suburbanites.com/?p=130 As a resident of Monroe, New York, I began this website as a venture to bring together information with the public interest at heart. While we try to be fair and understand all sides of an issue, there will always be occasions where we need to take a position, especially if the other point of view’s concerns do not balance with the concerns of the greater community.

This post is no exception.

Recently, a number of people have heard the rhetoric about a specific grass-roots/political movement selecting a candidate for the vacant seat on the Monroe Town Board. Within lies a case of not pleasing all of the people all of the time, and it requires putting aside parochial self-interests for the greater good of the community. There will always be those who will disagree and create divisions to the bitter end, resulting in deep divides in a community least able to afford disharmony.

Monroe is effectively a two party town: Whoever the leadership of Kiryas Joel supports, and the candidate supported by the rest of the town’s voters. Anything beyond that becomes a spoiler and only siphons votes away from the mission of the residents outside of Kiryas Joel: Effective representation and uncorrupted leadership. That is the new reality that faces voters in our town outside the square mile of KJ.

Enter Ben Friedman, a long-time dissident of Kiryas Joel and the most recent addition to the spoiler column. While he may potentially be well-intentioned and have the ear of a few because of his ultra-orthodox (Satmar Hasidic) background, he suffers from several disadvantages in being anything more than a grass-roots activist.

1. Friedman’s social media comments are, at best, disjointed, and at worst, cryptic and inconsistent. Social media threads witnessed by many have varied writing styles, a fact that is continually explained by either his lack of facility in the English language (his native language is Yiddish), or the time that may be taken to craft or hone responses. Very likely, it may also be a question of those responses being handled to use Friedman as a mouthpiece for others’ more parochial interests.
2. Friedman’s standing within the Satmar community has for years been contentious, highlighted by several unsuccessful legal actions taken by him and others against the leadership of the Satmar village. His heart may be in the right place, but any ideas harken to statements of “taking a new direction”. When asked what that might be, the responses have been exceptionally vague or dwelled back on actions that were not decided in his favor dating back two decades, and now subject to double-jeopardy.
3. Friedman has been difficult from a collaborative perspective. Those who have chosen to assist his efforts have found themselves on the losing end of the arrangement, or the subject of vitriol from others who — including Friedman himself — who insist that things be done his way or not at all.
4. Friedman is vague on any positions other than being against corruption. When asked for planned actions on that position, he provides no proposals for his actions. Moreover, he has no positions, much less an opinion, on various other facets of government at a local level, including activities that he might face should he run for an elected office.

None of those hold much promise for a democratic process.

Kiryas JoelFriedman’s latest attempt at being the spoiler in the discussions has been to take to social media and decry the efforts of Monroe’s grass-roots party, United Monroe, in selecting and vetting a candidate to support for the unexpired term of the open Town Board seat (originally held by Harley Doles). His argument: “The danger of having a bloc vote decided by a few”. However, Friedman fails to understand a few basic premises.

1. United Monroe is a third-party. As a Third-Party, it seeks signatures and support for the candidates who have expressed interest in its endorsement, something Friedman had not done by not approaching United Monroe and asking to be vetted.
2. Third-parties, unlike established first-line parties such as Democrat, Independence or Working Families, do not have a primary election process. As such they need not participate and can run anyone who qualifies with enough signatures only during the general election. This is the process United Monroe followed in 2013 to qualify for inclusion on the ballot for November.

Friedman’s responses ring very true to those we might expect from anyone in Kiryas Joel, much to the dismay of others: They’re ones of ‘entitlement’, or that someone should sponsor and carry his candidacy. It’s a lot to ask for someone who has been either unable or unwilling to formulate and clearly articulate views on important matters, and doesn’t speak to qualification for the functions he would hold if faced with the potential (while remote) of being elected.

It’s unfair to many who have been patient or attempted to provide guidance in his activism, and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the full democratic process. While the communities surrounding Kiryas Joel and its residents should have opportunities to bridge the chasms that have divided us — full understanding and dialogue on each other’s views in a democratic society without the interference of dogma — a Friedman candidacy holds no promise for that answer. While we applaud his courage as a Satmar activist, his outspoken stance on corruption and his attempts at activism on behalf of fair, ethical and responsible government, this doesn’t override other issues.  If Friedman was earnest in his efforts to seek public office, he would do his supporters the favor of educating himself on the democratic and elective process, as well as making the effort to validate his own electable potential by exploring the establishment of his own Third Party.

Sadly, though, those that know him don’t hold much hope for the change needed. And understandably, this site would not be in a position of supporting his candidacy.

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93% in Kiryas Joel on Medicaid http://www.suburbanites.com/news/commentary/kiryas-joel-on-medicaid/ http://www.suburbanites.com/news/commentary/kiryas-joel-on-medicaid/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 23:13:12 +0000 http://www.suburbanites.com/?p=78 The Times Herald Record of Middletown recently ran a front-page piece citing a very shocking statistic, and one that took many by surprise: 93% in Kiryas Joel on Medicaid assistance.

This fact alone should come as little shock to many of us who suspected social services abuse. Even our newly elected County Executive, Steve Neuhaus, was a skeptic of the 2010 figures that County Legislator Mike Anagnostakis read at a recent Monroe Town Board meeting. It turned out he was pretty close, but things weren’t as bad as he made them seem.

They were even worse.

(Link to the actual numbers, subsection of the Town of Monroe)

93% of Kiryaas Joel on MedicaidThe numbers are alarming, but don’t tell the entire story. When you also consider the Hasidic residents living outside of the Village of Kiryas Joel that comprise a significant portion of the unincorporated town’s population, the Town of Monroe in its entirety is the largest consumer of social services in Orange County for benefits other than cash. Newburgh and Middletown, which are more economically disadvantaged, fared better as a percentage of population than did KJ.

At a minimum, the figures deserve far greater scrutiny and investigation, provided that our political leaders have the will to take such a stance.  They should raise a flag that some level of fraud is occurring, or that the rules are being contorted to suit individual whims at the cost of the majority of taxpayers across New York.  But this is New York, a state that has not only been tolerant of the Hasidic bloc vote, politicians have made it a point to curry favor to gain it. We expect that as taxpayers we’ll get shafted into footing the bill for those who are either working on the fringes of the law or overtly breaking it to suit their needs. Kiryas Joel has a long history in that regard, and politicians have had a long history of turning a convenient blind eye to what they’d rather not see.

It’s difficult to explain to the uninitiated how this happens, but whatever the Hasidic community wants, it seems able to get quite easily. Full Medicaid coverage for a large family when the average taxpayer has put off having children because they cannot afford it? Done. Subsidies for housing while most Orange County residents still live in homes with “underwater equity”? Not a problem for KJ. Ability to segregate public facilities by gender in violation of most civil liberties? We’d never get away with it, but somehow…they do.

And sadly it’s our tax dollars that make it possible, a fact lost on our Albany culture of corruption. So perhaps we should look at how our Governor, Andrew Cuomo, sees the Medicaid problem and what he’s doing about it?

93% of Kiryas Joel on MedicaidWe need only look as far as Cuomo’s most recent appointment. Meet Jim Introne. If the name sounds familiar, Introne has worked for a healthcare consulting firm and was originally part of Cuomo’s transition team in 2010 to early 2011. Introne now has control over $6 billion of Federal aid granted to New York. That’s pretty much what we expect from Albany anyway, and there’s likely very little chance that the $6 billion will make a significant difference in turning attention toward trimming fraud, waste and abuse.

In fact, as a percentage of population, New York spends more per person on Medicaid than any other state (data courtesy Kaiser Family Foundation). So we have a spending problem, but more importantly, we likely have a utilization problem as well and people receiving benefits who likely shouldn’t. And you as the taxpayer are footing that bill in some manner.

But sadly the release of the statistic barely raised an eyebrow where it could have been an opportunity for political will and ethics to take the spotlight. And with the potential for the expansion of Kiryas Joel into a larger community, it’s an issue our political leaders need to recognize as fundamentally a deal-breaker for those who lack the political will to address it.

The views expressed are our own. Responsible replies welcome.

 

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