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Assemblyman Zebrowski & Senator Reichlin-Melnick Introduce Bill to Allow Ward Systems for Rockland School Districts

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Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski and Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick announced they have introduced legislation to allow any school district in Rockland County to create wards for the purposes of school board elections, subject to voter approval (A.249/S.2053).

“Every Rockland school district should have the ability to determine their own election system. If wards/districts will increase voter participation, accountability and diversity on the board, they should not have to ask a Judge for an order. Every student in Rockland deserves an excellent education and that starts with parents being heard and represented by the School Board,” said Assemblyman Zebrowski.

“Ensuring that all communities are fairly represented is a cornerstone of democracy,” said Senator Reichlin-Melnick. “This legislation would give school districts in Rockland County the authority to determine for themselves if a ward system is right for the children and families they serve.”

“Our local school boards take on one of the most important civic responsibilities out there, caring for the education of our students”, said Kevin O’Connor, President of the Rockland County Teachers Association. “We need to ensure our local school board members are elected in the most fair and democratic process out there. A ward system allows for every member of the school community to have a voice and feel more invested in the board. All politics is local and a ward system will ensure everyone has access.”

Under the terms of the bill, the creation of a ward system by a school district would require voter approval in a referendum. A nearly identical bill allowing school districts in Orange County to create ward systems was passed by the Senate in 2020.

The East Ramapo Central School District in Rockland County is preparing to conduct its first election under a new court-ordered ward system, following litigation by the NAACP.

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Crime

Matthew Ryder, Retired Orangetown PD Detective, Named Director of Rockland County District Attorney’s Drug Task Force

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NEW CITY, NY – Rockland County District Attorney Thomas E. Walsh II announced retired Orangetown Police Detective Matthew Ryder as the new Director of the Rockland County District Attorney’s Drug Task Force. Director Ryder brings more than thirty years of law enforcement and narcotics investigative experience to his new position. He will be tasked with combating the deadly opioid epidemic that has killed over 100 Rockland residents in the past two years.

Ryder started his law enforcement career with the Nyack Police department in 1990 and after the disbandment of that agency, he was hired by the Orangetown Police Department in 1991. He has distinguished himself as an extremely well-respected detective and has received numerous awards and commendations for his outstanding police work and investigations. For the past five years he was assigned to the DEA Task Force in the Hudson Valley Region. While assigned there, he supervised numerous large scale drug investigations and built a rapport with local, state and federal agencies in our area. Those relationships will be an essential part of his new assignment and to our common goal to work together with multiple agencies in order to expand the size and scope of narcotic investigations.

The Rockland County District Attorney’s Drug Task Force is an investigative narcotics unit that consists of investigators of the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office, participating Rockland police departments and an agent from the Department of Homeland Security.

District Attorney Thomas E. Walsh, II. said, “I’m so pleased to announce the hiring of Matt Ryder as the new director of the Drug Task Force. Matt brings experience, knowledge and respect that will enable him to work with law enforcement and the community.  He is a leader committed to serving the residents of Rockland County and the communities impacted by drugs in their neighborhoods. He will lead our multi-agency unit to fight against the opioid epidemic that plagues our county. “

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Government

Legislators Reichlin-Melnick, Skoufis, Zebrowski Announce Legislation Requiring State-run Vaccination Centers in Rockland County

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NEW CITY, NY – State Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, State Senator James Skoufis, and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski announced on Monday morning they have introduced new legislation that would require the state Department of Health to open state-run vaccine clinics in Rockland and Orange counties. Specifically, the bill would require the Department of Health to open vaccination centers in any county outside of New York City with a population of 300,000 or more within 30 days. At this time, Rockland and Orange are the only counties with populations over 300,000 that do not have state-run vaccination centers.

Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick said “For months I have been calling on the state to step up and provide equity of access to the residents of Rockland county who have been hit hard by COVID. We need a state-run vaccination site west of the Hudson River and we need it now. That is why I am proud to introduce this bill with my colleagues that will require the Department of Health to open a state-run vaccine clinic in Rockland within the next thirty days. Rockland County’s population is the 8th largest in the state, it is absurd that more than two months into the vaccination effort, there is still no state-run vaccination center serving Rockland residents.”

Senator James Skoufis said “The lack of access to vaccines in Rockland and Orange Counties is beyond shameful. Hundreds of constituents, many of whom are seniors – the most vulnerable to this virus – are reaching out to my office every single day for help in navigating the system. I have been having productive conversations with the Department of Health in establishing a state-run vaccination site in Rockland and Orange counties and, alongside my colleagues Senator Reichlin-Melnick and Assemblymember Zebrowski, I won’t stop fighting until our residents are prioritized.”

Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski said “Rockland was one of the hardest hit areas by COVID in the State and now our residents continue to suffer through the vaccine distribution process. I have been calling for a state-run vaccination site since day one of the roll out, and today, enough is enough. Scheduling an appointment for a life-saving vaccine shouldn’t be left to luck or similiar to attempting to buy a hot ticket on Broadway. Today, my colleagues and I demand vaccine equity in NYS and that starts with establishing state-run sites in Rockland and Orange Counties that will vastly improve the scheduling process for so many that have felt left in the dark.”

Residents of Rockland and Orange County who are only eligible for the vaccine at state-run facilities have had to travel long distances to get it – greatly decreasing equity of access as public transportation options are limited and pose a higher risk of COVID-19 infection. Senior citizens who cannot access state-run facilities have been left to navigate a procedural maze, calling up to a dozen or more pharmacies a day trying to find vaccine appointments.

On January 15, 2021, in response to vaccine shortages around the state and the creation of state-run vaccination clinics in New York City, Albany, and Westchester, Senator Reichlin-Melnick, Assemblyman Zebrowski, and Assemblyman Michael Lawler released a statement calling on the Department of Health to open a state-run vaccination clinic in Rockland County.

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