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“Our Natural Beauty” By Rockland County Executive Ed Day

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Rockland County is a beautiful place. From the shore of the Hudson River in the east to the peaks of the Ramapo Mountains in the west, this county has a little bit of everything. Last week I had the pleasure of presenting the 24th annual Rockland County Outstanding Environmental Volunteer Award.

The County Executive’s Outstanding Environmental Volunteer Award recognizes exceptional volunteers who care for our parks, champion our watershed programs, encourage recycling and work every day to enhance the natural beauty of our county’s open spaces.

While we have faced many challenges this past year, one of the unexpected benefits of our situation is that many more residents are exploring our county parks and other natural environments that they may not have taken the time to visit in the past.

But our parks and natural environment do not always stay pristine by themselves; they need our help. Thankfully Rockland has a powerful advocate looking out for it; Gale Pisha. She has adapted to this last challenging year by hosting “virtual hikes” and “campfires.”

These events have seen dozens of participants join together online after a day of safe and socially distant hikes to share experiences, tips on places to explore and foster a deeper connection to each other and to nature. And while the s’more’s at the virtual campfire may not be as good as at an in-person event, this demonstrates how Gale has worked to overcome whatever obstacles are placed in her path.

Gale’s leadership was instrumental in defeating the proposed desalinization plant in Haverstraw that would have taken drinking water from the Hudson River. More recently she has served as Co-Chair of the Legislative Committee of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter where she focuses on reviewing new legislation and helps to set statewide priorities for the 54,000-member group.

And while Gale is deeply involved in statewide issues, she takes that experience and knowledge and applies it here at home. She is a core member of the Rockland Water Coalition and does not hesitate to get involved in the grunt work of advocacy. Gale will hand out flyers, lick envelopes and knock-on doors just as willingly as she would write a position paper or organize a response to new legislation.

She is known for her patience and willingness to listen to every viewpoint, even with the most complicated and murky situations. Rockland and all of New York State are extremely lucky to have a leader and advocate like Gale Pisha watching out for our natural environment.

For all of her efforts, we named Gale Pisha the 2021 Rockland County Outstanding Environmental Volunteer. A serviceberry tree was planted in Kennedy Dells County Park in New City in her honor. I encourage you all to take the time to visit the park and experience our natural beauty for yourselves.

*This is a weekly column by Rockland County Executive Ed Day.

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Statement: Congressman Lawler – George Santos Should Resign

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PEARL RIVER, NY – Rockland’s Congressman Mike Lawler (NY-17) has released the following statement regarding controversial newly elected Congressman George Santos:

“It is clear that George Santos has lost the confidence and support of his party, his constituents, and his colleagues. With the extent and severity of the allegations against him, his inability to take full responsibility for his conduct, and the numerous investigations underway, I believe he is unable to fulfill his duties and should resign.”

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Statement from County Executive Ed Day

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Since Fall of 2021, I’ve adamantly spoken out against state legislation to create Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), as New York is a home rule state. Yesterday the Governor proposed expanding a property tax exemption that would allegedly reward homeowners who “build-out” ADUs, essentially incentivizing the development of these types of units. While there is no legislation currently in place requiring municipalities to allow ADUs, I fully believe that widespread construction of ADUs in suburban areas like Rockland County would be harmful to our community.

Last February, when Gov. Kathy Hochul pulled the bill from her 2023 executive budget, I was quoted saying:

“…the removal of this legislation from the Governor’s proposed State Budget seemingly is not the end but a re-start, one that I am convinced the Governor will throw her weight behind AFTER Election Day IF she is re-elected. Keep that in mind when you vote on November 8th.

The proposed ADU bills are still active and in committees in the Senate and Assembly. We will continue to oppose any attempt for this legislation to be revived.

While creating affordable housing is an admirable goal, our own Planning Department stated in their professional assessment the one-size-fits-all approach of the ADU legislation is extremely problematic and does not account for differences between rural, suburban, and urban communities and I’m concerned there is a strong likelihood that the character of our County could be changed forever.

I am concerned as well about some of the mandates included in the Governor’s new NY Housing Compact that will require municipalities to change zoning in specific areas of their communities and meet mandatory home growth targets. As your County Executive, and past president of a local civic association, I believe this concept to be contradicted by the Constitution of New York State and will continue to stand firmly in opposition to any politically based plan that undermines New York State Home Rule regulations and municipal zoning ordinances. My Administration will keep all our options open in order to stop this plan in its tracks.”

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