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Update: Facebook post about conditions at Raintree Motel sparks County & Town investigation

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CONGERS, NY – A Facebook post by an occupant of one of the rooms at the RainTree Motel in Congers sparks an investigation by County and Town Officials.

We were on scene today as employees of the Clarkstown Building Department and Rockland Department of Social Services and Health Department were performing inspections on various rooms.

The Rockland County Health Department will be issuing a violation letter to the Raintree Motel for the numerous violations found during today’s inspection.

The two Department of Social Services clients who had been occupying rooms will be moved to other accommodations.

The owner of the property allowed us access to take photos in selected rooms. (Photos below)

Statement from County Executive Ed Day

The Raintree Motel is one of few locations that accepts clients from the Rockland County DSS to provide shelter to a family or individual on a temporary basis when there are no other immediate available options and the family or individual would otherwise be homeless. To be clear. … Clients are not placed specifically at the Motel but are presented with the list of options however Raintree currently has the lowest rates and that seemingly attracts clients to that location as this funding is extremely limited. We (County DSS) do not have a contract with Raintree and never have.

Today, the Rockland County Departments of Health (DOH) and Social Services (DSS) visited and inspected the Raintree Motel in Congers in response to photos which were shared locally on social media. The Department of Health had previously inspected the property on November 30, 2018 for its annual permit inspection and found no violations. Upon re-inspection today, specifically of the rooms being occupied by two clients of the Department of Social Services, numerous violations were found; prompting an inspection of the entire property.

A violation letter will be issued by the Department of Health and hand delivered to the owner of the motel Tuesday morning (5/28). County Health Inspectors will revisit the motel next Friday (5/31) and if the violations have not been corrected fines will be issued through the Board of Health under the Rockland County Sanitary Code. From there they will appear at the County Health Department tribunal facing fines of $2000 per day per violation.

We have an understanding that the Town Of Clarkstown has cited them also in the past and there are ongoing current cases in Town court.

Our Commissioner of DSS will additionally be advising the owners of the Raintree Motel that should any future violations be founded, their motel will immediately be removed from the advisory eligibility list supplied to clients for temporary housing. The few remaining motels in the county will be utilized by clients by their choice instead as an obvious necessity.

With respect to the two clients of DSS who had been occupying rooms at the Motel they are being relocated to other accommodations.

We ask that any residents of Rockland County with concerns about sanitary conditions in homes, apartments or hotels/motels please contact the Department of Health. If we don’t know about problems we cannot take action to see them corrected. Complaints can be made via our website http://rocklandgov.com/departments/health/housing/rockland-codes-initiative/ or by phone 845-364-2585.

Government

“Meet Our New Human Rights Commissioner” By Rockland County Executive Ed Day

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Without question Rockland County is a “melting pot” of diverse cultures and ethnicities which is exactly why my administration made sure to not rush the process of filling the critical position of Human Rights Commissioner.

We took our time combing through candidates to find the most qualified individual to protect the human rights of our residents.

That search started with an extensive recruitment process through multiple avenues including online job sites, the County of Rockland website, with assistance from the Human Rights Commission, members of the County Legislature, and many other
community members.

Once we gathered a list of leading candidates, we had them interviewed by a panel of top human rights advocates, which unanimously recommended that Spencer Chiimbwe move on to the next step of the interview process.

Most recently, Spencer worked for the County of Rockland as a Grants Specialist for our American Rescue Plan Act Department assisting local organizations and communities navigate the sometimes-complicated grant application processes. But as I share more of this Stony Point man’s background it will be easy to see why he is being appointed to this position.

Throughout his career, Spencer worked in an array of positions that solidified his fundamental understanding of government, which is crucial in this role.

He spent several years working at the ACTION Support Center, securing grants from entities like the Ford Foundation.

He spent several years working in the New York State Senate conducting legislative research and drafting policy documents.

He volunteered for Congresswoman Nita Lowey assisting with constituent services and connecting with community stakeholders.

Spencer spent 5 years working with the United African Congress inspiring community engagement and participation around key issues like health care, domestic violence, education, and empowerment.

He also served as Vice President for the When In Need Foundation, a humanitarian and philanthropic nonprofit working with disadvantaged communities.

All that experience is just the tip of the iceberg for Spencer.

I am confident his extensive experience working across cultural lines will aid him in his new role.

We expect our Human Rights Commissioner to be omnipresent, establish trust, and be proactive in helping residents facing discrimination of any kind.

My appointment of Spencer Chiimbwe as our next Commissioner has been submitted to the Rockland County Legislature and I look forward to celebrating his confirmation in the coming weeks.

I remind our residents that no one person, one department, or one group, can get the job done. The collective ownership and responsibility of protecting human rights starts and ends with every one of us.

We must all commit, as a County, to stand united against any form of hate or discrimination that surfaces.

* Column written by Rockland County Executive Ed Day.

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Government

Rockland County Announces Senior of the Year Awards

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POMONA, NY – County Executive Ed Day and Office for the Aging Director Martha Robles honored two super seniors in Rockland Thursday for their longtime community service to helping others.

Winsome Downie Rainford was named 2022 Senior of the Year for dedicating her life to helping others overcome challenges. Rainford spent 42 years teaching political science while also serving on the Board of Directors of the Martin Luther King Multi-Purpose Center in Spring Valley. Winsome has also been an active member of the United Methodist Church since 1984, a Helping Hands Homeless Program volunteer, an officer in the Jamaican Civic and Cultural Association of Rockland (JAMCCAR) since its founding 32 years ago, and continues to serve as JAMCCAR’s Parliamentarian and on its Scholarship Committee.

The second honoree Mamta Arya was awarded the 2022 Outstanding Contribution by a Senior Citizen. Arya has called Rockland County home ever since she immigrated here from India in 1976. After earning her master’s degree, she spent 15 years working with people with mental illness, substance abuse, and special needs. With a passion for helping others, she went on to launch her own non-profit “Jeevan Jyoti.” The organization offers free services to seniors including learning new skills or how to take care of their aging body and mind six days a week.

“These recipients are an inspiration to us all,” said County Executive Ed Day. “And a reminder that regardless of where you come from you can make a difference.”

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