State Responds To Illegal Gathering
Complaints in Rockland
Statement on Sunday, April 5, by Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann Regarding Containment & Gathering Restriction Policy response from Gov. Cuomo’s Office
While this is regarding gathering issues occurring in Rockland County (Clarkstown), the clarification of policy response should apply equally in Orange County areas where gathering despite COvid19 shelter in place guidelines have not been consistently followed (Town of Palm, City of Newburgh). Why is this important? Because cities and towns will likely suffer from a large number of lawsuits about constitutionality unless the government and constitutional attorneys weigh in clearly. Most of the guidelines of containment are already in place via the shelter in place State of Emergency Declarations along with county promises of fines and possible jail for those in violation. Expert Constitutional Lawyers are weighing in that a Containment Zone is legal during a time of emergency. His statement is long…and very informative!
Clarkstown (Rockland County) Supervisor 4/5/2020
“Earlier today, the five Town Supervisors, along with our police chiefs and town attorneys were asked to attend a conference call with senior officials from New York State Government. These included Beth Carey, Counsel to Governor Cuomo, Jeremy Shockett, Deputy Commissioner of New York State for Public Safety, Brad Hutton, Deputy Commissioner of the New York Department of Health, Representatives from several other departments including the New York State Police and Department of Criminal Justice Services, Assemblyman Zebrowski, Senator Carlucci and Chairman of the Rockland County Legislature. The purpose of the call was to clarify that there be no ambiguity on enforcement of the Governor’s Executive Orders for the Town Police Departments and to ask questions about any other issues important to the Towns and our residents.
Our Police Chiefs and Town Attorneys were afforded the opportunity to ask questions and seek specific guidance on enforcement, what charges can be brought under both civil and criminal codes. Specific guidance was given on Executive Order 202.10 that bans gatherings as “non essential”. We were informed that the District Attorney Thomas Walsh has agreed to prosecute if charges are brought in the event of non-compliance and that the Town Police Departments are empowered to enforce the rules charging under both civil and criminal codes. The statutes were outlined and discussed, our town attorneys and police chiefs from all five towns asked questions. It is clear if people violate the rules we can and will enforce the executive orders.
Importantly, on the call additional information was offered and issues clarified on the reporting of the numbers of positive COVID-19 tests. As of this afternoon, 5,326 people have tested positive in Rockland County. We were informed that these are the numbers in real time found in the on line reporting system. It was offered that the State was working closely with Rockland County to clear up any discrepancy there may be in the numbers.
We specifically asked about a “Field Hospital” for Rockland County and were told that the State is managing this via the regional census of the hospital networks. RCC has been identified as the location if this is needed and the State will work directly with the hospitals and the County Health Department to bring it on line. We were assured that capacity exists within our local hospitals currently–something that both Dr, Geller of Nyack and Dr. Leahy of Good Samaritan confirmed to several of the Supervisors today. What is needed now are extra nurses, extra ventilators and supplies for the added capacity being put in place. A daily census of the entire hospital network in the region is taken and reviewed and resources shifted as needed. We stressed that we support the call for the field hospital at RCC and other resources for Rockland. Individual Supervisors made a number of requests and sought additional information.
In addition. in consultation with the Town Board I have ordered that effective Monday, April 6th at 12:00PM, that Congers Lake walkway and Boardwalks as well as the Dog Park be closed. It will be closed for the expected Apex of this event through Monday, April 20th. I understand that this is a significant step but it is necessary. Earlier today, I had the Clarkstown Police Department take drone footage of the Lake. We saw some gathering along the pathways despite the requests to social distance.It is just too much of a risk, and given that hundreds are on the walkway at any given time it is a risk I and the entire Town Board cannot take. I have already instructed town staff to work to close all seven access points, to barricade all parking areas and have asked our Highway Superintendent Bob Milone to make signage announcing the closure and have these posted at every entrance. The police will be sending a reverse 911 call announcing this on Monday and messages boards will be put out announcing the closure.
On behalf of the residents of Clarkstown, I also requested during the aforementioned call that the State Parks Commission close Rockland Lake State Park for the next two weeks. I requested this as it draws many visitors to the Town. I was informed that the request would be reviewed. I am sending a formal request on Monday to the Governor’s Office.
As of Tuesday nearly 2% of Rockland population will have tested positive. Virtually every town in Rockland will have eclipsed the 1% mark and will have numbers significantly higher in parts of all five towns. While most are following the rules some are not. All five towns have the authority to enforce the rules and I expect will do so. I certainly will in Clarkstown and I ask everyone to adhere to the rules and please stay home. Although. these are challenging times, I am confident that together we will get through this and life hopefully will soon return to an air of normalcy.”