Friday, April 28, 2006

Heaps of Happenings

LOCAL HEROES: a nameless customer in, and the proprietor of, the Palenville Market. Mr Nameless (by choice) found a large sum of money—greenbacks; a sackful-- in the store. He handed it over to proprietor Rick Van Buren, who told authorities and the local Press about the find, and held the money in the expectation that its owner would return and make a credible claim. Mr Van Buren waited from early March until just the other day. No claimant. So he gave the stash--we are not talking just about hundreds--back to Mr Nameless.

LOCAL BENEFACTORS: Elizabeth and Eric Rasmussen, of Acra. They gave their 142-acre Siuslaw Tree Farm to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene County. The acreage (formerly Lange’s Groveside Resort) is located along Route 23 just across from Cornell Cooperative’s Agroforestry Center--property which the Rasmussens previously had given to that conservation organization. The transfer of ownership was celebrated last Friday (and was nicely written up by Claude Haton in the 4/22 Daily Mail).

CASTING CALL. Actors are needed now for this summer’s performance, at Catskill Point, of the renowned and locally relevant play by Thornton Wilder, “Our Town.” It will be staged six times in July, in the Old Warehouse, under the direction of veteran GreeneLand thespian Joseph Capone, thanks to an Arts Council grant that was bestowed on a project aptly dubbed Classics@thePoint. Auditions will be held tomorrow (4/29) and Sunday, from 10 am.- 1 pm., at Columbia-Greene Community College. For details, ring 943-2680. To learn more about the play, google “Our Town.”

POSTPONED, from today (4/28) until August 14th , in Federal district court in Albany: sentencing of GreeneLand swindler Martha Ivery. Length of the prison term meted out by Judge Frederick J. Scullin (it could be as long as 35 years) will depend in no small measure on contents of a probation report covering multiple acts of fraud perpetrated in the guise of book publisher and literary agent. We may learn then whether it’s true that, even after being indicted, Martha tried to con another author. That would affect the credibility of her “contrition” plaint.

STALLED: that ambitious “Hamlet on Hudson” project—up-scale condominiums flanking an up-scale riverside golf course. It is by no means a done deal. The required approvals have not been granted by Coxsackie authorities, and promoter Mark Salomon, we understand, is rather far from being ready to apply for them. In the meantime, his Sleepy Hollow Lake neighbors are not enamored of Mr Salomon. It has to do with how he treated the residents’ association in connection with another development project.

INSTALLED, as of April 1 (as reported in Wednesday’s Daily Mail), as Catskill’s new postmaster: Leon Griffin, former customer service manager of the Newburgh post office. For Catskillians, a liberal dose of postmasterly customer service would be a treat. Mr Griffin’s predecessor, Don Stegall, was notoriously self-sequestered on the job. And his version of being community-minded consisted of operating extra-curricular businesses, such as trading cards and (until it was closed following a murder) a night club.

EXPIRED, of exhaustion, after 31 years at four different Catskill sites: Birdland Music. Proprietor Bill Trotman sold what remained of his retail stock to Mark Gordon, who owns seven music outlets in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bill moved to Pittsfield, but plans to maintain the Internet part of Birdland’s business with the help of veteran Catskill assistant Missy Welsh. Next tenant of the storefront he vacated last Saturday, in the former Community Center building, could, might, may be, gulp, a book store.

STAYING, for the foreseeable future, contrary to local rumors, at 5 Old Main Street in Catskill: Tatiana’s. Proprietors Jimmy & Angie Giurgi do have ideas about putting condominiums on the present creekside location, and re-opening the restaurant on a Route 9W site in Athens, but those are long-term notions. So rife were the rumors about an imminent closing that the Giurgis resorted to advertising just to publicize the fact that they are still open. Nightly except Mondays. 943-1528.

DEPARTED, on April 14, for Orlando, after 42 months as executive director of GreeneLand’s Chamber of Commerce: Debbie Zetterlund. She was lured away by the glowing terms of an offer from former employer Emerson International, a commercial development company. Ms Zetterlund’s successor will not be Linda Overbaugh, who declined the offer; she’s too wrapped up in the accelerating transformation of ever-improving Catskill. To wit:

OPENING SOON in Catskill: A Muddy Cup outlet, across from the County office building. A MOD coffee shop in the Colterman Building. Retriever Roasters coffee-grinding and baked goods. Beginner’s Mind, an art gallery run by LeeAnne Morgan. City Lights (as in lighting). A Bower Bird tabletops (household goods) store. A bed & bath. A plumbing supplies store. And a promotional campaign touting Catskill as the mid-Hudson Valley’s home improvement Mecca.

OPENED, in a creekside cottage on Water Street, Catskill, that served in the nineteenth century as starting point for tourists heading by railroad to the Mountain House: a state-of-the-art recording studio, operated for Frank Cuthbert, the musical entrepreneur, by Bobby Eichorn, veteran recording engineer and record producer.

DAILY MAUL. ”The 110 Republicans showing up…was a good turnout, …Bogardus said.” *”Many of the bonnets were very unique….” *”Followed by Carolyn Kasper, who had eggs dangling from hers.” *The most unique was Elena DiPrima who used pastel bath scrubbies and hair clips.” *”Lashley stated he wrote his name on the check as if DSS had wrote the check in his name.” *”Karen explained that Brandy had been scene in the Catskill and Cairo areas….” *Wanted, for Hudson Valley Newspapers: clerical assistant in the Circulation Department. Part of the job, says the Daily Mail advertisement, is “computer imputing.”

Friday, April 21, 2006

April Scandals

FUEL PRICES. Can consumers do anything to combat the soaring cost of gasoline? One move that has been advocated could have some merit. It consist of boycotting ONE company’s retail outlets. Maybe that would force the target company to cut prices, thereby re-attracting customers, thereby forcing competitors to follow suit. The best target probably would be the biggest chain: Exxon AND Mobil—two brands that are part of one company. FULLA STERN. Latest candidate for premier GreeneLand sleazebag (after Martha, “The Snake,” various roofers and blacktoppers, the free-spending salvation-monger…) is Jared Paul Stern. A part-time resident (with “Snoodles” Gutman) of Oak Hill, Mr Stern, 35, was cited not long ago in a magazine story about trendy New Yorkers who are “trading the overcrowded, overpriced Hamptons for the simpler pleasures of the Catskills.” “Until recently,” said Shyama Patel in New York, “the Catskills were best known for crumbling resort hotels and...local ski hills…that draw busloads of day-trippers during the winter. But these days, as FOR SALE signs dot every other rambling dairy farm, big new houses crop up on newly cleared mountaintops, and Two Old Tarts does a brisk trade in almond croissants at the farmer’s market, it’s become clear that these sleepy, charmingly shabby environs are being rediscovered.”

Take Jared Paul Stern. On a rainy summer Friday, the Post’s ‘Nightcrawler’ is not working the phones or trying to figure out what he’s wearing to the evening’s shindig at Soho House. As is his new norm, Stern is at home in Greene County, where his girlfriend…is teaching him the joys of making brownies from a box…. Around the house, there are photographs of the years the couple spent renting, testing the waters from the South Shore of Long Island to New Canaan, Connecticut. ‘We loved Bellport,' says Ruth. ‘But it was too expensive.’

They finally [in 2002] bought in Oak Hill, paying about $200,000 for four acres and a 2,500-square-foot [“Carpenter Gothic”] fixer-upper. It’s a place where the most exciting group to join is the 12 Tribes, a local hippie cult.”

The work from which Mr Stern occasionally retreated was that of free-lance contributor to or part-time employee (depending on what story one reads) of The New York Post. His principal task was to find and shape items for that tabloid’s gossip section, Page Six. In that capacity, he took part in confecting items about the social activities of Ronald Burkle, a Los Angeles billionaire. Mr Burkle complained about inaccuracies. He complained to the section’s editor, to the paper’s editor and even to the publisher (Rupert Murdoch himself) as well as to Mr Stern. He got no satisfaction, even after he bought 60 shirts from Mr Stern’s clothing company. Finally he met with Mr Stern in a Manhattan loft, asked what he could do to avoid being plagued by bad gossip and to elicit good stuff, and was invited to retain Mr Stern for $200,000 down (“an initial kind of set-up fee to get everything rolling”) plus $10,000 per month. That proposal was voiced in the course of a conversation that Mr Burkle’s was videotaping secretly. According to Mr Stern, the proposal was not an extortion bid; gosh no; it was about inviting Ron to invest in the clothing venture as well as to retain JPS as media consultant. And anyhow, media sharks have blown the whole thing out of proportion. Last year Mr Stern was interviewed for a gossip-mongering blog site called Black Table. On that occasion, when asked to recall what it was like to be second in editorial command, briefly, of Star magazine (since re-named Us Weekly), with one Bonnie Fuller as chief, he showed his talent for doing what us sophisticates call dish.

Interviewer: [Is Ms Fuller] really the tyrannical raging twatzi that everyone says she is? Why did you quit? Stern: Twatzi doesn't begin to cover it (but nice try). Between Bonnie and her deputy dildo Joe Dolce the place is a soul-destroying black hole of despair. It's no wonder the assistants piss in her soup. (I know I did.) I did it for the money, which I knew was f--- stupid… Almost everyone who was there at the time has quit now as well; most of them are writing books about what a bitch Bonnie is.

As for Mr Stern’s clothing venture, it consists of putting a Skull & Bones emblem on tote bags and standard garments (polo shirts, tennis sweaters, silk ties), endowing the line verbally with “unique prep-punk sensibility,” placing the stuff in precious boutiques, and marking the items up up and awaaaaay. (There is no Yale connection. Mr Stern attended Bennington). In the aftermath of the extortion flap, GreeneLand's latest celebrity was interviewed at his bucolic Oak Hill retreat by Choire Sicha of The New York Observer. He claimed to be the victim of a set-up and the target of out-of-proportion, catty news coverage. At the same time he was manifestly relishing the prospects of appearances on talk shows, and perhaps a book; even a movie.

DEATH BY NEGLECT. The lethal abuse of 3-year old Egypt Phillips, late of Coxsackie, can be blamed on three parties. One is James Smith, paramour of Egypt’s mother and taxpayer-funded care-giver of Egypt. In the light of abundant evidence that he beat, shook violently, and otherwise abused that child, Smith was convicted in March of Egypt’s murder. A second guilty party is Tonya Rose, Egypt’s mother. While she was away at work she entrusted Egypt’s care to Smith (rather than to her own sister, who was available and had proved to be competent and caring). She kept Smith at home and ‘on the job’ after he had been barred legally because he evidently was abusing Egypt. She has been convicted of negligent homicide. The third guilty party evidently is The System. It is the procedures and/or the personnel of GreeneLand’s Child Protection Services agency together with its Social Services parent. Egypt was known to people working for those agencies. She became known to them in consequence of hospital reports about injuries that were interpreted authoritatively as products of abuse. Indeed, after the battered Egypt was hospitalized in 2004, procedures were set in motion that yielded the order prohibiting Smith from living in the Rose household. But Smith and Rose disregarded that order. AND NOBODY CHECKED. What is more, SMITH CONTINUED TO GET PAID, via Social Services, at the rate of $1100-plus per month, for his “service” as care-giver of Egypt and her two siblings. Egypt’s injuries—bruises; weight loss; retinal hemorrhage (strongest sign of violent shaking)--continued. During Smith’s trial Gene Beers, the responsible Social Services Department supervisor, was asked whether, following Egypt’s last hospitalization, a case worker had checked on obedience to the order of exclusion. Mr Beers did not know; he “supposed” so. Egypt Phillips is not GreeneLand’s only victim of institutional failure, in recent memory. Back in 2001, a man named Jose Serrano distinguished himself as a busy foster father. So active and effective was he, in the judgment of the Department of Social Services, that he was crowned at a special banquet, as Foster Father of The Year. In that same year he was convicted of sodomizing and otherwise abusing seven of the boys who were in his care. Complaints that eventually led to conviction had been voiced long before his activities were investigated. Since then the Social Services Department has acquired a new director: Kira Pospesel. We requested an interview with Ms Pospesel. We have been stonewalled. County legislators, we have been told, intend to review the operations of relevant departments in light of the Egypt Phillips tragedy. Stay tuned.

# STORY’S STORY. Although its main buildings were destroyed by last Thurs- day’s fire, the estimable Story’s Nursery is open for business. And it’s an ideal time, folks, to make sure proprietor Ken Thompson gets plenty. There may still be electrical problems, thwarting use of credit cards; bring cash.

IF DEAD, PLEASE CALL. “If you or a loved one was seriously injured or died as a result of using Advair, Servent, or Foradil,” says The Fox Law Firm of Dallas TX in nation-wide advertisements, “please call us today.”

DAILY MAUL. “After learning that Litchko was the driver of the car that hit the young woman, he also was arrested,” says a rookie reporter, demonstrating a weakness for dangling grammatical construction. In another recent item of our local daily, one "Stephen Shadely" is hailed as "renowned" interior designer. But his surname, like those of his brother and mother in Leeds, is Shadley.

YEAH SURE. Tannersville mayor Gina Legari, who has sole power to fill the current vacancy, says she does want the Village board to be full (=3 members) but does not feel like making her choice yet—not for a few WEEKS. (Reported by Jim Planck in Daily Mail of 4/8).

Thursday, April 13, 2006

News News Plus

GreeneLand, or a portion thereof, has gained a newspaper. Countering the national trend toward consolidation and extinction, The Coxsackie-Athens Courier came into existence March 23 in the form of a weekly that is richly endowed with local news & stuff. As described by Publisher/editor Richard G. Bleezarde, this Courier is cousin to The Ravena News-Herald and The Greenville Local and is “Devoted to the Best Interest of the People in Coxsackie-Athens and surrounding communities.” Eleven editorial, advertising and production staff members are listed; and the availability of a job in advertising is, well, advertised. The paper’s mail address is Telephone 756-2030 or -2087; fax 756-8555. As a local tabloid the newcomer resembles the Greenville Press (recent source of a headline promising “the tooth about fluoridation”). Credit for quaintness can be given to Courier obituaries, wherein decedents, surrounded by loving families, do not die but rather pass away or are called away by God. Not so quaint are such CACkles as “Voters casted their votes at the…school.”; “In a 14-0 vote, the Greene County Legislator unanimously voted….”; “lucky to have know him”; “requests to fix a drainage problems…”; and “Worth commented on clearing brush caused the water level to drop quickly.” Equally noteworthy is The Cairo Forum, a web site constructed recently, and elegantly, by local businessman Keith Graham who bills it as “a place to discuss what’s best for the town.” Would-be Forum participants are invited to register and in doing so to “agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening, sexually-oriented or any other material that may violate any applicable laws.” Participants also are urged to “Don’t hate, appreciate.” But there are heated exchanges aplenty, about the Town’s governors bestowing health benefits on themselves and about--would you believe?--“our fire company.” GreeneLanders who check out the Cairo site ( may well be inspired to try similar ventures in their home towns. Indeed they could get seized with the idea of establishing a county-wide equivalent. Well, a Greene County Forum already exists. It has been characterized aptly by one its stalwarts as a low-volume e-mail list that is open to people who have an interest in sharing information to build trust and accountability in Greene County. Its web site contains links to information about community demographics, regional development and open government. Forum members who own free Yahoo accounts can access much more information on the website, including the archive of messages and more links to information. People can join the Forum by e-mailing It needs an infusion of fresh recruits. Meanwhile, Catskill has been the locus recently of two new organs of communication. A Catskill Kids site was created by Village Trustee Forest Cotten, with astonishing speed and sophistication, to meet the felt need for a source of comprehensive local information about services—sports, arts, projects, events—for local youth. Here’s hoping the site can be sustained. Keeping up to date on scheduled happenings can be hard. Could be adopted by C.H.S. computer techies? Then there’s Seeing Greene Fire, a blog that was launched on March 18 in response, ostensibly, to “the overwhelming out cry of GreeneLand Fire Fighters” against abusive leaders, especially in Catskill. was created by a blogger who bills himself presumptuously as Sherlock Holmes. It is manifestly, explicitly modeled on Seeing Greene, is touted as a “subsiderary” thereof and as “a continuation”of the “original work” of Dick May, who is billed as “editor at large.” But Mr May, we have it on good authority does not know this “Holmes,” had no advance knowledge of outbreak of Fire, and does not relish the gratuitous Godfather designation. Early issues of Fire show a devotion to the Bandwagon Device, wherein the narrator invents hordes of screaming outraged Village voters and overwhelming GreeneLand-wide outcries. Also conspicuous is an excess of the one-eyed, skulking, one-track-minded verbiage that had poisoned the Comments section of Seeing Greene. Evident too, however, are touches of humor, a commendable avowed intention to illuminate fire company issues around the county, and (in the April 2 entry) a predilection for touching, eloquent words.

CONGRESSIONAL POLITICKING. Kirsten Gillibrand’s long-shot attempt to topple John Sweeney as 20th District Congressperson looks serious, at least financially. A serious fund-raiser will take place in Manhattan on April 18th, at a Park Avenue address, with multiple names of distinction heading the invitation list and Sen. Charles Schumer as special guest. Six days later and a few blocks away (on East 66th Street), comes a Manhattan fund-raiser for Mr Sweeney, hosted by Mimi and David Forer.

JUDICIAL POLITICKING. The imminent removal of disgraced State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Spargo marks the end of one story and the start of another. Judge Spargo, whose territory includes Greene and other up-State counties, squeezed money out of lawyers who had cases pending before him—money earmarked for his defense against other misconduct charges, namely that he dispensed $5-value coupons and bought rounds of drinks while running for a Town judgeship; took on as a private client a district attorney-elect whose electoral victory was under legal challenge; and flew to Florida in 2000 to lead a squad of pro-Bush election recount saboteurs. Spargo’s departure (he is not contesting the State Committee on Judicial Conduct’s recommendation that he be removed) creates a vacancy. The successor will be appointed by the Governor on the advice of local party chairpersons. And among possible/plausible successors would be GreeneLand judge George J. Pulver Jr. He rates as a prospect in that he is a seasoned jurist (with lots of experience filling in as a Supreme), he’s not too old for the job, he has been a contender for promotion in the past, he graciously withdrew from contention in response to pressure from fellow Republicans, and GreeneLand deserves a ‘turn’ at filling the district vacancy. On the other hand, GreeneLand’s claim to preferment is weakened by its small size and hence its lack of political clout. Anyhow, if the Supreme Court job does go to Judge Pulver, (who was just re-elected last year), we expect an interesting, though subtle and dignified, scramble among GreeneLanders to succeed him. Among plausible or likely contenders for consideration we understand, are Tom Fori of Coxsackie, former Town judge; Peter Margolius, sitting Catskill Town Justice; and Terry Wilhelm, our district attorney. Fori and Margolius have been avowed aspirants for Pulver’s seat in the past. And Wilhelm comes into the picture because the office of district attorney often has served often as a route to the bench. (The career of our other county judge, Daniel Lalor, is a case in point). Now then, if Pulver succeeds Spargo, and Wilhelm succeeds Pulver, who succeeds Wilhelm? The most likely candidate, as an interim appointee, is Charles (“Chip”) Tailleur. He is Chief Assistant District Attorney under Wilhelm, and he held the same job under Wilhelm’s predecessor, Ed Cloke.

ON REQUEST. Correspondent “Dave” asks that this interrogatory be posted on Seeing Greene: What has happened to this country? Everybody was very patriotic when 911 happened. Raised the American flag as high as it would go, and proud! Now look around, the flags that were raised are still raised and torn/faded. The biggest offenders are public buildings. Look over the Rip Van Winkle bridge when you return from Hudson. Look at the village buildings in Catskill, Coxsackie, and Athens. Where are our patriotic citizens now? Why don't our elected officials say something? I ask every person that reads this to stand up and defend our FLAG! If you are flying it, do it properly! As a veteran I am offended.....

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