Saturday, April 14, 2007

Mid-day Bits

TODAY (4/14/07) in downtown Catskill, the festivities are going to be more festive than ever. Lots of activity at the Community Center, on the street (including the 4:30pm parade), at the movie house, in the galleries. Music, dancing, costumes…. To learn all about it, see the newest of new things in the ever-improving village: the splendid web site, still in the making:

BEFORE the festivities begin at 2 pm., however, also of keen interest would be a 1pm forum on economic development at the VFW Post on Main Street, organized by Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand.

DAILY MAUL. Regarding Ms Gillibrand, incidentally, Hudson scribe John Mason recalled not long ago (D.M., 3/25) that early in 2006 “Morris Guller…was planning to primary her for the Democratic nod.”

CANDIDATES for Catskill School District Board positions have surfaced. In addition to Betty Xedis, they now include Michael Battaglino, Eric Holsopple and Matthew Liebowitz. More filings may eventuate by Monday’s deadline.

GASOLINE PRICES in GreeneLand have climbed, and climbed some more. They also show a remarkable range, from about $2.84 for a gallon of regular (Hess, on West Bridge St) to $3.04 (Sunoco, at Freeway Exit 21). The recent country-wide average per gallon of regular was $2.80. For the East Coast, $2.75; New York State, $2.93; New York City, $2.80.

HAGAR’S HARBOR will soon become Athens-on-Hudson (the marina) and Yanni’s III (the new restaurant). The buyers are Mary Ann Chalifoux (of Sleepy Hollow Realty), her partner John Jackson, and Yury and Inga Kornitsky. The new restaurant, to open early in May, will be Marc Yanni’s third; but the second, at Coeymans Landing, is called Yanni’s Too.

AND the 8.2 -acre riverfront property just to the north, with sprawling stone house built by Hagar’s founder Louis Gerrain, has just been sold to a Westchester family. After being on the market for four years with a $1.2 million price tag, the property sold, with Ronnie McCue as broker, for less than $800,000.

THE COMMONS. Before Wal-Mart, before Ames, before Jamesway, the West Bridge Street site was a big weed-choked field, where circus tents went up each year, along with fairs. Of those days, Debby Allen recalls “the ride with the seats on two chains that swing way out as it gets going. My friends and I were watching the riders one time and we heard a huge crack (like a gun shot) just over our shoulders. One of the riders had on wooden Dr. Scholl sandals and a sandal flew off and hit my friend in the forehead. He went down in a flash and we rushed him to Catskill Hospital. All was well after lots of stitches.”

COSTLY BOTCH: snowplowing at the Catskill schools following the big March 17 snowstorm. So poorly was the work done, we hear, that several on-staff custodians were needed to work overtime on Saturday, Sunday and early Monday. They get double time for Sunday work. They were called on to do what the contractor, T & T Services of Cairo (as in Tom Ivery), failed to do.

GONE from the headquarters building of Catskill School District: the nearly new gutters that were installed only recently, but with, we hear, unsuitable nails. They were falling down, dangerous.

REVISED: Plans for the United Mobile Homes development in Coxsackie. Company president Sam Landy now proposes that the housing units be modular, rather than mobile, although this would drive cost to residents up from $130,000 per dwelling to $250,000. This is the second major change in the proposal. The first consisted of replacing the policy of access to all kinds of buyers and families with restriction to people who are over 55 years of age. The approval process is tortuous.

STIEFEL LABORATORIES of Oak Hill, in addition to cutting staff, is asking the State Department of EnvironmentalConservation to approve “modification of their existing Air State Facility Permit” (according to legal notices). The plant on Route 145 in the Town of Durham would add a “10,044,000 btu per hour boiler.” It would continue to be permitted to emit up to 80 tons per year of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide and up to 20 tons per year of “volatile organic compounds.” The Department is poised to approve. The place currently makes and packages dermatological products. Comments on the proposal will be received officially until April 27th. (That date is mentioned at one point in the legal notice. But elsewhere, reference is made to a limit of “30 days from the date of this notice,” the latter being March 16th). For more information call Patricia Pinder, project manager, at (518)357-2337 or (518)357-2069 (there being two numbers cited in the notice). “If comments are received which raise significant issues or provide additional relevant information, the Department may modify the draft Air State Facility Permit.”

“QUEENS OF THE CATSKILLS” is the title of an article in the April issue of Chronogram magazine. The story by Jay Blotcher is about Casa Susanna, in Jewett, a resort and training camp for cross-dressers. Blotcher’s source is a 2005 book of photographs compiled by Michael Hurst and Robert Swope, who have been hired to write a movie treatment. Blotcher also writes about Gallae Central House, catering for inter-sexed persons, in Palenville. (Check it out at )

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Going, Coming, Gone

RUNNING for re-election, under the shadow of his pending trial on a drunk-driving charge, is Sheriff Richard Hussey. He’ll vie for the Republican nomination with previously-declared Lt Greg Seeley, who already has received endorsement from New Baltimore’s Republican Committee. What is more, Catskill Police Chief Dave Darling, former chief investigator for the New York State police in GreeneLand, may enter the race. He has been pondering the subject and says (as of last night) “I’m uncommitted.” If one of these men wins the Republican county committee’s endorsement and the others do not withdraw, there would be a face-off in a Republican primary election on September 11th. Meanwhile, the Democrats of GreeneLand, says county chairman Tom Poelker, will also have a candidate—for this and every other country-wide office. As quoted in a recent Daily Mail, the sheriff says he inherited an office that was in “disarray” seven years ago, then “made great improvements,” restoring it to “respect and reliability.” Now “We have a good team of devoted deputies whom [sic.] are protecting and serving the people….” The drunk driving case dates back to an arrest in September 2005. Delays can’t be blamed altogether on local stalling, since the prosecution is in the hands of Washington County’s district attorney.

CLOSING, after more than a century of operation: St Patrick’s Academy in Catskill. The closing was ordered (according to The Daily Mail of 3/26) by Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Albany Catholic Diocese, in light of dwindling enrollment (true for parochial schools all around the country) and depleted funds. Current enrollment at St Pats, pre-kindergarten through grade 5, is only 72 kids, of whom only 11 are members of the parish; and anticipated enrollment for 2007-08 was even lower. The school has been a $250,000 yearly drain on the diocese. Parochial school costs have zoomed as the ranks of virtually unpaid teachers (nuns and sisters) have dwindled.

RETIRING, after 35 (thirty-five) years: GreeneLand’s esteemed county clerk, Mary Ann Kordich. She’ll “take it easy for awhile,” then travel.… Prospective successors will be seeking Republican and Democratic endorsements ahead of the November election. Likely Republican candidates, according to The Daily Mail, are Elizabeth Reich and Marilyn Farrell, past and present Clerk’s office staffers.

RETIRING as president of the flourishing Bank of Greene County, after 35 years there--30 of them as president and chief executive: J. Bruce Whittaker. He will be succeeded by Vice President Don Gibson, a 19-year veteran. But some executive duties will be added to the load of Chief Financial Officer Michelle Plummer, who acquires the additional titles of Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. (The Daily Mail refers to Mr Gibson as Mr Whittaker’s “predecessor.” For this misnomer there is, so to speak, strong precedent. In the words of President George W. Botch [1/29/01]. “I am mindful not only of preserving executive powers for myself, but for predecessors as well.”)

RETIRING Thursday from the Catskill tax assessor’s office, at age 62, after being sole assessor for the past eight years, and after catching an excessive amount of abuse from Town council members: Sue Golden. Her deputy, Jessica Misevis, opted out of consideration for the succession.

CATSKILL SCHOOL BOARD elections on May 15 will have four seats on the block, and at this point only one candidate has filed. Kenneth Goldfarb resigned, as of March 28, citing “personal issues” (possibly connected to the strain of being spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany). Seats currently occupied by James DiPerna (chairman), Randall Griffin and Sandra Benjamin also will be open; and according to unconfirmed reports, Ms Benjamin will not seek re-election. The one candidate who has filed the requisite petitions is the eminently qualified Elizabeth Xedis. She and her husband, Rennie, district residents for 15 years, have two children enrolled in the Catskill schools and have been active parents. Ms Xedis has served as a classroom volunteer and room mother; and for most of her adult life she has worked in school offices, most recently as clerk of the Catskill board. Also in prospect as candidates, we hear, are Michael Battaglino and Stanley Dushane. Mr Dushane resigned just the other day from the district’s custodial staff, after being appointed by the Town Council as manager of Jefferson Heights cemetery. Petitions for placement on the ballot must be completed and submitted to the district office by April 16th.

RESIGNING from the Hunter-Tannersville school board, after serving two years of a five-year term: Eric Johnson. Would-be successors must submit petitions to Board clerk Norita Johannessen by April 16th, so as to appear on the May 15th ballot. Meantime, the seat currently occupied by Rachel Tripsas also will be subject to election for a five-year term.

SITE CLEARING has commenced at the southwest corner of Price Chopper Plaza, on Catskill’s West Bridge Street. The new store will be a Dollar Tree that is bigger than the present one next to the supermarket, which will expand into the vacated space.

CASTING CALL. Would-be actors and stage crew members are invited to audition Saturday (4/14),from 2pm, for the first in a planned series of script-in-hand plays in Greenville. According to Tony DeVito, director of All Arts Matter, the play is “Dying to Get There,” a comedy/fantasy written by Dick Sabol and directed by James Walker. “Roles are 5 men and 2 women. Age range 30s and up. Stipend plus.” For more information call (518)986-4038 or click

NEWCOMERS. Furniture maker Nick Donato has taken up residence at 462 Main Street, Catskikll, and likely will move his workshop and showroom down from Albany, and realtor Gary DiMauro has contracted to buy 434 Main Street where he will open a branch office to go with his Hudson and Tivoli offices. He plans to recruit a GreeneLand agent who shares his enthusiasm for antique houses.

CLOSED abruptly, without warning or word other than a scrawled sign, on March 22nd: Aubuchon Hardware. (They reopened for a low-key 25%-off sale that ended last Saturday). This store (already erased from the company’s web site) surely qualifies as the first clear kill inflicted by the Big Boxes, Wal-Mart and Lowes. Will there be others? Catskill Natural Products, at 254 West Bridge St, also just closed, but probably was not Boxed out. Most likely next victims, given their proximity to the BB’s and their products, are Sherwin-Williams Paints and Agway. Anyhow, what remains of Aubuchon is a family-owned hardware chain with about 130 stores in six Northeast States, founded 98 years ago in Fitchburg MA by French-Canadian immigrants. The history unfolded on its web site (google AubuchonHardware), of origins and changes, of ups and downs, is worth reading. As for the Catskill store, it cannot have been well managed locally; its address is given in the telephone book as “Janesway Plaza.” Old-timers here can appreciate how out of date is that label.

POCKET PARKS. Catskill’s chamber of commerce is soliciting funds from the Hudson River Foundation for two projects that would enhance access to the Creek. The projects comply with the Waterfront Park Master Plan that was devised 18 (!) years ago by a landscape architecture firm. One is to build a creek-side fishing dock, along with park benches and landscaping, at the west end of Greene Street, between the Hop-o-Nose and the marina. The other project is a kayak launching site at the end of Canal Street, along with a secure storage rack where paddlers can park their vessels while visiting the Village. Anticipated cost for both projects would be in the neighborhood of $60,000. And speaking of kayaks: Mountain Buddies has already arrived, and is thriving, on Main Street; and kayaking information galore is available at and

ART gallery owners in Catskill have formed a self-promoting association, with David Griffin taking the lead. They’ve pooled some re$ources and plan to seek grants in support of efforts to bring in visitors. Included in the association are Patrick Terenchin, whose gallery is not quite opened, and partners Hudson Talbott and Rudie Berkhout, who have the Main Street site and the name—Alight—but have not set an opening date.

HONORED by GreeneLand’s legislators, for “professionalism, integrity and commitment” in conducting the routine traffic stop that snared the international fugitive Christian Steven Ponce Salas: Sheriff’s deputies Jay Lucas and Greg Stewart. Also honored, as Grand Prize winner among 5th-to-8th grade contestants in the Twin County Science Expo at Columbia-Greeene Community College, for the quality of her work in propounding a hypothesis, devising an empirical test of its validity, conducting the test with rigorous arithmetic record-keeping, presenting the results verbally, and handling handle challenging questions about the work—a chemical analysis of candle-lighting: Emily Bobrick of Greenville.