Thursday, April 30, 2009

Saturation Saturday

In just one GreeneLand village, on just one day, too much is happening. The village is Catskill. The day is tomorrow. Public events start quietly at the Community Center, with a seminar for adults on managing their legal and related affairs, the guidance being provided gratis by an ace lawyer and two program-administering nurses. Soon after that, starting at 1 pm at the C C, comes the launch of an on-line version of the new community radio station, WGXC (meaning Greene & Columbia counties), with various speakers and events culminating in--drum roll, please--live extracts from the impending home-grown musical, "River of Dreams." That performance will be beamed from across the street at the Union Mills Gallery (where author Hudson Talbott will autograph copies of his book River of Dreams and will donate the sale proceeds to the Center. Meanwhile, a rubber duck race will be staged on the west side of Catskill Creek, from the Middle School parking lot. Starting time is said to be 1pm, with a post-race celebration to follow at the Creekside Restaurant. Meanwhile, along Main Street, shops and galleries will be participating in Second Saturday activities. Meanwhile, parking lots around the County Building will be occupied by two-, four-, and more-wheeled participants (along with their owners) in the Village Car Show. That's a 3-8pm spectacle, augmented by live music. Meanwhile, up the hill, a special program devoted to the late Raymond Beecher, county historian, philanthropist and promoter of good GreeneLand causes, will unfold (from 1pm) at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site (which Mr Beecher saved from demolition). Meanwhile, at nearby Beattie-Powers Place, the Fortnightly Club unfolds a wine & cheece fund-raiser throughout the afternoon. Meanwhile, back on Main Street, a 6pm reception will hail the reopening of the Play Of Light gallery, showcasing the holographic and laser light magic achieved by the late Rudie Berkhout.
MORE CATSKILL. There's a good chance, moreover, that the new River Street Bakery will open at Brandow's Alley on Tuesday (following a trial run during the Saturday festivities) and that the new Port Of Call restaurant at Catskill Point will on Wednesday, from 6pm, have what proprietor Frank Guido dubs a "pre-grand opening." (To that event, says an advertisement on, "Your invited." CATSKILL acquired its name, says Town & Village Historian Richard Philp, in consequence of "a Dutch tradition of honoring a distinguishing person by naming a geographical site after him or her." The honoree here was "early 17th-century statesman and poet Johannes Katz." The kill part is Dutch for creek (sowhen we say "Catskill Creek" we commit redundancy). That bit of history is just a morsel in the feast served by Mr Philp in his new pictorial history: The book's 208 historic photographs are accompanied by captions that go well beyond immediate description to mini-memoirs (William Van Vechten Jr and his pet woodchuck, for example). The cover picture here shows "local citizens crowding onto an experimental lifeboat" that had just been made locally during World War I. Catskill Village will be available in nine days from the publisher; CATKILL-based Greene County Bancorp has withdrawn its application to "participate" in the Federal bank bailout program. According to a company announcement, taking the Federal money would have or could have been coupled with accepting onerous "regulatory burdens," and anyway, the bank has arranged an alternative: a revolving line of credit for $5 million from Atlanta Central Bankers Bank (sic), to be tapped in case of need. But there's no need, the announcement adds. The bank's "regulatory capital" supply exceeds what is required legally "by substantial margins." Anyhow, the announced withdrawal of application was not preceded by a company announcement of application, and we now know that, back in February, when we said in Seeing Greene that the bank had not sought bailout money, we were wrong. CAN'T STOP writing about Catskillians. Stories by writer Ann Cooper, who is fully imported from Scotland, have appeared lately on line ( and in RAW (=Random Acts of Writing). And Linda Overbaugh, veteran director of the Heart of Catskill Association (=Village chamber of commerce), as special honoree at the Beaux Arts Ball of the Greene County Council on the Arts, was hailed for "steadfast commitment and unselfish contributions to the quality of cultural life in Greene County." [REMINDER. Comments are welcome, but they must be signed by their authors]

Friday, April 24, 2009

Numberful News

401=latest count of votes, out of 160,335, by which Scott Murphy leads James Tedisco in the special 20th Congressional District election. Still to come are judicial rulings on absentee ballots whose validity has been questioned by county election commissioners or by party lawyers. Most of the challenges have come from the Tedisco (Republican) camp and have aimed at ballots cast by voters who, in party registration, are Democrats or blanks. The presiding State Supreme Court judge, James Brand, reversed an earlier ruling and decided that attention could be paid not only to the ballots themselves (how they are marked) but also to the applicants' legitimacy. The Republican lawyers want rulings on whether the primary residences of targeted absentee voters are indeed in the 20th district rather than, say, in New York City. In keeping with that project, Republican chieftains sponsored an "exit poll," asking respondents whether they had voted, whether they had voted directly or by absentee ballot, and whether they had voted for Murphy or Tedisco. Actually, they knew that the respondents had voted and had done so by absentee ballot. They were compiling a pool of prospective challenges. (Much trouble and expense would be spared if candidates were not identified on the ballots by party affiliation. There would then be no need for governments to take elaborate, costly procedures, such as primary elections, to decide who gets what party "line.") 343,000=dollars just allocated by the National Parks Service to GreeneLand's Thomas Cole National Historic Site. It's a piece of the Federal stimulus (Recovery & Reinvestment Act) pie. The money will fund repairs and deferred maintenance on the Cole House and reconstruction of the stone wall and picket fence along Spring Street in Catskill. The grant is one of 800 Park Service projects, costing $750 million, which met the stated criteria of creating local economy-boosting jobs while also serving, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said, "as investments in telling the story of America to future generations." 3,600,000,000=dollars pledged (yes, 3.6 billion) by GlazoSmithKline Corporation to acquire ownership of Stiefel Laboratories, including Stiefel's 270- employee facility in Oak Hill. Privately owned for the past 162 years (by family members, mostly), Stiefel is a global force in skin care products, with reported sales last year, according to company announcements, of $900 million. Its 3000 employees work in California, Florida (company headquarters), Georgia and five foreign countries as well as GreeneLand. The acquiring company, based in London, is the world's second largest drug maker. 23,000=dollars re-granted by the Greene County Council on the Arts to local cultural projects. Recipients include the County Historical Society's Bronck Museum, Catskill Mountain Foundation, Free103WaveRadio, Horton By The Stream theater, Inter-Cities Performing Arts at Altamura music center, Irish American Heritage Museum in East Durham, Irish Cultural and Sports Centre, Grazhda Music and Arts Centre in Jewett, Planet Arts in Athens, Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Windham Chamber Music Festival, and Zadock Pratt Museum of Prattsville. The awards, ranging in amount from $900 to $3000, are re-grants in that the money comes from the State Arts Council. 3=number of Catskill School Board members who voted against adopting a $37million (OK; only $36,970,555) budget for 2009-10. The other six voted in favor. The proposed total was included in the agenda that was distributed to audience members at Tuesday's meeting. The details and comparative figures that Business Director Kimberly Lewis had prepared were distributed only to Board members. No statements for or against the budget were voiced. 17=cents per share of common stock payable as a dividend to people who, as of May 15th, own pieces of Greene County Bankcorp. That sum covers the first quarter of this year. Similar dividends were paid in several previous quarter-years and are anticipated in successive quarters. At the current market price of $11.50 per share, that dividend rate amounts to about 6 per cent per year. The company is 56 per cent owner of the Bank of Greene County. It can pay that dividend because the bank's business is healthy (very few bad loans) and because it waives its own right to dividends. Thus, the dividends go only to owners of 44% of the shares. 808=number of persons "admitted" to jail in GreeneLand in 2008, as noted in Sheriff Gregory R. Seeley's comprehensive, first-of-its-kind, report. That is an increase of 39 over the previous year's inmate population. ("Admitted" sounds like allowed to enter ?) 326,730=boarding-out costs incurred in 2008 by the Sheriff's department. The costs are necessitated by the dearth of cells here. Some inmates must be transported under escort to jails in other counties, housed and fed there at GreeneLand taxpayers' expense, and transported back. The 2008 boarding-out cost, Sheriff Seeley reports, represented a big reduction-- $389,714--over the 2007 cost. It came from rationalizing the choice of boarded-out prisoners, with preference being given to the already-sentenced, as distinct from those who are awaiting court hearings or imminent release. 933=miles of highway (State and County) and municipal road that are subject to patrol by GreeneLand sheriff's deputies. 410,468=miles driven in Sheriff's Department vehicles on those roads, as well as on boarding-out trips, on off-road chases and, in Marine Patrol craft, on the Hudson River. 11,091=official deeds performed by deputies while patrolling those roadways: traffic stops, alarm (de-)activations, dispute interventions,animal complaints, suicide attempts or threats.... 60=drunk driving cases handled (a 55% increases over 2007, under the previous Sheriff). 97=drug busts, up from 88 in 2007. 99=warrants of eviction served by deputies (who usually made a point of standing by during actual removal of tenants' personal property). Those warrants were among 1,995 civil papers (vs. 1,634 in 2007) served by deputies (summonses, family court orders...). 392,120=Federal and State dollars that enabled the Sheriff in 2008 to acquire a new boat and pick-up truck, jet skis, all-terrain vehicles and other equipment--including cameras that read every license plate that passes a patrol car, run the number through Department of Motor Vehicles files, ascertain whether the plate is suspended or revoked and whether there is a warrant out for the registered owner's arrest. Instantly. 208,000=Federal dollars that Sheriff Seeley still hopes to snare from an award that was made to the Department back in 2001 for patrol car computers but was "not utilized by the previous administration."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Balmy April News

MURPHY WINS (?). In the special Congressional election contest in New York's 20th district, according to this morning's tally as reported by the State Elections Board, Scott Murphy leads James Tedisco by 178 votes. That margin (79,452 to 79,274) looks minuscule relative to the hundreds of paper ballots (absentee, military, Federal) that remain to be counted or to be assessed by a judge after being challenged. Most of the challenges, however, have been lodged by Republican operatives on behalf of Mr Tedisco. They have been lodged against ballots that are preponderantly pro-Murphy. [As of 3:30pm today, Murphy's edge had grown to 273]
WINDHAM SHINES. The April 12th Travel section of Newsday ( ) gives Windham a nice build-up, with special emphasis on food. "In the new parlance of sustainable agriculture," says writer Valerie Yolen-Cohen. "the region is a locavore's utopia--visitors can purchase a variety of fruits, vegetables and organic meats after working up an appetite hiking to the graceful and multitiered Kaaterskill Falls or up...Pratt Rock." As regards dining, the author stretches the scope of her tour to include Damon Baehrel's Basement Bistro, which is quite a distance from Windham but is eminently praiseworthy (and pricey). "Scoring a reservation,"she warns, "is like winning the lottery." PUMAS CELEBRATE. With music and with favors for all comers last week, Lorin and Nicolas Puma celebrated the first anniversary in Catskill of their stylish gift and apparel shop, Rebel Katz. (
JAWBONING on the subject of "The Dentist's Role in Facial Anti-Aging" next week in Louisville KY, at the conference of the International Association of Orthodontics, will be GreeneLand's Dr Theodore Belfor, who also gave a talk last month in San Diego to a symposium on, ahem, dentofacial orthopaedics. BROKEN BUT UNBOWED, following a ribs-cracking fall last week, is Verso Gallery's (and Main Street's) Harold Hanson. DELINQUENT in payment of county taxes, among people included in Treasurer Willis Vermilyea's annual list, are a former Village President and his brother, a county legislator's wife, a School Board president, a riverside estate owner, the Irish Cultural Centre, a restaurateur, shop owners.... FILINGS. The forthcoming election for seats on the Catskill Central District's governing board could offer the voters a choice of six candidates for three seats. Incumbents James Garafalo (the board's president) and Eric Holsopple plan to seek re-election, we understand, but incumbent Carol Schilansky does not. Prospective new faces on the board belong to Kristie Allen, Beverly Cotten, Jennifer Osswald and Justin Somma. MISCREANT FILES. *Donna Caltabianco of Catskill entered a plea of guilty to the crime of embezzling money from fellow members of her trade union. She was president during 2000-07 of Civil Service Employees Local 888, composed of GreeneLand nursing assistants and health care clerks. (That information comes from The Greenville Press, which, incidentally scored third-place honors in its circulation division, in the New York Press Association, for the quality of its coverage of local government doings). *Franklin Marone's bid to have the "erroneous" and "prejudicial" phrase Ponzi scheme removed from his criminal file did not find favor with GreeneLand judge George Pulver Jr. "While fully conceding that he defrauded and stole money" from Windham Ski Patrol comrades, the judge noted, "Defendant contends that he did not pay the initial investors with money defrauded from later investors" and thus did not perpetrate the classic Ponzi swindle. Nevertheless, "Ponzi scheme" is what the lawyer for the victims called Marone's racket, and that "opinion," the judge ruled on Tuesday (4/14), does not deserve retroactive redaction. *Felicia Olivett of Catskill has been charged by State police with forgery, criminal impersonation and check-kiting, in connection with her activities as erstwhile president of the local Babe Ruth League. (Daily Mail, 3/20) *Donald Williams of Catskill has been charged with attempted murder and lesser crimes in connection with the wounding by gunfire on Monday of a Hudson man. LAY-OFFS of State prison correctional officers, as ordered by Gov. David Paterson, "will only affect the real workers," says a well-placed local observer. The top staff members--Deputy Supervisors for Programs, for Administrative Services, for Security, for Medical Services, for Whatever--"will do even less real work, at great public expense, with fewer people to supervise. They are the ones who should be laid off." SATURDAY in GreeneLand will be balmy and busy. Among alternatives to playing and watching ball games could be a waterfall hike starting in the morning from the headquarters of the Mountain Top Historical Society ( ) . In Acra at mid-day, Rick Burstell of the Agroforestry Resources Center will conduct a workshop on gardening in raised beds--a practice that can be "twice as productive as traditional in-the-ground gardening" ( In Catskill at 4pm, the new short film, "Thomas Cole: Painting the American Landscape," will get its first public screening, admission free, at the Community Theatre. Also on show will be the new web site, "Explore Thomas Cole," enabling viewers to see, and to read and hear about, 100 paintings by Cole. ( Immediately following those revelations will be a benefit reception at the M Gallery (350 Main St), with a portion of proceeds from picture sales going to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. And that ain't all. A new showplace, The Galleria, opens at 281 Main Street, with landscapes by Edith Marcik and Terence Barrell. The Union Mills (ex-Orens Furniture) building will exhibit art by Ruth Edwy and Alex Kveton. At the Arts Council headquarters (398 Main St), the upstairs gallery will host a new show of work by the late Art Tieger, while the ground floor gllery hosts "Sculpture on Main." Across the street, at Imagine That!, live jazz will be performed by Perry Beekman and Malcolm Cecil.

Friday, April 10, 2009

To the Races

THE HOUSE RACE. As of this morning, as reported by the New York State Board of Elections, Scott Murphy led James Tedisco in the special 20th district congressional election by eight votes: 77,590 to 77,582. That tally is the last figure on votes actually cast by lever-pull at polling stations in the district's 10 counties, plus some absentee ballots. Of those, 598 went to Murphy, 522 to Tedisco. (UPDATE. As of 10am today, the Board put out new figures putting Murphy ahead by 46: 77,773 to 77,727. Everything below is based on last night's report] ------The tallied absentee ballots represent a fraction of all that were returned in time to be counted. Those 6726 ballots, moreover, do not include "military" and "federal" mailed ballots. Of those, 1918 were applied for, 403 have been returned, and more can still arrive and be eligible for inclusion. ------The absentee ballot count, the Elections Board's report said yesterday (4/9), is complete for only three counties: Delaware (Murphy, 139; Tedisco, 119), Otsego (Murphy, 51; Tedisco, 60) and Rensselaer (Murphy, 221; Tedisco, 202). Three counties (Columbia, Dutchess, Greene) have reported incomplete tallies of absentee votes. Uncounted so far are absentee ballots from Essex, Saratoga (populous, Tedisco-leaning), Warren and Washington counties. Those Rensselaer County figures can be viewed as auspicious for Murphy. His 52% majority came from a pool of ballots returned by more Republicans and Conservatives by registration (211) than Democrats, Independence Party and Working Families Party members by registration (155). In addition, absentee ballots were cast by 91 non-aligned voters. In this case, Murphy snared some Republican votes, or won heavily among independents, or both. ------Of district voters who returned absentee ballots, 3111 are Republicans and 77 are Conservatives by party registration, while 2394 are Democrats, 157 are Independence Party adherents, 11 are Working Families partisans, and 976 (!) are otherwise inclined. Those figures look auspicious for Tedisco. So do the numbers by county of residence. Absentee ballot returns, by county, ranged in number from 169 (Otsego) up to 1841 (Saratoga, the most populous county in the district, and pro-Tedisco territory). ------In GreeneLand, 457 absentee ballots were returned in time, and an incomplete count yesterday gave Tedisco a lead of 106 to 97. Those votes came from a pool composed of 48% Republicans by registration, 32% Democratic. As between the 10 counties or portions of counties that make up the 20th congressional district, Columbia gave Murphy his strongest margin of support at the polls (56%), while Greene gave Tedisco his biggest margin: 55%. ------GreeneLand's cumulative result came about amid substantial geographic variations. Among the county's 14 voting divisions, Tedicso gained majorities in all but one (Hunter) but his margins ranged from tiny (51% in Catskill, and 52-54% in Athens, Coxsackie, Jewett) to crushing (Ashland, 71%; Prattsville and Cairo, 65%; Windham,63.5%). ------The GreeneLand voting also was noteworthy in that votes cast for Tedisco on the Conservative Party line (921) exceeded votes cast for Murphy on the Independence and Working Families lines combined (663). THE VILLAGE RACE. While Murphy and Tedisco were virtually tied at the end of voting on March 31st, voting in the Village of Catskill on the same day, for local offices, brought clear results. Incumbent trustees James Chewens and Patrick McCulloch were turned to office, with 259 and 276 votes, while new candidate Eileen Porto Rosenblatt fell short with 176 votes (as reported in The Daily Mail, 4/1). The victors immediately met with the other incumbent trustees, Angelo Amato and Joseph Kosloski, and re-elected Vincent Seeley as Board President (and/or Mayor). (Incidentally, Mr McCulloch is no longer, as of March 13th, deputy highway superintendent for the Town of Catskill. He now works for Mr Seeley's private company). ------Meanwhile, Village Justice William Wooton, unopposed, was returned with 329 votes. (I wrote incorrectly in a previous blog that Mr Wooton first came into office by way of appointment to succeed the departed David Leggio. Actually, Veronica Kosich succeeded Mr Leggio, and Mr Wooton succeeded Ms Kosich). SCHOOL BOARD RACES. Next on the electoral agenda for GreeneLanders are school board and school budget elections, to be held on May 19th. Prospective candidates for election to five boards must submit petitions, duly completed, by April 20th. GET BUSY. UPCOMING. To learn what's happening in Catskill this weekend, do NOT try the official website . The Events link there evidently has been sabotaged. Not duly publicized, consequently, are highlights of the Second Saturday Strolls promotion. One of them is a soft opening of Matt Kovner's shop, Hudson Valley Historics (390 Main St) featuring artwork by Paul Fero that forms a backdrop for the main scene in a forthcoming movie about the poet Allen ("Howl") Ginsberg. Another Saturday treat could be the appearance, at The Candyman, around 5pm, of the Easter Bunny.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Post-April Foolery;

FRANKLIN MARONE, a former Windham Mountain Ski Patrol member, would like a judge to remove two words from records that contributed to his incarceration. He is nearing the time when the State Parole Board will assess his application for release from the Otisville Correctional Facility after serving the minimum portion of a sentence meted out back in Septemberr 2004 by GreeneLand judge George Pulver Jr. The presence of those two words, he contends, would prejudice his bid for early parole. -----The words were used in a pre-sentencing report to characterize Marone's method of swindling 29 victims, most of them Ski Patrol comrades or their relatives and friends, out of $8 million. To induce his suckers to believe that they were making sound investments under his guidance, he passed some money elicited from fresh "investors" along to earlier "investors." At the same time he diverted most of the money to his yacht, his Connecticut mansion and luxury Windham abode, his sports cars, his extravagant living. When the scheme collapsed, the victims learned that what they thought were nicely appreciating funds earmarked for retirement, for medical care, and for the college education of children and grandchildren, were gone. On the day Marone was sentenced, some victims spoke of their experiences. "Once Frank...wormed his way in" to the fraternity of rescue volunteers, said Kevin Kennedy, director of the Ski Patrol, "he was free to work his devious, swindling scheme." He "gained our trust, then stole our hard-earned money, our security, our future...." The experience "devastated me both financially and emotionally." In keeping with the plea bargain worked out with the prosecutor, Marone pleaded guilty to a couple of counts of grand larceny, and was sentenced by Judge Pulver to a prison term that could range from six years to 18 years. Marone's sixth year will arrive early in 2010. He is asking Judge Pulver to remove, from the 2004 pre-sentencing report that will be reviewed by the Parole Board, the words "Ponzi scheme." DONALD J. CASE JR. got shot during a quarrel, and he was the one who got arrested. According to police reports, Case evidently broke in to the home of his estranged wife, Mary Sue, subjected her to drunken abuse and threats, but was induced to back off when her sister, Geraldine Finelli, displayed a shotgun. After he retreated to the driveway but continued to threaten, Ms Finelli fired a blast that hit him in the left leg. He then limped off, encountered an acquaintance who lived near the scene on State Route 32 in Catskill, and induced the acquaintance to drive him away. Meanwhile, Ms Finelli made a 911 call which prompted police to stop the escape car at the east end of Catskill Village. Case was taken by ambulance to Columbia Memorial Hospital, treated for the leg wound, then charged with burglary, arraigned by a Village justice, and jailed in lieu of $50,000 cash or $100,000 bail. Ms Finelli's use of a firearm has been treated as a legal act of home protection. -----The incident is not Case's first brush with law enforcement. There have been previous convictions, with prison time, for attempted burglary and assault and for drug-related crimes. Back in 2003, after completing a five-year sentence, Case was released into the custody of his wife. -----(The foregoing account is drawn from Times Union and Daily Mail stories plus county records. Part of a D M report, incidentally, says "Finelli allegedly fired one round towards the gun and struck Case in the lower left leg.") CASEY BIGGS is not a murderer. He only pretends to be one, namely, the fratricidal Claudius, king of Denmark, as depicted in "Hamlet" by budding playwright William Shakespeare. That chore, at the Duke Theatre in Manhattan, has not altogether disrupted Mr Bigg's work here in GreeneLand with the musical adaptation of Hudson Talbott's book River of Dreams. BRIGIT BINNS is not a pig. She is a cookbook cooker, an InsideOut columnist and, reliable sources (including Mr Biggs) attest, a tasty dish, who has just come back to Athens after an expedition devoted to pork. For musings and pictures on that subject and others, see Her advice to the pork-lorn: "Feel the wind in your hair, the sinews between your teeth." J. GRAY SWEENEY is not a theologian, but nonetheless he plans to expound on "The Divinity of the Hudson River." It's all about unfinished paintings by Thomas Cole, as well as about Cole's influence on American art. For more on this finale of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site's Sunday Salon series, see