Friday, May 29, 2009

May's End

MESKADA. That's the title of a feature film to be shot starting next week in GreeneLand. As conceived by writer-director Josh Sternfeld, it's a police drama set in a county where "class tension and resentment reaches [sic] a boiling point when a wealthy Hilliard child is killed during a house robbery gone wrong and the main suspects' trail leads back to the downtrodden, dying town of Caswell." Some extras, at $100 per day, are still needed. For more information, see "Meskada" on Google; read the Daily Mail story (Andrew Amelinckx, 5/27); e-mail

GENDER GAP. Evidently the boys of GreeneLand still are slackers. Among Greenville High School's top ten graduates, eight, including Valedictorian Emma Lord and Salutatorian Kimberly Fabian, are girls. At Cairo-Durham, nine of the ten top scholars in a class of 120 are female. Among Windham-Ashland-Jewett top ten (out of 40), however, six graduates are boys. As for Coxsackie-Athens, And at Catskill High School, the disparity was small. The four boys almost matched the girls numerically, and Valedictorian Kedong Wang scored to full scholarship to Princeton University.

NOT OVER. Although scheduled performances of River of Dreams ended last Sunday (in the Catskill High School auditorium, amid tumultuous applause and joyous weeping), the troupe will perform extracts in Beacon next week. And there's a prospect that this musical adaptation of Hudson Talbott's eponymous book will come back to life in New York City. The cast of 50 GreeneLand kids has been invited to perform in Manhattan's Battery Park, as part of the official launch of Hudson Quadricentennial festivities. From the finale as composed by Frank Cuthbert: "May your dreams come true and sail with you upon the river of dreams."

GASOLINE PRICES have hit a new high. At the start of the week, the nation-wide average price for a gallon of regular was $2.435. On the East Coast, it was $2.294. Those figures went up in subsequent days. And in Catskill on Thursday, in at least one case--Cumberland Farms in Jefferson Heights--the price jumper from $2.51 in the morning to $2.58 in the afternoon.

TOMORROW. At Hunter Mountain resort, the Mountain Jam festival swings into its second day & night ( while at the Catskill Mountain Foundation's nearby Doctorow Center,Theater Ten Ten performs the Gilbert & Sullivan light opera, "Ruddigore." In Tannersville, the Rubber Duck race starts at 11am ( and so does the festival. In Cairo, the town-wide yard sale coincides with "unveiling"of 40 bears (& butterflies) and with recent reports of live bear sightings. In Freehold, guitar duo Tequila Mockingbird performs at Ruby's Hotel while just down the road, the Freehold Country Pub hosts a Greenville Beautification Project fund-raising gala (966-4183). In Catskill, a new ice cream parlor, Spoon Me, opens at 396 Main Street (as adjunct of the MOD cafe) while across the street, at 396 Main, Kurt Andernach displays his handiwork in his new custom furniture shop, Somersault Woods. Then, in the evening, Historic Catskill Point will rock to the sounds of the Columbia Memorial Hospital splendid annual ball.

"HERE TO STAY"= message on the big West Bridge Street sign of car dealer Sawyer Chevrolet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cats Up

Cata-Lite, Pawmodoro's, Cement-Tom, Kitty Van Winkle, Dog Cat-cher, Tom Cat Cole, Hudson Hornet, Old Kaatskillian, Halve Moon Nauticat, Purr-lessque Dancer and dozens of other fiberglass felines are now up in downtown Catskill. Here, as created by Cheryl Lickona, Chad Weckler and Rob Roy McGregor, is Cat-tue of Liberty.

INS OUT. The 852 voters who turned out for Tuesday's Catskill Central School District elections chose new candidates for Board seats over incumbents. With three seats to be filled, Beverly Cotten (464 votes), Jennifer Osswald (456) and Kevin Allen (407) out-polled Board member Eric Holsopple (358) and Board President James Garafalo (313) as well as newcomer Justin Somma (215). That result coincided with overwhelming support (607-266) for the proposed $37million district budget (as well as support for the Public Library budget). Our sources had anticipated that if Mr Garafalo and Mr Holsopple were defeated, the proposed plan of expenditures for 2009-10 also would be rejected. Instead, the participating voters responded to complaints, voiced by some teachers and staff members, to the effect that the Garafalo-led Board supported unduly heavy-handed District governance. ----The Catskill result resembled what took place in two other GreeneLand school districts. In Hunter-Tannersville and Cairo-Durham, voters gave substantial support to the proposed 2009-10 budgets but not to incumbent Board members. Eric Thorpe out-polled Board President Brian Wilson, 395 votes to 178, in H-T, while in Cairo-Durham, although Board President Carl Kohrs won re-election, Board member Christopher O'Connell lost his seat to newcomer Robert Criswell. -----In GreeneLand's other school districts--Coxsackie-Athens, Greenville and Windham-Ashland-Jewett--the budget proposals won heavy popular support and so did incumbent Board members who sought re-election. -----In all six school district elections, the participants, as usual, made up fractions of the eligible voters. The fractions were larger in Coxsackie-Athens and Cairo-Durham than in Catskill. -----(Most of the hard facts cited above were drawn from The Daily Mail and The Daily Freeman. People who operate those newspapers managed to get the election results and deliver them in print by Wednesday morning when the polls closed late on Tuesday).

DIG IT. Catskill's Garden Clubbers wish to identify, photograph and reward extraordinary new or improved gardens. Prizes of $50, $100 and $150 will be conferred. To play the game, take a Before picture soon of a target site, then get to work and in August take an After picture. Deadline for submissions is September 1. (518)943-1971.

DOUGHS UP. At River Street Bakery, freshly opened recently at Brandow's Alley in Catskill, choosing is a chore. Rustic Tuscan or Rosemary Round bread? French (white flour) or French country (whole wheat flour)? Honey Whole or Kalamata or Sourdough? Vanilla currant or Jalapeno scones?

IRISH UP. Music, dance, food and (presumably) blarney are slated for this weekend's Irish Festival at--where else?--the Quill Irish Cultural & Sports Centre.

THAT MUSICAL. "River of Dreams" opened last Friday night in the Catskill High School auditorium and won huge applause along with plentiful sentimental weeping. For good reasons. Fifty GreeneLand school kids celebrated the Hudson River, in keeping with a book written and illlustrated by a local notable, by means of songs composed by a local artist, under the supervision of a GreeneLand-based Hollywood/Broadway veteran. The project is the subject of an incipient documentary. Performances willtake place Friday and Saturday nights (from 7pm) and Sunday (from 4pm). Admission is free. Be early.

PORT OPEN. Restaurateur Frank Guido, tired of leasing his 1 Catskill Point property to luckless and/or hapless operators, is directly in charge of the newly named Port of Call there. A "pre-grand opening" party on May 13th brought in a huge crowd, and business has been brisk ever since, at least for dinner.

DRUG BUST. So this GreeneLand woman goes in ex-husband's house, in keeping with share-the-children agreement. Spots a sack of cocaine, which reminds her of why she divorced Ex. Pours it down toilet. Flushes. Tells him what she has done. But it wasn't his property. Owner comes to retrieve $40,000 (market value) stash. "Sorry, " says Ex, who then gets busted--in nose, mouth, eye, knee, crotch….

Friday, May 15, 2009

School Board Elections: Catskill

------ On Tuesday (5/19), voters in GreeneLand's six school districts will make formative decisions about money, about leadership, and hence about the education of most of the county’s children. Experience indicates that those decisions will be made by rather small minorities of eligible voters. And yet the money involved exceeds one hundred million dollars. We will focus here only on the Catskill Central School District.

------ Participants in the Catskill district election (High School gymnasium, 6am-9pm) will vote Yea or Nay on a proposal to spend, for the public education in 2009-10 of about 1800 students, almost $37 million. And they will choose among six candidates for three positions on the district’s governing board. (Also to be decided is the fate of a proposed $439,580 budget for the Public Library. Please vote Yes).


----- Every year, just before election day, registered voters receive from the district office a “Newsletter” which blends, information (terms of the proposed budget, candidates’ self-written profiles) with advocacy. The current Budget 2009-2010 Newsletter. Reflecting Educational Excellence begins with an open letter to “Dear Community Members” that is published under the headline “Budget Reduced Almost $500,000 Programs Maintained.” Although its third sentence begins with the words “I am pleased to report” the letter is signed by James Garafalo, the school board’s president, and by Kathleen P. Farrell, the superintendent. Anyhow, its author(s) voice(s) gratification over current “academic growth,” strength of community support, and progress on major construction projects.

Subsequent parts of the Newsletter offer some details on categories of proposed expenditures, on revenue sources, on anticipated staffing changes, and of tax implications. Contemplated in the proposed budget is a $484,564 reduction in total outlays, accomplished chiefly by a big cut ($1,130,450, or 22%) in “General Support.” That expenditure category is not identified further in the Newsletter, but is distinguished from (in descending order of financial weight), Supervision & Instruction, Benefits, Special Education, Debt Service, Transportation, Pupil Services, Community Services, and Interfund Transfer.

------To meet these costs, according to the Newsletter, there would be an increase in State & Federal aid (up $251,208, to $16,017,963) as well as in local tax levy ($163,870, to $15,870,107). Those increases evidently are necessitated by the contemplated absence of “Repair Reserve” revenue, which in the current budget is said to be $900,000. Locally generated revenues (from property taxes and equivalents) would cover about half of the cost of Catskill district public schooling.


To gain perspective on the cost of public education here, it helps to make inter-district comparisons. To that end, relevant information can be gleaned from a portion of the data that every district administration provides by law to the State Department of Education. Included in these exhaustive “Report Cards” are outlays per pupil.

Figures published by the Education Department reach only to the 2006-07 school year. They differentiate between General Education and Special Education outlays. With regard to General Education, the per-pupil figure for Catskill in 2006-07was $9125, which is slightly below the State-wide figure of $9485 but higher than the figure for other districts that, in relation to a “Need-to-Resource-Capacity index,” are similar to Catskill. The latter figure was $8377. Meanwhile, with regard to Special Education, the local outlay per pupil in 2006-07 was $25,973, which is higher than the State-wide figure ($23,898) and the similar-district figure ($8377).

------Catskill school district differs from the others in GreeneLand in the financial, Need/Resources, classification. It is classed as being “high” in needs relative to local resources, whereas the Cairo-Durham, Coxsackie-Athens, Greenville, Hunter-Tannersville and Windham-Ashland-Jewett districts are rated on that measure as “average.” At any rate, for 2006-07 the $9125 Catskill district outlay per pupil in General Education compared with $7203 for Cairo-Durham, $8154 for Coxsackie-Athens, $8258 for Greenville, $10,767 for Hunter-Tannersville, and $11,894 for W-A-J. Catskill’s $25,973 outlay per Special Education pupil was substantially higher than its counterpart in other districts: $22,690 in Hunter-Tannersville, $19,661 in Coxsackie-Athens, $19,437 in Greenville, $15,755 in Cairo-Durham, and $11,717 in the Windham-Ashland-Jewett district (a suspect figure, since it is so low in comparison to other districts and is even lower than its reported General Education figure).

-----Current Catskill district enrollment is 1818. In relation to the proposed 2009-10 budget of just under $37 million, that represents an outlay per pupil (General and Special) of around $19,200. That figure is higher than for GreeneLand’s other school districts (but we do not have the necessary data). Sources of the difference are many and they are controversial. One substantial contributor, however, is readily apparent: Catskill’s proportion of Special Education pupils is higher than it is in other GreeneLand districts. That difference in turn is related to a higher incidence of mobile families whose children require Special Education services at a higher rate than the county average.


------The consequences of a negative vote on the proposed budget are discussed in the Newsletter.. By law the Board can respond to a rejection by putting the same budget before the voters, by offering a revised budget, or by going directly to a “contingent budget.” If the Board chooses either of the first two options, and its proposed budget gets rejected again, it must operate under the contingency rule, which is a plan of outlays whose total is affected by the national Consumer Price Index. That constraint means in effect that budgeted outlays for 2009-10 could not be more than 4 per cent higher than for 2008-09. (There are additional constraints on types of outlays). .

------The Newsletter also warns that State laws governing contingent budgets do not impose constraints on local tax levies, so “It is possible for the tax rate to be higher with a contingent budget.” Yes, but in this case, the proposed 2009-10 budget calls for outlays that are fractionally lower (1.29%) than in the adopted 2008-09 budget, although their funding would still require a fractional (1%-4%) rise in property tax.

------Advice about the implications of rejecting the proposed budget may owe its presence in the Newsletter, and its phrasing, to the fact that three members voted against the budget that was submitted for Board approval on April 21st. The dissenters—Karen Haas, Andrew Jones and Matthew Leibowitz--did not state their objections then or since. They have not gone public with appeals for a Yea or a Nay vote.


------On Wednesday night, in the Elementary School’s library, under the auspices of the Teachers’ Association, starting at 6pm, five candidates for election to the governing board of the Catskill Central School District took part in a public forum. Time for this event was limited to one hour, because another event, a workshop involving incumbent board members along with parents and students, was set for 7pm. Patricia Houlihan, chairing the event, invited each candidate to make an opening statement. She sought to keep those statements short, so as to leave time for questions, to be followed by closing statements. But the time constraint on candidates’ statements proved to be unnecessary; from the audience of 16 persons, apart from a Daily Mail reporter, came no questions.


------Based on information provided the Newsletter, along with presentations at the candidates’ forum as well as interviews, here are notes about the candidates for election to the governing board of the Catskill Central School District.

Kevin Allen and his wife, Kristie, have three children: a Catskill Elementary second-grader and two pre-schoolers. After attending LeMoyne College on a baseball scholarship and graduating with a Business Administration degree, Mr Allen worked in North Carolina for six years as a computer programmer before moving here seven years ago and making a career change to carpentry. Locally, according to his profile in the Budget 2009-2010 Newsletter that will go to voters in advance of the May 19th vote, Mr Allen has been “an active volunteer in youth sports.” He hopes to ensure that the school board will operate as a “proactive body” reaching “quality decisions” and “representing all of our students and community.” Being “fiscally responsible” is important in the current “unpredictable economy.” “We need to implement research-based programs that have been proven to attain positive results.” He commends “closer attention” by board members “to details of decisions.” To these remarks, at the candidates’ forum he added judgments that successful board operation is “all about relationships” and that too many people in the community complain but do nothing to improve matters.

------Beverly Cotten and her husband, Forest, have two children in Catskill public schools (grades 8 and 5) and a pre-schooler. Following graduation from the College of Saint Rose (with a biology/secondary education major) and from Union College (M.A. in Science Teaching), she accumulated 16 years of experience in teaching (in private and public schools, at all grade levels) and in school management, with special emphasis on technology. As Co-Ordinator of Data and Information Systems in Westchester County’s Elmsford Union Free School District, Ms Cotten currently supervises information, instructional technology, data handling, and testing. She went to the Elmsford district after a stint as Data Analyst/Central Registrar for the Catskill district. Before that she taught chemistry and biology in the Hunter-Tannersville and the Cairo-Durham districts while also handling school management tasks. Among her extra-curricular activities are the Fortnightly Club, church functions, and the Friends of Beattie-Powers Place. At the candidates’ forum, Ms Cotten suggested that the presently “good” Catskill school district needs to achieve a higher graduation rate and to shape policies that meet the needs of Special Needs students.

------James Garafalo, current president of the School Board, seeks re-election for a term that would bring his years of service to a total of 24. Mr Garafalo was a board member board from 1983 to 1998, and from 2003 to the present. He operates Catskill Florist Inc. on West Bridge Street. His and wife Marjorie’s two children graduated from Catskill High School and a granddaughter currently is enrolled in the Middle School. According to his candidate statement, “Having been involved since the beginning of the High School and Middle School renovation project, he would like to see the project through to completion.” Moreover, he would “continue to strive for what is best for our students and the taxpayers of the district.” To those words, as provided in the Budget 209-2010 Newsletter, he added, at the candidates’ forum, judgments that the present school board is an especially “good,” harmonious, one, that “micro-managing” by board members must be avoided, that the district’s ambitious capital improvements program is advancing on schedule and “under budget,” and that he is determined to “Do what is right…even when it may not be the popular choice.”

------Eric Holsopple is seeking a second term on the Board. He and wife Lisa (a Catskill High School graduate) have two sons, Ryan and Liam, who attend the Elementary School. Mr Holsopple, a Columbia-Greene Community College graduate, has worked for 19 years as a lineman for Central Hudson Gas & Electric Company. He is a shop steward with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union local. He cites service on the Athens Zoning Board of Appeals as additional “experience necessary to contribute as a board member.” He seeks re-election “so I can do my part to help make the school district the best it can be for our children.”

------Jennifer Krieg Osswald is a Village of Catskill native, a Catskill High School graduate, and an active PTA member . She and her husband, Ryan, who is a Mid-Hudson Media technical engineer, have two children, a first-grader at Catskill Elementary School and a pre-schooler. Ms Osswald graduated from Marist College and then earned a Master’s degree in social work from Adelphi University. A State-licensed social worker, she has worked with children and “as an advocate for children and families.” While employed by Greene County Mental Health Services she worked with Catskill children. Currently she is the social worker at The Starting Place. Regarding her candidacy for the school board, in the Newsletter she emphasizes “respect for all individuals who live, attend and work within the…District.” “All individuals have a right to have an opinion and to be heard without bias.” At the candidates’ forum, Ms Osswald delivered a “primary concerns” statement dwelling on “top quality education for all children, despite any limitations or special needs that they may have,” on fostering “an environment that is safe and free from harassment and bullying,” and on overcoming present “difficulties” in “accessing those who are in charge….” She called for “new perspective, more involvement and louder voices by the members of the board of education….”

------Justin Somma lives in Kiskatom with his wife and two pre-school sons. He owns Village Hardware in Hunter. He is “eager to get involved in a way that I would best be able to help defend the quality of the district and help it progress to an even brighter future. As a businessman and parent from a family of teachers, I have the benefit of a broad perspective on the educational system.” He aims “to make sure our schools provide a world-class education, maintain a sound fiscal footing, and cultivate an environment of appreciation toward our teachers and administrators.” In response to a query from Seeing Greene, Mr Somma said he would “serve a single term and that an equally enthusiastic citizen can…provide fresh insight to the board” and he would “keep a blog to explain the logic behind every public session vote I make.” The latter intentions are not voiced in the Budget 2009-2010 Newsletter, and Mr Somma did not attend the candidates’ forum. Neither did he offer a statement.[See his Comment, below] He is first in the field, however, with roadside campaign signs.

P.S.: TEACHERS’ CHOICE [added 5/18]

The Catskill Teachers’ Association has endorsed newcomers over incumbents. An advertisement published in The Daily Mail (5/16) expresses support for Mr Allen, Ms Cotten and Ms Oswald, thereby spurning the Board’s chairman, Mr Garafalo, and the other incumbent candidate, Mr Holsopple. That choice reflects dissatisfaction with the District administration, and with the Garafalo-led Board’s firm support for the administration. The resentment is expressed in the phrasing of the endorsement. Concluding its list of qualities that “the CTA believes” the non-incumbent candidates would bring to the Board, and hence to school governance, is “a collaborative attitude.”

Friday, May 08, 2009

Satiated 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. Later, starting at 4 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]


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Friday, May 01, 2009

Greene May Day

CRIMES. By the time this blog gets posted, the jurors may well be back with a verdict in the case of Travis Augustine. They started deliberating, as well as having lunch, at just after noon today. They may not need more than half a day to find that Augustine murdered his friend Martha Conners, killed her dog, and stole her property. The prosecution's case, as unfolded by District Attorney Terry Wilhelm in a former classroom of the St Patricks Academy in Catskill, now serving as Judge George Pulver Jr's temporary courtroom, was altogether circumstantial and, we reckon, altogether conclusive. Details may follow. -----IT HAPPENED. The jurors returned at 3:20pm. The foreman delivered a verdict notice. Judge Pulver opened it and read the result: Guilty On All Counts. He then polled the jurors by number. Each voiced concurrence. At that point, two women in the audience--the defendant's mother and sister--erupted in a shrieking fit. They were not pacified by Public Defender Dominic J. Cornelius's promise that "it's not over." Then police officers arrived with shackles for the defendant. Augustine, who had been meek and expressionless throughout the trial, went into a rage. Seven officers were needed to subdue the 6 foot 4 inch convict. Those events, at any rate, are based onhastily written notes taken from the observations of a first-hand witness: Catskill historian and seasoned journalist Richard Philp. JOBS. GreeneLand’s rate of private sector unemployment in March, according to the State Labor Department, came to 9.1 per cent of the labor force. That is quite an increase over the March 2008 figure of 5.9%. It is higher (which is to say, worse) than the country-wide figure (8.5%, versus 5.1% in 3/08), the State-wide figure (7.8%, vs. 4.8%), and nearby counties (Ulster, 7.8% vs. 5.2%; Columbia, 8.0% vs. 4.9%). It’s not as bad as the unemployment rates (as high as 11.5%) in a dozen small counties that, like GreeneLand, are not part of major labor areas. HUNGRY KIDS. Nearly half of the children who attend Catskill public schools qualify for the free lunch program. The qualifying population, reports Superintendent Kathleen Farrell, is up about 5 per cent from last year. Meanwhile, any other kid who forgets lunch money or lunch box gets fed. HOMES. Sales of single-family homes in the Capital Region (including GreeneLand) during the first quarter of this year declined from the same period in 2008, according to the New York Association of Realtors, by almost a third. Average and median prices also declined, to the extent of about 9 per cent. DEALS. The current real estate market is, ahem, abnormal. What’s normal is for prices to be up when interest rates on mortgages are down, and, conversely, for prices to drop when interest rates rise. Makes sense. But present interest rates are close to record lows, and prices are below their average in recent years (modestly here; dramatically, in the "liar loan" regions).. Coinciding with this general condition is the special, or rather extra-special, tax break for first-time home buyers. BANKS. Amid the housing slump, the shortage of jobs, and the economic recession, Greene County Bancorp, parent of the Bank of Greene County, has continued to flourish. In the course of the nine months ending March 31, according to a company release,, net income rose 58% to $3million. For the January 1-March 31 period the gain was $1.2million, or 69% more than for the same period in 2008. President Donald Gibson attributed the “strong earnings” chiefly to “net interest income,” but a one-time cash payment of $1.7million for the sale of its merchant credit card business did not hurt. Total assets of this parent of the Bank of Green County grew in the three-quarter period by 21 per cent, to $458.6 million. Deposits rose by 24 per cent to $395million. Yes, some loans did go sour, and more defaults are anticipated, but so are net gains. In the wake of its recent dividend announcement and then its earnings report, the company's share price has zoomed by around 35 per cent. RATES. Central Hudson is applying to State regulators for permission to raise electricity and natural gas prices. According to reporter Melanie Lekiocevic (Daily Mail,3/17), approval would mean many millions of dollars of additional revenue to the company while costing the average household $93 more per year for electricity and $151 more for gas. Local officials are resisting. LAWSUITS. John Velosa of Cairo is about to be sued for allegedly stealing timber from the property in Athens of Casey Biggs. According to Mr Biggs, the two of them talked about a deal whereby Mr Velosa would fell trees on the property, haul them away, sell them, then split the profits with Biggs. Biggs and his wife subsequently left town on business. When they returned, trees were gone and all efforts to contact Valosa were unavailing. Attorney Michael Smith is preparing the lawsuit. MALADIES. Lyme Disease rates in GreeneLand have doubled in recent years, says reporter Billie Dunn (Daily Mail, 4/25) citing Columbia County Public Health Nurse Paul Phillippe. Columbia's incidence is the worst in northeastern New York, with GreeneLand coming in second, at the rate of 246 cases per 100,000 population. If we kill more deer, would we humans have fewer bites from those blood-sucking deer ticks? DRINKS. NO B Y O B? A couple of GreeneLand restaurateurs were warned recently that, unless they already are licensed to sell wine and beer, they cannot legally allow diners to bring in their own beverages. That warning, citing Article 64B of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, may have dire implications for places other than restaurants. To serve beer and wine at a gallery opening or a fund-raising event, it seems, one must obtain a Special Permit. Eligibility is fraught with restrictions. Lots of non-profit community groups may be hurt. And that in turn will hurt the people who ratted to the ABC. Meanwhile, Catskill proprietor Mary DiStefano says “MOD is using this as a springboard. We will make lemonade out of lemons, spiking it appropriately...when we obtain our beer and wine license. That is already in the works. It may have been some-one's intent to hurt us, but we will take this adversity and make better things out of it.” DRINKS + EATS. The former Yanni’s II restaurant, hugging the Hudson at at the north end of Athens, now is The Dockside Grill, run by Steve Womack and a crew of 25. After selling his previous restaurant in Florida he was persuaded by his wife, Susan, to come to GreeneLand, her old stomping ground, instead of returning to his native California. Business since his March 3d opening, says Steve, has been ”much better than we expected.” Fully licensed and sporting live music, the place was full of happy people last Friday. TONIGHT. Opening party for exhibition, titled “Nature is the Key,” of plein air pictures by Patti Ferrara, at the Agroforestry Resource Center’s gallery in Acra, 5-7pm. 6229823. ---->>>Coxsackie-Athens Rotary Club diiner and auction, Quarry Steakhouse, 6pm. Raffle too. TOMORROW. Birder Larry Biegel introduces the activity of birding, from 9am at the Agroforestry Resource Center. >>Catskill Village Clean Sweep, from 8am. Volunteers are invited to go to village hall, collect tools, gloves, trash bags, doughnuts, coffee and assignments--toi Main Street business district, west side business district, parks, cemetery, Maple Avenue, schools. >> Thomas Cole National Historic Site's season-opening exhibition, "River Views of the Hudson River School" (paintings by Cole, Gifford, Cropsey...), compiled in keeping with the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's journey of discovery here. The show opens at noon in Catskill. At 1:30pm or thereabouts, the man who was primarily responsible for the resurgence of attention to the Hudson River School in the post-World War II years will give a talk. He is John R. Howatt, erstwhile chairman of American Art at the Metropolitan (NYC) Museum of Art. >>Jazz + Jazz Talk at Athens Cultural Center, from 7pm, led by Grammy winners Brian Lynch (trumpet) and Boris Kozlov (bass). >>"In the Blink of an Eye" headlines photographic art of Dmitri Belyi, shown at the upstairs BFA gallery in Ruby's Hotel in Freehold. Reception from 5pm.