Thursday, December 02, 2010

Scraped Greene

UPCOMING in Catskill this Saturday (12/4): a public Garden Club event (wreaths, decorations, gifts…) at Beattie-Powers Place (from 9am) and (from noon) a downtown “Day in December” with sleigh rides, Santa, cookies & brownies, doughnuts & cocoa, vendors, music. face-painting, “The Grinch” on screen, dramatic reading, bicycle giveaways, stilt walker, dancers…. See During those festivities, Main Street shops and galleries will be open and welcoming. Among them will be the Arts Council’s two galleries, crammed this year with original creations that are priced in the $25-$100 range, including many pieces by artists whose works commonly fetch much bigger dollars. Also, in the evening (5-8pm), one could venture eastward in pursuit of pleasure at Hudson’s attractive Winter Walk.

SOLD? GreeneLand’s once-“foremost” (as in most capacious) resort may have acquired new owners. On November 17th, on its second trip to the auction block, so to speak, the Friar Tuck (according to a Daily Mail 11/20 report) attracted a $2.58 million bid, which mortgage holder Ulster Savings Bank—already stuck with a million-dollar loss, plus daily holding costs--accepted. But the deal’s survival hinges on delivery to the bank, by this Monday (12/6), of a substantial down payment. Identity of the bidder has been withheld; rumors suggest a real estate investment company or a religious (property tax-avoiding) institution. The 39-year-old Tuck--170 acres, 372 rooms, plentiful exhibition space, heaps of debts and damning Trip Advisor reviews—was ‘sold’ at auction last year for $4.5 million, but the ostensible Oklahoma buyer did not actually have money.

SELLING, also at auction, tomorrow, from 11:30am: an unusually big assortment of abandoned household and related goods—22 lots--at Catskill Self Storage in Leeds (Route 23 & Cauterskill Road). Piano, boxes, furniture, TV’s, AC’s, boxes, grandfather clock, appliances, boxes, “fishing polls,” bikes, computers, boxes…. Each lot is a full locker.

TESTED on money management, and found wanting: Catskill Central School District administration. In the judgment of auditors from the State Comptroller’s office, administrators persistently flouted portions of their own purchasing policies. The violations pertained to purchases where competitive bidding was not required but comparisons of at least three price quotations were required. In 19 out of 30 purchases of that kind, for items costing up to $4000, suitable quotes were not obtained. Furthermore, CCSD managers neglected to “implement effective information technology controls” so as to shield the district’s computer systems from loss, destruction or theft of sensitive financial data. (Go to, find the audit report dated November 15, then click “Summary.” For perspective, read the Summaries for audits of other named school districts and municipal governments. Each one dwells on administrative lapses). To these criticisms, the district’s superintendent, Dr Kathleen Farrell, replies (Daily Freeman, 11/21; Daily Mail, 11/23) that one of the alleged faults has been rectified, the other is fictitious, and in other important matters reviewed by the auditors—financial oversight, cash receipts & disbursements, payroll, personnel services—the district passed inspection.

Meanwhile, the District is being tested in another way. William Ball IV, former Catskill High School principal, is suing for reinstatement. In a submission to State Supreme Court in Greene County, as reported in the Daily Freeman (Ariel Zangla-Girard; 1/23/10), Mr Ball is “arguing that the abolishment [sic] of his tenure area was done in bad faith and as a pretext for his termination.” Mr Ball was promoted to the principal’s seat in June 2006, was given tenured status six months later, and was pushed out, in effect, last May. Instead of dismissing him outright, after formal disciplinary proceedings, the District’s trustees suspended him during May-June and they abolished his tenured Principal On Special Assignment position (along with other positions, pedagogical and non-pedagogical). According to his lawyer, A. Andre Dalbec of the New York School Administrators Association ( the trustees were bent on retaliating against Mr Ball’s extra-curricular activities as chair during 2009-10 of the local Administrators Association (qua union). That line of argument belittles other incentives, such as complaints from the trenches plus a memorable tantrum.

CONSOLIDATION! Trustees of the village of Athens have taken a small step in the direction of consolidating municipal services. By a 3-2 vote (with Mayor Andrea Smallwood breaking the tie between Herman Reinhold and Gail Lasher, voting for, and Robert June and Tom Sopris, opposed), they ordered the dissolution (next Spring) of the Village court. Village-related cases will be heard thereafter by the Town’s two justices, with receipts from fines being passed along to the Village. The decision (as depicted by reporter Melanie Lekocevic, Daily Mail, 11/25) hinged on finding that Village cases are so few and minor that the revenue gained from fines does not match the costs (mostly clerical salary and benefits) of operation. So: what other operations, in GreeneLand municipalities, are ripe for Village-Town consolidation?

14 million = number of dollars awarded recently by jurors to the plaintiff in a Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice case, thanks in no small measure to the guidance of part-time GreeneLander Richard Bassin. After retiring from his New York surgical practice, Dr Bassin turned to advising lawyers on prospective malpractice suits and, in seemingly meritorious cases, helping to recruit suitable expert witnesses. The Florida case, he told Seeing Greene, “involved puncture of one of the carotid arteries by an interventional radiologist during insertion of a stent.” That blunder “resulted in cerebral hemorrhage and permanent brain damage.” The jurors’ award surpassed the GreeneLand record for malpractice verdicts that Dr Bassin helped to set some ten years ago, when a local builder, represented by lawyer Ted Hilscher, brought suit against an eminent mid-Hudson surgeon. On that occasion, Dr Bassin himself testified as expert witness. The damage award was $1.5 million.

JOBS PICTURE. In October, according to State Department of Labor statistics, the unemployment rate in Greene County was 7.7 per cent. That figure is higher than for Ulster, Columbia and Dutchess counties (7.4%, 6.8%, 7.3%), is a bit higher than for the previous month (7.5%) and slightly lower than in October of last year (7.9%). That fractional improvement was common to most parts of the country.

GASOLINE PRICES have soared lately, to an average of $2.86 for a gallon of the regular stuff in the nation as a whole (as of 11/29/10). That represents an increase over the same time last year (at $2.68 per regular gallon). The East Coast average was $2.89, but New York State’s average was scored by the Feds at $3.14. And in GreeneLand, as usual, the pump price was higher than in neighboring counties. Thus, a motorist who traveled northward the other day noticed that the pump price at Sunoco in Saugerties was 15 cents lower than the pump price in Catskill (near the thruway toll booth). And yet, on at least one recent day (11/20) the pump price for regular on the eastern approach to the Rip Van Winkle Bridge was higher, by a nickel, than the price on the western, GreenLand, approach.

PRICE CHECK. GreeneLand Jack Dixon broke his pocket comb last Monday. Bought a replacement at WalMart in the form of a two-pack for $1. Later noticed that the same deal was available at Walgreen, while the shelf price at Price Chopper for an equivalent two-pack was $2. BUT in a bin at the end of the aisle there, packets of 20 combs (short, long, male, female…) were offered for one buck. Go figure.

YIPPEE ZIPPEE. GreeneLand now is home to North America’s biggest zipline. That’s the claim, at any rate, that is voiced by Bradd [sic] Morse of NY Zipline Adventures, which is the company that opened two zipline courses last spring at Hunter Mountain, and is about to open the third, the longest, the hairiest: SkyRider, which will enable riders to, uh, zip downward from platform to platform for as long as 3000 feet, over terrain that is as much as 600 feet below.