Saturday, May 06, 2006

Monday in May

SCHOOL WORK. When Trustees of the Catskill Central School District make formal decisions, they usually are unanimous.Indeed, the minutes of Board meetings for this year so far (minutes of formal proceedings, as distinct from executive sessions) record perfect unanimity.That was almost the case in 2005 as well. One exception occurred.It occurred at the meeting of November 30th.The occasion was a vote on a motion by Michael Battaglino, seconded by Sandra Benjamin, to settle out of court a lawsuit brought by the district’s former head janitor, Stanley Dushane.The motion called for agreeing to terms that had been discussed in executive session but would, by agreement between plaintiff and defendant, be kept secret.That motion, instead of being unanimous, like all the other votes taken that night and indeed on so many other occasions, attracted two negatives. The identities of trustees who voted Yea and Nay were not recorded. We know from the court filings that the Assenting Five were agreeing to settle out of court an action in which the plaintiff accused the board (as composed before 2003) of depriving him of a job, of earned benefits, and of his rights of free speech, all in retaliation against his extra-curricular political activities as a Village trustee and a participant in fire company disputes.We know from other sources that the amount of taxpayer dollars awarded to Mr Dushane by the Five was $35,000.We know that in deciding to settle, the Five were not following the advice of counsel.We also know that the school board’s president, James Garafalo, though absent from the November 30th meeting and hence from the deciding vote, was the settlement’s main sponsor. We know too that Mr Garafalo, Mr Battaglino, and James DiPerna (the school board's vice-president) were and are close personal friends of Mr Dushane, but did not distance themselves from discussion of the lawsuit. Recollection of those events may have a bearing on impending events.A school board election, together with voting on the school district budget, is scheduled for May 16th. Three seats are to be filled for three-year terms.All three incumbents—Mr Battaglino, Mr Garafalo and Kenneth Goldfarb—are seeking re-election.Also on the ballot is one newcomer: Dawn Scannapieco, who lives with her husband and two children on Old Kings Road and who heads the counselling center at Saugerties High School. In the coming days, if the candidates have any contacts with the voters, Mr Battaglino and Mr Goldfarb could properly be asked how they voted on the Dushane settlement, and why. Mr Garafalo could be asked whether he endorses or regrets the decision to settle, and why. All three candidates could be asked to say why they and their fellow Board have been so secretive about every aspect of the Dushane lawsuit. If they claim to be barred legally from answering those questions, they would be disingenuous.

BANK OF GREENE COUNTY reports a decline in net income for the past 9 months as compared with June 2005 to May 2006.Net income for 6/05-4/06 was $1.8 million, a drop of $500,000 or about 22 per cent.A company press release ascribed the drop to a narrowing of the spread between interest charged and interest paid, as well as to costs of replacing branches, and to higher payrolls.At the same time, the bank’s stock of loans receivable GREW by about $18 million to $183 million.Deposits in the bank also increased.Business is up, then, but profit is down.There will be additional constructionexpense in the near future, with the creation of a new branch near WalMart in Catskill Commons.But the bank, like its host-county, is flourishing. Net income for fiscal year 2007, we estimate, will pass $2.5 million. DEVELOPING. Latest candidate for restoration on bustling, burgeoning downtown Catskill is a venerable 7500 square foot building on 455 Main Street, acquired from insurance mogul Frank Porto by exemplary enterpriser Frank Cuthbert.In the dim past, over a century ago, that site was the home and fragrant shop of William Klepser, the baker.Later it acquired a wooden addition which housed some County offices. That portion, Mr Cuthbert told Seeing Greene, will be “remodeled with metal roof, clapboard, historic windows, and trim to tie it in visually with the original brick structure.”There will be three spacious, gracious upstairs apartments and, on the ground floor, “perhaps a walk-in medical practice.”“It is my hope,” Mr Cuthbert adds, “to plant trees along the sidewalk there and along the adjacent parking lot.This would soften the stark look of that area.It also would provide shade and be an attractive, friendly sight for visitors as they first enter our village.” SOLD by auction on Saturday: many items from a house, at 340 Grandview Avenue Extension in Catskill, that was known decades ago as the home of Lloyd and Barbara Newcombe (who is now Barbara Weber). Few relics of past glory were available, but buyers got to wander through an extraordinary thirty (as in 30-)- roomVictorian mansion, which in recent years functioned as a residence and a Standard Poodle-breeding station.

OPENED last Monday, by Dana Wegener and Mo DiStefano, at 395 Main St, Catskill: The MOD Gourmet CafĂ©. 943-0420.And soon, across the street, will come a Muddy Cup outlet, adding to the bustling Village’s (over)stock of daytime downtown eateries. OPENED on Saturday: GreeneLand Arts & Crafts Guild's annual exhibition of handiworks, at the Mountaintop Gallery in Windham; and, in the upstairs gallery of the Arts Council headquarters (398 Main St), a fresh exhibition, aptly titled “People and Places,” of pictures by Betty Kratzenstein. OPENED yesterday afternoon, at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill: an exhibition of paintings by Jasper Cropsey (1823-1900), who was a pillar of Cole-led Hudson River School of landscape painting. Visitors packed the place. They were treated to a talk by the show's curator, Elizabeth Stevens, to sights of the latest additions of authentic furnishings for Cole's former home (thanks especially to philanthropic antiquarian Frank Racette), and to the warm, welcoming new look of Cole's Old Studio, as refurbished by volunteers Stephen Shadley and Hilary Hillman for use as a reception center and bookstore. Preceding this packed, happy event was a season-opening preview on Saturday for Members of the Site. And on Saturday night, Benefactors of Cedar Grove were treated, along with lenders of works for the Cropsey show, to a concert in which Vladimir Pleshakov played Mozart compositions on an authentic Mozartian piano (1788; 66 keys), followed by duets with wife Elena Winther on modern pianos, followed by a feast which was prepared by the rather amiable Board of Governors Chairperson, Lisa Fox Martin. OPENING, next Friday (May 12) from 6 pm. in Catskill: two exhibitions of paintings that, for lovers or art that celebrates this scenic corner of the world, must not be missed. One will be at The Brik (#473 on burgeoning Main Street); it is dubbed “In the Light: Contemporary Visions of the Hudson Valley” and will display works by select Hudson Valley artists. The other show will be at The M (350 Main); it is dubbed “American Landscape Painting: A Tribute to the Catskill Region,” and shows pastels made recently, in a sustained fever of creativity, by our own Patrick Milbourn. Seeing Greene scribes were treated to a preview of some of the new pictures; Excellent is too cool a superlative.By the way, proceeds from the two exhibitions will be shared with The Olana Partnership and with The Thomas Cole National Historic Site.We mention this compound event now, rather than on Friday or thereabouts, because:

HIATUS. The Seeing Greene gang is (are?) taking a break. Expect no postings for the next few weeks.

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