Friday, November 30, 2007

Real News & Fake News

CLOSED, abruptly last Friday, without warning: The Fitness Zone, in Great American Plaza, Cairo. Vanished proprietor Josh Kelder leaves behind a 3600-square-foot space crammed with exercise equipment, overdue rental payments to Ellsworth Slater, unpaid wages, and scores of members who bought 12-month subscriptions. Some of the locked-out members have already found their way to the Summit Hill Athletic Club in Catskill.

CLOSING today: Beginner’s Mind gallery on Main Street, Catskill.

ALMOST OPEN: Play of Light, a new Catskill gallery featuring holographic (laser light-scattering) marvels devised by Rudie Berkhout. The gallery, at 460 Main Street, also will serve as headquarters for Novia Lighting Innovation, a new laser light-promoting company launched by Mr Berkhout along with his long-time collaborator, Hudson Talbott, and Catskill Village President Vincent Seeley.

TOUTED, in a “Perfect Weekend: The Catskills” piece in the current issue of Newsweek: the Bowerbird shop in Catskill. “If shopping is your idea of a perfect day,” well, here is “a hip housewares store in Catskill that sells vintage as well as modern goods.”

OPEN, as of last Friday, next door to Pomadoro’s restaurant in Catskill Commons: a branch of The Shoe Dept., which is part of the 1078-outlet Shoe Show chain that was started in 1960 in Kannapolis NC. The local manager told Seeing Greene that all information about the store must come from company headquarters—including her name. According to its web site, the company is “active in a number of charitable causes including Cooperative Christian Ministries, Bible Teaching Associations, Salvation Army, Gardner-Webb University, and Association of Retarded Citizens.”

41=percentage increase in tickets sold to visitors to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill this year as compared with 2006 (which was a spectacular year as compared with 2005). So reports Executive Director (and new mother) Elizabeth Jacks.

RESURRECTION? “Fallen war veteran receives medals 62 years after death” says a Daily Mail headline (11/10/07), challenging conventional notions about what people can do or have done to them after they have died.

SOLIDARITY? Greg Seeley, newly elected to the office of Greene County Sheriff, “will begin his four year term January 1 and join District Attorney Terry Wilhelm in what some are calling a ‘law enforcement dream team’.” That’s the word from Daily Mail reporter Andrea Macko (11/7/07), who neglects to name one person, let alone several of the “some,” who voiced that opinion.

PURPOSEFUL PAPER? “The goal” of a certain bill that is up for consideration by State legislators, says a local journalist, “is to deliver a higher quality of public defense services and increase the efficiency of legally-required representation.” That bit of putative reportage invites us to believe (i) that legislative bills--pieces of paper—have goals, and that (ii) those goals are objectively accessible to journalists.


Tonight at 7:30, and Saturday (7:30) and Sunday (3pm.): “On Golden Pond” performed by Classics@thePoint troupe (Chase Crosby, Mike Steese, Lora Lee Ecobelli, David Fanning, Eileen Roehm, Dan Kirby) directed by Joseph Capone, at Columbia-Greene Community College theater. 828-4181.

Saturday (12/1):

*Catskill Garden Club’s holiday sale, from 9am at Beattie-Powers House in Catskill.

*Harvest and Holiday Forest Farmers Market, from 10am at Agroforestry Resources Center in Acra. Edible forest items (honey, ginseng, maple sap), local farm produce, locally crafted gift items, decoration materials.

*Holiday Fair at Catskill Elementary School, from 11am. Crafts, gifts, refreshments, raffles.

*Coxsackie’s Christmas by the river, at the Gazebo, from 6:30pm. Santa, caroling, gifts for tikes, refreshments. ….

*Hudson’s Winter Walk, on Warren Street, from 5pm. where (says Ellen Thurston) “dancing snowmen and walking grandfather clocks meet Victorian carolers and horse-drawn carriages.”

Friday, November 23, 2007

Post-Turkey Trot

DEPARTING, on Jan. 25th , after 17 years as Administrator of Greene County: Douglas Brewer. This will NOT, we understand, distress Legislative Chairman Wayne Speenburgh.

DEPARTED from St Luke’s Episcopal Church in Catskill, to a parish in Frisco TX, after a residence here of some 30 months as successor to Michael Gorchov: priest Diana Freeman. While searching for a new priest, the 115 St Luke’s parishioners will depend on part-timers dispatched, when available, from the Albany diocese.

STONEWALLING. At that infamous October 24th meeting of the Board of the Catskill Central School District, be it remembered (Seeing Greene, 10/19 and 10/24) President James Garafalo refused to allow any discussion of Superintendent Kathleen Farrell’s notorious “Please kill” e-mail message. At their October 17th meeting, he said, the Trustees had reviewed “all relevant facts,” had “resolved” the matter, and had expressed “confidence” in the superintendent. “That’s all the Board has to say,” said he; and the other Trustees mutely concurred--whereupon the 100 teachers, ex-teachers and friends who had come to the meeting expecting that the teachers’ union leader would at least be allowed to deliver a statement on the subject, walked out.

At that time, the minutes of the Board’s October 17th “Workshop” had not yet been posted. That gap has now been filled. And to the untrained eye, it is difficult to appreciate that the Board did indeed review the subject. Five “Personnel” matters were processed, but the Superintendent’s name was not among them. (Mr Garafalo had told a Daily Freeman reporter that he could not discuss how the Board handled the “Please Kill” episode because it was “a personnel matter”). The only possible sign of attention to the “Please kill” controversy is a note in the minutes reporting that from 8:30pm to 10:07pm, the Trustees went into Executive Session “for the purpose of discussing the employment history of a particular individual.” The Trustees did not use those 97 minutes, however, to make a thorough review of the “Please kill” episode. They did not talk to the teachers who were the immediate targets of the call, or to the leader of the teachers’ association, or to accidental recipients of the message.

Prior to the executive session, incidentally, Superintendent Farrell “thanked the Board for their commitment to the district and presented certificates of appreciation to the board members. There was a brief break,” according to the minutes, “to celebrate Board Appreciation Week with the board.”

MENDING, from triple bypass operation, with expectation of being back on the bench come mid-January: County Judge Daniel Lalor.

FORMING, from the ranks of talented local amateurs: a Catskill Community Orchestra. In the words of organizer David E. Woodin, ”talented amateurs, aspiring professionals, retired musicians, etc.” are invited to come forward and join the new ensemble, which will meet, starting in January, “probably on Friday evenings, in the rear of the First Reformed Church in Catskill.” “All you need is your instrument, your own music stand, and your interest.” Inquiries: or 622 0298.

INVESTIGATING for the GreeneLand Public Defender’s office, following retirement as a sergeant in the State prisons’ correction service: Morris Darling of Catskill (who served for many years as President of the School Board). According to Chief Public Defender Dominic J. Cornelius, thanks to his know-how about prison life and about firearms, Mr Darling has brought about plea bargains where prolonged court trials could have occurred, thereby saving the taxpayers a bundle.

PROPRIETY QUESTION: Is it okay for a Town Justice to serve as his or her own court clerk? Tanja Sirago, having been elected as Town Justice in Cairo, after being appointed for the brief remainder of Michael Flynn’s term, and having previously been the clerk, has announced an intention to handle both jobs.

“CLIMBING THE HILL” = title of cover story in the Nov.-Dec. Dartmouth Alumni Magazine about that college’s first female member of the U.S. House of Representatives: Kirsten Gillibrand (class of 1988), of our 20th Congressional District. Ms Gillibrand “scored a major upset” last November, says author Dirk Olin, “out-punching a powerful Republican incumbent in one of the nastiest congressional street fights” of 2006. However, “reelection may be even harder.” Given the party registration figures (80,000 more Republicans than Democrats) and the fact that the Republican challenger (probably “Sandy” Treadwell) will not carry the taint of the previous incumbent, John Sweeney, that forecast seems plausible. But Seeing Greene’s analysts predict that Ms Gillibrand will be re-elected by at least as big a margin (53%) as she gained last November. That will happen because (1) 2008 will be a banner year for Democrats in general; (2) Ms Gillibrand’s win in November 2006 coincided with enough wins for other Democrats to give their party control of the House of Representatives—a big asset when it comes to doing favors on constituents; (3) even though Republicans far and wide will support Gillibrand’s challenger with generous donations, Ms Gillibrand won’t be out-spent; (4) having been appointed to the Agriculture and Armed Forces committees of the House, Ms Gillibrand has been a position to make lots of friends among farmers and veterans, who normally lean Republican; (5) Rep. Gillibrand has done an exemplary job of making herself visible and accessible to constituents.


Tonight (Friday, 11/23): Parade of Lights down Main Street, Catskill, to tree-lighting ceremony at county courthouse. Organized by ladies’ auxiliary, Catskill Fire Company, it starts from Water Street at about 5:30pm. 943-9770.

Saturday. Concert by the Catskill Mountain Chamber Orchestra, at the Doctorow Center for the Arts in Hunter. New “Doctorow Center fanfare” composed by conductor Robert Manno, followed by works of Rachmaninoff, Boyce, Shostakovich, Mozart, Chopin. (263-2063)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Housing Glut Ahead?


These past months have generated an all-time record in number of property developments proposed for GreeneLand. These are in addition to the rapid pace of permits and constructions at Sleepy Hollow Lake and the renovation projects that are well under way. If everything that has been proposed actually goes ahead, then:

*Greenville will acquire “Golden Greens,” wherein 150 condominium units occupy a 140-acre Plank Road site, along with a new golf course, pool, tennis courts and clubhouse.

*Cairo will acquire the $50 million project “Alden Terrace,” with 140 town houses and a shopping mall disposed around a 30-acre parcel between Routes 32 and 23B.

*Tannersville will accommodate not only “Hemlock Knob,” a small housing development for seniors, sponsored by Catskill Mountain Housing Development Corporation, but also a new subdivision of 100 half-acre lots bordering on Rip Van Winkle Lake.

*Coxsackie is setting GreeneLand’s fastest pace in the way of property development—commercial, industrial and residential. In prospect as future home residences are “Hamlet on Hudson,” Mark Salomon’s proposal to put more than 500 townhouse units in small scattered around a new golf course and other amenities on a 587-acre site along Farm to Market Road, some of it with Hudson River frontage. Also in prospect—but subject to some fierce local opposition—is “Mountain View Estates,” where 280 modular homes for seniors, along with a central recreation complex, would be spread around 108 landscaped acres.

*In Catskill, ongoing transformations of the former Washington Irving Elementary School and the former Orens Warehouse will yield around 30 gracious apartments. In addition, three large residential developments are much in prospect. They include a condominium development for seniors, off West Main Street south of West Bridge; Cloverdale Estates, a 224-unit townhouse development on 100 acres fronting on Cauterskill Road; and Artists Ledge, another condomium development, hugging Catskill Creek and filling space presently occupied by Tatiana’s Restaurant.

Where will the tenants and the buyers come from? The residential property market here, as elsewhere, is already fllat.



RECOUNT of ballots in Catskill Town election yielded no change in outcomes but interesting details. Pat Walsh still led the field comfortably, but evidently had been given an accidental bonus of about 100 votes. His new total was 1231. Newcomer Michael Smith remained ahead of incumbent councilman Joe Leggio, with 1009 to 983 (vs. 992-973 in the original count). Bo Berzal still came in fourth with 829 votes. Mr Smith’s votes on the Democratic Party line (878) fell short of Mr Leggio’s votes on the Republican line (881), but Mr Smith picked up 131 votes as Independence Party nominee while Mr Leggio collected only 102 on the Conservative line. During most of yesterday’s recounting in the Elections Commission office in the County building, Mr Smith trailed Mr Leggio. But then Mr Smith scored big, percentage-wise, in his home district of Kiskatom, and again scored big in Mr Leggio’s backyard, Palenville.

Anyhow, we anticipate that the newly composed Town Council, led by Supervisor Peter Markou, who was elected without opposition to succeed the retiring Joe Izzo, portends a new era of good feeling between Town and Village leaders.

Messrs Leggio and Berzal, incidentally, were the Daily Mail-endorsed candidates.

COULD PEACE break out in Cairo? That would be a momentous change, and it just might come in the wake of the new election returns. Town Supervisor Joseph Calcavecchia and Town Councilman Gerard Aprea went down to defeat, at the hands of John Coyne and Janet Schwarzenneger. (Aprea came in fourth in a field of four, a very unusual thing for an incumbent). Those two men were the principal accusers of Town Clerk Tara Rumph, who won re-election by a comfortable margin. They also made a practice of riding roughshod over Council colleague Alice Tunison.


SATURDAY STUDIOS. Catskill’s Main Street galleries beckon today from mid-afternoon. At the Arts Council headquarters, visitors will be treated to a tribute to the life and art of the late Barry Hopkins as well as a big array of artisan items styled for the holiday market. At Terenchin Fine Arts, “Critical Mass” (not “Members Only” or “Only Members,” as suggested by local smartalecs) is the name of the new exhibition of works by Hudson artist (and gallery owner) Frank Faulkner. At Beginners Mind, photographic art by Susan Wides and by proprietor Lee Ann Morgan are on display, along with holiday jewelry choices. At BRIK, the subject is “Who Needs a Road?” At M Gallery, under the heading “Interpreting Paradise,” works by Debarry, Dill, Ferrara and Milbourn will be on show, ornamenting a Closing party from 6pm. (By identifying the artists only by last name, we bully the reader into believing that (s)he ought to know the full names of these famous people. Right?).

CHILLY WILLY TOURS of the historic Bronck estate in Coxsackie will be conducted today and Sunday, at 11am, 1pm and again at 3pm, by members of the Greene County Historical Society, with Dutch and Swedish refreshments served.

COMEDY SHOW. A new venture at Anthony’s Restaurant, tonight from 8pm.


SO WHY did young Steven Riley Jr change his name to Scooter? How did the local journalist come to write of a “descending plummet”? or of “homes…intended to be ascetically pleasing”? or of an event in which a “war veteran” received medals “62 years after death”? Don’t ask.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Showing GreeneLand

What’s distinctive about GreeneLand? A documentary film-maker, Jonathan Donald, addressed that question in connection with planning a television mini-series. As reported last September in Seeing Greene, Mr Donald ( ) plans to tap “notable speakers; heirs of the earliest families; live action photography of popular entertainments; old photographs; period drawings and engravings; and famous paintings” in depicting “the unique history of Greene County and events that shaped the commercial and artistic history of the early nation.” For this project Mr Donald compiled an inventory of distinctions. With his permission we have adapted that outline to shape an overview of the GreeneLand’s historical significance.

►Active agent in Hudson River history and witness to its great events, including passage of the Half Moon and its fateful encounter with Indians followed by centuries of river trade and a 150-year-long parade of day and night liners bearing tourists to Catskill Point and the mountains beyond.

►Archaeology, pre-dating by 10,000 years the arrival of Henry Hudson.

Principal source of flint for spear points used by Paleo-Indians in Eastern North America to hunt mastodons and other giant prehistoric animals.

►Literary setting for James Fenimore Cooper stories of the fabled Mohican tribe and for Rip Van Winkle and other stories by Washington Irving, America’s first great writer in the Romantic tradition.

►One of few areas to be granted a patent (the Bronck patent, 1662)), after settlement of Fort Orange and New Amsterdam. Some Dutch pioneered in the area without benefit of a patent by 1649 and, even earlier, agents of the powerful Rensselaerwyck patroonship attempted to settle Catskill illegally.

►Bronck House (Coxsackie, 1663) is oldest New York State house still standing.

►Catskill, as county seat and river port, became New York’s most important commercial center outside Albany and New York City when, by1810, the Susquehanna Turnpike became the first east-west road connecting its mills and shipping, with the Susquehanna River and wheat-producing regions of central New York. Continuing across the Hudson to Connecticut, the turnpike also sent wheat to New England’s interior.

►Art Mecca. Center of America’s first native school of art. Thomas Cole, founder in the 1830s of the Hudson River School of landscape painting, lived and worked here and was patronized by Lumen Reed, patriarch of a Coxsackie family of merchants.

►Tourist Mecca. With construction of the enormous, architecturally fine Catskill Mountain House, GreeneLand became, in the first third of the 19th century, America’s first tourist destination. Other big hotels (the Kaaterskill, Laurel House) arose later, accommodating European royalty, presidents, artists, merchant princes, and lesser escapees from the lowland summer’s heat and humidity. River boats, coaches, steam trains and an ingenious cog railway provided access to the heights. Elsewhere in the county, smaller hotels and boarding houses flourished until World War II.

►Commerce and industry. Exemplifying the vaunted American “can do” spirit, GreeneLanders plunged into logging, grain mills, paper mills, sawmills, the nation’s largest tannery, the country’s first malleable iron works, shipping and ship-building, commercial fishing, agricultural lime production, brick making, gas manufacturing…. The Winter ice industry on the Hudson was at one time rural New York State’s biggest money maker.

►Genealogy. Descendants of pioneering old families (Lampman, Houghtaling, VanSlyke, Van Loan, Rappelyea, O’Hara, Du Bois, Overbaugh….) make GreeneLand a time capsule of early America.

►Famous lawsuit. Aaron Burr helped Catskill resident Augustine Prevost in his dispute with William Cooper, who was represented by Alexander Hamilton. Their clash was one of several encounters that led to the fateful duel…

►Architecture. A great array of styles: Dutch/Medieval, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Stick, Queene Anne, Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, Craftsman….

►Migration waves. African-American slaves became “half free” and their families multiplied during Dutch period, but free black population shrank under the English, who had fewer scruples about slavery. Influx of Connecticut Yankees after Revolutionary War; then of Irish with the building of Erie Canal, then, around 1910, of Italians, followed by Germans and more Irish. (Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural Centre named after former chief of New York City transit workers’ union).


To illuminate these matters Mr Donald aims to interview a Mohican who wilI describe the tribe’s storied ancestors and the world that was altered so dramatically by arrival of Henry Hudson and the Dutch. County Historian Ray Beecher will describe the great scope of the County’s attempt to trump the economic clout of the Erie Canal. Bob Hallock, president of the Greene County Historical Society, will tell us how the County came by its name (for one of General George Washington’s best fighting generals, who may not have ever seen this part of New York). Charles Gehring of the NY State Library and an uthority on 17th century Dutch language, and author Russell Shorto (The Island at the Center of the World ) telling about the Danish Broncks and the early Dutch settlers in Coxsackie. Carrie Feder and Randy Evans, professional restoration architects, telling how the 1710 Van Loon house in Athens, through alterations made over nine generations, reveals the county’s changing history. John Bonafide of the New York State Historic Trust, an authority on New York State architecture, will show us the building styles that span two hundred years. Historian Ted Hilscher, on the county’s sturdy and beautiful Dutch and English barns. Betsy Jacks, director of The Thomas Cole National Historic Site, on the Hudson River School of Art and sites where Cole, Frederick Church, Asher Durand and others painted their great landscapes. David Barnes, docent of the New-York Historical Society, will recall the world in and around Catskill where America’s first novelists, along with poet William Cullen Bryant and painter Thomas Cole, gathered to exchange ideas. “Old Timers” like Cliff Baldwin who remember ice harvesting and ship building in New Baltimore, Athens and Catskill, and farms, tanneries, brick works, paper mills and saw mills in the interior towns of Greenville, Prattsville and the countryside. In this connection we will meet other historically connected people with long memories.