Friday, December 11, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
OPENED for business on Monday, after lavish ribbon-cutting ceremonies on Saturday: GreeneLand’s new Urgent Medical Care facility off Grandview Avenue (near Walgreen’s) in Catskill. Initial activity, says Dr Robert Schneider, was “busier than we expected,” with more than 30 prospective patients coming in—no appointment necessary—from as far away as Greenport. Dr Schneider heads a crew of 15, including two physicians, three physician’s assistants, four x-ray technicians, a nurse practitioner plus administrative and clerical people who will be staffing the facility seven days a week, 12 hours per day. (943-9100.The web site www.catskillurgentmedicalcare.com is still in the making).
The time gap between proposing to build the new facility and opening the doors of Urgent Medical Care proved to be exceptionally short. And for that, said Dr Schneider to a Seeing Greene interviewer/patient, much credit goes to the “amazing,” “incredible” support provided by public officials: county legislators, Village trustees, Planning Board members, the Public Works Department, the police department….
------Opening of Urgent Medical Care comes on the heels of special public recognition given to the established GreeneLand model: EmUrgentCare, operated by Stephen and Pamela Hassett in Coxsackie (www.emurgentcare.com). The proclamation of esteem from the Coxsackie Town Council was augmented, moreover, by a Daily Mail editorial (12/1) hailing the Hassetts as “role models” for their community.
RAY REMEMBERED. “Many preservation success stories have at their core a champion: some one who sees past the immediate impossibilities, envisions a site as a viable historic resource preserved for the future, and marshals the forces to bring the idea to fruition.” Such a champion, says Winthrop Aldrich of New York State’s Historic Preservation sub-division, was GreeneLand’s Raymond Beecher (1917-2008). The preservation championed by Mr Beecher is the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill. Back in 1998, Mr Beecher gave $100,0000 to facilitate the Greene County Historical Society’s purchase of Cedar Grove, the ruined home of the founder, in the 1840’s, of America’s Hudson River School of art. After instigating a rescue effort, Mr Beecher “watched over the restoration, and was a tireless advocate and fund raiser.” Thanks to his efforts and those of other backers, the house and grounds were reopened for tours in 2001. To this cause Mr Beecher contributed “significant personal funds” along with a million-dollar bequest—the Raymond and Catherine Beecher Memorial Fund—for the site’s maintenance. In the last 20 years of his life, moreover, Mr Beecher also “wrote a weekly newspaper column, initiated the establishment of the Greene County Historical Register, was active with the Vedder Research Library, served as a municipal historian, wrote several books, and helped lead the Greene County Historical Society.”
These activities yielded “rewards and honors” that were “almost as extensive” Mr Beecher’s “record of public service.” And “one of the best” of those rewards, although posthumous, was the transfer of responsibility for the Cole property from the Greene County Historical Society” to an independent governing board.
“From doomed ruin to a restored site, vibrant with tours and educational programs, the future of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site promises to be all that Raymond Beecher could have wished.”
Those words of tribute were delivered yesterday (12/8) in Cohoes, in a restored music hall (bullt in 1874), at a ceremony sponsored by the State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for the purpose, Mr Aldrich said, of “recognizing exemplary preservation partnerships and achievements,” “expressing gratitude on behalf of all New Yorkers,” fostering appreciation of historic preservation as “an important tool of economic development,” and inspiring people “to safeguard the State’s heritage.” Of the various rewards dispensed on this occasion by Carol Ash, commissioner of the State’s department of parks, recreation and historic preservation, Ray Beecher was cited as the foremost individual contributor to the cause of historic preservation in New York.
BUST. That seems to be the story concerning the bankruptcy auction of GreeneLand’s biggest resort: the Friar Tuck. The supposed buyer, Joseph Abbo of Oklahoma City, seems to be inaccessible, and his business, lawn care, is hard to locate. We tried various telephone calls and inter-net sources, and Daily Mailman Colin DeVries pursued the matter more thoroughly. Rick Caridi, co-owner of the resort, evidently is contemplating a lawsuit against the auctioneer, Auction America of New York City, and against real estate broker Win Morrison, for damages allegedly arising from failures to heed established protocols at the Nov. 19th auction and from contributing to the false impression that the resort is closed. Judge Robert E. Littlefield Jr may be presiding over a bankruptcy court conference today (12/9) in Albany.
Meanwhile, the Tuck has indeed stayed open and continues to attract, so to speak, rave notices: “dirty, outdated and just CREEPY”; “dirty, empty and potentially dangerous”; “Oh, the Horror”; “flies driving me crazy”; “Twilight Zone”; “Worst place to stay ever”….
Still rivaling the Tuck in popular esteem is GreeneLand’s derisively named Quality Inn. According to recent guests who have shared their experiences with Trip Advisor readers, that hostel is “rundown,” “moldy,” dirty, bed bug-infested, an “eyesore,” akin to a “flophouse,” “needs HELPPPPPPPPP!”
JOBS. Rates of unemployment in GreeneLand and in nearby counties evidently are not getting worse. As reported by the State Department of Labor, the unemployment rate here in October was 8.3 per cent of the work force. That figure is fractionally smaller than in September. It also is higher than the figures reported for nearby communities and for the State as a whole: 6.8% in Albany County, 7.4% in Columbia County; 7.7% in Ulster County. It is a bit smaller (which is to say, better) than for the whole country (9.5%), for the State (8.7%) and for New York City (10.3%). In October of 2008, however, rates of unemployment in the U.S. at large, in New York State, and in various parts of the State ranged from 4.8% to 6.1%.
INDUCTED into the National Honor Society at a November 16th ceremony recognizing their scholarship (90+ average from first year on), as well as community service, leadership and character: 26 Greenville High School students, of whom 17 are girls.
--------That gender distribution seems to be representative of GreeneLand schools. Another example would be Hunter-Tannersville students named to first quarter Superintendent’s honor roll: 8 girls, 2 boys.
RESTORED, thanks to Town of Catskill efforts spurred by the late Coucilman Joe Hausik: The Little Red Schoolhouse in Jefferson Heights. As pointed out at the Novermber 21 dedication ceremony by Richard Philp, Catskill Town and Village historian, this was the third one-room schoolhouse built by Van Vechten family members, on Van Vechten land. Back in1882, its operation for the year—maintenance, firewood, supplies, teacher’s salary—cost $368. Many living GreeneLanders attended that school before 1948, when it was closed.
[This item was edited after posting, so as to eliminate an error kindly pointed out by former School Board member--for decades--Jack Guterman.]
LAUNCHED in Durham eight days ago (12/1): a project of recording, for prospective later broadcast (on streaming radio, at least) meetings of the Town Council. Even if the broadcasts would not attract many listeners, the records would be available as incipient transcripts of proceedings (unlike what is done by town clerks).
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
RETIRING from office at the end of this year: long-serving County Ttreasurer Willis Vermilyea and his long-serving deputy, Madelyn Brandow. The latter departure means that there will not be an obvious or ‘logical’ successor—a person who would be appointed by the legislators to complete Mr Vermilyea’s present term and then, perhaps, would stand for a full four-year term at the November 2, 2010, election.
-----Mr Vermilyea, 64, a trained accountant, was a county legislator (R-Coxsackie) before being elected in 1979 to the Treasurer’s office. He subsequently left public service briefly to be chief financial officer of the (now former) Greene County Memorial Hospital, then returned to the Treasurer’s office in 1994. In addition, he has been a County Industrial Development Agency board member for 20 years, some of them as chairman.
-----IIn a generally circulated statement, Mr Vermilyea voiced particular satisfaction over the facts that during his tenure the county’s unrestricted fund balance rose from less than $1 million to more than $8 million, that a “fully integrated accounting and budget system” was put in place, and that GreeneLand’s credit rating has risen from close to the bottom among New York counties to the top fourth (a change that “relates to thousands of dollar in savings on future interest payments”).
-----The Treasurer’s job pays $74,000 in yearly salary plus liberal health and retirement benefits.
FORCED OUT by a Stiefel Laboratories announcement of plant closings will be, barring a reversal, 260 employees of at Stiefel's Oak Hill plant, along with the same number in Sligo, Ireland, plus 100 in Singapore and another 60 in Coral Gables, Florida. Such is the news that was passed down Wednesday night from GlaxoSmithKline, the giant pharmaceuticals company that bought Stiefel last spring, and gave what some locals took to be assurances that the Oak Hill plant would remain in operation (especially in light of various tax concessions). The announced closings would be phased to completion in 2012 or 2013. No word yet on the fate of other Stiefel/GSK employees in Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and Pakistan, as well as elsewhere in the U.S.A.UNEARTHED by archaeologists working at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill (the estate known as Cedar Grove) last week: the original stone foundations of artist Thomas Cole’s “new studio,” which was opened back in 1846, was used by the artist until his death in 1848, then fell into disrepair until being demolished in 1973. The revealed foundations now are covered in plastic, to be shown on educational occasions and to await the accumulation of capital that is sufficient to fund the studio’s restoration (in period style on the outside, but with interior arrangements ensuring the health and safety of exhibits). POST-ELECTION NOTE. Heated as they were in some towns, the GreeneLand elections of last November 3 did not attract heavy participation. The turnout figure, according to the Board of Elections, was 9327. That's a lot less than the turnout of voters for the 2008 presidential-on-down elections: 17,259. It's also a bit less than the turnout for the local elections in 2007: 9791 voters.
OF CHURCH & STATE. Does the use of church premises as polling stations in civic elections mark a breach of the principle of separation of church and state? Rev. Victor Nelson of Cairo’s Resurrection Lutheran Church uses that question as point of departure (in a Daily Mail letter) for thoughtful reflections on related matters. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution, he reminds us, does not prescribe church-state “separation.” It prescribes, rather, that Congress shall neither make a law respecting the establishment of religion (making one denomination the official or preferred denomination), nor make a law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Within that framework, Reverend Nelson notes, “Cooperation and interaction” do take place, what with churches being obliged to get building and signage permits from local governments, public authorities renting church spaces for voting and other secular purposes, churches renting school auditoriums for worship services, Congress and the Supreme Court opening their sessions with prayers, chaplains serving in prisons and military units at public expense, and our national motto being is “In God We Trust.” The Constitution, says the cleric, prohibits the removal of God from every aspect of life and forbids our government to be religious. Both restraints, he affirms, are good things. (Not addressed by Reverend Nelson: implications of churches' exemptions from property taxes, with attendant issues of deciding what qualifies to be classed as a “church”).
MURPHY DISSENTS. U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy, who won his special Congressional election battle here last April, was one of 39 Democrats who voted AGAINST their House leaders’ big health care reform proposal, which passed on Saturday by a vote of 220 (all Democrats plus one Republican) to 215. In voting Nay, Mr Murphy broke with all but two of his fellow Democrats from New York State (including the newly installed Bill Owens, victor in last Tuesday’s special election in the far-north 23rd district). The other dissenters were freshmen Eric Massa (29th District, in north country) and Michael McMahon (13th District, in Staten Island and part of Brooklyn). Mr Muphy’s rationale, as conveyed in a public statement (accessible on his official web site, www.scottmurphy.house.gov , then click News Releases) dwells on “an unacceptably high price tag.” The bill
makes a number of important reforms, …including the elimination of the lifetime caps on insurance benefits and the pre-existing condition exclusion, invests in prevention and primary care, creates a health insurance exchange to force insurance companies to compete and offers a public option for people who want to get away from for-profit insurance companies.
----However, I have consistently said that any bill that Congress passes must curb costs and keep health care affordable in the long term. During these difficult economic times, an unacceptably high price tag will stress our already overstretched federal budget and place even more burdens on our hard working individuals, families and small businesses. We need to fix the system now, and not put off the hard choices for another generation. Furthermore, I am deeply frustrated by the last minute addition of over $50 billion in taxes on the two largest private employers in the 20th District – medical device manufacturers and paper mills.
----As a small businessman, I am also concerned that H.R. 3962 falls short of making health insurance affordable for the small businesses of the 20th District; it fails to reform the fundamentally flawed incentives in the system, which continue to drive costs upward; and it fails to restrain the monopolistic practices of private insurers, which allow them to continue to increase premiums already weighing on families and small businesses.
Most of Mr Murphy’s fellow Nay-voting Democrats represent “conservative” districts that had until recently been held by Republicans or that gave majorities to the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, in 2008. (For details, see The New York Times of Nov. 8). Also dissenting, however, was Rep. Dennis Kucinich. (For his rationale, see www.denniskucinich.house.gov and News Release for Nov. 7)-----Mr Murphy’s decision has triggered attacks from MoveOn.org, from The Huffington Post, and from Citizen Action of New York, whose organizers planned to hold a protest rally on Thursday (11/12) outside Mr Murphy’s Clifton Park field office. The published protests so far have not addressed the terms of Mr Murphy’s explanation. PROTESTS against the State Government's recently enacted License Plate Reissuance Act take the form, in GreeneLand among other places, of petitions imputing to it economic hardship, "waste of natural resources" and incompatibility with the cause of having "a green environment." The Act mandates that when renewing two-year motor vehicle registrations, owners must buy new blue and gold license plates ($25, vs. $15 previously) and, if they want to keep an old plate's number, they must pay an additional $20. Moreover, up-State leaders damn the Act's discriminatory effect, since there are many more cars and pickups, per head of population, north of subway- and taxicab-rich New York City.
WEEKEND SPECIALS. On Friday night comes the opening gala for the Fortnightly Club’s annual Festival of Trees (at Anthony’s in Leeds; 943-2044). The festival (decorated Christmas trees and wreaths; crafts; gifts…) is open to the public over the weekend. “Santa Clause [sic] will be there too!” says the advertisement. On Saturday morning, at the Oak Hill-Durham Firehouse, an all-you-can-eat breakfast will be served in conjunction with a vintage snowmobile show and swap event (966-8628). On Saturday and Sunday, the Greene County Historical Society presents (at 11am, 1pm, 3pm) Chilly Willy Winter’s Eve tours of the Bronck Museum site (dwellings dating from 1663 and 1738 in Coxsackie), spiced with ancient legends and period Dutch refreshments; www.greenehistory.org. On Saturday night in Hunter, at the Catskill Mountain Foundation’s Doctorow Center, the Lyric Piano Quartet plays chamber music (www.catskillmtn.com ) while in Catskill, at the Community Center, the Soup To Nuts troupe gives the opening performance of “Olive Cheritree,” a play about an Oak Hill-based landscape artist of the 19th century, and at the top of Main Street, in the BRIK gallery, from 7pm, lots of talent will be on show in support of our embryonic community radio station, WGXC.
ADVERTISED by a GreeneLand firm, on a Route 9W billboard: “Our gift certificates are gift wraped!” Not forcibly wraped, then.