Friday, December 11, 2009

B's & C's

BANTAMWEIGHT now reigns over the historic Cus D’Amato Gym, and is—gulp—female. Sandra Lewis Smith, a Catskillian with much experience running New York City jails, aims to bring a resurgence of community support to Cus’s creation, along with programmatic variety and attractions for out of towners. (Not specifically anticipated is retraining program for punch-drunk journalists, such as the one who depicts Mike Tyson as “the boxing world’s most explosive ad fascinating figure,” who deems it possible to “surge toward new horizons” and to “implement innovative concepts as [a place] moves forward,” and who imputes to somebody “looking to expand the therapeutic applications to various demographics” as well as aspirations to “bolster the presentation and vibrance of this local iconic living museum.” Perhaps that scribbler belongs to the cohort he has identified as the “underslept” people.) B & B. The big Catskill house on the big lot at 174 Spring Street, associated in local memories with the Post family, will become a Bed & Breakfast, with four of its 18 rooms adapted for that purpose. Members of the Village’s Zoning Appeals Board, after collecting expressions of opinion from neighbors and from people who attended a public hearing Wednesday night in the Senior Center, voted last night to grant the variance that was required to authorize mixed (commercial and residential) use of the property. It was an easy decision, since all the expressed opinions were supportive. -----The Appeals Board’s action cleared the way for sale of the historic house by Gabrielle Brown and John Lippert, through real estate agent David Ludwig, to the intending hosts: Gilbert and Mary Ann Bagnell. The Bagnells plan to take up residence soon after moving up from Lexington, South Carolina. Ms Bagnell is a retired teacher, Mr Bagnell is a lawyer and sometime restaurateur, and both of them originally came from the northeast. BOOK NOTES II. Our overview last week of GreeneLand-related books was incomplete. We failed to include Wide Awake Men, Ted Hilscher’s brief and illuminating history, from its founding as a building and loan association in January of 1889, of the Bank pf Greene County. Copies are available, free, at BOGC branches. CHIEF. The Village of Catskill could be getting a new police chief in 2010. That could happen even though the Village Trustees would like to keep the present chief, Dave Darling, and he would like to stay on, and no other candidate is in sight. The problem, as reported in The Daily Mail by Susan Campriello (12/4/09), has to do with Chief Darling’s eligibility to remain in office while also retaining the retirement benefits he accumulated in the course of a career as a State policeman. Eligibility hinges on the granting by the State’s civil service commission of a waiver. The commission did grant the required waiver for a two-year stretch when Chief Darling was hired in 2005. It renewed the waiver for 2007-09. This time, however, it has only agreed to grant a six-month extension, terminating in June. Chief Darling’s draws a Village salary of $69,000 per year, to which benefits amounting to about $14,000 are not added. CLOSED, without even waiting until after Christmas: the Hallmark Cards shop in the Catskill strip mall called Grandview Plaza. CORRECTION. Last week’s item under the heading “Launched” suggested that the recording of Town Council proceedings, and placement of the recordings on the internet, began on December 1. Not so. It was new only for Durham. Community radio station WGXC has been doing this work for many months in many GreeneLand towns, and the results are accessible on When the station goes live next year on FM 90.7, we will be able to audit the proceedings as they happen. (BTW: some WGXC personnel are leading members of a society that is devoted to a little known cause: Acoustic Ecology. See COMING TOMORROW. GreeneLanders are offered an embarrassment of riches, which we will not attempt to enumerate here. Especially rich with attractions are Athens and Catskill. Best sources of information: ; ; ;

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Soft Greene Powder

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 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 ( 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

Greene Ink

STELLAR accomplishment” of “monumental” proportions. That’s how reviewer Esther Blodgett, in November’s Catskill Mountain Region Guide, characterizes a new GreeneLand book: Historic Places in Greene County, a richly illustrated, anecdote-seasoned product of five years of effort by members of the Greene County Historical Society. Publication (by Flint Mine Press) of this “historical banquet” will be celebrated tomorrow (12/5) from 2pm at the Historical Society’s Vedder Research Library in Coxsackie. MEMOIRS of living in GreeneLand have been produced, more or less lately, by local authors. The newest, A Path of Pebbles. My Road to Life in America, comes from Waltraud Maassmann, matriarch of Blackhead Mountain Lodge. It traces her experiences from a childhood in Germany during World War II to GreeneLand and a family-run golf resort. -----Earlier this year, Roy Davis produced Crest Park. A Catskill Moutain Memoir. The title refers to a boarding house that opened back in 1899 on South Street, Windham, and subsequently was operated by members of the author’s large, warm family. The author dwells particularly on growing up in the 1950’s and 1960s, with card parties and lemonade on the porch, maple syruping, sledding…. -----Also noteworthy in the way of GreeneLand memoirs is A Tongue in the Sink. The Harrowing Adventures of a Baby Boomer Childhood (Osprey FL: Eiffel Press, 2004), by former Catskillian Dennis Fried. Locals of a certain age will appreciate his references to Washington Irving Elementary School, all-black Willard’s Alley, hand-setting pins at the bowling alley, Dad’s dental practice, Grandpa Jake’s drug store, Uncle Dick and Aunt Sybil, the Prest family, 15-cent matinees at the Comuunity Theatre, Ms Van Vechten’s snack bar on Slippery Rock creek, the former public swimming pool, soap box derbies, cap guns…. Doctor Fried (he aggressively sports his advanced degree) also envisions a “Land of Rip-Off Winkle.” After driving west across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge can immediately fill his gas tank “at the Rip Van Winkle Service Station, have lunch at the Rip Van Winkle Diner, wash…clothes at the Rip Van Winkle Laundromat, dine at the Rip Van Winkle Tavern, then bowl a few games at the Rip Van Winkle Lanes,” then sleep at the Rip Van Winkle Motel. That bit of hyperbole may work in a standup routine. It is almost as false as Doctor Fried’s recollection that Catskill abounds with Italian-Americans (true) who are named Louis (false). Louis is a French name. WATCHING GIDEON (Simon & Schuster 2009) is a GreeneLand book not on account of its setting but on account of its author: Stephen H. Foreman of Windham. It is Mr Foreman’s second novel (following Toehold) and stands along a considerable body of work as script writer and director. Reviewer Blodgett (Catskill...Guide, 11/09) hails Watching Gideon as “a masterpiece in character study,” “a poignant, moving portrait” of father-son bonding, “a snapshot of America’s rugged, gritty history, ad a fast-paced story of lust, green [sic] and self-satisfaction,” “a jewel of a novel.” THE SHACKLETON LETTERS, similarly, ia a GreeneLand book not on account of its setting—the Antarctic Circle, mostly—but on account of its compiler: Regina Daly of Catskill. Published by the Erskine Press of Great Britain, abundantly illustrated, and sub-titled Behind the Scenes of the Nimrod Expedition, it’s all about the 1907 expedition to the Antarctic led by Ernest Shackleton during the heroic age of that activity. Ms Daly will talk about the book, and the story at the Union Mills Gallery (Catskill) next Sunday (December 12th). GLUE is the prospective title of a prospective book by another GreeneLander (via England and New York): Douglas Atkin. This work-in-progress would be a kind of sequel to The Culting of Brands. Turn Your Customers Into True Believers (Penguin Portfolio, 2004). The latter title reads like an advertisement for work as an ad campaign manager, and indeed it does offer advice on how some branded products (Harleys; BMWs; Apples; Dungeons & Dragons) win loyalties that operate to bring people together. The subject matter of Culting, however, is broader than that, with references drawn abundantly from social psychology. The Glue project, says Mr Atkin, will offer guidance, drawn from interviews as well as from published studies, on methods of nourishing within communities a sense of, well, community. (Devising names such as 'GreeneLand'?).