Friday, April 30, 2010

Missing Greene

MET MISTAKE. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, a painting in the American Wing is accompanied by a card declaring that the artist, Lily Martin Spencer, is “the only American woman painter of note in the antebellum [=pre-1860] period.” That misinformation was exposed definitively last weekend (5/1-5/2/10) by way of a special exhibition of paintings at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill. Under the title “Remember the Ladies: Women of the Hudson River School,” landscapes by Harriet Cany Peale, Susie Barstow, Mary Blood Mellen, Julie Hart Beers, and seven other 19th century female landscape artists went on show. And on Sunday, the lives and times and techniques of those female artists—who climbed up mountain sides in corsets, high-heeled shoes and thick petticoats to capture scenic grandeur--were reviewed by the curators: Nancy Siegel, associate professor of art history at Towson University, and Jennifer Krieger, managing partner of Hawthorne Fine Art of New York City. A note about the show appears in the April 27 issue of Vogue, along with this picture of a Barstow landscape:

For much more on the story, with eight fine illustrations, see Ms Krieger’s article in the Spring 2010 issue of Antiques and Fine Art (or go on line to

MOD MISS. Rumors that the MOD Gourmet CafĂ© in Catskill is about to close are false. Proprietors Mary DiStefano and Dana Wegener assure us that they expect to be there at least until their lease expires in a year. They have terminated breakfast service, however, and they won’t be running an ice cream parlor next door, as they did last summer. Meanwhile, they also will be running the kitchen at dinner time at Stewart House in Athens when that hostelry reopens in a fortnight or so, under new manager Reggie Young, perhaps under the new-old name Athens Hotel.

MISSING MALES. At Coxsackie-Athens High School, in the third academic quarter, 39 seniors achieved High Honors. Among those students of distinction, 14 are boys. At Hunter-Tannersville High School, of the 13 seniors who scored top honors in the latest quarter, two are boys.

MISFEASANCE. The governing trustees of Blueville are thinking about whether to change a yearly community event. They are thinking, specifically, about changing the event’s locality. To that end, they wonder about likely results and about what kinds of results count as benefits and costs. They reason that the relocation would be desirable if it is widely advocated by residents (and opposed by few), if it would reduce the event’s cost, if it would achieve a gain in public safety, if it would increase the event’s attendance and visibility, if it would enable the event to be a better spectacle, and/or if it would increase local trade. After gathering relevant evidence, Blueville’s trustees conclude that most of those beneficial results probably would come to pass. They rule in favor of the change in locality.

-------That fictive model of decision-making marks a radical contrast with recent proceedings by the governors of Catskill Village. At their April 26 meeting, the Trustees took up the question—posed weeks earlier, and discussed on various occasions thereafter—of whether to move the launching site of the traditional Independence Day fireworks show. Under consideration was the idea of moving the site from the St Joseph Friary, an eastern hilltop that has been utilized for some twenty years, to a spot that is closer to downtown Catskill.

-------Prior to that meeting, the Trustees had been invited by Seeing Greene to sketch the arguments favoring the change in location. They did not accept the invitation.

------- At the meeting, Village President Vincent Seeley initiated discussion of the subject by saying (disingenuously) that the idea of shifting the fireworks launch site had begun with concern for “public safety” and for promoting “downtown awareness.” He then invited spectators in the firehouse to address the subject—and “to keep it factual.”

------- The four spectators who responded did not endorse or oppose the contemplated switch. Neither did the three public officials who responded.

Mr Seeley then invited his fellow Trustees to address the matter. Not one of them explicitly endorsed or opposed the switch policy. Trustee Joseph Kozloski did say, however, that the contemplated move would put the launch site in “the middle of the Village,” closer to “the ones who paid for it,” and could be “worth a try.” Trustee Patrick McCulloch echoed the “worth a try” sentiment, but abstained, as did Mr Kosloski, from saying why. Trustee Brian Kehoe said “the safety concern weighs heavily with me.” (He was alluding to a potential traffic control problem arising from heavy traffic of motorists driving down Main Street to Dutchman’s Landing in order to watch the fireworks while picnicking along the Hudson River, and then trying to leave all at once). Mr Seeley then turned the meeting to other business.

After that business had been well under discussion, a spectator (this correspondent) ventured to ask whether the Board had made a decision on the fireworks launch site. Mr Seeley acted surprised—as if the answer was evident from the trustees’ remarks. The Trustees then proceeded to resolve formally that the July 4, 2010, fireworks shall be launched from a “downtown” site, “yet to be determined.”

-------That resolution did not stem from anything remotely resembling a systematic or comprehensive cost-benefit analysis. The Trustees acted without affirming, much less determining, that the change of launch sites would be popular, would be economical, would produce a net gain of public safety, would enable the fireworks to be more spectacular, would make the viewing population bigger, or would produce an increase in local business.

------- The Trustees also acted in the face of evidence that none of those results is likely eventuate. They knew, or were in a position to know, that:

*The proposed change of launch sites had elicited strongly-voiced opposition from some quarters and passivity from elsewhere.

*By keeping the launch site in the traditional place, they would have been able to achieve a cost saving over last year’s price.

*By putting the launch site in a near-downtown site, they would increase the risk of fire and the cost of liability insurance.

*Because of that safety risk, the fireworks show would of necessity be less spectacular (based on smaller “shells”).

*Relocating the launch site would reduce the fireworks’ range of visibility. The Friary site is the highest spot in Catskill. Using a more central, downtown launch site would not make the show more visible to more homes. It would make the show invisible to Catskillians who live on the eastern slope of the Village, to boaters who in the past have clustered on the Hudson in order to see the show, and to people who in past years have gathered, by the thousands, to watch the show from Dutchman’s Landing.

*The relocated launch site is quite unlikely to bring trade to downtown shops and restaurants. The fireworks will be launched after 9pm on a Sunday night, when most businesses normally are closed. Meanwhile, local residents will be able to see the show, as before, from home.

In deciding to use a downtown launch site for the fireworks, the trustees acted directly against advice, tendered unanimously, from the directors of the local Chamber of Commerce. (This could account for the inaccuracy, at the April 26 meeting, of Mr Seeley’s version of what considerations originally dominated talk about changing the web site. Instead of depicting trade-promotion as well as safety as early tentative arguments in favor of the switch, he substituted the phrase “downtown awareness”).

-------In short, the Trustees of Catskill Village almost made a controversial decision by stealth. And they made a decision without making a case.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Greene Cat Food

CATSKILL’S CATS will be featured on a future episode of the cable network show “Animal Planet.” Linda Overbaugh, director of the Heart of Catskill Association and organizer during the past three summers of that village’s wondrous fiberglass felines, has been contacted by the show’s producer with a view to an on-location shoot, perhaps in July in conjunction with the artists’ picnic at Dutchman’s Landing. See especially “Cats 101.”

VOLUNTEERS WANTED. Cornell Cooperative Extension, the source agricultural expertise here, invites prospective volunteers to front up. Recruits can take part in the 4-H (youth farming) program, can be assistants in educational programs, in greenhouse maintenance, and on trail maintenance, and can be prospective members of the governing board. Center of operations is the Agroforestry Resource Centrer on Route 23 in Acra. 518 622 9820 x21.

SCHOOL BUDGETS in GreeneLand have occasioned more stress than usual this year. The various governing boards have been compelled to make cuts in expenditures—in programs, in staffing—to offset reductions in State aid and in the expectations that voters will not tolerate more than minor increases in local school taxes. The situation has produced extraordinary turnout at school board meetings, extraordinary clashes among board members, and growth in numbers of candidates for school board seats. In the Catskill school district, Wednesday night’s meeting was marked by huge public attendance, by extraordinary length, by a long, grueling retreat into executive session, and by postponement of the trustees’ decision on what plan of expenditures shall be presented to the voters at the May 18th election. On Thursday night, the trustees took up the task again, punctuated their public hearing with another contentious (=closed-door) session, and finally framed a budget that, by a vote of 6 to 2, will be submitted to the district’s voters. That budget calls for spending as $36.7 million during 2010-11 ($271,000 less than in 2009-10), while cutting administrative and teaching positions and raising the local tax levy slightly (to offset big cuts in State aid). The number of jobs to be eliminated, especially on the teaching side, would depend partly on the number of current teachers and staff members who in the next two weeks decide to take advantage of special State incentives to retire. --------The voters’ decision on that budget will coincide with their collective decision on candidates for seats on the district’s governing board. They will choose between ten candidates for four seats. Included in the roster of candidates and three incumbents (Michael Bulich; Randall Griffin, board president; Lisa Warner), one former trustee (Carol Schilansky), and six newcomers (Carthette Burnett of Main Street, Catskill; Francesca Daisernia of Leeds; Ronald Frascello of Gary Lane, Palenville; Matthew Leitman of Pleasant Drive, Catskill; Tracy Powell of Bogart Road, Palenville; and Christopher VanLoan of Rams Horn Drive, Catskill). A likely result of the election (and preceding events), we hear,. is change of the board leadership. THIS EVENING in GreeneLand could be celebrated, or spent, by sampling beer (with barbecue) at Hunter Mountain. The occasion is the TAP-NY festival, in which some 37 micro-brewers compete for the favor of judges and visitors. (Consumption devoutly to be wished?. Elsewhere, at least three art shows will open. They include a “Where We Live” display of works by Greenville’s Barbara Walter, at the Broderick Fine Art Gallery in Ruby’s Hotel, Freehold, from 5pm; a “Just Hatched” display of members’ works, at the Athens Cultural Center ( ); and a re-opening, after two idle years, of the superbly appointed BRIK gallery in Catskill, featuring sculptures and paintings by David Paulson, including this one:

MARCO [sic] de Sade does business at 133 Botti drive in Hunter.

DOUBLY IMPAIRED? “On April 9, 2010, the Cairo Police Department charged Frank A. Sciancalepore Jr., 20, of Cairo, with operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs and several other traffic tickets….” (Daily Mail, 4/21/10)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hooked on Greene

LAUNCHED this morning, up and down the Hudson: the 23rd annual River Basin Sports Striper (as in striped bass) Contest. Participation this year, reports organizer Tom Gentalen, set a “new record”: 603 entrants. Setting out from Dutchman’s Landing and elsewhere between Troy and West Point, they will make repeated attempts until May 30 to land the longest striper, thereby earning a bundle of cash. Sponsored by the River Basin Sports Shop in Catskill and by the Greene County Tourism Department, this event is the oldest, longest, most popular, and most rewarding of Hudson angling contests. All of the $15 entry fees will be turned into prize money for six winners. Last year’s top winner—Pete Longo, with a 463/4-inch beauty—took home $5730 of the $11,458 prize money.

Participants (hook & line only; no gaffing) are limited by State law to one keeper per day. Minimum length for contest eligibility is 38 inches. Consequently, as Linda Gentalen points out in a message to Seeing Greene, “Most sport fishermen practice ‘catch and release,’ with the occasional dinner excepted."

Dinners based on striped bass—cousins to Chilean sea bass--are extraordinarily tasty. And stripers are peculiarly at home in the Hudson. They arrive seasonally from the Atlantic Ocean, following on the tails of herring, their favorite food. The Hudson is their main spawning ground,” says Ms Gentalen, because of its character as a tidal estuary. “The eggs of striped bass must remain suspended in water until they hatch---if they find rest, they die”—and the Hudson’s movements back and forth—“current running out, tide running in, without pause”--meet the need.

PAGANISM evidently is alive and growing in GreeneLand. It is practiced with special fervor in Palenville, in a three-acre grove and a venerable 18-bedroom former inn (Central House) that houses the Maetreum of Cybele Women’s Spirituality Centre, worldwide home of the Cybeline Priestesshood.

Cybeline Pagans, says First Battakes (=reverend mother) Cathryn Platine, practice a “Goddess-centred, reconstructionist” but “not Wiccan” religion. Their diet is lacto-ovo vegetarian. Their Maetreum (=temple of the Great Mother, site for Evening Praise) also is a Phrygianium (=recollection of Phrygians’ center in ancient Rome, “destroyed by the Catholics at the beginning of the 5th century and all the priestesses murdered in their sleep”).

The priestesses’ presence since 2002 has been met by some local hostility, says the Battakes, as well as by disputation over their eligibility for property tax exemption as a religion (as distinct from a cult). Anyhow: a Palenville Pagan Pride Day has been promised for August 28. More information is vouchsafed at and at . A recent message from the priestess closes with a quote from Voltaire: “He who can lead you to believe an absurdity, can lead you to commit an atrocity.”

MISCREANTS FILE. Clifford Rea of Palenville was jailed recently, according to a State Police report, after he tried to escape arrest riding (helmet-less) an off-road motorcycle (unregistered) on State Route 23A in Hunter and Catskill, with troopers’ cars in pursuit. He subsequently tried, the report says, to land a punch on Trooper Felix Donnelly.

*Corey J. Kimmel of Catskill pleaded guilty of harassment for saying that somebody should “gut” a Suzanne R. Komaroni; other charges are involved in the case.

* Sylvester Rambharose of Brooklyn was busted on suspicion of running a sophisticated marijuana-growing operation in a house in Palenville.

*Christian Deparma and Jennifer Mauro of Ashland were arrested on similar charges, as well as on suspicion of endangering the welfare of three resident children.

*Nathan Van Fleet, who was a Durham and Hunter police officer before being convicted last February of sexual misconduct (with a Tannersville teen) has been arrested on suspicion of possessing firearms and grenades at home in East Durham. According to a Daily Mail report (4/14) “Convicts of serious crimes in New York are not allowed to possess any of the weapons in question, police said.”

*Albert H. Forte, Michael H. Kudlack, and Francisco Gonzalez of Cairo were charged by State police with stealing steel guide rails from the Town Highway Department and selling them for scrap.

*Jessica Marie Roman of Catskill faces multiple charges involving welfare fraud; she is suspected of cashing some $20,000 in unemployment checks that were addressed to her children’s father, who, as a prison inmate, already receiving State-supplied room and board, is ineligible for such benefits.

*Seeing Greene’s March 11 “Testimonial” item, citing a health care blogger’s praise for the Homeoblock, gave a “totally inaccurate” account—says Pamela King-Belfor, wife of the inventor--of what that dental device does. It draws on the body’s physiological resources not to “correct jaw deformities” but rather to foster “holistic outcomes in the cranial region.”

ACHIEVERS FILE. The web site of GreeneLand’s Thomas Cole National Historic site, has been selected (among 8000 candidates) as an Honoree in the Art division of the annual Webby awards. The site provides an in-depth tour of the Catskill home and the works of Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of Art. Credit for site design, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, goes to Historicus Inc. of Concord NH, specialists in illuminating “the intersection of new media and humanities scholarship.”

*Pat Feinman, Catskill artist and business owner (Functional Sculpture Tire Shop, with Art Klein), is the subject of a nice feature story, with video link, by Ann Gibbons, in The Daily Freeman (4/18):

*Michael Brantley, son of former Catskillian and Big Leaguer Mickey Brantley, graduated late last year from a minor league baseball team to the Cleveland Indians, and after spring training this year won the starting left field spot. (

*Sean Byrne, Haines Falls-based attorney, has been appointed by Gov. David Paterson as commissioner of New York State’s Division of Criminal Justice Services.

*Brigit Binns, known to the gastronomic world as Roadfoodie, having survived a period of short rations commercially, tells Seeing Greene that last week she “landed three book deals in the space of 48 hours,” all of them carnivorous. One will elucidate “home butchery, for all of us who’d like to have fun with large animal carcasses.” Another will explicate “home, artisanal sausage-making.” For these tomes she “will act as credited co-author to a San Francisco chef,” meaning that “I do most of the work and he thanks me profusely in the acks.” The third book contract, BB’s “tenth solo title for Williams-Sonoma,” will contain 100 recipes featuring meat.

*Jim Planck, the long-bearded Daily Mail scribe and descendant of early up-State pioneers, has composed and performed “All Creation,” a collection of folk/protest songs. Copies of the compact disc (released by Kaaterskill Records, from In Earth Music) are available at the Village Square Bookstore in Hunter and at Van Gorden & Company at 371 Main Street in Catskill. (BTW: Van Gorden’s has a generous assortment of local history books: many Black Dome Press titles plus Richard Philps’s Catskill Village and the Greene County Historical Society’s Historical Places of Greene County).

*Vahap Avsar, who only recently returned to his vocation as an artist, after an 11-year hiatus, scored his first new sale, at Sotheby’s in London, for euros aplenty, to an international collector, with a piece he assembled in his Athens studio. It’s made of basketballs and footballs.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spared Greene

SAVED from eradication, thanks to multiple pledges of tax breaks, grants and low-interest loans: the jobs of around 200 people working at Stiefel Labs in Oak Hill. The plant had been scheduled for abandonment, following acquisition of the far-flung, privately-owned Stiefel operations last year by the drug colossus GlaxoSmithKline, whose managers then decided to shift its skin care products manufacturing from Oak Hill to Montreal. According to Thursday’s announcement, Glaxo’s bosses now intend to bring the company’s toothpaste production (Aquafresh, Sensodyne) from the present Clifton NJ plant to Oak Hill. They were incited by, among other things, more than $2 million in the way of grants (Federal, State and local, for machinery upgrades, efficiency upgrades, equipment), tax breaks and loans. The prospective job loss figure here, consequently, will be around 60 rather than 260.

POSTPONED: the tax-foreclosure auction of GreeneLand properties that had been scheduled for April 28th. The date was contingent on authorization by the presiding judge, George Pulver Jr, who has not completed the task of going through the file on each property that is nominated by the County Treasurer for takeover. The auctioneer originally anticipated that by March 28th the judicial decision-making would be completed, so that a catalogue of eligible properties, duly described, could be compiled. For updates:

------Meanwhile, investors with a bit of spare change (in the millions of dollars) could focus their attention on the former Washington Irving Elementary School, which is well along toward conversion into up-scale apartments. It will be auctioned on May 7th on behalf of plaintiff Rhinebeck Savings Bank, which is owed $1.2 million. Alternatively, investors could look to the extensive former Dunns Builders Supply properties on Catskill Creek, or to the nearby Union Mills Lofts (work suspended; new investors wanted), or to the Friar Tuck resort (now closed, heavily encumbered by debt, and in the hands, more or less, of Ulster Savings Bank).

SELF-CONGRATULATED prematurely: the aforementioned Rhinebeck Savings Bank. In a company puff piece masquerading as a news story, Daily Mail readers are invited (4/7/10) to behold a “strong, secure” institution, which “exhibits overall financial superiority in…capital adequacy, delinquent loan levels and profitability.”

ACQUIRED by Hudson-Catskill Newspaper Corporation, publisher of two mid-Hudson daily newspapers--Daily Mail and Register-Star—and three weeklies—Chatham Courier, Mountain Eagle and Windham Journal: two more weeklies, the Ravena-based News-Herald and the grotesquely named Greene County Local Courier (product of a recent merger two weeklies). Such, at any rate, is the news as provided in 4/8/10 Daily Mail. The Hudson-Catskill Newspaper Corporation is a subsidiary of the privately held Johnson Publishing Corporation, based in Watertown NY. Meanwhile, the Greenville Press remains dormant, if not defunct. And the news-free Mountain Pennysaver persists as a free semi-weekly throwaway packed with advertising (which actually is a kind of news).

ALTERED subtly, by the outcome of March 30’s election: the Catskill Village governing board’s operational character. The election produced the retention of Village President Vincent Seeley (and his immediate return to the presidency, by vote of his fellow trustees) along with the election of Brian Kehoe (Democrat) at the expense of incumbent Angelo Amato (Republican). In a community with 2226 registered voters (909 Republican, 652 Democratic, 667 other), Mr Seeley received 258 votes, Mr Kehoe received 218 and Mr Amato received 172. The departure of Mr Amato (who made a remarkably gracious concession statement, in the 4/10 Daily Mail) takes away from the Board a distinctly independent voice, with a particular sensitivity to the weight of local taxation and hence to the costs of Village operations. The arrival of Mr Kehoe attests to the effectiveness of strenuous campaigning and to receptivity among voters toward a new resident who carries unusual credentials in the field of public administration. All being well, Mr Kehoe will be harnessed by his colleagues to the task of completing the project (sorely needed, as State Comptroller investigators pointed out last year) of putting Village financial management on a sound footing. Mr Kehoe also may prove to be uniquely suitable for exploring—especially with Town Supervisor Peter Markou, another professionally trained public administrator--consolidations of Village and Town services. This work would free Mr Seeley and other Trustees to do more in the way of improving the Village by bringing in more visitors, more transplants, more businesses and, consequently, more revenue.

TRANSPARENCY NEWS. At last Monday’s meeting in the firehouse, the Trustees of Catskill Village approved a commendation for a veteran firefighter, George Lackie. They hosted a discussion of what takes place at Beattie-Powers Place. They discussed and adopted 17 changes in downtown parking regulations. They placed on record letters from three local residents. They accepted bids for work on the water and sewer systems.

------Those acts of governance (including the circulation and/or the reading aloud of selected documents) were performed in front of an audience of 37 persons. Not adopted, however, was a resolve to make those decisions and letters readily accessible to everybody, by the simple expedient of posting them (along with approved audited bills and reports from department heads) on the official web site, It would be so easy to do. It would be such a boon to the cause of transparency.-------

FORESHADOWED for the forthcoming Congressional election in the 20th District of New York (that is, in GreeneLand and nine other counties or parts of counties): campaigning in which the candidates talk past one another. The main candidates will be Scott Murphy, the incumbent, a Democrat who won the office by a hair-thin margin in a special election last year following Kirsten Gillibrand’s elevation to the U.S. Senate, and Chris Gibson, a Kinderhook- based Republican who retired recently from the U.S. Army at the rank of colonel. At a March 31 meeting at the Desmond Hotel in Albany, in a contest with three other candidates, Mr Gibson won the endorsement of the District’s Republican county chairpersons. He characterized his candidacy as “a chance to renew our republic and enact policies that make us feel safe.” Assailing Mr Murphy’s votes in favor of what is generally called “cap-and-trade” and on health care reform, he promised to hammer home a “message of reducing taxes, curbing government spending, eliminating onerous regulations and reducing health care costs.”

------To that compound theme Mr Murphy is altogether likely to respond with a key word: “jobs.” He will embellish that version of priorities with allusions to his experience as a private enterpriser.

BIG SIBLINGS is not the accepted name. But it is the essence of a program that is being developed here, out of an UIster County parent: Adult mentors (“Big Brothers,” “Big Sisters”) for children who have been “impacted by incarceration” (of a parent or care giver). The program connects such kids with adult mentors, who commit to devoting at least 8 hours per month to a chosen little sibling. Jennifer Osswald of Catskill is developing the program here, with some 20 kids signed up as prospects, about a dozen adults as mentors. A fund-raising bowling tournament (or party) will be held on Saturday (4/17) from 7pm at the Hoe Bowl in Catskill.

SATURDAY evening in downtown Catskill will be spiced by, among other things, a "Big Foot Sightings" reception at the Open Studio and, at the M Gallery, an opening reception for Jonas Caulfield pictures adumbrating the theme "Transillumination," as in: